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Old 10-06-2013, 03:56 PM   #1
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1972 31' Excella 500
East Lansing , Michigan
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 4
Do you recognize this make/model?

Hi! We could use some urgent advice! We're interested in buying our first Airstream, which is, we believe, a 1972 31′ Airstream Excella 500 Land Yacht, and there are other people interested. The owner isn't sure what it is; it was abandoned on a lot he purchased in New York state. He's offering to sell it to us for $1,000. He says it needs new tires, electrical, plumbing and AC. The floor is solid and the skin doesn't leak. I was in it and took the photos at this link: Airstream trailer - a set on Flickr

If you could help answer any of these, my wife and I would be very grateful!

- Is it the trailer we think it is?

- None of the two plates on it seems to contain a VIN number (see attached photos) . Am I wrong? It's not registered, but we will almost certainly need to get a plate to tow it. Could we just register it here in Michigan or must we do NY also? The owner suggests loading it onto a flatbed truck! Yikes!

- We will have to go fetch it and bring it all the way back to Michigan. We've never pulled a trailer, but know we will have to at least change the tires. Are there brakes or other things to consider?

- Is this trailer worth the trouble of renovating? We don't have a lot of funds, but are willing to take as long as needed. We basically want to park it in a campground by a lake as a summer place.

Thanks so much!!
Karl Gude
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:54 PM   #2
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1975 31' Sovereign
1980 31' Excella II
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Looks about like a 1972 to me, the VIN is on the riveted on plate, IIRC it should also be stamped on the front A frame somewhere. According to the Double Secret VIN Decoder it is actually a 1973, based on the manufacture date it could have been titled as either a 1972 or 1973. It looks more like and International rather than an Excella 500. Basic difference is in the trim level and somethings were optional versus standard.

Not a bad price, yes you will need tags of some sort to tow it, no clue how to apply for a title in NY or MI.

Is it worth renovating? That would be up to you, depending on what you want to do and how much you want to spend. I can promise you will put more into it than you would ever likely get out of it if you chose to sell it after renovation.

Also that model most likely does not have a gray water tank, not an issue if you plan to park it.

You will also need to repack the wheel bearings and possibly replace the brakes along with the tires prior to towing. Flat bedding it might not be a bad idea.


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Old 10-06-2013, 06:02 PM   #3
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The manufacture date is 10/72 which makes it a legal 1973 as by law fy not cy which bothers some cuz if it is made in 72 should it not be a 72? Answer is no because the model year is not official until fiscal year begins.
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Old 10-06-2013, 06:03 PM   #4
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Just a quick note new model year cars are started in June but the model is not released until Oct 1st.
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Old 10-06-2013, 06:08 PM   #5
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For $1000 it looks pretty good to me. The VIN number is the bottom number under where it says "Land Yacht".

Yes, you will spend money on it, after all it is 40 years old. But the photos make it look like an OK investment. The aluminum propane tanks are worth about $200 alone, even with old valves. I bet with new tires you could tow it home easily, assuming you have a decent tow vehicle.

New York state didn't have titles on vehicles until sometime in the late 60's or ealry 70's as I recall. I know the '67 AS I bought there did not have one. So, you may be able to title it now with a bill of sale, but who knows until you check with a DMV in both New York and your home state.

It is an interesting find, but plan on at least $6000 in repairs, renovations, replacement things and upgrades to make it useable. Maybe a bit less if you are just going to park it and never tow it again.
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Old 10-06-2013, 08:40 PM   #6
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1 or I for international, 31 foot is the length, B is center bath, 3 is for 1973, J is made in Jackson Ohio then sequential serial number. Which all of this is the vin number.
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Old 10-06-2013, 08:52 PM   #7
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1972 31' Excella 500
East Lansing , Michigan
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Thanks, it's like reading hieroglyphics!
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:00 PM   #8
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1972 31' Excella 500
East Lansing , Michigan
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Thanks you so much everyone! This is very helpful! Putting it onto a flatbed trailer turns out to be prohibitively expensive, considering it would be traveling 1,000 miles. I think what we'll need to do is find a mechanic out in CT somehow and have them come pick it up from the seller and replace the tires and brakes and grease the bearings for us. I wonder if I should replace the rims, too. I read elsewhere that axles may need replacing, but I'm hoping they won't snap on the way here!

I'm a bit nervous about towing something this size. How does one spend a night in a hotel with such a beast in back??

$6,000 (over time!) is still a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a new trailer!
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:11 PM   #9
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Call George in NY stAte he is by the CT border in Carmel.
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:18 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by karlgude View Post
The floor is solid and the skin doesn't leak.
I would be very surprised if these two statements would hold up to further scrutiny.

Which isn't to say you shouldn't buy it, but be prepared for a total restoration job. Looking at your images, some parts of the floor do look water damaged. The model you're looking at was also prone to rear end separation. If you stand on the back bumper and move your weight about, you can often see it.

If you're handy and not scared of taking this project on, then by all means. But, if you add up the cost of fixing this trailer up and just want something nice to put on your lake property, then there's probably cheaper alternatives out there.

One last thing to keep in mind that many campgrounds don't allow trailers that are older than 10 years for seasonal stays, sometimes not even for transient visits. Now, with an Airstream it's easy to make a "mistake" and give them a later year of manufacture when asked, especially if it has been restored and looks great, but you might run into this issue.
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:32 PM   #11
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You will need a title.

Looks to me like the axles are shot on that trailer. There is a rubber stop that limits the travel so the trailer will ride on the stops and all the springing you will have will come from the tires. Should not be a problem but it will be a rough ride for the trailer. I think the problem with putting it on a flatbed is that will bounce and beat it up worse than if you tow it.

Youi at least need to check the trailer brakes and grease the bearings. I bought a trailer that had not moved in 18 years. It was in FL and there are a lot of trailer services there. I found a truck tire shop with a mobile service truck and they came and got the wheels and installed new tires and checked and greased the trailer bearings on site. Of course you can do that if you have the time.

You will need a charged and working battery in the trailer and you need to see that the brakes and the breakway switch are working. Ditto brake and turn lights. I had to change the 9 pin plug on the trailer (a 87 Excella) for a 7 pin that would fit the truck

You need for the trailer tongue jack to be working in order to hitch it up and for the coupler to be in decent condition.
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:37 PM   #12
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You can pickup a moisture meter at either Home Depot or Lowe's for somewhere around $20-50 dollars (depending on features) and check the perimeter flooring and in hidden areas to verify shell integrity. Do the aforementioned bumper separation check and, between the two, you'll learn fairly quickly whether further interest is warranted.
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:49 PM   #13
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The biggest problem you have is the lack of a title and way to clear it. With no title, the DMV will assume you or someone else stole it. NY is particularly rigid about these things.
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:59 PM   #14
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First off, the skin leaks and you have floor damage. I can see that from the photos. I can also see that the axles are shot, and the bumper looks off square which indicated it's either been hit or is sagging.

Assuming your going to be parked makes thing a little easier to begin with. I moved into my 1971 safari from a tent. Not much worked, but I felt like a king! Fix things as you can find time and money.

Speaking of money: Extreme ballpark to get this safe:

Tires, brakes - $1,000
Battery - $100
Temporary lights - $100
Brake Controller - $100

Looks like a fun project, a fair deal at $1k if the AC and fridge work.

My suggestion, come to Urban Air in Eaton Rapids next weekend. Meet 100 of your soon to be closest friends. See some really cool trailers and then decide to put more skin in the game to live the Airstream way of life. You won't regret it for a minute.

Proud Member of the Wally Byam Airstream Club #24260

The “Ohio Airstreamer -- Informal forum for weekend camping” thread.
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