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Old 07-05-2012, 08:08 AM   #1
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1979 31' Sovereign
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Unhappy keep or sell??

We are evaluating different things that we want to keep or sell and our AS and tow vehicle is a major thought.

Both are paid for in full.

We have an 02 Excursion 4x4 that gets 8-11 mpg. (that does not matter if we do or don't tow, the mpg changes VERY LITTLE)

Our AS is a 31' 1979 Sovereign Land Yacht. We are the second owners and have made several cosmetic and some functional updates, however, it is getting closer and closer to needing a shell off restoration and we have neither the time, money, or facility to accomplish this.

EVERY trip we take turns from a vacation to time to work on the AS. We have had this for 2.5 years, our first trip we had to replace the tires, and replace the bearings (the po said this had all been done recently, but it was not done correctly and we had a blowout).

That caused the water heater to leak the rest of that trip, and sent it to the body shop when we got home. On other trips we have spent the time trying to find leaks that have appeared, a furnace that dies, guages that are no longer accurate, etc.

This spring we spent 2 months checking everything getting it ready. We just got back from a 10 day vacation with temps ranging from 70's (only a couple days) to 111.
During this trip, the AC quit (it was over 100 out that day, and my kids, niece, and sister in law were stuck inside), the door became a huge problem this trip, requires a lot of pushing and pulling to close, and only my husband is strong enough to lock it. Also on this trip, the black tank has developed a leak that we have yet to figure out (we have only been home 3 days)

Prior to this trip we replaced the flooring in the front under the gaucho, resealed all the seams and windows, and put in new shower walls that run over the lip of the shower pan instead of behind it to help with the leaks. Part of the leaks were from the entire bath/shower section coming loose from the ceiling/wall and leaving gaps around the walls/shower pan that the PO had filled with silicone that didn't stick to the laminated shower walls after time. After putting the new walls up (they are cemented to the old walls and are the white bubbly looking board you see in lowe's and other bathrooms) we got home from this trip and the ride home cause the shower pan to crack/break in the floor/corner.

We are currently helping my in-laws remodel their home, and we are working on some major reconstruction on our own home as well.

We are wondering if it is a good idea to sell the AS and let someone else enjoy it, or to just let it set till we have time and money to invest in it one day (aware that letting it set can cause problems as well, it sat for 3 years in MI snow storms before we got it).

The price was right when we got it, but we spend more of our vacations working on it than relaxing. I know there are other things that have "gone wrong" on our trips, but right now I can't think of them...

I love my AS and don't wanna sell, but at the same time don't want to see it go to waste either.

We are wondering if this is common, or do we have a bad one? What would you do in our shoes?
Any other food for thought for us?
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Old 07-05-2012, 08:28 AM   #2
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Sounds like our '69 Sovereign. My solution? Keep patching, while I look for a secluded and shady place to park it as a summer home. And...buy another older and slightly smaller one to fix up and haul around on those "working vacations." I guess I am a glutton for punishment (as my dad always said) and am not happy unless something needs to be fixed or improved upon. It can be very satisfying if it does not totally ruin your vacation. Obviously this does not work for most people. Best wishes, bill b.
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Old 07-05-2012, 08:31 AM   #3
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Yours is old. Just like old cars they will be a labor of love. If you like Airstreams, but not the labor, sell the the 1979 and get a later model, maybe 10 years old or so.
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Old 07-05-2012, 08:35 AM   #4
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I agree, mine s an 05, have never used it without at least one problem. Really is discouraging. I can sell mine, buy a garbage SOB, pocket e few thousand dollars and in a few years when I can't travel anymore just throw it out. Jim
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Old 07-05-2012, 09:07 AM   #5
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You have two choices...keep working on the old one and use it, or buy a new one and have it sitting at the dealer for warranty work when you want to use. I am in the process of working through my 1975. When I am done I will have a trailer that should last for another 30 years. IMHO if you try and trade up to a newer one you are just swapping one set of problems for different set. I prefer to dance with the devil I know. YMMV.

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Old 07-05-2012, 09:36 AM   #6
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1979 31' Sovereign
Wabash , Indiana
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We work so much on things when we are at home(literally daily), we had hoped to just relax on vacay. We got the AS from a friend who's dad had owned it and passed.
We knew nothing when we got it, and have learned a little since.

Our other option is to sell the trailer and become tent or tipi campers for a while. Maybe a smaller vehicle and a small enclosed trailer for gear etc...

We would not consider getting a newer one for years to come ....
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:20 AM   #7
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Sounds like you like vacations to be for relaxation and fun, not challenging. Vacationing in motels, destination resorts, or on cruise ships do not have all these problems. The more equipment you have the more maintenance will be required.
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:47 PM   #8
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The decision is already made.
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:51 PM   #9
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A couple of comments on the OP:

I don't think you have a "bad" trailer, just an old one that is in need of a lot of refurb. I honestly don't think that when these trailers were designed and built 40 yrs ago anyone expected them to be still on the road today with the original appliances.

If you don't "need" to sell your trailer and you love it, then hold onto it. I don't believe that trailers are so rare that having yours parked in the backyard represents a huge opportunity cost for the trailering world.

If you want to continue being an airstreamer, but don't have the time and money to refurb your current trailer, then consider selling the trailer, and buying one that someone has lovingly fixed up, but is ready to part with. One like this should be attainable for a lot less than a new trailer, and assuming they did a decent* job, you should have a lot less trouble.

I occasionally hear people attest to the high "Quality" of Airstreams. It is true that the shells survive for 60 years, but unless the thing has been living in a climate controlled museum, the rest will deterioriate with age, just like the interior of a car, or any other trailer out there. I don't think there is a quality differentiator in terms of the appliances, furnishings, etc..

I hear a lot of complaints about the perceived poor quality of Airstreams, especially regarding newer trailers that should be trouble free. Again--I don't think Airstreams are any better or worse than all the other trailer manufacturers out there. I have friends with SOBs and motorhomes that spend a lot of time on their vacations doing repair and maintenance work as well. I think it is the nature of the beast--take a small house, put it on wheels and then tow it for 1000's of miles, stuff is going to spontaneously fail after a while. You may think that a $50k trailer should be trouble free, but realize you are paying a huge premium for that shiny shell. Mercedes owners have the same sentiments.

One of the better comments I have heard was with respect to boat ownership: "If you want to be a boat owner, simply sit in your bathtub, turn on the cold water, and start feeding money down the drain." Water yacht or Landyacht, I guess you have to be willing to take a cold bath and piss away some money. It is part of the "lifestyle."
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Old 07-05-2012, 01:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CampUnger View Post
We are evaluating different things that we want to keep or sell and our AS ...

Our AS is a 31' 1979 Sovereign Land Yacht. We are the second owners and have made several cosmetic and some functional updates, however, it is getting closer and closer to needing a shell off restoration and we have neither the time, money, or facility to accomplish this.
Welcome to vintage trailer ownership and the #1 fallacy that every trailer requires a "shell off" restoration eventually. Not true. Most repairs can be done without stripping the entire trailer down to the shell.

It sounds as though some of the things you mention are just normal wear and tear of use on a 30+ year old trailer that has sat for awhile. It sounds as though it does need some attention due to neglect prior to your adopting it. Things like blow-outs & flat tires happen - even occasionally with new tires. Unfortunately, sometimes these blow-outs cause other issues like your water heater leak - most likely, something flew up and damaged the water heater tank that sits by the wheel well.

Shell leaks will continue to happen until all the seams are sealed - and unfortunately, this is the one thing that can contribute to floor rot and eventual replacement of either parts or the entire floor. It's a good idea to get rid of all the old silicone in the seams (assuming the PO used silicone) and re-caulk every seam with Parabond/Sikaflex as written about here on the forums. This usually takes a concentrated effort for a weekend to get rid of the old and reseal every seam, awning rail, sign, & any other exterior penetrations where water is coming in. Don't use silicone - it fails with aluminum. Once the seams are resealed correctly, you won't need to do this to this leval again for quite some time. If you just chase a suspected leak around and don't reseal methodically, you will continue to have problems which could lead to the total floor rot that would require a major restoration.

The only issue you mention that seems to be a 'real problem' IMO is the bathroom/shower. I am going to assume you have a rear bathroom layout. If so, the long trailers in the 60/70's are notorious for delevoping 'rear end sag' or 'rear end separation'. This is caused by the frame carrying too much weight cantilevered out there past the axle &/or having rusted & weakened to a point that it drops down and the frame separates from the floor in the rear - which would explain the "the entire bath/shower section coming loose from the ceiling/wall and leaving gaps around the walls/shower pan". This is a more involved repair, but it too can be addressed without doing a complete shell off restoration. There are threads here on the forums that discuss different approaches. Check out this one as an example. Once this is repaired, your trailer should be good-to-go if you decide to keep it.

Any Airstream of this era that you would trade yours for would either have, have had or will soon develop the same sort of issues you have now. The fact that yours is already yours makes investing in it's repairs a smaller pill to swallow. Ultimately, even with the investment of some time & effort and a little money, it should be much less than buying a new or newer Airstream later. Because to sell it knowing it has issues, you most likely will not get as much for it as you would like.

I agree with others - better the evil you know, than the evil you don't know. Vintage Airstreams are relatively simple to work on yourselves if you are at all handy - sounds like you are if you are remodeling houses. But, they do take some effort to get them roadworthy - if they have not been maintained. You could just defer the maintenance until your other projects are complete and take alternate vacations in the meantime - then give the Airstream some attention before hitting the road with it again. If not, then sell it.

Shari
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:55 PM   #11
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CampUnger, I can sympathize. In 1998 we purchased a 1976 Minnie Winnie. At that time we knew nothing about RVs. We only knew that we could afford (barely) to purchase that RV and that all five us could eat and sleep in it. For us at that time this was a great improvement over the tent that we had been using.

Three years later it was sitting in our front yard, dead. A front oil seal had let go (probably from lack of use) which in turn killed the alternator, which then killed the battery. A few years ago it was finally hauled away as junk. We got two major and two short trips out of it, and it provided housing for me for two months. It also provided us with quite an education.

It sounds like this may be your first RV. If so, consider it a learning experience. As others have said, you already have this one paid for and you have some idea of what it needs. It sounds like you have the tools and skills to do much or the necessary work yourselves, which will save you quite a bit of money.

You didn't say what your intended use is, but it sounds like you are using it for short (two weeks or less) vacations a couple times a year. If you are able to have your Airstream at home and can hook up to at least electricity, I'd suggest using it at home some. Run the a/c, the hot water heater, the water pump, etc. every couple of weeks. When something doesn't work right, deal with it fairly quickly while at home.

By "fairly quickly" I don't mean rush out to the Airstream dealer and buy a new part. Do some shopping, just as you do for your house or car. Ask questions on this forum. At least once a month take your Airstream out on a trip. It doesn't have to be a long trip, just 50 miles or so to exercise the moving parts of the road gear. Remember that "lot rot" can affect an RV whether it is sitting on a lot for sale or sitting at home.

As you are working through the issues that your coach has you will be learning a lot. The time will come when you decide that you want another RV. You may choose another Airstream or you may go to another class or RV entirely. No matter what, you will have a much more solid base on which to evaluate the coaches that you are looking at.

Oh, and in case you are wondering if other coaches have such problems, consider that someone bought a brand-new diesel pusher motor home (>$500,000) and on the first outing had all three air conditioners fail.
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:32 PM   #12
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"The only issue you mention that seems to be a 'real problem' IMO is the bathroom/shower. I am going to assume you have a rear bathroom layout. If so, the long trailers in the 60/70's are notorious for delevoping 'rear end sag' or 'rear end separation'."

Actually it is a center bath. It seems as though the entire shower section has shifted down and towards the center. There is a tear in the interior aluminum on the ceiling where it has settled, and the shower itself has pulled away from the wall. Looking under the bath and kitchen sinks and replacing the carpet and toilet showed no sign of floor rot. This makes us worry about the unseen frame.


The "decision" is not made. We are weighing things out very carefully to determine our best option.

At the most we camp for 2-3 weeks at one time...but go on 3-5 trips a year, most being 3 days long. We are not the type to park it and go to the same place every time.
For us the point of traveling is to see new places or visit distant family and friends.

I appreciate all the replies and it does help to know that ours is not much different from yours. As I said now we just need to weigh out our options and cost effectiveness of keeping or buying a tent, trailer and smaller vehicle for our family of 4.

Again, Thankyou for all the positive feedback and encouragement!!
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:44 PM   #13
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Do you have other vehicles at home besides the Excursion? A 79 31' is pretty easy to tow and a softer vehicle would be much easier on it. Often we find people have another vehicle that they already own that can pretty easily be made into a good towvehicle.
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Old 07-06-2012, 06:08 PM   #14
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CampUnger,
you know the trailer and the short falls. We have a 1972 31' International that we have owned for almost 20 years as the 3rd owners. The original owners owned it 22 before selling it to the PO who owned it just two, but it was stationary. We lucked out.
We have towed it across America twice and just last year replaced the axles. Prior to that, leaks, bad tub, that forced new, furnace, AC, carpet x2, new floor, new awning's to toilets, added grey tank, birds, mice, ect.ect.ect... After about $25K I think we have it somewhat right. I went to look at a newer 30' 2009 Classic, that has some "issues" from the PO. Asking price $62K, but i'm told a new one will run me $97K, so I'm saving $30K on a trailer that is newer, but has history at only 3-years old. Heck new pop-ups run almost $7K.

BLUF, we own my 1972, like you own your 1979. Our 72 weighs 5400# about 1800# less that the 2009 we looked at. As frustrating as it is, and has been for us, hanging in there and getting it right over time has been well worth it. We know the camping experience, like the wet carpet from the frozen water line to the toilet that broke in Vermont in April 2000 when I was moving to an assignment while my family lived in DC where it was SPRING. Top that night off with the furnace kicking out possilbe carbon dioxide as the monitors were going off, so with windows open furnace off, with temps at 5 degrees, this was an interesting experience now 12 years ago when we were going to get rid of the Airstream. We kept it, been to almost every National Park since and it is our weekend getaway at the beach til this day avoiding noisy rooms to our left, right, top, bottom and a saving of about $275 a night in comparison. A much quieter suite.

Good luck with your decision, but many have been there and down this road as we transform these iconic Airstreams to our lifestyle. These will become the "remember when" camp-side stories even though they cost money and offer challenges.

Happy Airstreaming

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