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Old 04-21-2014, 09:43 PM   #1
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1979 Excella 28' Motorhome -- Fair Price ?

Hi guys,

Great forum here...I really did try to search around and find a 'How much should I pay for a...' thread but came up empty-handed. Anyhow, I am new to the Airstream game, though a long-time admirer and have my eyes on a classic beauty, a '79 Excella 28'. Supposedly the engine has been rebuilt in the past 6,000 miles or so and when I went to have a look today it fired right up. Unfortunately I will have to wait til tomorrow to have a true test drive as there was not time today.

Everything seems to be in working order as far as the electronics onboard, both a/c units, lights, water etc. The generator is not turning over but sounds like it may just be a spark plug or other very fixable issue. It's an Onan 4.0 with almost 1000 hours on it. Hard to tell total mileage as original owners are long gone and the old school odometer is reading 11,000 currently so it's anyone's guess.

The floor and subfloor seem to be great and obviously someone had repaired them a few years back before installing bamboo flooring. Even the original retractable step is still working and the pilot chairs are in awesome shape. Pretty open floor plan, center bath with a queen/king bed in back, good little kitchen, but no couch or built-in table. Guess I could do yoga in the open space? Haha. Anyhow, most of those old couched have the most hideous fabric on earth anyhow, so I would have probably replaced. Tires look at about half-life leaning towards the newer side.

Everything else seems to be good. I want to have an rv expert out to do a once-over for me and an engine guy to check the motor. I was thinking $17K was pretty reasonable but then found a 1994 Land Yacht for sale with 66,000 original miles in great shape in Houston from a dealership for $13.5K . Problem is...no aluminum body (that's what makes these things so damn cool) and also the butt-ugly interior touches.

That aside, my question is, if a '94 is listed at $13.5K from a dealership, could I in good conscience offer $14 or $15K for the '79? Or does the vintage and coolness factor truly demand a higher price? Thanks for any and all advice!!
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Old 04-21-2014, 10:23 PM   #2
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
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Good conscience has nothing to do with what you can offer. Price is what a willing buyer will pay and what a willing seller will take. In 2007 I sold my '83 310 Airstream Motorhome for $12,500. It was in excellent condition. Prices change with time of course but realize that a 35 year old motorhome is always going to be a constant maintenance item. And it is not getting easier to find someone to service them. What? No OBD2 diagnostic port? A carb for fuel delivery? Vacuum controls for heating? R12 for refrigerant?

Seriously, understand that you will need to budget a fair amount of money for yearly repairs. Those 6 tires are going to be $1200 to $1600 probably. The gen set can set you back quite a lot to get going right. BTW, I note it has two AC units which will not run on a 4000 watt generator. Someone must have added a second one. My 310 had two AC units but a 6000 watt Onan generator.

So, yep, offer them as low as you can, believe me you are going to need the savings to keep it going.

And I did enjoy mine but I like my 2012 Grand Cherokee power, ease of service and all of that vs. the old chevy 454 and THM 400 tranny. The old trailers are a lot easier to use with a new tow vehicle than an old motorhome stuck with old tech engines and running gear.

Just wanted you to have more to think of than the shiny metal Airstream image. Know what you are getting into.
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Old 04-21-2014, 10:52 PM   #3
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Thanks so much for the salient points @idroba !!

You're right about the A/C, the current owners added that to deal with the Texas heat and were plugged in at the RV park the whole time. I guess I could still run the one A/C unit off the generator if I got it fixed,,, or just upgrade to the 6.0 ? That would be a big investment. Yikes.

An '83 in excellent condition for $12,500 ?? Dang, I realize that was 7 years ago, but I might have to come in even lower than I had thought. Like $11K. If I even go for it! It would be pretty sweet to have a newer vehicle pulling an older trailer and I can imagine it is a true pain in the arse to get these old beasts worked on,,,but financially that would mean investing in the pull vehicle and the trailer, so not sure if I'll go that route either!

I was imagining a budget of about $2000 per year in maintenance on this Excella if I drive it about 8,000 miles per year. Is that a crazy low number? Thanks SO MUCH !
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Old 04-21-2014, 11:25 PM   #4
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If anything, prices on these have gone up since 2007. I paid $12,750 for our average condition '84 310 in 2009. Since then I have driven it hard, put it away wet, and it is probably worth more today than I paid for it. The price of Land Yachts is irrelevant.

$2k per year for maintenance is realistic if the current owner has kept up with maintenance and there are no hidden surprises. I have spent over $2k just getting the 310 to steer and stop safely. Getting a mechanic to look it over would be worth the money.

I have not seen many shorter classics like this with a rear bedroom, in my mind that is a desirable combination.
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Old 04-21-2014, 11:59 PM   #5
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1974 Argosy 20
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Averaged over 10 years, probably $2k would be fair, but at 8000 miles a year, that is 80,000 miles and so maybe that is a bit low considering the miles it has on it now.

If you go for it though, and understand what you might be getting into from the get go, you will enjoy it I am sure. I don't want to kill the dream, only make you awake to the reality.

And never, ever, leave home without a good (no great) towing insurance. One tow experience can eat up a lot of money alone.
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Old 04-22-2014, 12:06 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Waipio Rim View Post
If anything, prices on these have gone up since 2007. I paid $12,750 for our average condition '84 310 in 2009. Since then I have driven it hard, put it away wet, and it is probably worth more today than I paid for it. The price of Land Yachts is irrelevant.

$2k per year for maintenance is realistic if the current owner has kept up with maintenance and there are no hidden surprises. I have spent over $2k just getting the 310 to steer and stop safely. Getting a mechanic to look it over would be worth the money.

I have not seen many shorter classics like this with a rear bedroom, in my mind that is a desirable combination.
Thanks @Waipio Rim ! I appreciate the comments!!

These do seem to be pretty rare in general so I can see how they may continue to increase in value as more and more people (and businesses) hop on the Airstream bandwagon, especially the nicer ones that are well-maintained.

Have you had much trouble finding parts or mechanics to work on your '83?

Waipio Rim, what would you be willing to pay for this particular beast, assuming the mechanical stuff all checks out and the rv is in pretty good condition (need to maybe replace one of the vents, a bit of silicone on the roof, fix generator, otherwise good) ?

Thanks !!!
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Old 04-22-2014, 12:19 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by idroba View Post
Averaged over 10 years, probably $2k would be fair, but at 8000 miles a year, that is 80,000 miles and so maybe that is a bit low considering the miles it has on it now.

If you go for it though, and understand what you might be getting into from the get go, you will enjoy it I am sure. I don't want to kill the dream, only make you awake to the reality.

And never, ever, leave home without a good (no great) towing insurance. One tow experience can eat up a lot of money alone.
Thanks @idroba. I think the dream is already taking over so I appreciate you helping me to see the realities that will be part of this Airstream chapter of my life! I'm super excited though....I am such a traveler vagabond, how have I never tried to own one of these before???

OK, so hopefully I can budget 2K per year and then also budget a 5K overhaul of some sort in a few years! If I ever can't afford to fix it, I guess I just tow it to a buddy's ranch and call it home sweet home. That's the beauty of these things, you're getting a house...that also rolls you around the country when it wants to. This is my first home purchase!!!

I'll get towing insurance for sure, thanks!! Any suggestions on that would be much appreciated! This forum rocks.
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Old 04-22-2014, 01:44 AM   #8
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1982 28' Airstream 280
Port Angeles , Washington
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These old coaches are kind of what you make of them, not really a sound financial investment as much as the cost of entertainment. If you can do much of the work yourself and enjoy doing it then it is not a big deal. If you have to pay someone to do all the work it can get expensive real quick.


If you are happy paying a certain amount for a coach in the end you are the only one you have to please. If you have the time and don't mind looking for the best deal, how valuable the time spent looking again can only be determined by you.


I guess the real issue is that you enter the deal with your eyes open understanding what you are getting into. For myself I spent a lot of time and money and have also gotten a lot of enjoyment out of my coach.
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Old 04-22-2014, 05:26 AM   #9
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1982 31' Airstream 310
champaign , Illinois
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I am pretty sure this unit was advertised in the classified section of this forum a few months ago. I recognize those "wonderful" interior colors. If i remember correctly, the details listed in the original ad made it sound like this coach is in pretty good condition. If you could post the details they have listed about the coach, the members here may be able to give you a more accurate idea of what your initial maintenance costs might be. As far as the price is concerned.........is it reasonable? I think smartstream answered it best. Possibly an easier question to answer would be, " is $17k an UNREASONABLE asking price". I think the answer to that is "no", its not an unreasonable asking price. Obviously, it depends on the condition of the major components. If you make the deal and are interested, i have two fold-over couches that were original to my 83 rear lounge 310. Absolute excellent condition with no tears, stains etc. they are free for the asking, i converted the rear lounge to a queen bed and have no use for at least one of them. I may keep one for backup on the front couch. Anyway thats thinking way down the road for you. Post some more details about the 79 and the wonderful folks here on the forum will give you plenty of feedback.
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Old 04-26-2014, 09:11 PM   #10
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1981 28' Airstream 280
Crystal Lake , Illinois
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Newbie33,
I am also a Newbie as of last fall. I bought an 81 28 ft Excella diesel. $11K, 134K miles. Your looks to be very ice on the inside. mine is very original and also in goodish shape, not as nice as yours. These are pretty straight forward vehicles, no electronics, straight forward point ot point wiring.
If you are into cool things and will take the time to use it, as I am I say go for it. I would have paid more but I offered 10K and they were asking 12.5k. The risk for these old classics is low. They seem to be more classic and desireable as there are so few of the motor homes out on the road. It always envokes smiles and conversations where ever we take it, because they are so cool lookin!

I have spent about $2K getting it mechanically sound including fixing the oil leaks, belts, hose, 2 front tires, alignment, steering stabilizer. Oil pressure gage and sender. Some of it I did myself. We took the dogs for a nice cruze today to break the ice now that the looong Chicago winter is over.

I am very happy that I bought it. I don't it will be $2K every year for mechanicals. Interior upgrades maybe, but I not just straight mechanicals.

If you do go for it, save this forum in your favorites, you'll need it. The vendors are excellent, and the people are EXTREMELY helpful.

Happy motoring whatever you decide!
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Old 04-27-2014, 11:09 AM   #11
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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Fleet Maintenance of Texas, in Austin, has been our go-to place for chassis work when down here. Spillar did our tow bracing upgrade. PM me for details. mike
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Old 05-04-2014, 11:16 AM   #12
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1981 28' Airstream 280
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Fleet Maintenance of Texas, in Austin, has been our go-to place for chassis work when down here. Spillar did our tow bracing upgrade. PM me for details. mike

What is a bracing upgrade? I also have a 28 ft Excella that I've or I'm continuing to restore here in Austin Texas. I'm the silver bullet tailgater which you can find at ALL TEXAS LONGHORN home games on 18th and San Jacinto. The rear end of my airstream is really low to the ground. I've put in new rear airbags but it's still low to the ground. Even lower when towing. Any thoughts/ remedies.
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Old 05-05-2014, 01:02 AM   #13
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
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Bracing upgrade is a reinforcement of the existing tow bar(hitch) so your tow can exceed 5K. There is a thread on this(if not two or so) with pics, and I copied the pics and took them with me to Spillar. If you want to see the work, we are currently at Lone Star RV resort, #39. No inside tours, as we are recovering from a move from 3K sf house to moho...pm me for phone#. mike
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Old 05-05-2014, 11:49 AM   #14
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the prices bottomed out in 2007 and have been going up since. I sold my 82 Moho right before that and got 18000. I expect 11000 is a very good price if you go in with eyes open and are ready to handle the maintenance and repairs.
These are fun vehicles, just not practical.
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