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Old 01-06-2009, 06:24 PM   #1
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Modern v. Vintage Trailer for first Airstream??

My wife and I are interested in finding our first airstream and I have a number of questions that we could use some help on to refine our search.

My current TV would be a Toyota Tacoma with tow rating of only 6500lbs. I know that folks safely tow the 19' and 20' Safari with this but going any larger would require a larger TV.

This got me thinking about a vintage airstream as I've read from this forum that they are quite a bit lighter. I was wondering whether I could go up in airstream length with the same TV and have been interested in the Argosy trailers. There are several nice ones in the mid twenty foot range available now.

Assuming that I could tow a larger vintage airstream safely with my current TV, I've had trouble understanding the major differences between the vintage (1970s and 1980s) models and the modern models, except of course for floorplans. In other words, what are the differences in holding tank capacities (are the vintage one's heated?), the electrical systems, plumbing systems, and overall creature comforts? How do they compare for boondocking purposes? Is there an "airstream bible" that contains historical information on the vintage models so I can use it to evaluate whether a vintage model would work for us?

The other consideration is, of course, cost. It looks like the vintage trailers are very moderately priced and would allow me to invest, if necessary and possible, to make repairs and upgrades.

Thanks in advance for assisting us in heading down the trail of finding our first airstream. I've been reading the forums for about a half a year and I am amazed at the information available. Thanks.

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Old 01-06-2009, 06:35 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum. I solved the towing issue by parking my Airstream. I know you will find many comments to your issue. Take Care.

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Old 01-06-2009, 06:36 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forums.

I would definitely go for the older vintage unit. It will take a considerable amount of time and $$$ to be ready for camping, but will cost less overall. The real question is how soon do you want to camp? The vintage units don't have heated tanks, but the air ducts normally circulated air around the tanks to prevent freezing. Before 1973 there were no grey tanks installed. These could be retrofitted in if you restored an old trailer.

On the other hand, the economy is tight right now, and newer to slightly used models are going for a very good price on the market.

Whatever you decide, we are here to help in all aspects of your decision.

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Old 01-06-2009, 06:36 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forums, lots of things to consider with different vintage units.
The grey water tanks first appeared in 74 and they were small. Most 70's units, but not all had the rear bath configuration. 70's for the most part were lighter then the 80's. Here is a chart that shows the weights for the different years and models.
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File Type: pdf weights.pdf (100.7 KB, 368 views)


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Old 01-06-2009, 06:44 PM   #5
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The best source for vintage Airstream information, prior to 1980, is RJ Dial's site Vintage Airstream Home. Take some time and review the FAQ section, his restorations and the picture archive.

There is information on vintage Airstreams on the VAC site also, but it is under reconstruction and you may not find much now.

Bill Kerfoot, WBCCI/VAC/CAC/El Camino Real Unit #5223
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:09 PM   #6
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It seems right now is the time to buy, if you have the money. The newer models are cheaper but it looks like there is an increased interest in vintage. We went vintage because of price and style. It does require more work like mobile gray tank, hand jacks, constant maintenance, etc. but we get to camp without another payment. Good luck in your search and by the way the Argosy's can be awesome too.

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Old 01-06-2009, 07:16 PM   #7
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Not an easy question to answer. First, a Vintage in ready to go shape will cost ya....but most likely less than a new(er) one (2000 to say 2008). Get a fixer upper vintage and you have yourself a project and may get close in price to that of a vintage that is already fixed up...again, still less than a newer Airstream.

I have owned 2 new Airstreams, a 2003 and still have a 2004. The build quality is not there for the price, and there are a good number of newer units with corrosion issues as young as 6 months of the line.

True all finishes fail, but my take is that if I had to do it all over again, I would by a new(er) pre-owned unit with some or a modest amount of depreciation already gone, or go vintage and build it up the way you want.

I would NOT buy another new Airstream until they got their act together in terms of build quality and solve the corrosion issue.

Take a look at the model year quality threads and the corrosion threads and make an informed decision. Airstreams have a big cool factor and they are a nicely designed trailer, but they are the Italian Sports Car of the travel trailer world.

Pull up your easy chair, grab a drink, and read on:

This first one has links going back to 2004

Then, there is this after you've digested the quality thread info:

And if you are not just totally ready to take a nap and cry in your Cheerios, slide on over to this thread:

All links are packed with great info and things to look out for.....
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:39 PM   #8
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Modern v. Vintage Trailer for first Airstream??

Greetings Becasse!

Welcome to the Forums!

When you mention Argosy, there is one particular model that seems almost tailor made for your tow vehicle -- the Minuet 7.3 Metre. The Minuets are only 7' wide compared to the 7' 8" of the typical coach, and the 7.3 Metre is esenntially a 24' mid-bedroom coach available with center twins or a vanity-wardrobe with a pull-out double-bed opposite. Loaded for a vacation, this coach would be around 80% +/- of your truck's trailer tow rating.

The basic available floorplans for the Minuet series are above. The front on each of the coaches could be configured as a full-width lounge (standard) or a dinette ($50.00 option). The 7.3 Metre (24') also had the option of the center double (shown), or center twins -- I think that the center twins were standard and the double was a $175 option, but can't find my data sheet with that information. There have been at least two of the 7.3 Metre coaches advertised lately -- the 6.0 Metre coaches are typically the most common, with the 6.7 Metre coaches being the next most common.

The Argosy also offers two other floorplans that are unique in that Airstream didn't offer comparable floorplans until quite recently. These were the rear-door floorplans -- referring to placement of the entry door behind rather than ahead of the axles. Floorplans for these two coaches are below:

The above is the rear door model from 1977 in the 24' length.

The above is the rear door model from 1976 in the 22' length.

Any of the three Minuet models seem to be more readily available than either of the rear-door models. One of the rear-door models does, however, become available from time to time.

When I purchased my Overlander in 1995, I considered a new Safari, but just didn't find any floorplans that I could live with. Searched the ranks of the Vintage for about six months before I found my Overlander about 200 miles from my home via a local "trader" magazine. The Overlander was in very good condition which permitted me to have restoration done by qualified shops over the next seven years -- overall, I have about the same amount of money in the refurbishment of my Overlander as what a similar length Safari would have cost in 1995, but I have a coach that I truly love and enjoy using.

Good luck with your research!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 01-06-2009, 08:15 PM   #9
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Some things I would consider are:
  • What does the Significant Other think? Our 76 is no cream puff, but Sally and I have a blast roughing it every time we camp. She loves camping and sees ever trip as an adventure. If she wasn't into the AS, my enjoyment would be greatly diminished.
  • Purchase Price…Establish a shopping budget for Late Models or Vintage Units. We went Vintage because of price and sentiment.
  • How much of a “Project” are you willing to take on? The arch nemesis of Vintage Units seems to be moisture/leakage. Ours is a colander on wheels. So we are getting ready to do the Full Monte. We’re stripping her down to the ribs and frame. I expect the process will take 2 years and $6 to $8K. $8K plus the purchase price would put me into a really nice Vintage Unit, or a worn Later Model. With the worn Later Model I would expect to deal updating finishes instead of major projects.

Which ever path you choose I think you’ll be rewarded. You’ll get lots of comments about your AS, and routine requests to look inside.

The biggest dilemma we faced was what we were going to without our AS for a couple if years while the restoration is going on. Problem Solved…We bought another trailer!!! Item number 1 above is critical should you choose this path.

Good Luck,


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Old 01-06-2009, 10:13 PM   #10
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Hubby wanted new and I wanted old. I won and we have a 71 Caravel. I liked having the cushions reupholstered to my liking and a new floor. OUr gal was in good shape and you need to look at the for prices. All repairs can be pricey unless you can use the advice on this forum and do it yourself. We had a goal for spending and we are happy with our choice. We are very close to getting her on the road. There are great deals out there and good luck with your choice. Do ot rush and begin to look at new and old.
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Old 01-06-2009, 11:46 PM   #11
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We bought a 1964 Safari 22' a few months ago and we have a Tacoma 4 door truck to pull it with. We just went on our first trip over New Years to Big Sur. It pulled just fine. I think a 24' would be okay with this truck also. The weight of the Safari is only #3100 so it has a fair safety margin. I don't like the new airstreams at all. They are not even trying to make them light and they have some pretty disturbing issues with corrosion, as noted before in this thread. I think of them as SOB's in AS disguise. The vintage units are known for having bad floors, which are a big job to fix or replace. If you want to avoid this aspect of restoration you will need to do a very through inspection of any old AS you are considering. Look at the perimeter of the floor everywhere you can get to it. Pull out the beds and look behind them, look inside of the storage compartments and closets. look for signs of old leaks: copper pipes with a green film, black stains on areas where water could sit, that old trailer smell (you will know it when you smell it). Use a sharp object, like an awl or even a knitting needle, to poke at the floor right where the wall meets it. Especially below the windows, around the shower and toilet, and at the entrance door. If you can poke it into the floor and it feels soft or non-existant you will be looking at a floor replacement or repair. Also, if there is new floor covering, check it MUCH more carefully.
There is nothing like an old Airstream for the coolness factor, and they are very comfortable to tow and hangout in, so don't be discouraged if it takes a while to find the one that's waiting for you. Just be cautious and when the right one comes along, be ready to jump on it.
Best wishes, Rich
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Old 01-07-2009, 06:23 AM   #12
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Thanks for the input thus far. I had read a bit further down in one of the forums and also realized that the vintage v. modern discussion is a popular one, so I apologize for creating somewhat of a repeat thread.

I am not very handy at all. Not because I don't want to be, I just didn't have an opportunity to acquire those skills thus far in life. So I would need to find a vintage in very decent condition.

I found an add for a 7.3 minuet that listed the holding tank capacities and they were very small in comparison to more modern models. Since I would anticipate using the AS in parks, NF campgrounds and boondocking (I like to fish and upland hunt with my dogs (who will also be traveling companions)) water, grey and black tank capacities are of importance.

The only "vintage" thing I've owned was a '76 Alpha Romeo GTV and it was very expensive to repair. I'll have to get an understanding of what I'm in for in terms of upkeep and repairs before jumping in.

Also, I would love to be able to use my computer in my AS and wonder about the electrical systems on vintage models. Has anyone retrofitted them for solar?

Again, thanks for the info. I think that a 25' or 27' would fit my needs (me, wife, 2 dogs) the best, but I really didn't want to go larger for a TV. I love my Tacoma and it gets decent mileage, but if I go with a more modern AS I'll have to bump it up to a Tundra.

I guess I also need to consult my significant other to learn how important modern amenities are versus going retro.....the last house we bought was stuck in the 60s and we spent $$ to update it, particularly the know...yukon gold fridge and stove....flower wallpaper and vinyl flooring.

I'll read the other vintage v. modern thread with great interest too.
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:11 AM   #13
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I've been shopping around for a while too - to the point where we bought an used T@B teardrop to camp with until I figure out/fix up what we get. A few thoughts:

- Floorplan is king for us. What helped immensely was going to some rallies and looking at some trailers locally. (It's amazing how many folks on the forum are willing to show you their trailer if you ask nicely.) That helped me to narrow down what I eventually want to purchase. That, and spending hours on and reading old brochures online (and, well, buying them on eBay, to the chagrin of my spousal unit...)

You might step into a 22' trailer and find that it would be plenty big for the two of you and the dogs. (Keep in mind that for much of the 80s and 90s, a 25' trailer was a 5500-6000 lb trailer. Nice rear bedroom/side bath floorplans, but got to consider the tow vehicle. By contrast, go 10 years older and a 25' trailer is 1000 lbs less.)

- Consider how much tank capacity you really need. Lots of people boondock with vintage units with their smaller tank capacities. (You can use a "blue boy" to haul/store excess gray water if you don't have a tank.) I say that because the Minuet 7.3 Kevin mentioned above does give you a lot of length for a low weight - and there is a nice one in the classifieds (which I'm not related to.) (I'm going to boondock with the T@B - which has no bathroom.)

- There is a wide range of "vintage" on sale. Some have been actively camped in and have lots of stuff replaced. Some have been sitting in a field and need everything replaced. It's not a bad idea to let someone else take the primary hit (and do the labor) on repairs.

- I learned a lot reading through the forums and listening to podcasts.

- There are also lots of little details that poke up their heads. Stuff like Airstream using OSB floors instead of plywood for much of the 80s and 90s (and some modern units). Or that there are differences in how much the windows open depending on the trimlevel. You start to figure out what you want to have, what you can live with, and what you can avoid.

- It helps to be willing to travel to get a trailer. I drove 1400 miles roundtrip to buy the T@B, and they're more common than some AS models.

Hope this helps and good luck!
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:15 AM   #14
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It seems that you have a good grasp of the pros and cons of vintage vs. modern already just from what you said above. The vintage electrical systems are up to the task for your computing needs. Solar options are definitely possible for both old and new Airstreams. Read up and give it thorough consideration before you leap into anything and you'll make the right choice. Good luck! (and welcome to the 'Forums!)

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