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Old 05-09-2009, 08:54 PM   #1
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Need help in buying Airstream

I'm looking at a 1979 31' Airstream International Sovereign Land Yacht. I've never had an Airstream and here is what I know about this one. It seems to be all original and only on second owner. Owner indicated that everything works and I still need to verify few things. I noticed few small dents and some hail dents on the roof. It doesn't seem major. There is also a rip in the front underbelly done by a jack or something. I also noticed that the tires are weathered and should be replaced. I noticed something that looked like bondo/body filler (putty) in the bottom part of the wheel wells on both sides (this seemed strange). There is no awning and no spare tire. Over all the condition seems very good and cared for. The seller wants $5500 for it.


When buying, do you guys take the trailer for a test drive to see how she tows?
What should I look for on these beasts?
The body shine is peeling. Can I can restore the shine?
Is $5500 a good price?
How do you change tires on these campers?
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Old 05-09-2009, 09:40 PM   #2
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Need help in buying Airstream

Greetings SnoSheriff!

Welcome to the Forums!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
I noticed few small dents and some hail dents on the roof. It doesn't seem major.
Hail dents are not uncommon on vintage coaches and unless they particularly bother you, they aren't usually a major concern. Both of my coaches have a few hail dents, but I consider understandable evidence of its 45 years service (Overlander) -- 31 years service (Minuet). Rock dents also are not uncommon on the front of the coach; and as long as the Alcad hasn't been compromised or the skin punctured they are among the evidence of the trailer's service -- again, if they aren't objectionable to you they aren't a huge problem unless you want to do a perfection restoration.

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There is also a rip in the front underbelly done by a jack or something.


This is something that needs to be repaired (IMHO). The rip provides an opening for various pests to enter the coach and set up housekeeping (mice, bees, wasps, mud-daubers, etc.). Repair could be as simple as applying a patch over the rip with rivets.

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Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
I also noticed that the tires are weathered and should be replaced.


This is almost a given with an vintage trailer purchase. New tires with steel valve stems have been a standard on my first-purchases list for a newly acquired trailer -- unless the previous owner can provide evidence of the last replacement date being less than three years prior to my purchase.

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Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
I noticed something that looked like bondo/body filler (putty) in the bottom part of the wheel wells on both sides (this seemed strange).


This could be evidence of repairs necessitated by a blowout -- wheelwell punctured by flying bits of tire. Another possibility would be stone damage repair resulting from travel to Alaska or on other unpaved roadways.

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Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
There is no awning and no spare tire.


Depending upon your preferences, the lack of an awning isn't necessarily a minus, but many consider it a near "standard" feature on an Airstream and negotiate a reduction in price to reflect this lack. The spare tire on the other hand isn't as severe a problem With a tandem axle coach, it is possible to remove a flat and tow the coach (slowly and carefully) and three wheels to the nearest tire shop. Airstreams utilize a rather common 2,600 pound weight rated trailer wheel that can be purchased quite reasonably from most full-service tire stores.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
Over all the condition seems very good and cared for. The seller wants $5500 for it.


Given today's economy, it is very difficult to estimate the current value of nearly any RV -- the longer coaches in particular may be discounted by market forces. I must admit, however, that the price does sound within the ballpark provided there isn't any appreciable floor rot in the coach (pay particular attention to the perimeter focusing on areas below windows or storage hatches).


Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
When buying, do you guys take the trailer for a test drive to see how she tows?


This question hasn't come up when I have purchased a coach. When buying from an individual, I suspect that, in most cases, the owner may be reluctant to consider such an arrangement due to insurance risk considerations.

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Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
What should I look for on these beasts?


The trailer inspection check-list found elsewhere on this site gives you a good starting point for your inspection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
The body shine is peeling. Can I can restore the shine?


What you see peeling is the Plasticoat protective coating that helps to slow the tarnishing of the aluminum. It is possible to strip and polish the coach and obtain a near mirror shine if you are so inclined. If you aren't handy, there are several shops that will polish your coach and apply new Plasticoat if you wish that protection. I had P & S from Helena, OH polish and Plasticaot my coach over six years ago, and I am totally satisfied with the results -- the coach looks as good today as when it left the Ruth's shop in Helena.

Quote:
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How do you change tires on these campers?


The easiest method is to carry several 2"x6" boards that can be stacked. On the side of the coach with the flat, pull the coach up onto enough for the boards to raise the flat tire enough to remove the tire and wheel. At that point you have the choice of installing your spare -- or driving slowly and carefully to the next tire repair shop.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 05-09-2009, 09:41 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff
When buying, do you guys take the trailer for a test drive to see how she tows?
Not normally. It would be a liability issue for the owner if something bad happened.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff
What should I look for on these beasts?
Everything, but the high dollar items are most important. The condition of he floor, axles and appliances would be on the top of my list. Be sure to check for rear end separation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff
The body shine is peeling. Can I can restore the shine?
That is the clear coat finish that is peeling. You can remove the rest and polish if you want or just let it age naturally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff
Is $5500 a good price?
It depends on condition (see answer 2)

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff
How do you change tires on these campers?
Ramp up the good tire on that side, that will put the flat in the air.
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Old 05-09-2009, 11:38 PM   #4
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I'm a handy guy so it looks very promising based on your replies .

How do I recognize rear end sag?
The undercarriage is all covered so there isn't much to see there. What should I look for?
How do I inspect the axles and brakes?
I must say I don't know what a spongy/rotten floor feels like. Would it be hard to replace defective plywood?

We have a small Boler and we love it. We need more room for the 5 of us.

Is it possible to build bunk beds in these campers? It sure would be nice to have more sleeping room and a better dining area.
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Old 05-10-2009, 01:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SnoSheriff View Post
I'm a handy guy so it looks very promising based on your replies .

How do I recognize rear end sag?
The undercarriage is all covered so there isn't much to see there. What should I look for?
How do I inspect the axles and brakes?
I must say I don't know what a spongy/rotten floor feels like. Would it be hard to replace defective plywood?

We have a small Boler and we love it. We need more room for the 5 of us.

Is it possible to build bunk beds in these campers? It sure would be nice to have more sleeping room and a better dining area.
SAG- Stand on the bumper and jump up and down.There should be no separation from the frame and body.

AXLES- The fender well should be even or higher than the top of the wheel rim. Jack up the side of the trailer and the wheel should stay in contact with the ground for a few inches while the body jacks up. The axle torsion arm should be horizontal or point slightly down.

ROT- Walk around inside in a bouncy heavy footed way to see if one area feels spongey. Look especially at the floor around the door, rear, in bathroom closets, under sink, and front of trailer.
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:11 PM   #6
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Thanks for all of your help. I went back to inspect the trailer by using your great advice. I took lots of pictures for additional comments. The owner showed us the outstanding appliances and everything seems to work as advertised.

I discovered that the antenna doesn't raise and this is not a big deal to me.
The bumper seems solid.
I couldn't detect any floor rot but I'm no expert on this.
The top of the wheels are bit inside the fender. I'd say about 2 inches.

My main concern at this time is the axles because the top of the wheel is not even with the fender. We really like the camper and I want to know if this is something I should be concerned with and if it could be fixed/replaced few years from now?
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:15 PM   #7
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:17 PM   #8
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:21 PM   #9
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I'm no expert but I would say your axles look good. The rule of thumb I've been told is that if you can see 2 inches of tire at the top axles are fine. Anyone else say the same thing?

Cool looking trailer.

Annette
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:23 PM   #10
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The height of the wheels / fender looks pretty good to me. It looks like you have a few inches of space between the top of the wheel and the fender. I have about the same on my 75 Trade Wind. You are looking at the wheel, not the tire.

The antenna is not a big deal in my opinion either. It could be as simple as a worn gear. I have raised the antenna once in the last 3 years. That was two weeks ago when I replaced the Air Conditioner and it was in the way.

The trailer looks very nice. The clear coat is going, but that is to be expected.

Hopefully you and the seller can come to terms.
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:40 PM   #11
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I agree with flycaster. The position of the wheels look good. But worst case scenario axles are somewhat expensive but not complicated to replace.

What concerns me more is the 2nd photo down in your second group of photos showing the front (or rear) of the wheel well. To me that looks like rot on one of the frame outriggers. That would suggest there is frame rot in other areas of the frame. This outrigger is more exposed to the elements however. Frame work is a much more complicated and time consuming repair. If this is the case I would walk away from the deal. Frames are more prone to rust out if exposed to high humidity, salt air and road salt. See if you can see any more frame members from the back outside compartment or from under the sink. Surface rust is normal but deep flaking and holes are bad news.
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Old 05-10-2009, 06:53 PM   #12
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Hi, Sno!

Welcome to Airforum.com. That trailer looks pretty darn good, given it's age. Stick around, you'll get answers for any question you have.

Question, what do you plan to tow it with?
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Old 05-10-2009, 08:18 PM   #13
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What concerns me more is the 2nd photo down in your second group of photos showing the front (or rear) of the wheel well. To me that looks like rot on one of the frame outriggers. That would suggest there is frame rot in other areas of the frame. This outrigger is more exposed to the elements however. Frame work is a much more complicated and time consuming repair. If this is the case I would walk away from the deal. Frames are more prone to rust out if exposed to high humidity, salt air and road salt. See if you can see any more frame members from the back outside compartment or from under the sink. Surface rust is normal but deep flaking and holes are bad news.
That rust is on the rear wheel well. From the rear of the camper I can only see 2 frame components. One of them is directly under the picture that you mention. The right one is in the 3rd group of pictures on the right, 2nd from the top. Now I'm off to the 'frame forum' for some more education
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Old 05-10-2009, 08:21 PM   #14
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Hi, Sno!

Welcome to Airforum.com. That trailer looks pretty darn good, given it's age. Stick around, you'll get answers for any question you have.

Question, what do you plan to tow it with?
Hi. Pulling rig is already waiting for some work. Currently I have an '06 F-350 diesel 4x4. It should go nicely with the Airstream. Here are some pictures
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