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Old 09-12-2006, 07:33 PM   #1
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1978 31' Sovereign Rear Bath "International"

Finally went and looked at 1978 31' Rear Bath Sovereign "International"

Summary:
1) Seems like a realtively unmolested owned by original owner...'81 year old gentleman. Last 10+ year has been "full timed" in a campground for the summer. Before that it was towed to AZ for the winter...now stored at a nearby farm outside for the winter.

2) Owner seems to fix what needs fixing...*fridge/furnace and water heater "control card"?...2 plus years ago...*wheel bearing repack 4 years ago...*"new" tires 11year ago.

3) Sitting outside and being 28 years old has had its cost. Clear coat is quite peeled in many places...finish is somewhat dirty and needs a good cleaning...awnings have a number of little holes...color logos etc. are quite faded...air conditioner looks pretty bad but supposedly works.

4) Interior is VERY tired...dark...light fixtures yellowed..."new" carpet dirty...ceiling and walls are "sticky" with cooking and living grease.,,somw lower surfaces are the normal smooth vinyl?...assume this stuff can be cleaned easily? No apparent leaks...owner says it has never leaked,

5) Frame and floor...did not see any rot in the floor...only looked in part of rear bath and from some outside storeage...some visible surface rust. Outside marker and other light "cans" appeared quite clean. This is the part that makes me nervous...w/o opening up the floor or the belly pan I HAVE to assume there is rust on the frame????

Likely FIXES if I purchased...you may choose differently:

a) New tires (and maybe wheels) = $1000
b) New axles w/new disc brakes...and brake controller = $4000
c) Rear sag/separation "fixes"...either because it needs it or to prevent the issue = $5000...assume Full Monty NOT needed!
d) New batteries and new electrical management "box" = $1000
e) New awnings...all the way around = $3000????
f) New flooring (ie carpet or other floor covering) = $1500
g) New couch...mattress...microwave...drapes are neutral off white and look OK (have been replaced once = $1500
10) New light fixtures and Fantastic fans at least kitchen and bathroom = $1500
11) Hitch is WD...old and unknown quality...new Hensley = $3000
12) New AC...$2000??

"Theoretical" Total w/o "Unknowns" = $$23,500

Obviously some of the above MAY not be necessary and may be overstated..."a bit"...BUT...does not include anything for frame rust repair or any major floor replacement.

Bottom line is that I think I need to look at a newer AS as I am not likely to accept partial fixes...particularly in the running gear.

BTW...Asking price is $7000...and I am unlikely to even pay $3000.

Also, what is an International vs Regular Sovereign vs Excella?

It was great to get out and actually LOOK at an "older" AS...I know it is not "Vintage"...just a bit older. My guess is that this is certainly unrestored Above Average"...but still 28 years old and time for some tender loving care and some $$$$$$s.

Your thoughts...other than but a Winnebago !...Tom R in Two Harbors
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Old 09-12-2006, 07:41 PM   #2
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Tom,

My only comment is that a 1978 is as vintage as my 1979 Safari is vintage. Any Airstream over 25 years old is vintage, that means any Airstream built before 1982.

Have you looked at RJ Dial's site regarding price/value? www.vintageairstream.com ?

Also your prices may be a little high. Do you plan on doing any of the work yourself?

Bill
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Old 09-12-2006, 07:50 PM   #3
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Hi Bill...Probably would do interior work and other less than "major" projects. May be willing to try some of the other...but afraid the learning curve might out do my patience!

I made the mistake of reading the ENTIRE Full Monty thread and also have seen a number of the floor/belly pan projects and would be a bit reluctant to do anything other than perhaps a small floor parch.

The running gear I would want done soon after determining what I had!

IF I bought it for a low...but I think fair price...I might do minimum fixes to determine if it was a "major" project" or just a lot of general work.

What do you think...does it sound like an "above average" '78?

Tom R in Two Harbors MN
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Old 09-12-2006, 07:59 PM   #4
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Tom,

We purchased our Safari four years ago, ready to use. There are pictures at: http://www.vintageairstream.com/arch...ari/index.html

We felt that the Safari was above average, it was ready to use with no repairs needed. The prior owner was asking $12,000.

Longer units are less as the smaller ones are in more demand. About three years ago I spoke with a couple in No Cal who had just purchased a 31 footer a couple of years older than our Safari. They paid $5,000 as I recall. It needed new flooring, but I don't remember what else.

It would have to be clean to be average, I don't think that the exterior is below average after all it is 28 years old, the clear coat on our Safari is peeling on the top but not on the sides.

I think that $7,000 is high, also your rehab costs may be high also. It may be that a good cleaning and replace carpet and tires are all that is needed. I don't see any need to replace the wheels since they will not be split rims.

Bill
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Old 09-12-2006, 09:56 PM   #5
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Question Could it be.......?

Tom -

This doesn't happen to be the one sitting at the Airstream Park in Clear Lake, does it?

Saw one similiar to your description there.

Missed you in chat room tonight.
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Old 09-12-2006, 10:05 PM   #6
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Tom-

I feel confident answering a couple of your questions...

the one about the difference between "International vs. regular Sovereign vs. Excella." Essentially, all "Sovereigns" are going to be "Internationals" i.e., they will have the International upgrade package. The "Excella" package was an upgrade that included a number of different interior and exterior items.

The "Sticky" walls are a commonality of all 70's models, as far as I know. The panels are aluminum with some sort of colored vinyl coating. The sticky quality may result from the adhesive leaking through. It comes off with a good cleaning agent, but will often return after awhile.

Good places to look for floor rot are in the back compartment hatch of the rear bath models, by the entry door, and up front around the curved portions and along under the front window. Remember to step on the rear bumper and look for movement of the frame relative to the body of the trailer that would indicate a problem.

I would strongly consider the addition of the reinforcement plates on the frame over the axles. You can order these from Airstream through any dealer, or have the Airstream Factory Service Center do all of this work. I'm a fan of the Service Center. Their prices may seem high, but you can count on the work being done reasonably well.

My final piece of advice is to never buy the first Airstream you go to look at. I know I made a few of these trips to look at trailers and came home dissapointed by what I saw, but in the end, persistance and patience paid dividends in finding a unit in good shape for a fair price. But each one that I saw increased by knowledge base and gave me a basis of comparison for future encounters.
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Old 09-12-2006, 10:17 PM   #7
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Hi Beth...Yes...it is at Clear Lake. There actually are two '78 31' Rear Baths for sale. The one I saw was in share D66...owned by Will Johnson who is a very nice 81 year old man...original owner.

I did not go to the chat room...guess i am a little shy and most others seemed to know each other .

Is that the unit you saw?...did you look at it closely at all?...or just see it for sale?

Tom R currently in Eden Prairie MN
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Old 09-12-2006, 10:21 PM   #8
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Hi Dallas...did your '78 have the sag/separation issue? Did you have the factory "fix"?...does it fix both the issue of sag/sep?...what is the cost if the factory service center does the fix?

I saw a few Excella models...seem a bit fancier?...more windows?

Are the mid/late Excella models a better bet relative to the frame issues?

What have you had to do to your '78?...Tom R in Eden Prairie MN
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Old 09-13-2006, 07:59 AM   #9
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Factory sag/separation "fix" kit and repair. Anyone either done this factory route themselves...or had the factory service center done the fix?? What was the cost? Tom R
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Old 09-13-2006, 11:06 AM   #10
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TomR-

I don't have a definitive list of what was upgraded on the 1978 Excella's vs. a Sovereign, but these are things that come to mind. I may be off a little, so forgive me, others will jump in and correct me! Also, some of the Excella upgrades were options to order for a Sovereign so yours may have them! Some of the items below were also optional on the Excella. It's been hard for me to sort all of these out. Maybe someone will post an Excella brochure or an order spec sheet. That would be very helpful!

Inset window in the entry door, two batteries, retractable water hose and electric reels, Excella-Vac disc brakes, Stop-turn-tailight monitor, spare tire bracket, Step extension, BAL Jacks, Thermo (double pane) windows throughout, Vista-View windows, Litton microwave oven (optional), 7-1/2 gal LPG tanks (10 gal optional), Lounge chair, space lockers (over beds-optional), Motorized TV antenna, Nutone appliance center, Vacuum cleaner, Dish-Quik automatic sprayer, Everpure water purifier, door bell, hidden safe, upgraded light fixtures, digital clock, AM/FM 8-track, LPG tank monitor, woven wood window shades, bathroom exhaust fan, special fabrics for beds and couches, more wood-veneer paneling on room dividers (vs. white wall-papery type), solid room divider doors.

There seem to be several variations of the layout: Center bath twin or double, Rear bath twin or double (T or D), Rear bath with roadside galley twin or double (G or H). The couch could be streetside, across the front, or in an "L" configuration.

I don't think the Excella models differed significantly in terms of the frame issues. The extra weight may have made them more susceptible, but that's just a guess.

We've had the frame reinforcement plates added by the factory and I had the axles upgraded by ordering from Inland RV and having a local place install them. When you order you have the option of increasing the starting angle which will raise the ride height somewhat. That's important to me because on the 31' trailers, the rear tends to drag when going over things. We additionally had to have a small amount of floor rot fixed up by the entry door. Other than that, there's not been much wrong. I'll keep a close eye out for rear separation. So far we're OK. We also had the factory install sun-glasses (the tinted front window covering) and replace the range, too.

I am certainly not gifted when it comes to heavy mechanical stuff like swapping axles or installing frame plates! I know when to ask for help...I've been successful having the axles done locally, but the same folks were unable to do the frame plates because of the use of specialized fasteners called "Huck Rivets"(?) because they are blindly placed (you can't get to the back side of the frame without a good bit of effort). They didn't have them available. Also, when you install the frame plates, you have to support the trailer from the front and the very back to get the bow out of the frame before putting them on. I felt better having the factory do this. They measure carefully before and after to get it right. I would have had them do the axles, but their labor cost AND parts cost on the axles was higher than ordering, shipping and replacing locally. You might be able to negotiate with them, though, if you were having both done at the same time. It seems there would be some duplicate labor involved that might result in a savings. I believe their prices also go down off season.

Good luck with your decision!
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Old 09-13-2006, 05:16 PM   #11
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Follow up...I had a great discussion today with Chris in AS sevice department. The price to have them fix the sag/sep is as follows...$1300 for the frame reinforcement and $900 for the separation fix...including the "elaphant ear" patch when done.

Chris also asked around to determine what fix AS had done to prevent the problem in newer models...his boss said he thought that the frame was made "thicker" in the early '80s...seems to fit with the lack of occurances in the '80s models on this forum??? He said the mid-late '70s appear to have most of the issues.

BTW...Chris was VERY helpful and also mentioned they have discounted "winter" rates and you can drop off in the fall and pick up in the spring!

He also mentioned a 25 point inspection that may be a good idea for an older AS...particularly for a first time owner. Cost is $325 and he says they pretty much check all systems. IF I were to buy an older AS I would be inclined to bring it to AS, have it checked and have some of the work completed by spring pick up.

Just an update FYI...Tom R in Two Harbors MN
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Old 09-13-2006, 07:47 PM   #12
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why new axles? do you know for sure that those are needed? A/C unit? Is it bad or theorizing?
I think it sounds like a typical unrestored Sovereign, needing a fair amount of tlc, some restoration and the upgrades that are personally preferable.
If no major sytems need replacement and the cleaning, resto, updating is as usual a 5000 price tag os not unfair.
You have to see thru the faded clearcoat, the old interior etc. I bought a one owner that an older couple had, and it too looked quite tired, but everything worked, and I could see the potential. Three months in and it is becoming reality.
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Old 09-13-2006, 08:38 PM   #13
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Hi Allan...I am sure you are right and I expect that if I purchased such an AS I would allow things to settle before doing the updates I mention.

The axle replacement comes form the numerous examples I have read of the axles either needing to be replaced or expecting that they will soon.

Tha AC currently "works"...but I am betting it is less than "current" in its ability to keep the coach nice and cool!...current owner repeated "it keep us as cool as WE want" when asked if it would cool down effectively on hot days.

As far as value...not sure I agree. Fully restored value on these is moderate and this coach will take significant $$$$s and TLC just to get up to safe to tow...and clean and comfortable to live in...and that is if you are lucky and the floor and frame do not turn out to be a real mess.

I guess if you are looking for a full time, long-term project and have the ability and desire to do most/all of the work yourself...it may be worth $5000. I might rather pay $5K-$10k for something from the late '80s that is a bit fresher.

Other problem I have is that this is the FIRST used AS I have looked at...so I have no universe of experience to measure it against. Maybe when he sells it for his $7K asking price I will begin to get a better feel for market value...my current opinions are based upon my opinion and my reality...and not the AS market realities.

I will eventually get a better "feel" for what these 28-30 year old tired ASs sell for ...and how much it takes to make them "comfortable" and safe...for a new owner. Tom R in Two harbors MN
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Old 09-14-2006, 08:38 AM   #14
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you're right. If a 31 is what you want also, there are many available. They seem to be more plentiful than most, especially the 25s. Those are harder to locate. The rear bedroom models are more scarce, and to me more desirable, not knowcking the rear bath, as some prefer it.
I looked at a handful, but after almost 5 years of working on and enjoying a classic motorhome, I had some pretty good basic knowledge of the beast before buying the unpowered cousin.
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