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Old 08-08-2013, 09:11 PM   #1
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Contemplating Moho Purchase

Some advice/thoughts needed...

My family is looking for a 25-30' motorhome. We've had a pop up and a travel trailer (15'?) in the past. Initially we were looking at used class c motorhomes because of their affordability… inevitably this led to google searches. I really have to stay away from Google!

(note: I have a vintage aircooled VW bug, so I know old vehicles will never be perfect, but love them anyways)

I found a 79 Excella ($20K) - the pictures and description sounded like a wonderful find. Upon taking a look at it, I was a bit, shall we say, disappointed. So, I'm trying to gauge what I saw, with what I should expect to see.

Where to begin - it was a low mileage unit (under 30K), "stored indoors", new carpeting, and so forth. However... my untrained eyes found the following issues:

1) The engine was running by the time we got to where it was located. It made a knocking noise - I'm really not too sure what a 454 should sound like, but it didn't sound like it was running all that smooth. I would have liked to hear it turn over from a rest over night. There was smoke dissipating below the engine - could have just been exhaust.

2) New tires (1.5K miles on them), air bags looked inflated.

3) There was a gas smell by the drivers side front tire. I looked at the engine from below (drivers side) and there appeared to be a shiny area on the side of the engine. Not too sure if it was recent, or what liquid it was. I suppose they could have spilled oil when doing a fill up. Below the engine the ?oil pan? was oily and the edges of the lip had crusted oil on it.

4) Carpeting was really dirty, so it was 'new' as in not original, but not new as in shiny new . I suppose a wash would clean it up. Upholstery looked new, and tastefully done. Drivers seats looked original, and needed recovering :P

5) Shell looked OK - painted stripes had seen better days (cracked and hazy), clear coat was yellowing but acceptable for a few years, blue plastic insert on door was hanging off. A nasty scrape by one of the awning pivot points. "New" awnings had rips in the awning strap ends.

6) All hard inside surfaces were covered in a sticky tacky something (grease?) and all the compartments had junk in them. I know both can easily be dealt with, but it wasn't a good first impression. I'm trying hard to ignore both of those issues.

7) Is the LP tank located near the side door? If so, it was rusty and flaking. I kind of expected to replace it, but was hoping it was in better shape.

8) I looked under the cabinets - where floorboards were visible, it looked "new".

9) No mildew or musty smell. There was an 'old' smell, but I think it would clear out some with open windows. Some of the class C's I've been in smelled much worse.

I looked under the carriage but wasn't too sure what I was looking for. A local truck center will do an inspection for $85 - mechanicals, frame, etc...


*Personally* I don't think it was worth what they were asking (I'd probably pay 1/2), and wasn't as original as I thought from the pictures (there were venetian blinds - I don't think those were factory but I could be wrong, somehow missed them when I looked at the pictures). All the doors, appliances, and surfaces appeared to be original. The search light on top was missing the front part and the bulb was just hanging from two wires.


I guess I just don't know whether I should keep looking, if I'm expecting too much, or whether I should stick to a (boring) class c. The Airstream, from both a layout and size perspective works. I'm prepared to fix/tweak/restore bits here and there. I just don't know how to value it.

Thoughts?

Thanks!
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Old 08-11-2013, 11:40 AM   #2
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Stay away from it! The condition you find it in is often a tell tail sign of how they kept it. Meaning if they wont go to the trouble to clean it up to show it for a sale, you can be darned shore they didn't go out of their way to take care of it when they owned it. And that can be devastating to an old engine and MoHo!
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Old 08-11-2013, 11:57 AM   #3
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Too much money for the rig you have told us about. I have had two motorhomes, an Argosy 24 and an Airstream 310. Old can be good, and fun up to a point, but always costly to maintain, and getting harder to find parts and people who remember how to service things with 30 year old technology.

So, my advice is be sure you understand the complexity of a 30+ year old motorhome, and how many parts will need to be replaced on both the living side and the mechanical side. Consider the costs of all of that when you purchase. You can occasionally find them where someone has done the constant maintenance and upgrading, but most will have issues like the one you have already looked at, not the same issues of course, but similar.

When I sold both of mine, I tried to be upfront with the purchasers as to the complexity of what they were buying, and although mine were in good condition, there were still things which needed work the day I sold them, and surely would have needed more work later on. An older motorhome is a constant battle to maintain properly.
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:12 PM   #4
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If its 34 years old you can't expect much. If that was what you want plan on a complete rebuild from the ground up, and maybe you will get some good news along that journey. If you are not into rebuilding, look for something newer that does not require that time and effort.

Dave
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Old 08-11-2013, 01:37 PM   #5
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A 31' or 34.5' model will give you a rear bedroom, I like that. Since you are an air cooled vw owner, you are used to owning an ongoing maintenance and repair project. A classic is similar in that respect, the parts are just bigger and there are more of them. There are some 34.5' units that have been posted on the classified board here recently, including a couple owned by long time forum members. If I were shopping, I would look at those first.
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Old 08-11-2013, 02:16 PM   #6
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Nice first post, information you can get, true value is in the eye of the buyer and how bad the owner wants to part with his prize or derelict money pit.
Only thing that sounded good was the new tires, but on a MH new isn't determined by miles but by age, even the manufacturer will say 8 yrs is time to replace, most MH don't wear out their tires but blowouts and tread separation make the 1000 to 3000 cost easier to take.
I would say never purchase on first look, unless you have many others you have looked at and have your own database to compare. Most are buyer beware and sold as is where is. Know your seller and if you trust and have confidence, due to the pride he has of ownership buy it. BUT not this one from what you have stated.
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Old 08-12-2013, 03:55 AM   #7
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Good advice above! I'd run,not walk, away from that. I wouldn't offer 1/2 of the 1/2 you thought it might be worth. For $20k you should be able to find something decent in a classic AS.
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Old 08-12-2013, 10:03 AM   #8
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Thanks. Yeah, I thought as much. They bumped the price to 25K after we saw it! The more I thought about it, the more I was shocked at how messy the interior was. Plus, when I reviewed the photos after seeing it, I realized there is no way the photos they posted were taken recently. Several things were either damaged or significantly older (one sticker was cracked/peeling, looked newish in the photo).

So - we will be heading on a trip before Summer's end - and there are a couple low priced ones for sale on the way. Will try to stop and see them.

The maintenance angle - hrmmm. I totally expect it to need some fixing up, repairing, replacing. I think I was in shock because the photos made it look so nice.
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Old 08-12-2013, 12:53 PM   #9
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Saturday out visiting a friend, after seeing what my friend can do with photos, the only way I will believe what I am seeing is by shooting the pictures myself
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Old 08-12-2013, 01:15 PM   #10
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Another vote for the "Keep looking.." approach.. Knocks in that engine shouldn't happen, and exhaust manifold leaks or other leaks around engine are pains.. Mini-blinds may have been standard for that era.. Key learning is that you and sellers have very different mental images of "Great condition!!".. Once that is established as fact, you can assume all of your assumptions are going to work out poorly... You are better off finding a seller where you see things the same, as that implies both honesty and a realistic view of work needed...
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Old 08-12-2013, 01:41 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Condoluminum View Post
Key learning is that you and sellers have very different mental images of "Great condition!!".. Once that is established as fact, you can assume all of your assumptions are going to work out poorly... You are better off finding a seller where you see things the same, as that implies both honesty and a realistic view of work needed...
Very good point!


Quote:
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Saturday out visiting a friend, after seeing what my friend can do with photos, the only way I will believe what I am seeing is by shooting the pictures myself
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Old 08-12-2013, 02:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by DaveFL View Post
Saturday out visiting a friend, after seeing what my friend can do with photos, the only way I will believe what I am seeing is by shooting the pictures myself
Especially if they are over 40 and dating online!
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Old 08-12-2013, 03:23 PM   #13
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When they warm it up for you, it's not a good sign. It may be they were trying to do you a favor, but they may have also been trying to hide engine or transmission issues.

I've never heard a 454 run, but I've spent many hours listening to a Ford 460, and I suspect the 454 would be the same: It should be the smoothest engine you've ever heard. It should roar. It's a big block V8.
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Old 08-12-2013, 03:32 PM   #14
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If you are looking for a long term hobby that you can take pride in every time you hit the road, a classic AS is right for you. I looked for a couple of years before I stumbled on mine. It had to be ready to use as is. We picked it up in Seattle and spent 4 days camping, including Yellowstone, on our way back to Colorado. I paid a bit of a premium for that. I thoroughly inspected it an test drove it before closing the deal. I've been perfecting it ever since and the end is not in sight. We put over 10,000 miles and 120 days in 3 years during the process. I try to plan my projects so its not out of service for more than a few days at a time.

Nothing is going perfect on a 20+ year old MH. You have to know what is cosmetic and what you have the ability or resources to make right. I spent more time on a creeper inspecting the underside than I did the top looking for corrosion, floor rot, leaks, etc. I made a list of the systems and inspected and operated every one. Drivetrain, bakes, tires, suspension, fuel, propane, electrical, potable water, waste, ground power, hot water... I would make the seller drive it to a local camp site an show you how to set it up and operate everything if this is your first MH. Plug it in, hook up the water, sewer, put out the awnings... I surely wouldn't expect everything to be perfect but decide if you can deal with any known issues along with the ones that will inevitably come up.

Lots of good information on this site of what to look for and how to bring it up to speed for a safe and reliable experience.

Good luck in your search!
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