This is my first article so please bear with me, I hope to get better as I do more of this.
When first attempting to polish our 1965 Caravel (WBCCI # 2240) I tried several methods of removing the old varnish finish and finally settled on "Zip Strip" direct from my local hardware store. It worked very well and was very economical. I applied it to about 4 sq ft at a time and allowed about 10 to 15 minutes for the finish to wrinkle then washed it off with the garden hose. Some places I had to do a second application. Once the entire surface was clean I had to come up with a method of polishing that was satisfactory.
I first started with normal car body buffing compound. Starting with the finest grade first which was slow so I went to the next courser grade which left too ruff a finish to my liking so I went back to the fine grade. Being rather conservative with my initial approach I was doing this all by hand, which was of course very labor intensive. Next I bought a medium speed buffer thinking this would reduce the work, which it did, but left circle marks which I didn't like. So back the the fine buffing compound and the old elbow grease. The finish was still not as shiny as I wished so I did some searching and came up with a product called NEVR-DULL, it comes in a small 5 oz can, again found at the local hardware store. The product is a cotton role impregnated with a very fine buffing compound, similar to jeweler's rouge. You pull off about 3 to 4 inches and use it until it no longer polishes. I found that I liked the finish when I rubbed the cotton pad vertically.
It was a lot of work but I think worth the effort. It took me about 2 weeks of working a couple of hours per day to get the job done. I am very proud of the effect and the neighbors who observed my efforts seem impressed. There are a couple of spots that have some additional corrosion, after 43 years of the hot dry Colorado climate, that still need a little work. I plan to polish those spots with the fine car buffing compound and the electric buffer then finish them off with a final application, by hand, of the NEVR-DULL. Once the all the work was accomplished I put on a coat of Turtle Wax. It appears a coat of wax about once a year is going to keep the shine I worked so hard to get.
So far I haven't seen any 40 year old Airstreams that look any better. We have just completed refurbishing the interior and it looks great as well. We have only taken it on one longer trip, about 1000 miles, but have had it on several short jaunts. We have owned it about 18 years but I just retired and now have the time to do the things that I want to, so that was my first project.
Good luck in your restoration projects. If I can give you any help feel free to contact me.