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Old 08-21-2010, 01:10 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Looking to buy an Airstream in the US for import to the UK

Hi folks. I'm looking for a 31ft Airstream in the US in very good structural and mechanical condition that I can buy and import to the UK. The interior condition is less important as I hope to restore/ refit it for full time living. My buget for buying is around $6 000 at present.

I've learned a little about Airstreams from some of the good people on this forum (thank you Lucy), but am still in need of guidance and advice. I'm posting this in order to 1. attract any attention from people who might have the trailer I'm looking for, and 2. any help or pointers people might care to give in regards to:

a. finding a good trailer
b. getting help from someone willing to inspect it for me before purchase
c. finding out who might tow it to port for me in the US (and what the main US ports are for shipping to the UK)
d. the best shipping agent to use for shipping from a US port to the UK
e. anyone in the UK who can tow it from port (Southampton I presume) to Scotland
f. essentials I need to have in order to be able to use a US spec Airstream in the UK e.g. what converter to use if any.

Any help or advice appreciated.
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Old 08-21-2010, 02:20 PM   #2
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Hello Frank. It would be difficult to agree between ten people what constitutes "very good structural and mechanical condition." There are a lot of pitfalls in buying a $6000 shell and paying shipping before you even see it yourself.

If you're going to gut it, the mechanicals hardly matter -- because then the HW heater, furnace, fridge, air conditioner and so many things could go out the door. Holding tank facilities in Europe/UK don't work easily with American RV dump design. .... to say nothing of conversion to Euro voltage. We have posts here at the forum about these topics.

Any Airstream you could buy for $6K sure could be old enough that you'd be up to replace the axles right away.

There are used Airstream resellers in the UK, but then you'd see quite high prices attached to that.

You might need to figure out what is possible at multiple price points and determine how much involvement you'll need to commit to before it even leaves North America. A conundrum, eh?
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Old 08-21-2010, 03:45 PM   #3
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Hi CS. I've more or less given up on UK sellers of Airstreams as the markup they add makes buying one over there prohibitively expensive for me. I've heard of people in the UK buying trailers for under $5 000 with no major problems. I don't really have much choice but to seek out a trailer in the US myself and take all the necessary precautions to avoid being ripped off.

What kind of price/ year would you be thinking for something that was as I described e.g. didn't need replacement axles etc?
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Old 08-21-2010, 08:07 PM   #4
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Frank, you are going to find the cost "they charge" is due to the cost "you" will soon understand. If you need any help on the east coast, let me know. I am 15 minutes from the Port of Baltimore. The shipping, VAT, booking agent, union fees on your end, transport, and other hungry hands all add up.
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Old 08-22-2010, 04:06 AM   #5
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Thanks for the offer of help 62o.

I know little about Airstreams, but I'm not ignorant of the costs involved in importing a trailer to the UK. I spoke to someone who's done it recently and thankfully we don't pay VAT (17.5% sales tax) on 31ft trailers, just the 2.5% duty apparently. Having added up all the costs, what I mean is the profit people want over here for trailers of relatively poor quality for the price. (Take a look at this one with its rusted rear bumper for 11 500 1974 Sovereign)

If I can save some money importing one in better condition myself then I can at least put that money to good use in any restoration project. It's really about trying to spend my hard earned money wisely rather than being cheap about it.

Does anyone have any comments on this one? 1971 Airstream Sovereign - Airstream Trailer Classifieds - Used Airstreams For Sale
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Old 08-22-2010, 07:54 AM   #6
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1971 Soverign

Frank. It's hard to tell from the pics- too small. But if you look closely at the shot of the rear there is a gap starting on the right (curb) side. This is indicitive of either frame or floor rot in this area. That is the exact spot where I had the most damage to mine from water leaking in at the rear bumper cover. The axles also seem bottomed out. If you are interested in that unit try requesting someone local to inspect it for you. I see what you mean about the price difference between the U.S. and the U.K. 11,000 pounds for that A/S is very high compared to $4800 USD. What would the cost be for shipping. I heard that it can cost several thousand dollars to ship a car overseas and can imagine that an A/S would be more due to the size.
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Old 08-22-2010, 08:09 AM   #7
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Frank, Can you educate me a little? The VAT, is that not charged due to the UK or is it the length? Will you have to convert the tongue and braking system to comply with the Euro standards? You are right about wanting to save what you can to put into it, I just find there are many hoops to jump through to get it on the boat, off the boat, and out of the Port.
I have done a good deal of transport work to the Port of Baltimore for the first seller you posted. He has been very straight forward with me every time. The photos in that ad are fairly inline with what I see of most trailers of that era. Time is not the best friend of that early 70's plastic and they seem to be built on the lean side if you ask me. With the scope of your project, the skin should be your number one concern, for the rest will all need to be dealt with regardless. The era of trailer you are looking at has miles of wires under the skin.
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There are probes, and warning lights, and indicators out the wazoo in there. All of it will need to be sorted out to work with the higher voltage you guys use over there. You probably know all that though.
Like I said in an earlier post, if you need any help on the East Coast, ring me up...
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Old 08-22-2010, 09:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wasagachris View Post
Frank. It's hard to tell from the pics- too small. But if you look closely at the shot of the rear there is a gap starting on the right (curb) side. This is indicitive of either frame or floor rot in this area. That is the exact spot where I had the most damage to mine from water leaking in at the rear bumper cover. The axles also seem bottomed out. If you are interested in that unit try requesting someone local to inspect it for you. I see what you mean about the price difference between the U.S. and the U.K. 11,000 pounds for that A/S is very high compared to $4800 USD. What would the cost be for shipping. I heard that it can cost several thousand dollars to ship a car overseas and can imagine that an A/S would be more due to the size.
Chris, Thanks for that. These are good points for me to look at that I was unaware of. I think it's going to cost about 3000/ $4 300 to ship from the US to the UK.
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Old 08-22-2010, 09:26 AM   #9
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Are you locked in on a 31 footer....1970's?

For European use I'd like to suggest a 1966 to a 1968 year range. They are the narrow body, are great looking and have wood interior instead of plastic. Check the Internationals.It's a matter of personal taste....Windows are expensive but are available if needed. There a couple nice ones available here and Ebay...take a look. Watch out for your selection of representatives/agents...lots of horror stories. Use someone, like Frank, with long and good reputations. My last agent is still in jail.....wish I would have checked better.
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Old 08-22-2010, 09:27 AM   #10
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Frank, thanks for all that - once again this is helpful in helping me demystify the whole thing. My original questions really are about putting together a concrete plan to get me going in order to avoid throwing my money down the drain.

The airstream guy (Mark) has been fine with me too, just wanted to get opinions as all contacts on this subject are via the electric sewer (the internet) and can be dodgy obviously.

VAT is sales tax in the UK - 17.5%. When it comes to importing trailers over a certain length, there appears to be some (rare) government concession for some reason. I think it's some view that suggests that trailers over a certain length can be designated as a home, and thus they help people out (unbelievable for the UK).

I really am looking at getting a trailer for around $6 000 (I could go up a little) that I can gut, even if it means taking all of the internal panelling off, replacing the floor, resealing windows etc. (can I assume that I'd need to take the interior panelling down in order to re-insulate the walls?). As long as I can make a watertight, structurally reliable shell that I can then refit for living as off-grid as possible, meaning low-tech but comfortable where possible, then I'll be happy. No fancy electronics or specialised systems, just the more old fashioned, self-reliant, streamlined, simple stuff if I can make that happen in order to minimise my use of electricity, gas or whatever other fuel requires money to buy. The bits I'm unsure about are when people mention axles and other things that I may have problems repairing myself in the UK.

BTW, I believe the braking system can be run using some sort of unit connected to the towing vehicle. It's another thing I need to figure out. For the short-term the trailer would be a static home for me. I may have to address the braking issue later though if I decide to move it around using a towing vehicle.

Thanks again for your help. If people don't mind I'd like to post links here in order tto get your more expert advice on the right thing to buy.
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Old 08-22-2010, 09:33 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Melody Ranch View Post
For European use I'd like to suggest a 1966 to a 1968 year range. They are the narrow body, are great looking and have wood interior instead of plastic. Check the Internationals.It's a matter of personal taste....Windows are expensive but are available if needed. There a couple nice ones available here and Ebay...take a look. Watch out for your selection of representatives/agents...lots of horror stories. Use someone, like Frank, with long and good reputations. My last agent is still in jail.....wish I would have checked better.
Thank you MR, good to know. And sorry to hear about your agent! No, I'm not set on a 70s trailer but would like a big one for living in. It's more a case of what's the best deal I can get for $6 000, regardless of the year? Like I say, I'm less concerned about interior. I'd also like a wider body as I wouldn't be touring with this length of trailer however narrow it might be. Plus I need as much living space as possible if it's to be a home, at least for a while.

If anyone comes across a good buy/ good agents or people I can contact, please feel free to PM me or post links. Thanks kindly.
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Old 08-22-2010, 09:34 AM   #12
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Frank If you don't intend to travel then the axle condition is not an issue.
There is a unit on E-bay now that if you intend to gut and completely redo would definately be affordable. Check this one out http://www.airforums.com/forums/f495...ged-68313.html . At $800 you would have lots of budget to completely redo it. It's a mess but if you want to gut it anyway that stuff dussney (little scottish for you ) matter.
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Old 08-22-2010, 09:50 AM   #13
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Thanks Chris (I believe the correct spelling is 'disney' as in 'Walt disney like to take his socks off when going to bed'). I'd sooner there were no problems with axles or anything else that would need a mechanic or heavy lifting equipment etc.

I just wonder what kind of work that $800 water damaged trailer might need (apart from the bent leveller - BTW are these manual devices or servo-motor operated?). What would be a worst case scenario for gutting a trailer like this (in terms of the tasks required)?
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Old 08-22-2010, 10:30 AM   #14
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frank I'm lmao Laughing my a** off about the Walt Disney thing.
That trailer would need a complete gut right down to the bare shell to remove all the wet and moldy insulation. that's not an impossible task, just extremely time consuming. The forums here call it doing the full monte in reference to the movie if the same name. Search the forums to see what others have done. Mine is http://www.airforums.com/forums/f36/...ins-67532.html . I've been tearing apart for two months now almost every day and almost done with pulling apart.
The axles can be removed yourself if you can get hold of impact tools to remove the rusty bolts and a small jack like a transmission or bottle jack (not a bottle of Jack Daniels allthough it can't hurt to have that type either) to lower the old one and raise the new one. Like I said the price is right do you would have plenty of budget to so it up right your way. Most appliances will be no good either and the leveller I'm not sure if you mean the tongue jack or the levelling jacks located under the belly pan. The stabilizing jacks are manual and some tongue jacks are manual and some are electric.
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