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Old 05-18-2012, 09:03 PM   #1
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1962 24' Tradewind
St. Petersburg , Florida
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Advice needed quick Please! Rusty Frame

Hi There fellow Airstreamers,
I need some advice asap. I have been looking to buy an airstream for a couple of months now, but since my budget has been on the low side ( up to $4000 right now, but currently adding to my kitty), by the time I find one in my price range they are gone like the wind. Went to look at one tonight that the shell was in great shape, with exception to the 1) step being rusted out and 2) one panel appeared to be painted with silver paint for some reason-maybe to cover up graphitti or a polish job that went bad. No big dents or gouges, etc. The issues were that the trailer was left abandoned in a field or woods for 9 years. It was exposed to the elements and critters. When the seller found it, the tires were flat and the trailer's belly was in contact with the ground. The tongue is speckeled with rust,but not completely rusted, but the step is rusted out and the little bit of the frame I see near the tires where the shocks are, it is completed rust in color...still somewhat solid, but completely rusted. I am worried about the condition of the frame. How do I check the frame when the belly pan is on? Could it possibly be okay? feel like buying this trailer would be like opening up a big can of worms...Help! Just want to know if a rusty frame is the kiss of death.
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Old 05-18-2012, 09:19 PM   #2
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Hello there,
if you have pictures then please post them.
There is quite a large range in the "rust" world, from surface rust, which is to be expected, to bad permeating rust that will significantly weaken the integrity of the structure. The latter is when there are parts rusted through (holes or large chunks) or where the rust has worked it's way deep into the base steel (so there is actually only part of the clean, strong steel remaining).
If there are large chunks of rust that flake off, leaving deep holes or divots in the steel, or piles of rust collected in the belly pan that is bad. If the original lines of the steel are straight but there is a coating of rust then that's usually okay.
The trick here is to know what just needs sanding / painting, which can be easily fixed and what will need serious fixing. Using a flat head screw driver you can try jamming very hard into the rust spots, if the steel is good then you won't hurt it, if it has bad rust then large flakes might come off and you will start to dig out the bad rust.
To answer your question: yes, you would be opening a can or worms, no doubt, but a rusty frame is not necessarily the kiss of death since the frame can come off and be repaired. It is a very large undertaking (time and money), but depending on your skill set a lot of this can be done if you have fairly basic welding tools and knowledge, grinders, hand tools, a place to work on it, plenty of time, and such, if you take it to be restored it will get very very expensive.
When inspecting trailers I have found that there are generally parts of the belly pan that are loose and you can look in with a flashlight or even pull back the pan a bit more. Big piles of rust = rusted frame and / or outriggers = steel work.
Here is my frame restoration:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f421...ybe-85368.html

Also, when you say the seller "found it" what do you mean? Does it have a title?

PS: I'm all for a good ground up restoration, but if you really want to camp sooner then later I would make sure to post pics here and do due diligence so you know what you might be getting into. You may want a large project or you may not, either way people here will gladly tell you how large an undertaking you will be looking at!
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Old 05-18-2012, 09:54 PM   #3
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1962 24' Tradewind
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By the way, I did not see any place to poke (a screwdriver) at, only the tongue, where the tires attache and where the bumper is attached...It may require a second look with tools. Thank you for this advice. He wants $2500 for it and I see (not right now)there have been some amazing deals on this website of Airstreams in a lot better shape, use able shape, maybe not updated but solid and functional, that is really what I'd prefer.
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Old 05-18-2012, 10:02 PM   #4
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Solid bones are a good place to start. The updating is much easier then tearing it all out, repairing the structure and then putting it all back together again. Do you mean there were places with bad rust on the tongue and axle plate? Or just that you could only get to them? peeling back a bit of belly pan or wrap will help as well.
It may be the case, as it often is, that: "If you think it's bad, then it's probably worse..." Just keep looking, you'll find one!
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:01 PM   #5
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You said, when the seller found it. Does the seller have title to the trailer?
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:06 PM   #6
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From your description it does not sound like it's worth 4000....or near it. Don't fall victim to feeding frenzy....you can, and will, find a really nice one in that price/work needed range.
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:29 PM   #7
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From your description it does not sound like it's worth 4000....or near it. Don't fall victim to feeding frenzy....you can, and will, find a really nice one in that price/work needed range.
I agree with this. There will ALWAYS be another trailer and this one sounds like a loosing gamble. Consider this too, if you only have 4000.00 to purchase one you will have zero dollars to fix it. In my experience you will need just as much as your purchase price if not 2 or 3 times the amount to get it really usable and safe.
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Old 05-19-2012, 12:37 AM   #8
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1975 31' Sovereign
Pierre , South Dakota
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rusty

I have owned an airstream for about a month. My wife and I have been looking for a camper for 10 years. There was a time when I thought if I did not buy her a airstream she would divorce me.That bit of joking aside we traveled long distances to inspect airstream and all I found was rusted out frames.
You don't know what you have in an airstream until you drop the belly pan and inspect the frame.
The first of May I found a 31 footer close to home. The shell was in good condition and I could plainly see the frame needed attention. I purchased for less than 1500.00 but all the original equipment worked, a/c,refer, stove,oven etc.
I am taking the shell off and building a new frame, and rework the interior. Replacing or repairing a frame is a big job and if you have to farm out the work it can get expensive quick.
Here on the forum they have inspectors. I'm sure there is one in your area.If you have doubts about an airstream let one of them take a look. I don't know if they charge or not but a couple of hundred dollars for an inspection could save you a lot of money and YEARS of hard work to get a good camper.
good luck
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Old 05-19-2012, 01:24 AM   #9
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keep looking! you'll find the right one. Older ones will need some attention.
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Old 05-19-2012, 06:21 AM   #10
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1962 24' Tradewind
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Yes, sorry, he has a clear title. It was his grandfather's that he inherited. We negotiated him down to $2500 with him delivering it to my driveway...Is that price worth the risk of a rusty frame?
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Old 05-19-2012, 06:25 AM   #11
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1962 24' Tradewind
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Got him down to $2500, but the unknowing of entire frame scares me...Is $2500 a good price for the risk?
Maybe seller can take a section of belly pan off to show frame. Floor has to come up anyway, can you see the frame when the floor is removed?
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Old 05-19-2012, 07:26 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mary Burris View Post
Yes, sorry, he has a clear title. It was his grandfather's that he inherited. We negotiated him down to $2500 with him delivering it to my driveway...Is that price worth the risk of a rusty frame?
In the end only you can determine that, since only you know how much work you want to put into it, have actually seen it and know how bad you really want it. The term "worth" is often subjective. But if you only have $4000 total then probably not.

IMO you really have not provided enough information for others to give a solid opinion as to their worth of it.
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Old 05-21-2012, 01:09 AM   #13
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Mary if in doubt don't swap money till you take a look inside the belly pan. Drill out $10.00 in pop rivets and you will know if its worth 2500.00. If the owner is not willing walk away.
Jack
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Old 05-21-2012, 08:24 AM   #14
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1) step being rusted out
abandoned in a field or woods for 9 years
exposed to the elements and critters
trailer's belly was in contact with the ground
Floor has to come up anyway

use able shape, maybe not updated but solid and functional, that is really what I'd prefer.

Mary the first 5 statements directly contradict your next statement of what you are looking for.
If the belly pan fell off and the floor needs to be replaced then I would bet all my trailers that the frame will need significant repairs also.
I would pass on this one and try to find one still in use, although the chances of getting one like that in your budget range are slim to none.
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