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Old 07-28-2010, 04:33 PM   #1
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Looking for my 'Forever' Airstream

I am starting the search for my "forever" Airstream. I'm 42, and after restoration, I'm hoping this one will last me the rest of my life.

Ideally I'll be looking for a 70s longer A/S in the 28-31 ft area.

As I plan to do a full bottom-up rebuild on it, I can take something that is struggling - I nearly pulled the trigger on a Sovereign a few days ago that had the worst rear end separation I've ever seen, but we were unable to agree on price - I think $3500 for something that requires new everything is a bit steep - and I am not exactly wealthy myself. (And after restoring an Airstream, that'll certainly be true!)

I'm not looking to do a pure restoration - I would keep the outside 100% original but intend to do the interior in a modern cherry/aluminum style, with a rear queen bed. Down the SS would be the shower and toilet, and the CS would have two bunks. Then a large and comfy living area. Finally, a front kitchen.

I intend to make lightweight cabinets and furniture from teak or maybe red oak, with aluminum inserts. The interior would be completely re-wired and re-plumbed. The interior panels would be updated.

I really plan for my lifetime Airstream to be a boondocker's dream: solar panels, LED lighting, gas/electric appliances and a larger fresh water tank figure in my plans.

And so my search begins! I'll photograph everything I look at, and post in this thread.
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Old 07-30-2010, 04:10 PM   #2
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I looked at a 74 Sovereign today in Houston. It's in trouble.

There was rear end separation just on the street side, but it ran from the back, all the way down the side to the wheel arch, which makes me think the frame has a horrible twist to it. Inside, the floor started to angle down before you even passed the refer. Outside, there's a visible bowing out of the skin over the street side wheels. Subtle but present.

The duratorques were 5 degrees up, and frozen. All four tires were 15+ years old and flat. They do hold air, but untowable.

The front-CS window was half filled with water between the panes. The outer glass on the top window right of the door was gone. The AC is original - fan works, no cold.

The electrics are all original, and are in poor state. The Airstream info center is still present above the sink, in the cabinet, and worryingly, the gauges that do work say the tanks have content - I don't even want to look.

Seller is asking $3,500 for this struggling Airstream. Given local prices, $1,500-$2,200 seems a more likely range.

I walked away.

Seller also had a smaller A/S that I did not look at. The rear frame was so rusted, it had collapsed and the body had sunk down and dented the aluminum rear panel where it crosses the remains of the members. He also wanted $3,500 for this.
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Old 07-30-2010, 05:31 PM   #3
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Dave:

Happy searching. I know you'll find the right one to restore. I found a
77 Overlander in 2003 and have been slowly restoring it, on and off, for
7 years. I did'nt plan on it but it sure does seem like "my forever" project.

Ken
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Old 07-30-2010, 05:32 PM   #4
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Wink Patience

Methinks you might have a good head on your shoulders and that you'll eventually wind up with something fantastic.

(I'll keep an eye out for you.)
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Old 07-30-2010, 05:45 PM   #5
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Thanks folks. I had a lead on a "free" 28ft Airstream but alas my lead was four days stale...
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Old 07-30-2010, 07:39 PM   #6
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Dave,

Don't get in hurry!
Take some time to learn about various coaches.
I think it is like looking for the "perfect" collector car.
Take your time and look at a few, keep reading the forums.
In the end, you'll be right on the mark!
Bob
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Old 07-30-2010, 09:26 PM   #7
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You might like this search engine: site mash : airstream : combined classified and auction listings
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Old 07-31-2010, 12:37 AM   #8
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I'm not in THAT much of a hurry... Any time in the next six months will do.

Also, I have this funny karmic belief that the right Airstream will somehow find me without me having to look too hard for it. Providence isn't just a place in Rhode Island.
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Old 07-31-2010, 05:45 AM   #9
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Be patient and it will find you. I had my eye on one for 2 years and looked at a few others in between. It's purchase has brought us many great camping adventures and it like yours to be is a "forever Airstream".
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Old 07-31-2010, 05:50 AM   #10
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Hi Dave

I have seen a lot of people rebuild older Airstreams. I have seem people put thousands of hours into a rough unit and when they were done a lot of parts were still rough.

My thought is that if you are going to put that much work into it start with one that has a good shell and frame. It may cost a few thousand more going in but it will be worth it in the long run.

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Old 07-31-2010, 06:36 AM   #11
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Andrew gave some good advice there, but I need to add my two cents, for you said you want to do a ground up on her. They all need axles, they all need frame work, they all have floor rot, they need electrical attention, they need, they need, they need. Look for good skin. The skin is the key, for all the rest will be easily fixed. I see it all the time(I am guilty too) that people buy a trailer and want to believe it is all sound and perfect. This often happens because the pictures look to fit the price asked and it is said to be all ready to go. Once the honey moon wears off and they start really looking they find that the whole back end is rotten away(very difficult to see in the era you are looking at due to that plastic module they call a bathroom and very common due to those windows they used and the tail light housing), they find that many of the outlets do not work, that the fridge never really gets cold, and the list goes on. If as you say, you are going to do a totally full monty on this rig you are searching for, then just worry about the skin. If the skin is good, you are golden.
Deal breakers for me are dented end caps. Keep in mind that all the panels on the front and back are formed. They cost big money to buy and take a high skill set to change out. If the door is not closing and opening properly and you do not see a lot of rot right there, then the door frame is twisted. In the era you are talking about the door and it's frame are a cast unit. Straightening a cast aluminum frame is near impossible. Hatches... those 70's hatches are almost as easy to find as hens teeth in a pile of sewing needles. Broken wing windows, panorama windows, or "D" windows in your era are even harder to find than than missing hatches.
Not trying to dissuade you or pee on your campfire Dave. I think you are well educated on what you are looking for and just trying to give some solid constructive input here. Do not get desperate and rush into anything. Take your time. You might want to take a road trip over to the Land of Enchantment. Lots of Airstreams over there. There not advertised, so you have to do some door knocking, but there are a large number sitting there, waiting. Texas is a very hard market. The cost tends to be a bit higher than some other parts of the country.
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Old 07-31-2010, 06:00 PM   #12
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To both of the previous posters I say, "Amen!"

I know that whatever I buy, even if it doesn't need it right now, within 5 to 10 years it would need it, so I am budgeting to do those things from the outset: New axles, drums and tires, rebuilding the frame, a complete new floor, insulation and leak repairs and complete new electrics and plumbing.

After that, everything that's left is basically furniture and fittings.

I know that I could probably build a complete new replica airstream for the same money... But it wouldn't be an airstream really - would it?

Thanks for the words of caution. I'm aware of what I'm getting into, having done most of it before unwillingly, but this time I'm going to have my experience from last time, an understanding of what I am working with, and the advice and encouragement of you wonderful people.

So, I shall be okay.
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Old 07-31-2010, 07:19 PM   #13
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How far away are ya willing to go?

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Old 07-31-2010, 07:49 PM   #14
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I travel around a bit. I may well end up scouring New Mexico, or see something on my travels in the East. I saw a lovely one in Mississippi a few months ago, but the price was just a little too much for my budget at the time.

So... As far as it takes!
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