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Old 10-04-2011, 11:02 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
chicago , Illinois
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Costs of fixing up a '76?

Hi
I may buy a 76 31 foot airstream. What would it cost to make liveable? any estimates?j ust trying to repair the floor and get a working bathroom. looking for basics and not a restoration. Thanks
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:17 PM   #2
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Depends on what needs to be fixed and how much work you can do yourself.

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Hi
I may buy a 76 31 foot airstream. What would it cost to make liveable? any estimates?j ust trying to repair the floor and get a working bathroom. looking for basics and not a restoration. Thanks
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:20 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum's first of all.
As far as the trailer your looking at everyone's going to want to see some pictures and a better idea of what's wrong with the trailer in the first place.If it's a trailer that's lived in Chi town all it's life you better look for possible water damage among other things.I'm sure other's will chime in and direct you to the buyer's checklist of things to look for.Good luck with your purchase.
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Old 10-04-2011, 11:22 PM   #4
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Howdy and welcome to Airforums.com, Mike! This is the right place to come to for any Airstream-related questions.

You are asking a pretty general one, though. You will, I suspect, get lots of good suggestions and advice, and I hope you find the path that you are looking for. Owning an Airstream is the ticket to many exciting adventures, and that's just while you are getting it ready to travel.

Seriously, there's no easy answer to what you are asking. Just as an example, just to do the floor will likely take many many hours and a significant amount of material, too. If you job that out, you will see that it can cost many thousands of dollars in labour alone, but if you do the work yourself it may be quite affordable.

I picked the floor because it is one item that can mean needing to completely gut the trailer, and separate the frame and running gear from the aluminum superstructure, since those two things work together to make the whole thing stable. But that is an extreme, and hopefully the previous owner was careful about water leaks, and perhaps only a small hole or tow needs patched.

There's a checklist in one of the forums that will let you come away from the trailer having a really clear idea of what might have to be done. I can tell you from experience with my own trailer, a '74 model, that it is not hard to spend a couple of thousand dollars just getting operating appliances (water heater, furnace, electrical) and add maybe $1,500 more if the fridge is gone.

Hope I'm not scaring you away, because there are many people on this site that have done it all, and are ready to help you do yours, too!

But all that to say that buying a cheapo one thinking that with a lick of paint you will be one the road to camping rarely works in a trailer of that age.

Once you get it in a good condition though, it could be ready for another 40 years of Happy Trails, so think it through carefully, and above all, take your time.

Why not start by giving us all the details you can on the '76 you have found, along with any photos you might have taken or had given to you?
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Old 10-22-2011, 08:38 PM   #5
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1968 26' Overlander
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Ours is a 76 as well, but its in pretty good shape. We took down any old musty window coverings as well as the folding door and I bought new fabric for about $80. My friend will sew new for me if I help her. We tore out the carpet and there was one weak spot in the subfloor at the door and my husband fixed that for 0$ by using some scrap wood we had lying around. I bought new wood laminate flooring for about $140 (I already had 1 roll of underlayment so I only needed one more) and paid a friend $450 to lay the floors. For the interior-the rest was all elbow grease.

We don't know if any of the appliances work yet-we are taking it out this weekend to check it all out. Our house doesn't have good enough service to support it without tripping breakers!

We had to by a breaking system add on and weight distribution hitch, but that was cheaper than I expected at about $200.

Good luck!

M
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Old 10-26-2011, 07:55 AM   #6
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Making it live in worthy is one cost, making it tow and live in worthy is another cost.
If your trailer has the vac disk brake system expect to change it out to electric brakes
with new shocks for about $1600. New tires and spare add another $500. New propane
bottles $150.
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Old 10-26-2011, 08:01 AM   #7
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Making it live in worthy is one cost, making it tow and live in worthy is another cost.
If your trailer has the vac disk brake system expect to change it out to electric brakes
with new shocks for about $1600. New tires and spare add another $500. New propane
bottles $150.
The only thing wrong with the old original disc brakes, is the actuator.

Installing a new style actuator, that "does not" need a vacuum source, that works great with the original system, costs just a few hundred dollars, and, is easy to do.

Most of the parts are still available for the original disc brakes.

Andy
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Old 10-26-2011, 12:58 PM   #8
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Costs of fixing up a '76?

Greetings mikeairs!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Airstreams!

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Originally Posted by mikeairs View Post
Hi
I may buy a 76 31 foot airstream. What would it cost to make liveable? any estimates?j ust trying to repair the floor and get a working bathroom. looking for basics and not a restoration. Thanks
There isn't a definitive answer to your question as there are many variables. Have you considered making use of the Forums Volunteer Inspectors? There is a link on the home-page for these wonderful volunteers who will assist you in evaluating the coach. If you haven't already investigated the following utilizing the Forums search feaure, you might want to do a little reading as these items can pertain to the coach in question:
  • Rear end separation. This is a problem that almost any vintage coach can experience, and the repair can be expensive particularly if you cannot make the repair yourself.
  • Tail droop. This is a problem with the longer coaches of the 1970s era. I believe that the factory was installing a reinforcing plate near the axles to address the issue by 1976, but it is still something to double-check.
  • Axles. Henschen axles that are more than 30 years old are typically suffering from either being worn out or the axle rods may be frozen or set meaning that there is no spring action left. A replacement axle was one of the first repairs needed on my '78 Minuet.
There are other systems that can be costly to repair, but can be replaced while you are using the coach. I was fortunate with both of my coaches in that most of the major appliances were functional at purchase and I was able to make replacements over a three to five year period as the various components failed. These components would include:
  • Water Heater. The water heater in your Airstream is smaller than a home unit, but is just as costly. A six gallon with professional installation can easily surpass $700 depedning upon model chosen and local labor rates.
  • Furnace. The Suburban furnace typically utilized in the 1970s units is known for issues with the heat exchanger as they age and replacement is often necessary. Again, the cost depends upon the replacement model chosen, but the cost can surpass $700 when labor is added to the cost.
  • Univolt/Power Converter. If the coach still has its original Univolt power converter, it is likely on its last legs . . . . and even if it isn't, it is noted for noisy operation and its propensity to boil battery elctrolyte. Replacement is typically recommended and the cost with labor can approach $700 depending upon model chosen and prevailing labor rates.
  • Air Conditioner. The original Armstrong Bay Breeze air conditioners are far more durable than modern replacements, and someone familiar with commercial cooling equipment can usually successfully repair one for far less than the cost of replacement. Many, however, choose replacement, and a new replacement air conditioner can easily exceed $1,000 depending upon the model chosen and the labor rate.
  • Refrigerator. Dometic refrigerators are known for long life, but 30 years is a long-life for the cooling unit. There are two choices when the cooling unit expires . . . a new rebuilt unit for about $750 . . . or a new refrigerator that often goes for more than $1,250 installed.
  • Water Pump. The PAR (Peters and Russell) water pump that was utilized by Airstream during the 1970s is quite durable . . . and unlike more recent counterparts . . . is readily rebuildable. Rebuilding can cost less than $100, but replacement with a new pump can be two or three times that much depending upon model chosen and labor rates.
  • Wall Oven. The wall oven that Airstream utilized in the larger coaches during much of the 1970s is noted for a variety of repair issues, and parts are very difficult to find. Direct replacements aren't readily available so creative adaptation is often necessary.
  • Cook-Top. The cook top is generally known for durability, and many have reported good success in finding the parts necessary to keep it in operation.
  • Propane Regulator and Tank Certification. The propane regulator should be checked by a technician for proper operation. It is among the more usual items needing replacement on recently acquired vintage coaches. Most of the largers coaches of this era were equipped with Worthington Aluminum LP tanks at the factory, and if the coach still has its original tanks they will likely need new valves and recertification . . . a process that typically runs about $100 for a pair of tanks.
Through a thorough inspection of the coach, you will be able to discover whether it is a financially viable solution for your situation.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 10-26-2011, 03:57 PM   #9
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I'm north of 10 grand in my fix up project. I probably have 4 or 5 thousand left to do. Maybe less, depends what I do for window curtains. When I'm done, I'll have 14 to 15 thousand invested in addition to purchase cost. My frame was good, the floor only needed minor repair, all the windows were good and original screens weren't even torn.

My expenses so far have been repairing minor items of neglect, doing deferred maintenance like window and door gaskets, all other seals and gaskets, replacing appliances and fixtures, installing floor covering, cabinets, counter tops, tires, and items like three new fan-tastic fans.

I have the inside mostly done and still have all of the outside to do. I did get the rock guard installed this week. That alone was over $500 with freight charges.

I have over a grand in the towing vehicle with trailer related hard costs . . . between hitch, rock busters, and extension mirrors. Those costs are above the trailer costs.
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Old 10-26-2011, 05:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Hi
I may buy a 76 31 foot airstream. What would it cost to make liveable? any estimates?j ust trying to repair the floor and get a working bathroom. looking for basics and not a restoration. Thanks
The OP hasnt been back here since he posted.
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Old 10-26-2011, 05:28 PM   #11
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The OP hasnt been back here since he posted.
He's getting some great info, hopefully he's at least using it!
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Old 10-26-2011, 07:24 PM   #12
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What my 1975 Tradewind cost to restore

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f348...ml#post1050484
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Old 10-26-2011, 07:31 PM   #13
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I didn't even keep track of the small stuff. Kilz Original for the floor, stainless steel screws, rivets, gasket adhesives, Vulkem, rattle can paint, window solar film, TSP, whitewall cleaner, sponges . . . ad infinitum.
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Old 10-26-2011, 07:36 PM   #14
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overlander64 had provided an comprehehsive list for sure. My '76 31' took the following:
> Dometic Refer
> Progressive Dynamics Converter
> Selective floor repacement
> Floor covering (carpet and vinyl flooring)
> Window treatments
> New vent covers
> New tires
> Deep Cycle RV batteries
> Lots and lots of Nuvite polish and a Cyclo polisher
> Oh... and a gallon of Greased Lightning
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