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Old 10-24-2012, 07:29 PM   #1
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1986 34' Limited
1966 24' Tradewind
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1970s Project Recommendation

I don't know the old Airstreams very well. I am looking for a project trailer. I think I want a 1970s vintage dual axle 25 or 27 foot.

Are there any watch outs I need to know about? Corvettes were good in the 1960s but not so good in 1975. Porsche 911s were good in the 1980s but went south in 1990, then better in 1995. Airstream "pipe frame" early trailers are not very useable.

Were there any major changes in the 1970s for Airstreams that should be taken into consideration? Aluminum changes, poor windows, bad frames, lousy electrics or plumbing, etc. Are there particular models that are more popular, e.g. Trade Wind, International, Flying Cloud, Soverign, etc.

I've worked on a 69 globe trotter, but I don't like the layout very well. Poor sleeping accomodations. But I liked the strong cast door frames, stronger windows, better storage compartment doors. These seemed stronger and more robust than on my 86 Limited. There may be a 1970s model that is known as a poor layout and not very popular. There may be a model year where something changed either for the better or worse.

Your insight would be helpful to me.

David
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Old 10-24-2012, 09:17 PM   #2
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Old 10-24-2012, 09:49 PM   #3
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Depending on how you intend to use the trailer you might want to consider a 75 or newer unit because they have a built in gray water tank. It is a lot of work to put one in if the trailer was designed without one. I have to carry a blueboy whenever I go anywhere with my 1963 because they do not let you put gray water on the ground very many places anymore. If you are only going to full service campgrounds with a sewer than it is not an issue. If you like real wood instead of plastic, you need to stay away from the 70's because they were all plastic inside.
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Old 10-24-2012, 11:39 PM   #4
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A line is missing from my previous post. '74 and newer had grey water tanks.
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Old 10-25-2012, 06:40 AM   #5
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It seems like the rear bath models have more issues with rear end separation.
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Old 10-25-2012, 07:01 AM   #6
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The 70's trailers had more problems with frames it seems. I think the rear bath combined with the added weight of the gray water tanks killed a lot of 70's trailers. If you can find a center bath unit, it will be easier to fix. Anything on the east coast is going to be a total rebuild as a result of the hot wet climate. That is unless it has been keep inside. The plate at the back in front of the bumper is a common leak point and leads to the dreaded rear end separation. There is no real wood in the 70's trailers. The floors are plywood where sometime in the 80's they went to OSB floors. The frames did get better in the 80's with the addition of a full box beam frame instead of a 5" C-channel. I think about mid 80's they started putting oak cabinets in them and got rid of the plastic coated plywood walls and cabinets. Prior to 1970 they put real wood in them.

Perry
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Old 10-25-2012, 07:32 AM   #7
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There are 70s trailers with real wood cabinetry. 1969-1970. Yes, 1969 is typically considered a 70s era trailer.
If you are looking for dedicated beds, I would recommend a 1969-72 27' Overlander twin.
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Old 10-25-2012, 07:40 AM   #8
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So what defines a 70's era trailer? My 81 looks just like the inside of all the 70's trailers I have seen. So it must be a 70's era trailer as well. There is the advantage that the interior of the 70's trailers was very light weight. This makes me wonder why the 60's trailers were lighter but had real wood in them.

Perry
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Old 10-25-2012, 07:44 AM   #9
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69 are great...I had a 69 Caravel that was perfect. It taught me that 69 was a real crossover year....translated....unique parts only to that year, For example, try find a front corner window. But, it was such a great set up that I searched for a long time till I found a 94 21 ft. Sovereign. Love at first sight.
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Old 10-25-2012, 08:43 AM   #10
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The rear-end separation issue is due mostly to the shape of the body and the rear bumper essentiall funneling rain water right into the seam between the shell and the frame. The separation may be pronounced with rear baths and grey tanks, but it is the shape of the body that allows the water to come in. This shape hasn't changed much since 1969. The tambour doors on storage compartments are likely a source of grief in the 70's. If you are going to do a major refurm of the interior, then the cabinetry (plastic veneer, or real wood) may not make any difference to you. Also, the shell material changed throughout the 70's, so if you want a trailer made of 2024 T3 Alclad, then go pre-70's, because it never came back.

I have a 70's trailer, and chose it because I like the size and layout, and many windows. 60's trailers always seem dark and closterphobic inside. The Aluminum in the 70's, despite not being Alclad is still pretty tough, less inclined to take a dent from a hailstone than more recent years.
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Old 11-04-2012, 08:46 AM   #11
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Thank you folks for the great information on vintage Airstreams. I now know when grey water tanks were installed, and I learned about the rear shell seperation. And I didn't realize the interior pieces were extensively plastic in the 70s. I prefer the wood cabinets, or even aluminum. But plastic pieces aren't my favorite.

We had a nice visit to Jackson Center a couple of weeks ago. It seemed to me that the newer Airstreams are being built better. The door latch mechanism is certainly better than mine. It looked like the shell has more bracing than mine. And the interior components on the Classic were quite first class. I didn't measure it, but we were told the shell exterior aluminum is .040 thick.

One couple we met there had a 04 CCD model with a cracking frame issue. I thought this is unacceptable in the modern era of computer aided design. Dynamic loads on frame members can be determined and thus designed not to fail. This couple were having a "frame kit" installed for a second time. My goodness I would be very disappointed to have a newer Airstream with frame strength issues.

I think Airstream should build their trailers in the tradition that they will last more than 50 years. All structures and systems should be designed with that goal. Only the best components should be used. An Airstream demands a premium price, and justification for that high price is long design life and premium interiors. Why not make the shell strong enough to resist hail damage, why not make the flooring totally resistant to water rot, why not make the frame rust resistant, and why not premium furnaces, air conditions, insulation, eletrical systems and plumbing. Airstreams are special and should be built that way.

So there.

I think I have learned that I want a grey water tank, and a side bath rear bed model even if I have to get into the early 80s. I do like the extra lighting the bigger windows offer in the later models. And I would like a gross vehicle weight less than 5000 pounds. But I will be destined to repair all the faults of cheaped Airstream systems such as furnaces, brakes, wet under bellies and frame rust, leaks, door latches, etc, etc.

David
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