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Old 01-22-2013, 06:44 PM   #1
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1978 31' Sovereign
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1978 Sovereign 31'

I am currently looking at a 78' Sovereign. From the pictures, it looks to be in great condition inside and out. The water and gas lines have been replaced. Currently have price negotiated at $7500. Is this a fair price, and what do I need to look for and/or ask? Thanks in advance for any input.
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Old 01-22-2013, 06:51 PM   #2
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I too am currently looking and have been given a great deal of help and information by a member called Alumaholic.

He posted his personal checklist, here is the link. You will need to scroll down a bit to get to the post - it contains a MS Word document.

From my, extremely limited, personal experience, I would not buy a trailer I hadn't inspected in person. Two days ago we looked at a 79 Sovereign 31' that sounded great on paper. The second we opened the door I could smell the damp - at a temperature way below freezing, meaning the damp was in the insulation making it a gut-job. We walked away immediately.

I hope this helps.
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Old 01-22-2013, 07:03 PM   #3
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1978 31' Sovereign
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Thanks for the info, it looks to be very helpful. Does $7500 sound like a fair price?
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Old 01-22-2013, 07:09 PM   #4
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1978 Sovereign 31'

Greetings Jkearns13!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstreams!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jkearns13 View Post
I am currently looking at a 78' Sovereign. From the pictures, it looks to be in great condition inside and out. The water and gas lines have been replaced. Currently have price negotiated at $7500. Is this a fair price, and what do I need to look for and/or ask? Thanks in advance for any input.

There are a number of questions that need to be addressed when considering any Vintage Airstream. The more important would be as follows:
  • Axles: The axles, if original, are beyond their expected lifespan and the rubber rods are likely either worn out or have taken a "set" rendering their suspension abilities near useless. You can almost expect an axle replacement if the axles on the coach have not recently been replaced (look for receipts documenting date and supplier).
  • Brakes: This coach is from the time period when Excella Hydra-Vac Disc Brakes were found on many Airstreams. If the coach has this feature and doesn't have a more modern actuator mounted on the tongue or in the coach, you will need a tow vehicle with an available vacuum source to operate the brakes . . . or budget for a new actuator or other brake revisions.
  • Frame Droop/Sag: Again, this coach is from an era when longer Airstream coaches were noted for a problem with frame droop behind the rear axle. In severe cases, the droop can be identified by the slope of the floor. There is a factory correction for this problem that is often referred to as a "frame stiffener". This stiffener plate can usually be seen between the axles when observing the coach . . . in some cases when the plate isn't present, frame cracking can be observed.
  • Rear End Separation: A malady that can be found in nearly any Airstream that has been in use for a period of year, it can be identified by placing weight on the rear bumper and observering for body movement independent of the frame. Any movement is reason for suspicion, and this condition is often accompanied by rot in the rear floor area.
  • Fron End Separation: This is a comparative recent malady that has been receiving more numerous reports. Like rear separation, the body/floor separates from the frame and can move independently. This condition is often associated with loose rivets in the body hold-down bracket (centered below front window at hitch level).
To assist you in assessing the coach, you might find the Trailer Inspector's Check List -- referenced on the Forums homepage. You may also be able to link up with a volunteer inspector via a nearby linke on the Forums homepage as well.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin

P.S.: The price isn't too far from what you might expect for a coach that is in excellent original condition with all appliances and accessories in fully-functional condition. At that price, the coach shouldn't have issues with the items mentioned above.
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Old 01-22-2013, 07:14 PM   #5
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That's a really difficult question to answer. If the trailer is in mint condition, recently serviced and ready for the road, then that price is a bargain. If it needs considerable work, then it might be way too much.

I'd get an inspection done, with a breakdown of what work needs to be done, if any.
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Old 01-22-2013, 07:20 PM   #6
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Tough to assess any of the price based on what you've said. O64 is correct and would be best in getting a trailer inspected by someone on the check list. Right off the bat it would be best to never believe what an owner says has been changed or not been changed. You might have to add about 700.00-900.00 to the cost of getting it home if it needs tires to be in towable condition. Bad axles might get you 5 miles but the any further might be causing more damage as O64 says to rear end separation. I've seen a few of the 78 Excellas which is a step above the Sovereign that 'seem' to be in good condition based on pictures for cheaper than 7500.00 so that might give you an idea where that price sits.

My advice is to be patient (I know its hard) but the more you learn about your purchase the less your heartache will be (but only slightly) because when you start taking it apart you'll find out very quickly that your 'investment' is now a money pit. keep asking questions. Find out someone in your area that might own the model you're looking at or at least the same year and hang out with them for a day. You'll find that AS owners LOVE talking about their AS even if it's been a PITA!!!!

Good Luck. and let us know how your investigation goes
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Old 01-22-2013, 08:59 PM   #7
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The quick answer you are seeking to your question is "not likely".

The chances that a 35-year-old trailer is in "great condition" without the seller having actually spent about that much to get it into that shape are slim to none.

Ever buy a car from photos? Probably not. The real answer is what Kevin (Overlander64) gave you above.

I don't want to sound mean, but you will eventually find that to really evaluate the worth of an older trailer isn't something even an experienced buyer and seller would try to do from photos, a discussion with the seller, or even a quick look in person. If you go see the trailer, and fill out the checklist Kevin recommended, then see where you're at.

The range for that year and model would, I think, top out at $7,500 and would require a trailer that is ready to drive away, all systems 100% functional and needs very little to nothing done to it.

Welcome to the Forums, and remember, we only heap this homework on you to make sure you don't get taken.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:01 PM   #8
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I was in your shoes last spring. I live near Kansas City but found a 78 Sovereign for sale by the original owner for sale near Louisville, KY while I was there visiting family. After seeing the ad I spent hours reading through this site and a couple other before I decided to go take a look at it. When I did go meet with the owner I spend a couple hours looking at the trailer and talking with him about it before making a decision. I think I was very lucky to find mt Airstream but even luckier that it had the previous owner that it had. Mine is mostly original and in great shape, its probably had more wear put on it since last spring than the original owner put on it while traveling thousands of miles around the US and Canada. He was meticulous about its maintenance and he knew everything about the trailer, I still talk with him every now and then when I have a question.
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:00 PM   #9
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1978 31' Sovereign
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I ended up buying this trailer...it's in pretty good shape, as depicted in the ad. I have noticed that it looks as if the frame has not been reinforced. However, it shows no sign of frame issues. Looking for some input here, will I need to go ahead and reinforce the frame, or should I assume that if it hasn't been an issue as of yet, I shouldn't be concerned with it? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:53 PM   #10
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Congratulations on buying an Airstream trailer.

Did you do any of the checklists? That's your best area to start making a "to-do" list from. If you didn't do them, do them now.

Here is a link to Janet's checklist of things that will need a look at. I would heartily recommend that you print it out, and go all over your trailer to fill it out. Get to know it first.

You need to look at the whole list of areas needing attention before jumping in to one that may not need it for now.

I guess the word I'm looking for is "prioritize". List them all, then start working on them in order of importance.

The number one thing to do is to immediately look for leaks, do a quick research on how to seal them, equip yourself with the right products to do it with, and get it done ASAP.

You want to protect the interior of your trailer before doing anything else, please trust me on that.

For example, there are three vents in the roof of your TT (travel trailer) that very likely need to be re-sealed. They vent the plumbing systems so that water can flow through the pipes. But if their seals to the roof aren't in good shape, water can run down them into your closets, and behind the sink cabinets. There, they will rot the floor.

Plan your work and work your plan. That's the best way to keep your wits about you and your pocketbook in good shape.

And read, read, read here, plus ask questions if you get stumped.

Good luck!
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:55 PM   #11
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Oh, and where are the photos!? We need to see your trailer!!
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