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Old 11-12-2003, 12:34 PM   #1
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Could I use '70s Argosy for Temporary Relo?

Hi:

I need to do a sanity check. I need to relocate to Denver ASAP. It's going to take too long to wait for my house to sell. Renting and hotel is too expensive while I pay mortgage.

I'm thinking that I could pick up mid to late 70's Argosy 454 in drivable condition and park it at my friends farm or pay small monthly fee to rent. I'd really like to use it after I sell the house too, so it won't be a throwaway.

My questions:

1. Is there anything I should watch out for in an Argosy of this vintage?
2. I'm looking at one that is cheap, supposedly drivable, looks decent, but needs a fridge, and needs engine AC work, (motorhome AC itself seems to work).
3. It's recently had it's motor rebuilt.
4. Seller doesn't know whether LP/gas system works or not. This makes me wonder since it should be easy enough to check out.
5. Denver winters are low humidity but can get pretty cold. Could you sleep overnight during the dead of winter?
6. If so, what sort of heating system does it have and what should I watch out for?
7. It has a small to medium dent in it's left rear quarter. Any reason a normal body shop wouldn't be able to fix this?
8. How do they handle? Any steering problems?
9. Any suspension issues I should be aware of?
10. Any general 'living with a 70's Argosy' tips would be very helpful.

Any and all help greatly appreciated.

Thx,

Jim Burnes
jvburnes@yahoo.com
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Old 11-12-2003, 01:06 PM   #2
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Funny you should ask!

I have been in my MH for just that reason.

1) What about hook-ups? You will need electricity, water and a place to dump your tanks. I stayed at an RV park with a monthly rate until I just moved the MH to the house we purchased while carpet gets installed and we get it fixed up.

2) How many in your party? We are two adults, two kids, and two dogs and our 345 got awful small awful fast! When I was solo in September I had more room than I needed.

3) PL gas and the furnace. Denver.....winter......COLD! You will run through some LP gas assuming the old furnace in the Argosy still works. That's a trip to get LP gas on a regualr basis. The furnaces in the Argosy units vary since Argosy was a test bed for Airstream and the units are old and owners might have replaced them. The gas forced air furnaces do put out lots of heat. You will need a carbon monoxide detector to keep from killing yourself if the furnace isn't sealed totally.

4) The dent - is probably in the galvanized end cap. A shop MAY be able to fix it. Did it damage the inside wall?

5) These handle great. The steering may need parts repaired but they usually ride great. The 78 and 79 models have the air ride suspension.

6) RV fridges are expensive. You do have a Camping World in Denver for you to spend all your money at!
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Old 11-12-2003, 03:06 PM   #3
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Welcome fellow Argosy owner-to-be:

If you can't suck out the dent, you may be able to "bondo" it and paint it since you have an Argosy!

I lived in a 1963 Airstream by myself for over a month quite comfortably while I relocated my family here to Alabama from NC. If you have a family, I'd recommend that you consider leaving them with relatives while you square away the housing issue in Denver.

Good luck on your move.

Scott
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Old 11-12-2003, 03:16 PM   #4
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Not too sure about that

I lived in the Denver area (Boulder, Longmont, Loveland) for 16 years. While many winters may be survivable there in a motorhome, I only too well remember coming out of work at midnight at near 20 below zero a couple of times. I sincerely doubt that you could prevent freezing up if that sort of weather happens to catch you.
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Old 11-12-2003, 06:29 PM   #5
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Re: Not too sure about that

Quote:
Originally posted by Pahaska
I lived in the Denver area (Boulder, Longmont, Loveland) for 16 years. While many winters may be survivable there in a motorhome, I only too well remember coming out of work at midnight at near 20 below zero a couple of times. I sincerely doubt that you could prevent freezing up if that sort of weather happens to catch you.
John, I seem to remember something called "freeze tape" from when I lived in a trailer up in the frozen arctic wastelands of Pennsylvania. It consisted of a sticky insulating tape with a 110v heating element running though it. Have you ever heard of it, and do you think maybe he would be able to install it on his water lines?
Since I am now in a warmer clime, I haven't really given it much thought.

Also, if the P.O.-to-be says he does not know if the LP system works, I would assume it doesn't, as has been stated, it would be easy enough to check if it did.

Terry
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Old 11-12-2003, 06:57 PM   #6
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Denver Metro Visitors Bureau says...

<Tourist board announcement on>
Quote:
DENVER’S CLIMATE
Nothing about Denver is more misunderstood than the city's climate. Located just east of a high mountain barrier and a long distance from any moisture source, Denver has a mild, dry and arid climate. The city receives only 8-15 inches (20.3 - 38 cm) of precipitation a year (about the same as Los Angeles), and records 300 days of sunshine a year -- more annual hours of sun than San Diego or Miami Beach.

Winters are mild with an average daily high of 45 degrees Fahrenheit, 7 degrees Celsius in February, warmer than New York, Boston, Chicago or St. Louis. Snow does fall, but it usually melts in a short time. Golf courses remain open all year and have been played on as many as 30 days in January. Chinook winds (a wind blowing down from a mountain that gains heat as it loses elevation) can bring 60 degree F (16 degrees C) weather to Denver at any time throughout the winter.
<Tourist board announcement off>

As 10-year Denver residents, we've seen some winters that were very mild and others that seemed to never end. Just last year we had a storm that produced a minimum of 36" in about 24 hrs EVERYWHERE...to be in a trailer during that one would have been miserable! The city was paralyzed for about 3 or 4 days...with or without four wheel drive you couldn't go anywhere, there was just too much snow at one time and also too many downed trees blocking the streets. Now given, that was rare...but you never know when "the big ones" are going to hit.

I would be most concerned with frozen water & waste pipes...although dry, it still gets cold at night. The good news is it's usually sunny and any snow melts within a day or so on non-northfacing areas. If you could park on a bright, sunny, south facing area it would be best. But your pipes are still under the trailer which is in the shade.

Propane heat would get pretty costly as vintage Airstream/Argosys are not THAT well insulated. If you supplemented with electric heaters or blankets, that would help...although I'd still be concerned with freezing your water lines....you could leave cupboards open to help keep the pipes warm, but I don't know how effective that would be...

The low humidity outside is one thing...but you would be creating your own humidity inside from showering & cooking. So condensation could be a problem.

You mentioned a friends farm...I assume it's not in Denver proper...if it's west of Denver you gain elevation which would mean more snow is possible. If it's east of Denver, you are more "on the plains" which have their own weather patterns...sometimes Denver will get "inches" of snow while the plains get "a foot or more"...

Bottomline...you have to decide what your comfort factor is...a chilly week can be a very long time if you can't get warm...not to mention if you get sick or can't seem to get warm...

If you truly want to enjoy the Argosy after the experience...I'd full-time during winter for the least amount of time as possible. Also, it's one thing if it's just you...another if you have a wife &/or kids sharing the experience...

Is it do-able -- yes, with lots of preparation & luck with weather patterns
Is it predictable -- no, have a back-up plan
Would I do it -- not during December - April, we typically have a couple of real cold spells (not over 20 degree highs/lows -10 degree lows) for 7-10 days straight 3 or more times during each winter in Denver proper.

Just my 2-cents...

Shari
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Old 11-12-2003, 08:03 PM   #7
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I know weather, I don't know Argosy

Thanks for the helpful hints so far. I lived in Denver for a couple years during 1996-1998. I'm not afraid of the cold. I don't remember anything incredibly extreme except a snow storm in '97 that blocked the lone highway to the new airport.

My friend's farm is north of Denver about 20 miles. It's roughly northeast of Niwot as the crow flies and just slightly west of 25.

A south facing view is not a problem. The only view that would be slightly problematic would be directly north.

The heat tape idea sounds good. How do you hook up black water to a local sewer? Is it possible?

Man, there are a lot of variables here. But if I don't get out to Denver soon my manager is going to start getting bent out of shape. I need to do a lot of hands-on lab work.

Any comments about the Argosy itself? Problem areas? Things to watch out for? Since the owner hasn't checked the LP system, I asked him to do that. Seems like the least thing he should do if he wants to sell it with winter coming on.

I've written down some likely things that might need work:

1. Fridge: (I know it doesn't work, repair is expensive. Not super important right now).
2. AC. He says the main Argosy AC works, but the one driven off the 454 needs work.
3. Heater. What kind of heater does the 24' Argosy have?
4. Floor Rot?
5. Door Damage?
6. Window damage?
7. Transmission?
8. Frame Integrity?
9. Shocks and Suspension?
10. Will it pass basic safety check?
11. Will it pass emissions?
12. Is there anyone who knows Airstreams (ideally Argosys) in the area so I can have it checked out?

Last question: If it needs work, where can I get it repaired? I assume the engine at a GM dealer or GM truck repair center.

Thanks for your continuing messages.

jim b
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Old 11-12-2003, 09:50 PM   #8
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Re: I know weather, I don't know Argosy

Quote:
Originally posted by jburnes

Any comments about the Argosy itself? Problem areas? Things to watch out for? Since the owner hasn't checked the LP system, I asked him to do that. Seems like the least thing he should do if he wants to sell it with winter coming on.

I've written down some likely things that might need work:

1. Fridge: (I know it doesn't work, repair is expensive. Not super important right now).
2. AC. He says the main Argosy AC works, but the one driven off the 454 needs work.
3. Heater. What kind of heater does the 24' Argosy have?
4. Floor Rot?
5. Door Damage?
6. Window damage?
7. Transmission?
8. Frame Integrity?
9. Shocks and Suspension?
10. Will it pass basic safety check?
11. Will it pass emissions?
12. Is there anyone who knows Airstreams (ideally Argosys) in the area so I can have it checked out?

Last question: If it needs work, where can I get it repaired? I assume the engine at a GM dealer or GM truck repair center.

Thanks for your continuing messages.

jim b [/B]
Jim, as an Argosy (trailer) owner, I can probably answer a few Argosy-specific questions.
1- Fridge: Go to your local Kmart, Walmart, or wherever, and get a small office size refrigerator. It has a tiny freezer, and enough space for a gallon of milk, and a few packages of perishables. The last one I bought two years ago cost $90.00
2- A/C- This will be the least of your worries for the winter. Deal with it in May. If the main A/C works, fix the truck A/C later.
3- Heat- My unit has a 12 volt fan forced LP furnace. It will keep the coach warm, but use a LOT of LP, I would get a small ceramic heater, or even one of those hot oil radiator typesas a backup.
4- Floor Rot- These have the same problem areas as regular Airstreams. Check the floor at the base of the door, under the windows, and all the way in the rear. Check for the leaks that may have caused the rot. It will do no good to fix the floor, to have it go out again.
5- Door Damage- Check to make sure the door closes tightly, without binding, and latches firmly. Make sure the door is closed, latched, AND LOCKED while driving, they sometimes will fly open at the most inopportune times (like at 75 mph in a blizzard)
6- window damage-check to make sure the windows open and close properly, and that the gaskets are in good shape, and seal tightly. Also, make sure the roof vent closes tightly, and you may also want to duct tape a piece of that pink compressed foam insulation on the roof vent opening inside. It is at the top of the coach, and you would be amazed how much heat you lose from it.
7-transmission- see the thread titled "the adventures of Brett and Edie"
8-Frame damage-check for obvious bends, rust holes, and cracks
9-Shocks and suspension- This stuff is more-or-less standard GM Motor Home chassis. I think they have an air bag suspension which I am not familiar with. Maybe someone else can help here.
10-& 11-
If it is in good shape mechanically, it should pass safety and emissions inspections, there is no reason just because it is a MH that it won't.
12- See the thread titled "so you want to buy an Airstream that is three states away?" for a volunteer preliminary inspector near you.
Last question- You can go to any repair shop that specializes in truck and RV repair, unless it is a body-related problem, then any Airstream dealer should be able to help you.
Also, it would be a very good idea to get the furnace checked for leaks, both propane and exhaust. I would also personally want a CO detector, just in case.
Good luck, and happy Argosy-ing!
Terry
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Old 11-12-2003, 10:40 PM   #9
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The "local" Airstream dealer is:

Windish RV

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Old 11-16-2003, 01:01 PM   #10
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Having owned 2 Airstream Trailers and now 2 Argosy MH I will try to impart what I have learned.

1. All pressurized water lines will be inside the coach. Meaning that they are accessable for keeping them warm enough to NOT freeze. It may require some small fans, or light bulbs in some cabinets at night, but they are inside.

2: Holding tanks: These areas are heated, but as mentioned by posters before, the LP heat is going to use a bunch of LP. You HAVE TO run the built in furnace or you WILL freeze your holding tanks.

3. Heat tape is a good idea. I would use it along with the foam pipe insulation to keep the fresh water line open, as well as on the sewer line and dump vales/tubing. The dump tubing and the city water inlet are going to be suspect to freeze. You may have to pull a belly skin to get to the dump valves to install the heat tape.

4: LP usage as mentioned is going to be an issue. Look for a "stay awhile" lp kit at the camping store. It is an extension kit that T connects into the current lines and would allow you to have 1 or 2 100 LB propane Pigs sitting next to the MH. This way the propane can come to you instead of the other way around.

5: Do a search on winter camping on the forum. There are some things to be prepared for.

6: Argosy MH are built with the type of construction as a Airstream, BUT. My experience, and others have had this too, is that the insulation in the walls was not the best. Every time I pull a wall plate or open up a section I add insulation. The Suggestion on the vent is a good on. You will want one to be openable, but insulate the others.

7: With the exception of a few parts that are year spefic, you can get the stuff you need to maintain or fix it without too much trouble. Chassis parts are GM or NAPA. You try the big retail parts stores, but most of the retail ones have no clue. The shell, cabinets, furniture are all Airstream. Appliances are normal RV products.

8: Systems: Pre 77 the plumbing was Copper pipe with sweat fittings, Post 77 you have PEX. Dash AC, they all leak and loose the Freon. It has to do with the modular system used. If the compressor is ok, it may just need new hoses. Be sure the big ticket items status is known. Genset, Roof Air, Refer, furnace, water heater, Engine, transmission, tires, Airbags if you have 'em.
Any of these can cost $300-$5000 to replace.

9: As with any "Vintage" coach, the curtains, carpet, upholstery are not a deal breaker. The harware is. The floor is, it is the number of dents and their repairability are too.

10: Since you are looking at getting into this and needing it for RIGHT NOW type usage I would reccomend a prepurchase inspection. You need to be able to use it, you don't have 4 months to make it ready.

11: Last one. Be prepared. Buy 10 gallons of RV antifreeze and know how to use it. You can store it outside, it won't freeze . If your furnace goes out, or your propane runs out and you have to abandon the MH you need to get it as ready as possible so the damage is nil when you can return.

Good luck!
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