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Old 03-10-2014, 12:17 PM   #1
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1977 Argosy 24 Rear Door
Glen Burnie , Maryland
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Thumbs up 1977 Rear-Door Argosy aka The Wicked Painted Lady or Wiky...

We found our trailer on Craigslist after a viewing other Airstreams; we knew this was the trailer for us when we saw her. We purchased the 24' Rear Door Argosy and had an EPIC return trip from NC to MD to bring it home. Our trailer is the 24' backdoor shown here with others of that type: http://www.airforums.com/attachments...4_1977-med.jpg

We questioned the value of the trailer, how to price or even find fair market value on a 37yr old travel trailer? My significant other and I went round about the cost of this 37yr trailer we were considering purchasing. No one knew if any of the systems worked, dry rot on the tires that were deflated and general neglect made it look like a bad investment.

The former owners would not budge on the price or negotiate, they were very nice and explained their position but we could not reach an agreement and we left, driving off without the trailer having been unable to reach an agreement. As we drove away we discussed the trailer intensely, we relented, turned around and purchased the trailer at asking price, because this was THE trailer and we knew it. We viewed over 18 Airstream trailers (3 Argosys’) in person in just over 10 days and this was THE trailer.

We bought the trailer, money/paperwork changed hands and we began to prepare the trailer to be towed home to MD. Filled the dry rotted tires with air to see if they would hold (they did) hooked the trailer to the truck after undocking the axel from a tree stump and promptly sunk both the trailer and truck axel deep in mud. Hours later digging/ pulling/ towing truck and trailer out of the mud and quickly losing light, we headed home. We duct taped and gorilla taped cardboard to the Pan windows to protect them - someone on forum had suggested it, unfortunately it tore off some of the paint from the body of the trailer when we later removed the tape. After 15mins on the road we had no lights on the trailer, brake, signal or running lights. After some work we could only get running lights on one side of the trailer working. After an hour of trying we stopped at Autozone and bought a trailer light kit from AutoZone and away we went.

Shortly thereafter we stopped for gas and found that again there were no lights, we were still 5hrs from home. Every 15mins we pulled off to wiggle or adjust to get some of the lights to work and then it started to snow. Ok let's call it what it was... Severe weather event!

Please understand, I had never pulled a travel trailer before but this trailer pulled pretty nicely, until the snow came and started to slide all over, we could not see the road any longer, Salt Trucks ahead of us were not really having an impact, crazy scary!

The tired held even if the weather did not and there was more to the adventure but we finally made it back sometime after 3am the next morning and began the painful process of learning how to back a travel trailer backwards down a snow and ice filled cul-de-sac, into a driveway (without a license plate you can’t park it on the street). Once we positioned it at a small angle across the driveway, a bit onto the lawn, across the driveway (without hitting the telephone pole) we called it done and went to bed.

I really hope I get better at backing the trailer up, my man did much better than I did but imagine how bad it would have been if we brought a trailer bigger home!?

We fell in love with the inside arrangement after seeing the pictures online. After seeing the trailer in person we HAD to have it, it was just RIGHT for us, an emotional purchase if you will.

We adore our Wiky (Our Wicked Painted Lady) and we are actually pretty happy that our girl came to us in rough condition, as it justifies what we have in mind for changes without destroying anything rare or original. Wiky has none of the original fabrics inside (seems she was redone at some point), was repainted with some type of house paint on the body which has now oxidized, during some time in her service and shows a lot of wear overall but still suprisingly solid.

PROS:
1. Trailer towed perfectly on the drive home, axels and bearing worked smoothly, no heating up. Considering the trailer had not moved in years, parked on a farm and used occasionally only to house baby goats, it was in fair condition.

2. All windows, latches, compartment doors interior/exterior function and are present.

3. Floor feels solid with little bounce.

4. Propane system hoses replaced and functions well.

5. Electrical systems seem to be functioning well when plugged in to street power.

6. Electrical systems on battery seem to be functioning once battery was replaced.

7. Oven and 4-burner stove top function well; we have baked a few batches of cookies to test the oven out, yummy success!

8. After opening and lifting up all interior compartments we found a wonderful surprise: it seems that the water heater and/or water pump are all relatively new (2-4yrs). We cannot test at this point for fear of freezing pipes and will have to wait until the weather turns.

9. AC fan blows – unknown if it will cool at this time
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:24 PM   #2
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1977 Argosy 24 Rear Door
Glen Burnie , Maryland
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CONS:

1. All windows need new gaskets/seals and screens.

2. Inverter has constant humming even with new battery or plugged in.

3. Running lights and signals lights still not functioning, tested and all bulbs at good.

4. AC fan blows – unknown if it will cool at this time.

5. Have been unable to figure out how to light the furnace, unknown if it functions.

6. Have been unable to light water heater, unknown if it functions.

7. Gray water tank unknown if it functions.

8. Toilet/Black water tank unknown if it functions.

9. Floor feels solid with little bounce, two sections of rot located:

a. 4"X2" spot of rot on the corner of the doorway threshold which butts up against the corner of the shower as well.

b. 2’X2’ spot of rot on the corner front of wheel well, as well as damp in that area.

c. Under sink around wheel well area smells damp and we believe same issue exists.

BONUS: We were able to purchase a new marine battery group 24 (same size as the battery we removed) and got a screaming deal from Camping World during a sale for $99 instead of $139 with another additional $20 rebate and a free roll of RV TP!

We are going to focus on fixing up Wiky... this site is amazing and reading other threads we have been finding more and more good information. We will be doing a deep dive into floor repair to fix the rot/holes, want to do it right, but we need to use her to camp in June so it might be later.

The justification for purchasing the trailer is my health condition so we can control temp and humidity, so we cannot camp in the tent anymore and we are getting too old to sleep on the ground. I can not wait for our first "out-of-the-driveway" camping experience.

If you have suggestions, your own experience to share or guidence for us Newbies we are open to anything you might have to offer and encourage you to please share, so we can learn from your experience, thank you!
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:39 PM   #3
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The "inverter" is actually a "converter" & it is supposed to hum, in that era. It is a POS so you should update it to an Intellipower converter anyway. Check the rear floor very very carefully as there is likely rot back there as well. Check out The Vintage Airstream Podcast | Vintage Trailer Restoration for more info about restoring your dream
Good luck with your project & welcome.
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:44 PM   #4
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1977 Argosy 24 Rear Door
Glen Burnie , Maryland
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Thanks Colin, the humming annoys me (more than anything else we have done or found on the trailer, go figure) the "converter" and all electric are firmly in the domain of my man (passes the baton to him).

On that note, how critical an update would you consider this, if we wait what could the downside be?

Still working the water systems, tires/rims, and all running and signal lights (pretty important - figured that out in the snowbound trip home)
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:46 PM   #5
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Like.
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:48 PM   #6
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1977 Argosy 24 Rear Door
Glen Burnie , Maryland
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OH! Please if possible could you provide a clue on how/where to light the pilot on the furnace?

The furnace is a mystery we have yet to figure out how to light, not for lack of poking around, but then we were sidetracked by baking cookies in the stove.

When we turn on the fridge when the trailer is connected to city power it blows, we wanted to see if it will function with propane.
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Old 03-10-2014, 01:11 PM   #7
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Sounds like the two of you have a project on your hands! I'm sure it will bring you hours of joy and frustration all at the same time!

From your description of the flat tires I have to say you two are gutsy to tow it that far before replacing them!
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Old 03-10-2014, 01:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiky View Post
Thanks Colin, the humming annoys me (more than anything else we have done or found on the trailer, go figure) the "converter" and all electric are firmly in the domain of my man (passes the baton to him).

On that note, how critical an update would you consider this, if we wait what could the downside be?

Still working the water systems, tires/rims, and all running and signal lights (pretty important - figured that out in the snowbound trip home)
I would dump the Univolt ASAP as all it will do is cook that nice new battery you just bought...............& annoy you in the process.

As far as your furnace is concerned, this era of furnace may light & might even work to some degree, however many have had their heat exchangers rust out, running the risk of waking up dead................not my idea of a fun time.
This is a big project, so assess the structural integrity of the floor, chassis, axles etc before making it "pretty".
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Old 03-10-2014, 01:22 PM   #9
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1977 Argosy 24 Rear Door
Glen Burnie , Maryland
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Cyberous, It was less guts, more ignorance and necessity I think!

We did pull off frequently to check both tires/lights and bearings (if they had heated up)

Colin,
Ouch good to know and need to put this on the list and get cracking sourcing one. THANK YOU! Something we had no clue about and thought ourselves lucky it was simply working, you saved us the experience and money learning it ourselves, thanks again.

Pretty is so far on the back burner ... I will have all the time in the world to decide on the perfect paint job.
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Old 03-10-2014, 02:33 PM   #10
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Our focus is to be able to use our trailer this coming June for a week at a boon docking campsite less than 2hrs from us. Our only critical need is that it run safely and the AC works. Three items on our radar and listed are Tires, all running/signal lights and A/C.

As newbies we might not have a clue about hidden dangers etc…

Please assist with how best to diagnose the critical need to replace, or to prioritize the necessity and allotment of work and money toward following issues:

1. Axels
2. Electrical – Specifically how critical to replace the Converter. How long until it would fry our new battery?
3. Furnace
4. Floor, rot or holes
5. Any issues we should be addressing not listed here
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Old 03-10-2014, 02:55 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiky View Post
Our focus is to be able to use our trailer this coming June for a week at a boon docking campsite less than 2hrs from us. Our only critical need is that it run safely and the AC works. Three items on our radar and listed are Tires, all running/signal lights and A/C.

As newbies we might not have a clue about hidden dangers etc…

Please assist with how best to diagnose the critical need to replace, or to prioritize the necessity and allotment of work and money toward following issues:

1. Axels
2. Electrical – Specifically how critical to replace the Converter. How long until it would fry our new battery?
3. Furnace
4. Floor, rot or holes
5. Any issues we should be addressing not listed here
As your axles are likely finished, they will need replacing. The easiest way to figure this out is to check the torsion angle while the trailer is on the ground, then raise the trailer on a jack. The torsion arm should drop several inches. Axles of this era typically only drop an inch, making it tough to replace the tires, but more importantly inducing more road shock into the trailer structure, popping rivets, cabinet doors popping open, etc. We have replaced many axles on trailers of this era & newer.

The main problem with the Univolt is that it is old tech, & does not recognize that your battery is charged & just keeps on going. They were state of the art at one time, but today we use "smart" chargers that roll back when they see the battery is charged. This is especially desirable when you have the latest battery technology, i.e. AGM or Gel cells. Either way, dump the thing, it's just an anchor.

Furnace...........get a CO detector & cross your fingers

Floor Rot is discussed often here & on The Vintage Airstream Podcast | Vintage Trailer Restoration .

Have fun with it,
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Old 03-10-2014, 03:13 PM   #12
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I'm able to use my 1975 furnace during winter boondocking. I have kept a combination CO/smoke detector in the Argosy since I purchased it, and used the furnace for quite a few hours while awake before trusting it to maintain a minimum temperature while I sleep. I'm fortunate, mine isn't murderous yet. I would've replaced it anyway but getting it out will require me to dismantle the galley cabinets, so the new NT-30SP I bought is going into the 28 rear-bedroom.

On a couple of occasions I've convinced it to light with the spark igniter built into it, but I've found it's easier to remove the inspection port and light it with a long-reach lighter. There's probably a valve in the gas line before the furnace, make sure that's on before you get too frustrated trying to light it. I don't think you'll really need the furnace in June, will you?

*IF* the Univolt is adequately charging your battery, and if you don't leave the trailer plugged in for long periods of time when you're not using it, you can limp along for a while without replacing it. Perhaps perversely, the Univolt is also bad for boondocking because it won't charge the battery as fast as a modern 3-stage charger will, either. So, you'll have longer runs of the generator to recharge the battery.
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Old 03-10-2014, 03:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiky View Post
Our focus is to be able to use our trailer this coming June for a week at a boon docking campsite less than 2hrs from us. Our only critical need is that it run safely and the AC works. Three items on our radar and listed are Tires, all running/signal lights and A/C.

As newbies we might not have a clue about hidden dangers etc…

Please assist with how best to diagnose the critical need to replace, or to prioritize the necessity and allotment of work and money toward following issues:

1. Axels
2. Electrical – Specifically how critical to replace the Converter. How long until it would fry our new battery?
3. Furnace
4. Floor, rot or holes
5. Any issues we should be addressing not listed here
Number 1. Congrats on your Argosy. I do like the rear door. If my wife would only let me have a 3rd Argosy...nevermind, I want to stay married.
Number 2. Pictures. We like pictures.
Number 3. Colin does this for a living. I would listen to what he has to say and ask questions if I don't understand. What I believe he was getting at was if you are going to do it right, there are things that should be done before others. Like before you do and work in the inside, a badly rotted floor should be replaced. To do the floor right, the inside should be gutted. Then when you put it back together you can fix or change things. Pictures!! Take pictures and post them with your questions.
Number 4. Axels. If they are original, they no longer have any bounce and should be replaced. This would not have to be done before June. However keep in mine that with a dead axel the trailer will feel every bump in the road and could loosen rivets and or screws.
Number 5. Electrical. Running/brake lights. I have found that when they come and go like that, it is usually a loose connection. This includes the ground. Some lights have a wire screwed into the metal of the trailer while some just have the fixture screwed into the trailer. Check those screws for tightness.
Converter. One of the first things I would replace. The old one could fry you new battery over night.
Number 6. I would not use the old furnace without having a CO2 detector in the trailer. I install a CO2/LP detector. I sleep better at night. As far as lighting it you might be able to find a users manual at airstream.com
Number 7. After sitting on the farm for so long, you may want to check for any frame rusting.
Hope this helps.
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Old 03-10-2014, 08:45 PM   #14
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Ummm! A project indeed. Lots of good advice already. I might add "Make haste slowly" so you don't dive in and then lose heart. As one person told me, "There are a lot of gutted trailers that don't get done simply because the project got too big too fast." Obviously the trailer can be towed when the axles aren't great, but tires are really important. Do the axles when time and money permit. Just don't put it off too long. Good tires are imperative. Working lights are imperative. I would sure get a CO detector for that heater if you can get it to work. Get the plumbing working. In short, get the trailer to where you can use it, then attack potentially big problems like axles, frame, floor, etc. one at a time.
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