I would like some help with an Airstream Shell model

I’m rebuilding an Airstream trailer. I decided that it would make sense to try and model things as I progress. Actually I’d like to be a bit ahead of the actual physical project so I can sort of trouble shoot in and test design ideas in advance. I’ve done pretty well with the frame, but I think I’m going to get over my head quickly regarding shell with all of its curves. I’m looking for advice, tutorials, etc. I’m using the free SketchUp Maker 2017 version.

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Try first (if you haven’t already) the SU Campus / Learning centre at http://learn.sketchup.com.

Look particularly at Sketchup Fundamentals, and the later Sketchup Fundamentals: Modelling Practice.

Learn to use Groups, and particularly Components, and the proper use of Layers (now called tags in SU 2020 onwards).

Turn off Enable length snapping in Window/Model info/Units. Set your precision high - if using US Customary units, set at 1/64th of an inch, or if in mm, set to at least mm precision.

Watch out for Dimensions, Entity Info, or Tape Measure showing a ~ (tilde) character which suggests you aren’t working accurately.

For generating the rounded corners and shapes of what I vaguely remember about Airstream trailers, you may well find the Fredo6 Curviloft plugin helpful. Remember to download the LibFredo extension library too.

Is this the type of trailer? The caption suggests it’s an Airstream Shell.

Have fun modelling it!

PS. To cut openings, learn about using a solid shape to cut openings like the door and window openings, and use Edit/Intersect Faces to make the opening in the outer shell.

Fredo’s JointPushPull (either a separate plugin or part of the Fredo6 Collection, both from Sketchucation Plugin store) may be helpful if you want to give thickness to the curved skin of the trailer.

And FollowMe, or better, Eneroth Upright Extruder, will help you with the profiles round the windows and door.

If you want a starting model, there are quite a number on the 3D Warehouse - I did a quick search for Airstream Trailer, and got a couple of dozen results.

Hi John, that is indeed an older Airstream. I’m not positive, but I guessing lat 60s or possibly early 70s. Thanks for all of the suggestions. I’ve done the SketchUp Fundamentals and Modeling Practice tutorials. They were very helpful. I’m aware of the Fredo plug-ins, but I have no experience with plug-ins. Am I just jumping into the deep end or is there some adult supervision. Hahaha Seriously, are there some tutorials?

I have looked at the 3D Warehouse. Based on what you said I’ll look again.
This is my frame model so far. I haven’t modeled a trailer coupler for the front end yet.


Add multiple images


for tutorials. Car and boatbuilding videos might help or (have you been googling modeling Airstream in SketchUp) https://sites.google.com/site/airstreamsketchupdesign/ there’s people doing this sort of thing.

There’s a difficult balance to strike here, between using the native tools enough to understand how SU works in general, and getting help with some of the things that are harder to do without a plugin.

In particular, rounded shapes that aren’t part of a sphere, cylinder, or other shape you can make with arcs and FollowMe are hard to model just with the native tools.

Just looking at the image, I think I see:

  • a side which is a simple curve from near the roof to the bottom trim, either completely or nearly straight. That you could model easily with FollowMe
  • a corner which between the same limits is at least approximately a quarter round about the blue axis: again, a candidate for FollowMe round a quarter of a circle
  • the visible end which again looks straight or nearly straight across
  • domed corners which are perhaps quarter spheres, or not quite quarter spheres, joining the side and end
  • the invisible far end, which may or more probably may not be a mirror image of the front end.

I’d model the thing in quarters or halves, then mirror the result to get the whole.

Do you have front and side elevation dimensioned or at least scale drawings to work from? Or your own actual Airstream to measure? What particular model is it?

I did a quick goodle search for images and dimensioned drawings. There are a lot of them on the internet, including photos of the internal frame of an airstream without the external skin, scale drawings, Pinterest images, and a forum called airforum.com, any or all of which could give you the shapes and dimensions you will need, if you don’t want just to photograph and measure your own.

Can you upload the model you have so far? Just looking quickly at the image of it you posted, I can see a number of reversed faces and other possible modelling oddities which may come back to bite you later, if you don’t understand and fix them now.

Thank you. I had forgotten about this. I’m sure it will be helpful.

Lots of good suggestions. I’ll follow up on these and post more as questions or accomplishments pop up. Other than a rudimentary floor plan, the trailer frame is as far as I’ve gotten at this point. I will do my best to upload my models.
EarthShipChassisFrame.skp (3.2 MB)
EarthshipFloorPlan.skp (4.2 MB)

If you haven’t seen it, TheOnlyAaron has just finished a Live Stream video modelling the shell, doors, windows and wheels of an Airstream trailer.

Here’s a link to the forum post, which in turn has a link to YouTube or Facebook to see the video.