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Old 04-14-2014, 04:28 PM   #1
New Member
San Antonio , Texas
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 2
1979 Excella 28'

Good afternoon.

I've always enjoyed the styling and long tradition of Airstream trailers. Now, I've finally decided to heed the Siren's Call.

I've been researching a bit online and have been to several different dealers in my area (Central Texas region). A 1979 Excella 28 has come up for sale and has been flooding my dreams.

I was hoping that I could get some general advice on what to look for in a MH of this vintage - the owner has agreed to let a Airstream professional give it a once over but I want to keep my eyes open for specifics as well.

It has had an engine rebuild in the past 6500 miles. I'm unaware if it was just the top end or what. The owner doesn't have much info on the history of the rig because the PO died suddenly and took all knowledge with him. I know the plumbing and electrical work decently. The generator is bust.

What I'm really interested in is doing a major overhaul and updating a lot. I'm interested in purchasing because I need something for me, my wife and dog to live in while on tour with a band I play with. I understand that this is a 35 year old vehicle but I plan on running it around the country. I've read several threads on total engine replacements (a modern diesel greatly interests me) and a complete redo of the interior is inevitable (my wife is in love with design). I have some money to burn and I have a feeling I've found something that will more than comply...

Any advice or warnings would be certainly welcome.

Thanks - love the forum, by the way...


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Old 04-15-2014, 12:31 PM   #2
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1982 28' Airstream 280
Port Angeles , Washington
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 1,191
Hi Matt, All the classic Airstream mohos until the early 90's were built on Chevy P-30 chassis. Parts are pretty common and not overly expensive, just don't mention Airstream. Exterior body panels are available but expensive and the window glass is very hard to come by. On the inside the biggest problem is water leaks especially around the cab. The plywood subfloor gets soft and rots. Same with the area under the fresh water tank. If you are talking major overhaul and doing the work yourself, material cost is not bad but it is labor intensive. If you browse back through the pages of this forum you will find what others have done and the problems they had and best of all some wonderful results.

As you said they are 35 year old vehicles but relatively speaking low mileage because they are RV's and not used much. Ours is pushing 200,000 miles and we did 16,000 on a 4 month trip around the US and Canadian Maritimes a couple of years ago and are doing another two or three months to Alaska this summer. Just keep in mind it is a 35 year old truck suspension and not a modern sports sedan. Good luck.

Cheers, Dan

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Old 04-15-2014, 09:20 PM   #3
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
Saint Petersburg , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 1,618
Images: 28
Money to burn? Just remember this about anything of this vintage, your purchase price is simply the downpayment.

Switching to a diesel, or even 4 speed tranny? Believe KeyAir just posted something about how many miles it would take to recover your costs from that switch.

Just be sure you've got plenty of spare parts along, even better if you know how to do minor repairs yourself, simply because if you're traveling, there may not always be someone who can work on an old bread truck chassis.

These things will get you lots of stares, comments and questions. A redesign inside is great as well. Remember to stay within your weight ratings for the chassis though. Not a lot to work with in the beginning, if you add lots of extras inside, you won't have the ability to bring along clothing, food, water....

Listen to the advice from the Airstream professional. Be certain that subfloor won't have to be replaced, it's a BEAR to remove original. Vintage Airstreams are still around, because when manufactured, Airstream wasn't afraid to use LOTS of screws and fasteners.

Keep us posted.

Thanks, Derek
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Old 04-16-2014, 08:15 AM   #4
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San Antonio , Texas
Join Date: Apr 2014
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Originally Posted by Smartstream View Post
Ours is pushing 200,000 miles and we did 16,000 on a 4 month trip around the US and Canadian Maritimes a couple of years ago and are doing another two or three months to Alaska this summer.
Thanks so much for all the good advice. I'm going to take a look on Friday and am now making a checklist of things to look for. 200,000 miles! I would love to know more about your rig - I'll have to search the forum for info on what you've done to make that many miles... Thanks again.

Originally Posted by crazeevw View Post
Money to burn? Just remember this about anything of this vintage, your purchase price is simply the downpayment.
Yeah, sarcasm and exaggeration don't work well over the internet. In all truthfulness though, if I decide this is the direction I'd like to go, I would like to spend some money to make the necessary modifications to suit my needs.

Thanks again for the advice - invaluable to me at this point.
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Old 04-16-2014, 08:26 AM   #5
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1966 26' Overlander
Woodstock , Georgia
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 8,076
These are great old vehicles. The main thing is to get that engine checked out well and get it ready to prevent future issues. they tend to run hot and you can improve that with special coolant additives, and additional radiator fan if needed. Service the transmission too.
Check for leaks in the Airstream body shell, reseal as needed with Tremco or Gutter sealant.
A Cummins diesel update is fantastic but not cheap...yet well worth the time and money if you are going to keep the Moho a long time.
Its your money spend it as you want to. What else is it for?

As a former road warrior musician for many years, its best to plan ahead financially as the career tends to end without much warning. But enjoy it while you can its awesome fun. I played coast to coast and north to south.
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