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Old 08-12-2018, 02:33 PM   #1
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1959 28' Ambassador
Summerville , South Carolina
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Reality check: vintage and vintage parts values

I once asked a prominent member of the Airstream community what to offer for a '55 that was in pretty bad shape (really bad shape). What I got was probably the most sound advice I would have imagined; "Not more than you can afford to lose".

I've since seen this same trailer listed on Craigslist for somewhere in the neighborhood of $15K. That's right, Fifteen Thousand Dollars. Nothing on the inside could possibly have been worth anything when I looked at it, except maybe the old tires that were being stored in it. The exterior wasn't in much better shape. My interest, in fact, was as a reverse engineering project with some possible salvage potential. I don't know how many people here can afford to lose $15K, but I sure ain't got it like that. Even if I did...

So that brings me to the questions I'd like to pose. If I'm gutting say a '59 Ambassador for a renovation/modification what's worth the trouble of trying to re-sell? What, if it would fit within the desired look of the finished trailer, would be worth re-purposing? Lastly, perhaps, what should just go to the dump before I end up needing the space for something else?

E.g. The Dometic refrigerator door is pretty cool looking, but as best I can ascertain the refrigerator itself is never going to work again (note latent sarcasm) and it's not going back in the finished trailer for the sake of decor alone. I can think of at least one nostalgic hot dog shop where it might look great hanging on the wall, but really... what's the thing worth?

On the other hand the bathroom sink and fixture just might work in the new trailer and based on Wally Byam's methodology just might be a great piece of hardware, assuming I understand Wally Byam's methodology correctly.

There are a few other little things that might work in the renovation (towel racks and soap dishes) but what do I do with the toilet?

The attitude of many, if not most, people who find themselves in possession of a vintage Airstream seems to be that they're sitting on a gold mine and it's time to cash in.

My take is that this stuff is mostly just in my way and I'm not one to sit around looking at a pile of parts that I'm not going to use. That was a hard lesson I learned long ago and over the course of three moves. (I may learn slow but I learn good.)

So I'll reword my previous questions; is there really a market for this old stuff?

If so which stuff?

As great as the theory is how many twin bunk frames sell?

Even the bathtubs; at what point does that become someone's groovy nostalgic garden pond?

How much of that plywood interior should just go to the dump?

Some things should be saved, I know, but what's worth saving and what's just cool old garbage?

Can't wait to see what people have to say.

James
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Old 08-12-2018, 07:41 PM   #2
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1971 27' Overlander
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There must be 100 over priced vintage ovens for sale at any one time. And 100 over priced, torn apart Airstreams for sale at any one time. When I was looking for mine, I was amazed at what was for sale for 10 000 plus dollars. My mission was to find one with a rust free chassis. It took a long time. 10 grand for a shell sitting on a giant lump of rust is not money well spent.
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Old 08-13-2018, 04:05 AM   #3
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Price it to move

I have put some larger items on Craigslist and the smaller items on eBay. Most of the smaller stuff sells on eBay because you get a larger audience. The big stuff often ends up in the dump because there aren't that many people working on vintage campers locally. I've taken old parts to rallies before and found no interest. I have thrown some things away that I later regretted, and I've kept a lot of stuff that I should have thrown away years ago .
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Old 08-13-2018, 05:07 AM   #4
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The old plywood may be useful as a template when you cut new parts that need to fit against the curved interior. So think about that before you throw stuff away.
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Old 08-13-2018, 09:43 AM   #5
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sinks in good condition are worth saving , fiberglass tub if u intend to reuse ( can sand and paint with 2 stage ) everything else we incinerate or scrap for metal value .
unless u r doing a RESTORATION . 1 in 20 here . most want to camp in them when done so 50 year old appliances are a bad idea ! range with oven ? most go with convection microwave and stovetop . we endeavor to keep exterior vintage but have wifi , flat screen ect inside . the leftovers pile up quickly and don't seem to be able to give away :-)
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Old 08-13-2018, 10:28 AM   #6
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I have found over many years of downsizing, that the best way to figure out 'what the market will bear' is to post the item(s) on eBay. It is not only interesting to see the interest (or lack of) in the item but also sometimes fun when a bidding war begins over something I was going to toss out. I would think that AS folks, especially vintage AS, would be checking out eBay all the time for parts. BTW - when I was at the AS rally in Salem, I toured the beautiful AS vintage trailers and inside one was a pillow that said "Aleutians" on it. I was stationed in Adak, AK in late 70's and when I saw that pillow, I had to have it. Of course, the owner had no intention of selling it, so I went to eBay and lo and behold, there was the same pillow cover for $10. Yay!!
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Old 08-13-2018, 10:28 AM   #7
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One of the problems is that the tear out stuff uses a lot of space. Then there's the hours involved with documenting and photographing everything just to get some minimal amount back. I just saved things long enough to use them as templates then dumped everything. The scrap guy was the happiest. Those 3 aluminum vents must have been 50#s each not to mention that 15 foot long antenna. I paid 9 grand for my shell and frame. The first year we tried to leave in the upper cabinets for charm but after dealing with those roll down covers the next year they to were replaced.
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Old 08-13-2018, 03:19 PM   #8
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The consensus that I see forming here is precisely where I was headed.

Although I have no sound basis for an opinion as yet I agree that unless I'm looking to make a hobby of getting rid of the stuff there isn't much worth dedicating a great deal of time or real estate to.

Some of the stuff will inevitably end up sitting around for a while, but this is definitely not a restoration. I want to use this thing. Templates yes, sinks and faucets probably, appliances, definitely not. Anybody want a toilet? Thanks for the great advice so far. I hope there's more to come.

CresonRV mentioned the fiberglass tub. I pulled mine and it's some kind of plastic. There have been some repairs to this trailer in the past, some better than others. I'm curious now if this tub is some sort of replacement. The plastic is pretty thin and more flexible than I would have anticipated. That's what inspired the "groovy garden pond" comment in my original post.

The stove and oven were gone when I bought the trailer.

We really just stumbled in to this. I literally made a guy an offer that I hoped he would refuse. At the time I thought it was a '60 Ambassador. The owner thought it was a '62 and didn't know the model at all. It's a really "base model" Ambassador; no fancy options so I don't feel bad about "desecrating a classic". Half of it is gone anyway. If all I ended up with was a solid trailer and climate control I'd be happy with that, but we do have more plans than that.

It's really the period that I'm enamored with. The late '50's early '60's was fascinating to me. That whole post-war era was an amazing time. As I learn more about the Airstream it seems that '59 must have been a pivotal year. I suppose you could also say the same for '60 or '61, but the changes that those two years saw surely got their start in '59. That whole period of time must have been incredible; like being shot out of a cannon. Everything was changing and growing and much of it for the better. It seems obvious to me that the whole nation's focus was just so different.

Anyway, please continue with the great stuff that I've seen so far. It's been a real pleasure hearing from each of you. I'll try not to be so long winded in future replies.

James
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Old 08-13-2018, 10:51 PM   #9
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I was of your opinion when I started reworking my '62 GT. PO had already replaced toilet but, all else was piled inside. I sold some stuff to restorers for a few bucks. I couldn't bear to discard & send to landfill the cool old, but unwanted by me, stuff. So I posted it all here as free, pay for P&S only. I took big stuff, i.e. stove, water tank, bathtub, to Greyhound for cheap ship.
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Old 08-14-2018, 05:30 AM   #10
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Most of my interior was there but in sad shape. I tried to keep it as original as I could and that took time to restore the wood and the bath. Rule of thumb, expect 3-4 times the cost and about 4 times the amount of time you think you will spend and you will be just about right in your expectation of a restoration. Many projects get halfway finished and then sold or abandoned because of unreal expectations on cost and hours of work involved.
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Old 08-14-2018, 06:49 AM   #11
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When I did the resto-mod of our '67 Caravel, I kept everything that came out of the trailer until I was done with the project. Some of the stuff I salvaged and reused, but most of it eventually ended up in the trash. I kept the stove/oven for 1.5 years before throwing it away. I tried to sell the working original water pump, but no one wanted it, so it eventually found its way to the dump.


In the end, I was happy i kept everything until I was sure I did not want to reuse it or reference it for a template. Almost forgot, someone here on the forum was looking for a vintage toothbrush/cup holder...she got mine free.
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Old 08-14-2018, 03:51 PM   #12
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Tooth Brush/Cup Holder

That's funny, the soap dish, towel rack, and yes, the tooth brush holder are some of the very few things that may make it back in to the trailer.

Our long term vision is kind of European minimalism meets '60's modern.

At present I'm far more concerned with the short term though. That consists of a queen sized bed and climate control and that's even down the road a good bit.

Even farther down the line I'm pretty bent on a center bath and I'm leaning towards the galley sink being on the same side of the trailer to keep the plumbing on one side. It just seems to simplify things.

Simplicity is priority one when it comes to the trailer itself. Simplicity however, is a pretty complex thing. It requires a great deal of forethought and planning, which is why I'm so grateful for all the input here.

I'd be curious to know what materials have been used successfully in wall panels. I'd really like to try luan plywood with formica laminate. If I could keep the weight down I'd also like to do some type of pocket door rather than curtains or accordion type doors. I suppose I should probably get the old interior out before I get too carried away though. Then there's the whole shell off thing. Yeah, I should probably get that done.

James
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Old 08-14-2018, 05:24 PM   #13
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You could also list the entire innards here on the forum as the "interior of year and model" in one classified ad and then update it as things sell or are passed along. You could also contact Steve at VTS, vintage trailer supply and ask him if he has any need for any of the items you are interested in passing along. When people are trying to just replace their soap dish it's nice to have one that goes with the era and those things are not always replicated or remanufactured to match.
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