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Old 03-19-2009, 08:12 PM   #1
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First Airstream

I am considering the purchase of my first AS; a rather neglected 1987 Excella 31'. Shell is in good shape, 1 small shallow dent/ripple in rear, and 2 small dents on front quarter (sorry I don't know all the names of all the parts yet). Running gear seems solid (checked the brakes, wheels and bearings, hitch and lights, etc), all the mechanicals are in working order (A/C, fridge, stove, toilet). Now for the problems; a leaky window next to the door lead to some interior water damage. The current owner removed the gaucho, all the carpets, and a section of rotted subfloor (1' x 4'). He also removed the beds (rear twins). There also seems to have been some water damage in and around the bathroom (one of the bathroom walls has been removed)
I have negotiated down to $3000, which I think is a great deal even considering the amount of work it needs.
I would greatly appreciate any feedback, as I am scheduled to pick it up in 2 days.
Thanks
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:19 PM   #2
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$3K for a coach in the shape you describe seems like an OUTRAGEOUS price to me. To repair the dents (as opposed to living with them) is expensive, you have water damage requiring new decking, AND missing internal parts. That doesn't get to the things you haven't found yet.

I hate to be the rain on your parade, but I would sleep on this one.
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:47 PM   #3
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Thanks Rodney. Do you think it has any value? My thought was that if I buy it for 3K, put 4 or 5K into it (plus many hours) then I end up with a trailer like the ones I see listed for 13 to 15K. But I'm grossly under-estimating my repair costs, aren't I.
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:48 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Chipandden View Post
I am considering the purchase of my first AS; a rather neglected 1987 Excella 31'. Shell is in good shape, 1 small shallow dent/ripple in rear, and 2 small dents on front quarter (sorry I don't know all the names of all the parts yet). Running gear seems solid (checked the brakes, wheels and bearings, hitch and lights, etc), all the mechanicals are in working order (A/C, fridge, stove, toilet). Now for the problems; a leaky window next to the door lead to some interior water damage. The current owner removed the gaucho, all the carpets, and a section of rotted subfloor (1' x 4'). He also removed the beds (rear twins). There also seems to have been some water damage in and around the bathroom (one of the bathroom walls has been removed)
I have negotiated down to $3000, which I think is a great deal even considering the amount of work it needs.
I would greatly appreciate any feedback, as I am scheduled to pick it up in 2 days.
Thanks

If the trailer has been parked for an extended time, it could have axle problems.

keep in mind that torsion axles are weight sensitive, therefore if the trailer is lightly loaded, the torsion arms should be down maybe 10 degrees or better.

The following article will help you check them out in 30 seconds.

Andy
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Old 03-19-2009, 08:55 PM   #5
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Thanks Andy. Dumb question, but what does axle replacement typiclly cost? or is that a death sentence for an '87?
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Old 03-19-2009, 09:04 PM   #6
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Thanks Andy. Dumb question, but what does axle replacement typiclly cost? or is that a death sentence for an '87?
No, it's not a death sentence.

We cannot quote prices on the Forums, but check your PM.

Takes 2 people about 3 to 4 hours to change both axles, without lifting the trailer with a jack. A jack is sometimes used to lift the axles in place.

Andy
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Old 03-19-2009, 09:06 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chipandden View Post
Thanks Rodney. Do you think it has any value? My thought was that if I buy it for 3K, put 4 or 5K into it (plus many hours) then I end up with a trailer like the ones I see listed for 13 to 15K. But I'm grossly under-estimating my repair costs, aren't I.

Does it have any value? I suppose that depends on how much you are looking for a project versus looking for a camper. As a rule of thumb, its cheaper and easier to buy a unit someone else has restored. As far as I know, nobody has ever gotten their money out of a restoration. I don't see how this one gets repaired without being gutted, maybe a shell off restoration. So you would be looking at lots of time and money ( and for work you hire out LOTS of it) to make this unit a go.

On the other hand, if money isn't an issue and you are handy and have time to spend restoring her, this camper is probably viable. As for market value as she sets at the moment? You would be doing the owner a favor to tow it away unless he has the patience to part her out. No doubt others will have other opinions, but mine is probably worth most of what you paid for it. By the way, most of us looked at a bunch of units before buying. Don't get attached to the ones you see, and better yet get one of the volunteer inspectors to look at anything you are thinking of buying. Its amazing what someone who isn't in love with the camper you want to buy will find. Good luck!
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Old 03-19-2009, 09:13 PM   #8
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Do not walk away from that trailer, RUN!!! Way too much. There are some great trailers out there especially with Recession central going on right now. You will have 10k in that baby before you even blink.
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Old 03-19-2009, 10:38 PM   #9
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$3000 may be a bit high, but without seeing it who knows. Maybe one of the forums members in the area could inspect it. Photos would really help.

elolsen is right about the $. 2 ways to look at that one. 1st the difference between a $1500 and a $3000 trailer will not turn out to be that much when your other costs are added in when (and if) you are done. 2nd a $10,000 87 trailer should be in excellent condition, ready to go with no surprises. But maybe you are like me and nuts enough to enjoy the restoration process.

Another factor to consider is where has this trailer lived. If it was in a humid area exposed to salt conditions check it out for frame damage.
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Old 03-20-2009, 01:23 AM   #10
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You're already doing one thing right... getting advice and doing research before jumping in. That's the best news. Keep on doing this!

I bought new so that I could hit the road on day one. Then I bought new again....... because I wanted a bigger unit to fulltime in. Then Airstream came out with an even bigger unit that would be perfect... and I've said "NO" because I'm not a total idiot.

So why write? I've seen people spend 2 years doing a renovation "as money allows" ...and then there are many who lose focus or interest and have a decaying RV sitting somewhere growing green algae.

Serious advice? Think long and hard before you take on a big project like this, and also think very very seriously about the costs. All RV's, even Airstreams are NOT investments (well they don't perform worse than the stock market at the moment). They are fulltime homes, or weekend cabins, or hotel substitutes or a big upgrade from tent camping... or expensive yard art. If you love to tinker and you're good at completing projects, and this will keep you from buying a money pit house... go for it. If your real goal is to travel this summer and keep on the road, buy something nearly new or even new and GO.

Fulltiming? They can be a huge bargain IF you can find inexpensive places to camp. I'm still working and got membership in a condo campground that allows me to stay over six months per year at a cost of $1100. Here again, if you want to LIVE IN your Airstream, then get something with a good frame, and a good floor - i.e. something newer or already restored.

Buying new vs. nearly new - you take a big hit in depreciation with new, but you can finance a new RV. Getting any financing for anything right now even if you have nearly perfect credit is going to be hard. Getting financing for something gently used, much more difficult.

Oh, and even as an "anti-restorer" I'd agree with the General, $3k for a rotted hulk, is a bit much. The aluminum can be recycled for about $500 and the door, windows, and various bits and pieces could be parted out for another $500 to $1000 if you're lucky. That's where you start if you don't want to get burned. There are LOTS of units just waiting for you - go straight to the classifieds here just to get a preview.

Inland Andy's advice about the axles is always worth far more than you pay for it, and newbies always underestimate the cost of fixing it up. Be assured though that there are plenty of avid restorers who have done GREAT work and have "to die for" Airstreams. If it's a labor of love and a hobby that makes you happy, don't let anything I say turn you off.

See you down the road.

Paula
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Old 03-21-2009, 08:33 PM   #11
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Thank you everyone for your honest and candid advice (talk about tough love). Inland Andy's advice about the axles was spot on (great article Andy). After further review, I think I will walk away from this one, although I'm still a little confused; does it ever make sense to buy a tired old AS for short money and restore it? It must, or half of this sight wouldn't exist.
Thanks again.
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Old 03-21-2009, 09:18 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chipandden View Post
....... does it ever make sense to buy a tired old AS for short money and restore it? It must, or half of this sight wouldn't exist.
Thanks again.
Yeah, there is, but the list on the one you were looking at was just out of hand, especially with all the water damage. Keep looking, your airstream is out there somewhere.
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Old 03-22-2009, 02:13 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Chipandden View Post
Thank you everyone for your honest and candid advice (talk about tough love). Inland Andy's advice about the axles was spot on (great article Andy). After further review, I think I will walk away from this one, although I'm still a little confused; does it ever make sense to buy a tired old AS for short money and restore it? It must, or half of this sight wouldn't exist.
Thanks again.
Many owners bought a less than desireable Airstream, with the intent of rebuilding it, usually very beautifully and once in a while a scab job, and then with careful photo's sell it on ebay.

The price you psy id the key. If the seller wants top dollar, then the trailer should fit that catergory.

If the seller is offering a reasonable price for one that needs a lot of work, that's OK.

They key question is "what do you want to do."

Do you want something ready to go, or do you want something that with your talents, you can, in time, have a great Airstream?

All depends on the individual.

Andy
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Old 03-22-2009, 04:58 AM   #14
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Hi,

Thought I'd throw my 2 cents in as someone who would probably never even consider buying a new one... the other end of the spectrum!

I find that some people DO want to stick $10k, $20k (and up) into an old trailer, but it really depends on what you NEED out of the trailer and what will make you happy. Our '71 Sovereign didn't have leaks or anything, but a couple things to replace or work on. The fridge was missing, so we found a great deal on a small Magic Chef with a freezer at a garage sale, of all places. The oven's gone, but we don't plan on baking any brownies while we're camping at a state park anyway. The most expensive thing we need to do to it is replace the gaucho cushions, but we're very frugal people, so I've priced all our materials out at about $200-250. All of this, and we paid $3200 for the trailer last summer. Now I'm sure others would say we need to do this or that, new tires eventually, and a lot probably wouldn't be satisfied with the trailer as is. But the floor is solid, it doesn't leak, the heat and A/C work, and that's about what we need; we're very happy with it!! So the deals are out there, and if you don't need a showroom piece when you're finished, you really don't need to plan on spending $20k automatically just because it says Airstream, as long as the "foundations" of the trailer are solid. Our '67 Safari was a heck of a deal and will require a lot more work, but we're taking it slow and doing everything ourselves, so we're planning to finish it to usable condition for less than $10k. Not necessarily "mint", but usable. It can be done if you take your time and shop for materials slowly and carefully.

Good luck with looking out there. Don't forget to check out the ads on this forum!
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