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Old 05-12-2015, 10:14 AM   #1
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starstruck08's Avatar
1976 25' Tradewind
West Palm Beach , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 64
1968 Overlander - My first inspection!

1968 Airstream Overlander on EBAY

This got relisted again, and the bidding is up on Thursday evening. Guess who is going to go do her first inspection on Wednesday evening. THIS GAL.

He's still convinced that he can get $6k for it despite having buyers fall out from under him 3 or 4 times, and I'm not even sure if this is "the one" that I want to spend all my savings on. So this is an educational venture as much as or more than a possible purchase. I'm still taking friends and a vehicle with a hitch just in case, but I'm trying not to get too attached.

I want have an Airstream and get to fixing it up, but I don't want to drop all of my savings on something that's going to be a nightmare. I attempted to find a volunteer inspector, but no one returned my messages - so I'm going into it with a mechanic-savvy friend, a DIY mom, and my gut feelings and stuff-I've-read-somewhere.

Price vs. Condition - Airstream Values
According to the Airstream Price Guide and based on what I know, this Overlander is in Lower-Average condition. So a $4k offer wouldn't be insultingly low and $6k isn't outrageously overpriced. I'm going to check it out and see if I notice anything else he didn't mention in the ad, whether bad or good. From the pictures it looks to be in good shape, here are the major pros and cons I'm working off of:

-Looks straight and only minor denting
-The inside looks relatively clean with no major messes or water damage
-Claims the Brakes, AC, and Inverter were all replaced within the last six years
-Clear title already in the state I live in
-Location is extremely convenient for me!
-Electricity is good to go
-Original furniture and appliances

-Unknown plumbing situation, claims he never used it
-A few of the appliances/parts have been removed for various reasons (but included)
-Rust visible on the A-frame and bumper... I really don't want to do welding or have to fix the chassis/axels if they are rusted out
-The propane system on the front is completely missing

I also just found out that there is an RV Show happening in my town this weekend - anybody know if there are going to be any Airstreams there? I'm going to go check it out on Friday for sure!

I will be updating this thread with pics I take of the trailer - hopefully I can look at everything before the sun goes down, and I'm going to ask him to demonstrate the electrical system. If it's truly a good buy, I don't want to miss out on this opportunity.

Disclaimer: I'm not afraid of hard work and lots of little jobs, but a big shell-off chassis job or something that would cost thousands of dollars to have fixed is just a little too much for me on my first project. I've literally never spent more than a couple hundred bucks on any one thing in my entire life. So while I'm eager to get started, the initial purchase is a bit intimidating!

If I ask a stupid question, it's because I'm a newbie.
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Old 05-12-2015, 11:25 AM   #2
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1966 26' Overlander
Woodstock , Georgia
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 8,078
Plumbing redo is fairly cheap...with PEX. Its the unknown repairs that can be a challenge. Be sure to check the floors everywhere for soft spots from leaks. Pull out the beds and look under and behind..
Turn everything on that you can. But- Having appliances not installed is not good...
Get underneath and see how the belly pan looks. Propane tanks will be needed and if you want the aluminum ones... figure 200 plus cost of updates to the valves.
Everyone will tell you that axles are needed. Take that with a grain of salt as you can tow without changing them...yet. But budget for them as well.

edit:I looked at EBAY and
Its an International series- that's good
Skin looks straight- very good though I could not see clearly the dented part he could be made to look better
AC is updated...all good
Wheels and tires are updated - good
Fridge is out- plug it into electric to see if it works..could take awhile to get cold though
stove it out...not the end of the world...easily repaired or replaced
interior generally looks good but will need some redoing.. Like that green gaucho...ugh!

I think the asking price is pretty much right on if there are minimal repairs needed

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Old 05-12-2015, 12:48 PM   #3
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1973 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 775
A few thoughts.

Says wheels and tires replaced by the po, and he's had this trailer for 10 years so that makes the tires 10 years old. They will need to be replaced along with the axles. Figure about 500 for the tires and maybe about 1500 for the axles.

Body looks pretty straight, except for the right rear corner, and that is a funky place for a dent. I'm wondering if somehow that bumper corner dragged on a curb and if there is some rear end separation going on that the corner buckled due to the deflection. I would spend quite a bit of time looking in the back, especially in the rear compartment and underneath and look for telltale signs of rust or movement. If you find punky wood in that rear compartment, I would think you have a 90+% chance of rot that would mean removing the bath to change out the floor.

And as for checking rot, concentrate on the edges. Pull up the carpeting if you can, look for staining. Use something like a plastic mallet and tap the floor and listen for differences in sound. Rotted would is soft and will not make a sharp sound.

The fact there is so much visible surface rust and the trailer is in FLA don't sit that well with me. If he couldn't have kept up with the parts he could see, how well did he take care of what he couldn't see.

Go with the brightest flashlight you've got and shine it in every nook and cranny. Pull out all the drawers and look for any signs of water or discoloration. No water usage and no propane means they really didnt use it all that much. No use generally means neglect. And maybe the previous buyer backed out because he found stuff he didnt like. Be real cautious on this one.

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Old 05-12-2015, 01:03 PM   #4
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1973 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 775
Looking closer at the pictures there is a less obvious dent on the other side as well. That is telling me that the frame is moving freely enough away from the body that going over a big bump is causing it to flex and then kink the sheet metal. Unless you are prepared to gut at least the bathroom and replace the floor, walk away from this one.

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Old 05-12-2015, 02:21 PM   #5

1968 20' Globetrotter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 314
Curb your enthusiasm,

Don't buy it without pulling the bellypan down and inspecting frame with a pro. If seller objects, walk.

Take a look at the undetected frame rot in this great looking 1968.

What's known as “puffing” in Auto Sales is legal. He can say it is in excellent condition with no consequence. “Frame looks solid”, means nothing.

plumbing untested” really? He never ran a drop of water through it in ten years??

Be cautious, you can see in the photos where the frame is hammering the body.

Read up on the aluminum electrical wiring found in 1968 airstreams and think long and hard about how you will ensure that it is safe.

That trailer hasn't been selling for a reason.

Trust your intuition.

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Old 05-12-2015, 04:21 PM   #6
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1965 26' Overlander
Tulsa , Oklahoma
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 306
Personally, I would not buy a Florida trailer without thoroughly inspecting the frame! If you doubt me, check out MillertimeUS posts! Good luck

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Old 05-12-2015, 05:18 PM   #7
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1976 25' Tradewind
West Palm Beach , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 64
I am definitely looking VERY closely for rot and water damage, and if I'm seriously interested in the thing I may offer to pay for an inspection if he won't budge on the price. Or at least say "I'll pay your price, IF you can drop the belly pan or get an inspection to prove that the frame is in reasonable condition."

Replacing the Propane and maybe the plumbing isn't that bad to me. By my reck he's asking for the full price of an average condition original Overlander. But I can ask the price to be dropped for the stuff missing. 300-500 for the propane, for example. A few missing pieces can be easily replaced, but the core frame is too much for a newbie like me. And if the floor is saggy or soft, if the backend has dropped, or if the frame is blown? No thanks.

The previous buyer, or at least one of them, backed out before seeing the trailer because his partner for paying up fell through - he was agreeing to purchase it sight-unseen.

Can anybody tell me what the signs are from the outside that the rear end is separating? I'm probably going to re-do the bathroom regardless, so I don't mind pulling stuff out of there for MINOR repairs or flooring-replacement...

I can even handle the axles needing replacement now or eventually since that might get me a discount on the price, as long as the frame will last a few more years...

Right now I'm about 90%/10% that this is going to be an educational experience only, that I'm either going to see something that makes me walk or I offer low and he refuses. But I do want to be open to buying it if it is a good one. Just because it's my first inspection doesn't mean it's not a good trailer... but I'm being very wary and cautious. No impulse purchase for me!
If I ask a stupid question, it's because I'm a newbie.
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Old 05-12-2015, 05:55 PM   #8
The Sign Lady
1969 23' Safari
1974 Argosy 22
1964 24' Tradewind
Victoria , British Columbia
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 674
Well, one thing I can tell you by looking at the bathroom pics is there has been significant leakage in the rear end coming from the windows or higher, (fan, plumbing stack, rivets or seams) When you look at the bathroom sink area you can see where the water has stood on the counter and run down into the bathroom sink leaving the water lines. That is not dirt by the taps running down it is engrained algae/mineral staining from the standing sludge water. I had the same marks in my '69 and everyone of the items I listed in the brackets above was the issue. Luckily the PO replaced my floor but he only thought the window was the source of the leaks so just fixed just that.

I suspect the crumples in the corners is the plywood in both corners has rotted away enough that the C-channel has collapsed and is touching the steel frame directly. here is my burger analogy....Picture a hamburger, the bottom steel frame is the bottom bun, the plywood is the hamburger patty itself and the top bun is your aluminum shell. If you eat away enough of just the hamburger patty eventually the top bun falls and hits the bottom bun. Yes it is fixable but its a huge P.I.T.A. and lots of time to fix or expensive to have professionally repaired.

I am not sure how much difference in design we have between our one year age difference but I can tell you take a mirror with you just in case. In my 69 if I lift that back bumper storage compartment I can actually use a mirror to see the underside of the plywood. In my trailer the PO put vinyl flooring edge to edge when he redid the bathroom so I can't see the floor per say, so it was awesome when I found out I could peek up from underneath and confirm it was solid :-)

If that subfloor is rotten the trailer will stink of mildew but with removal of the rotten ply wood and replacement of the belly pan insulation it goes away.

Check the step in the pics it is up. Does it work?

Last tip... lift a floor vent and check in the funny hard to reach back corners for evidence of rodents, I have heard that smell is darn near impossible to get rid of. That would personally be my only deal breaker...
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Old 05-13-2015, 10:37 AM   #9
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Old 05-13-2015, 11:01 AM   #10
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1965 24' Tradewind
Henderson , Nevada
Join Date: Jan 2015
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The reality is NO MATTER what - there will be cracked plumbing ,cracked tanks, floor rot ( here and there) and pretty much any major appliance from the 60's will not work to todays standards (maybe the stove). Even if things work now they will not last much longer ( such as the black tank etc..47 years is a long time for these things to keep ticking) The back end bathroom areas are almost always rotted. Just plan on re doing everything and get it if the frame is in good shape. If it's near you - I say grab it while you can . 4k to 5.5k is fair. Enjoy :_)
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Old 05-13-2015, 11:27 AM   #11
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1965 24' Tradewind
Henderson , Nevada
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Just read the bottom part of your post. I'm in the middle of my first restoration of a 65 Trade Wind. Being totally honest - it will be expensive and a nightmare / labor of love. I would compare it to re modeling a kitchen. You deal with plumbing , electrical, flooring , propane , cutting and everything in between. There's no way around having to update all of things. My 65 looked untouched - only to find out that 50 years had taken it's toll on EVERYTHING. Redoing these is not for the faint of me I found out the hard way. My thoughts where like yours ,
Everything looked great and all I wanted to do was fix up a few minor things , clean it up and camp..Wrong !! 5 months later it still sits in the same spot - with no end in sight.

On a good note I have really enjoyed working on it but once you get under the hood you kind of have to replace everything . Just don't want you to bit off more than you can chew
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Old 05-13-2015, 11:55 AM   #12
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Mesa , Arizona
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65 Twind and 62 Ambsdr here and you are so right on. We should all just plan for shell off and anything less than that is a bonus.

On our end we make sure at least one is always street worthy and we camp in them anyway. They make really nice tents on the way to being nice trailers.

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Old 05-13-2015, 12:34 PM   #13
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1975 27' Overlander
Twin Cities , Minnesota
Join Date: May 2003
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Originally Posted by ALUMINUMINUM View Post

plumbing untested” really? He never ran a drop of water through it in ten years??

I can't speak for that trailer or for the seller.
I can say it's entirely possible they never used the water system.
I bought mine in 03 and have never had a drop of water in it.
Not once, nada.
We bring water in jugs and use an outhouse.
We do drain dishwater through the drain. But it just runs through the tank and onto the ground.
We heat water for dishes on the stove.
The bathroom is just dry storage for fishing rods, life jackets, extra sleeping bags and that sort of stuff. I blocked off the heat duct and don't heat that area.
When I first got the camper I opened the faucet on the kitchen sink and a little bit of pink antifreeze dripped out. So I assumed it had been winterized.
Some day when I sell it I will state what I said here and let the buyer decide if it's worth the risk. But I wont let them test it by putting water to it.
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Old 05-13-2015, 06:28 PM   #14
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1975 27' Overlander
LaVale , Maryland
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 53
We're in Maryland and so prices are probably better than Florida, we bought shiny Beast a '75 overlander last year ago and it was all together for a little over half his asking price and we knew from the seller that he had not used the plumbing so he made no guarantees. It had sat unused for probably 5-8 years and smelled musty and it took my wife a solid month of meticulous cleaning to get it smelling reasonable. As we got it ready to move I replaced the axles and tyres due to age and had quite a time getting the running/brake lights working then later the interior light due to rodent nibbling. Since then we have replaced the copper waterlines with Pex. Replaced the propane tanks ( too old to refill ) and regulator.
We still have more to do and of course we have mucho dinero and sweat equity invested in it but this is the sort of thing to expect when you buy a vintage Airstream, the purchase price is usually the thin end of the wedge but we don't regret it though. Good luck with what ever you decide.

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