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Old 05-13-2012, 06:25 PM   #1
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Looking at 1973 31' Sovereign

This is my very first post! My husband and I are looking for 31', older (lighter) airstream to gut and redo. There will four of us traveling, and we're hoping to spend a lot of time in it, so we want to get a long one.

There is a 31' sovereign down the road, and they're asking $2500. They started a restoration, and didn't finish. The work they've done is on the interior, and they said they've replaced the walls and floor among other things. I'm thinking it's a possibility that things are good underneath the floor, because this is the second Airstream he's restored. That will be my first question when I call, and I do have the checklist if we do go look at it, but I want to know about the problems that he did list:

"Needs rear tank,1 front window missing, propane tanks, and front jack. Needs quite a bit of work still to be camp ready. Exterior is ugly and has a few small dents and 1 fairly good size in the front behind where the spare goes and needs exterior rivets and polish."

Is that a lot of issues for an old Airstream? We will be doing as much as we can ourselves, and hiring help for the rest...

I appreciate any help you might send our way!

Cheers,
Skye
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Old 05-13-2012, 06:30 PM   #2
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Old 05-13-2012, 07:29 PM   #3
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I would guess it will cost you about 10K if you do the work yourself to get it functional. If they have not replaced the axles the trailer is past due. Also make sure to check for rear end separation.
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Old 05-13-2012, 07:40 PM   #4
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Looking at 1973 31' Sovereign

Greetings Skyebean!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstreams!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyebean View Post
This is my very first post! My husband and I are looking for 31', older (lighter) airstream to gut and redo. There will four of us traveling, and we're hoping to spend a lot of time in it, so we want to get a long one.

There is a 31' sovereign down the road, and they're asking $2500. They started a restoration, and didn't finish. The work they've done is on the interior, and they said they've replaced the walls and floor among other things.
I would be concerned about what the new floor is hiding. From reading your description, it sounds like this coach has led a rough life with less than ideal upkeep. The new floor covering will likely make it very difficult to determine if there is any rot around the perimeter without damaging the new material. I would ask for photos of the floor prior to the new floor installation to verify that it is solid around the perimeter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyebean View Post
I'm thinking it's a possibility that things are good underneath the floor, because this is the second Airstream he's restored.
The Sovereign coaches of the mid-to-late 1960s through the 1970s were noted for frame problems when the coaches weren't regularly maintained. Rear end separation is probably the most noted problem where the body/floor become separated from the frame opening up a gap between the bumper and the body of the coach. Rear end separation is repairable, but it can become quite expensive. The second issue that, at least, initially involved mostly post 1974 Sovereigns was frame droop or even frame cracks in the vicinity of either axle . . . this can often be identified visually by ripples in the skin either ahead of the wheel opening or behind the wheel opening. Again, the droop problem can be repaired, but it is not an inexpensive repair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyebean View Post
That will be my first question when I call, and I do have the checklist if we do go look at it, but I want to know about the problems that he did list:

"Needs rear tank,1 front window missing, propane tanks, and front jack. Needs quite a bit of work still to be camp ready.
Depending upon which front window is broken, replacement can become costly. The fixed wing windows either side of the center front window are comparatively expensive and the installation can be time consuming or costly if done in a shop.

Propane tanks are an issue that you will need to decide for yourself, and I suspect that you would also be looking at a new regulator as well. Choosing between steel and aluminum tanks will have a large impact on the cost of getting the tank situation remedied.

The front tongue jack is another area where choices make a big impact on the cost. The general preference on longer Airstreams is to have an electric jack. I can speak from experience thaat the hitching chore is much less exhausting with an electric jack than the manual. A good electric jack can cost several hundred dollars.

The missing rear blackwater tank could be a non-issue if you want to add gray water tank(s). This would give you the opportunity to juggle tank size and placement so that you could have both a black water tank and gray water tank.

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Originally Posted by Skyebean View Post
Exterior is ugly and has a few small dents and 1 fairly good size in the front behind where the spare goes and needs exterior rivets and polish."
Exterior rivets don't just fall out randomly. There is something causing the rivets to break. Some of the potential culprits could be bad axles, poorly balanced wheel/tire assemblies, over-hitching, tow vehicle with too stiff springs, rotted floor that is allowing the body to shift as its towed down the road, and/or frame rusted or damaged.

The dents are a very personal issue. If they are of such size and placement that they wouldn't bother you, they generally aren't a huge problem structurally. Should you want to repair those issues, panel replacement is often the necessary choice, and that can become quite expensive particularly if done in a repair shop.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyebean View Post
Is that a lot of issues for an old Airstream? We will be doing as much as we can ourselves, and hiring help for the rest...

I appreciate any help you might send our way!

Cheers,
Skye
I can't say that the coah has an unusually large number of problems for an as found restoration/refurbish project. It is the unknowns in this situation that can prove to be problems. While the asking price seems quite reasonable, it sounds as if there are going to be several major projects that could add to the expense very quickly. The missing exterior rivets would be my greatest concern as, to me, that points toward some type of problem with the chassis of the coach.
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Old 05-13-2012, 10:25 PM   #5
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Shazam! Thank you for the answers! That's a lot of great info... I appreciate the help!
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Old 05-17-2012, 03:09 PM   #6
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Well, I just looked at my first vintage airstream... I'm mighty thankful for the responses, bc my enthusiasm would have had me buying the thing. I took a pass on this one, as I don't have unlimited resources....although restoration stuff does thrill me so. I think I need to wait for something a tad less overwhelming...
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