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Old 01-03-2010, 05:34 PM   #1
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1978 31' Excella 500
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Thinking about the purchase of a 1977 Excella

The question I have is this , I am new to the RV Grooup and have never owned a Air Stream , I have been doing a little reading and what are the issues I should be looking for??
One I have been reading about is a SAGGING In the REAR ! do all Air Streams of 1970+ have these issues , ALSO axel issues . I have one I am thinking of looking at in the Ohio Area and this excella has a rear bathroom would this be a issue .
I do not want to fall in a money pit.
Being new to the RV Market I need all the help I can get in my purchase of a Excella Air Stream .
Should I have it inspected and if so were does one find such a person ?
Thanks George
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Old 01-03-2010, 06:41 PM   #2
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Hi George, Welcome to the FORUMS.
There may be a fellow AIRFORUMS member that would volunteer to be an inspector for you. AS far as the rear sag issues, any trailer could potentially develop a leak leading to floor rot and separation. It is a bit more common in the rear bath models, but does happen to the rear bedroom models as well.
The axles are now more than 32 years old. Check out Inland RV Center - The Nations Leading Expert in Airstream Innovations
Look for articles and read about the Dura Torque axle. You'll be able to evaluate for yourself the condition of the axle.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:03 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GOSMAN2 View Post
The question I have is this , I am new to the RV Grooup and have never owned a Air Stream , I have been doing a little reading and what are the issues I should be looking for??
One I have been reading about is a SAGGING In the REAR ! do all Air Streams of 1970+ have these issues , ALSO axel issues . I have one I am thinking of looking at in the Ohio Area and this excella has a rear bathroom would this be a issue .
I do not want to fall in a money pit.
Being new to the RV Market I need all the help I can get in my purchase of a Excella Air Stream .
Should I have it inspected and if so were does one find such a person ?
Thanks George
George.

Ask the seller for copies of repair bills. What kind of exterior damage does the shell have? Has the current owner taken care of the PM things as should be? PM=preventive maintenance.

When was the furnace last remove and overhauled? When was the water heater cleaned? When was the reefer burner last cleaned? When was the last time a LPG leak check was made? How are the exterior gaskets, for the entrance door, the windows, access doors, and especially the sewer vent pipe cover gaskets, that only last 2 to 3 years? Missing interior as well as exterior rivets? Is the Univolt (battery charger) still functioning? Exterior lights all working? Condition of the drapes, carpeting, exterior clearcoat?

All of these things should be in good to very good condition, for top dollar. If not, then depending on what you pay for the coach, you may indeed, fall into that money pit.

Buying an Airstream, is supposed to bring smiles and joy to the entire family. But, purchasing a beat to devil, not properly maintained coach, quickly becomes misery, unless your willing to "pay the preacher."

Andy

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Old 01-03-2010, 07:15 PM   #4
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The longer models were more prone to rear sag with the 29' and 31' most vulnerable. Having said that - a well-maintained 70's model with no leaks may not have any sag at all.
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:29 PM   #5
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I had a '77 Excella 500 31 footer. It was my first trailer. While I was a proud papa the day I brought it home, I discovered (mainly from reading on here) what I was in for. Mine had both sag and separation. The sag was so bad that the skin was buckling where the back of the trailer tried to touch the ground, causing the easily visible buckle right behind the rear wheels. The double pane windows had the scotch tint disentigrated, the tambour slider doors were all shot, the list goes on. I could have handled everything but the frame. Though I didn't see any actual cracks, she was definitely sagging hugely. In my opinion, the only proper solution was a new frame.

I designed one for it. I even went to welding school to learn how to weld. I really wanted to do a first class rebuild. But when I started looking into it, everything seemed to domino. Just like Andy said above....you can come home on top of the world, but once you start digging...man you can really be in for it.

Sadly for me, with the position in life I was (am) currently in, I didn't have the time to do the total shell off rebuild. I'm in the middle of trying to get my house finished (had this crazy idea to design and build my hown house myself....not too unlike rebuilding an Airstream) and it's taken a lot longer and a lot more money than I figured. Again, just like restoring a 'stream
So, I sold it to a nice couple who already had one Airstream they were using, but wanted to do the full shell off on the 31 footer. I wish them well.

I wound up getting a newer trailer; an '87. You might say I went to the dark side, as I got an Avion. Truth is I was looking for a newer Airstream, but came across the Avion, really liked the way it was made, so bought it. It's very similar to an Airstream, though one big difference is the frame; Avion has a much stouter frame. You don't get sag and separation with them. But I still really like Airstreams a lot. Truth is, I like all the silver trailers. Especially Spartanettes!

But anyway, for you, I would recommend that if you want a long one, get one newer than a 1985. Supposedly Airstream beefed up the frames in '85 or '86 and that fixed a lot of the sag problems. I guess you can still get the separation from loading it wrong (i.e. hanging too much off the back bumper), but separation is easier to fix than sag.

Or, get an older coach but a shorter one. Maybe like a late 50's 26 footer.

But if you want a mid 70's 31 footer, unless you get really lucky, better figure on a lot of work. About any of them with a lot of miles is going to have the sag/separation because the frames were so flexible.

You can learn a ton on these forums. I wish I'd read more before I bought mine. But, live and learn. The flip side is that if you like fabricating things, rebuilding a '77 Excella would really be an awesome project. I really like the lines of that model. Very sleek!

Best of luck,
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Old 01-03-2010, 08:36 PM   #6
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Jim's Excella 500

Here are a couple of pics of my Excella. Boy, I really miss it looking at these. The skin was in really good shape. You can see the buckle in the skin aft of the axles in the first pic.

I'd pulled the belly pan and examined the frame closely. It had a lot of rust. The previous owner had kept the gas bottles (not a biggie) and valving (again, not a biggie), and the interior cleaned up pretty nice. It even had the factory chandelier.

I was sad to sell it. But it really needed a new frame. Maybe I'll build one up in a couple years when I get more free time. But for now, I just can't do that big a project.

Anyway, good luck with your's. I'll hope to see you on the road soon!
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