Perhaps this will be a good review with refelections from a restoration expert. I found this information and thought it very good advice for someone anticipating taking on a vintage project and in this case thought the comments about Almost all original would be addressed in this comment.
"Owning and running the largest Airstream rebuilding shop in North
America has taught me a great deal about these older gems. On a daily
basis we have opportunities to reverse engineer Airstream and other
all-aluminum trailers from the past 60 years.
1. Make does matter. Airstream is one of the best trailers ever made.
2. Year also matters. Many people disparage the early "Beatrice Years"
(early 70s)for chassis problems. In part, on the larger models with
rear bathrooms there is some validity to the claim of "tail droop." It
was not an universal problem across the fleet. We have had many of
these units in that have had not any chassis problems whatsoever.
Where we see the most chassis problems is in the period preceding the
Beatrice Years which were the three "Corning Years" 1966
. In these models the windows were made from Corning curved,
chemically tempered glass which was an innovative design departure
from framed windows. The problem was that they frequently leaked and
caused the floors and chassis to rot. For a while, the replacement
glass was not available and many owners replaced broken panes with
acrylic or polycarbonate sheet which leaked even worse. Of the
Airstream fleet we see from this vintage, over 70% needs at least some
floor repair and fully 50% needs some chassis repair. We have replaced
the entire chassis on several.
The areas where we see the most deterioration are under each window
and particularly under the rear bathrooms. On all years the water
issues are compounded by the installation of fiberglass insulation
under the floor and sealing it in with the aluminum belly pan. The two
work together to hold moisture against the floor and the chassis.
Units that come from dry climates are always a better bet but not a
sure thing. It is impossible to really inspect the chassis and floor
without removing the belly pan. We have also seen what appear to be
high mileage units that have perfect skins and solid floors that have
metal fatigue cracks in the steel chassis. You should always look in
any available opening where you can see under the bathroom, the
kitchen, the battery area, etc for signs of floor rot. The good news
is that the windows are again available and modern synthetic seals
appear to work better than the original rubber-based product.
3. Units with Jalouise windows have more floor problems than trailers
with standard windows.
4. There must be an unwritten rule somewhere that trailer electrical
systems from the factory are never good enough and all previous owners
must fidget with them to get them "right." We have found two-wire,
light gauge extension cords with the three-way head hard wired into
the trailer and passing through a rough cut hole in the liner panels.
We have seen 50 amp screw-in fuses in a single fuse block powering the
entire trailer that was rated at 15 amps. We have seen the electric
brakes rewired to the reverse lights on the tow vehicle. (when you try
to back up, the brakes lock up.) Some Airstream trailers built before
1974 have all copper wiring, some have all aluminum and a few have
both. Aluminum wiring is a problem. Many people will say it is not but
just check with the Consumer Product Safety Administration's Web site
and look for the horror stories. Some well meaning people have
retrofitted their older trailers with GFIC outlets where no proper
ground exists on their system.
5. Axles wear out. They work harden with mileage which can lead to the
spindle breaking off. There are no odometers on trailers so we never
know how many miles are on them. Some folks who may or may not know
better sell used Airstream axles on eBay. If you are looking at at
trailer older than a 1974 model, plan on replacing the axle. It is
very inexpensive insurance policy compared to the damage and risk of
injury a wheel running loose down the freeway can cause.
6. Plumbing freezes and needs to be repaired...properly. I never fails
to amuse our employees the extent to which some people will go to
avoid making a good and proper repair on a frozen pipe. We have seen
layers and layers of fiberglass, resin and string wrapped around a
split pipe that still leaks. We have seen sections of automotive
heater hose spliced into copper potable water lines. We have even seen
sections of garden hose spliced into copper propane lines and held in
with twisted bailing wire for clamps.
7. Originality may or may not count. Here I will get dozens of replies
disagreeing with me...but here is my two cents worth. Truly original
vintage Airstream trailers are rare and really cool to find. We had a
1969 unit in a few weeks ago that still had its original 8 track tape
player in it. It even came with a good collection of tapes! The tapes
were even ones I used to have! However, my Ipod takes up much less
space and has better sound quality. The fridge in this unit still
worked but the owners will have to go outside and light several
matches every time the pilot light needs to be lit. A modern fridge
has a remote start. The furnace has untold hours on it. It works now
but will it work next fall?
Original units are cool but they might not be all that comfortable to
use, cheap to own or reliable. Some people think that an all original
trailer is worth more and to the collectors this is probably true.
There are, however, more users, travelers and campers than there are
collectors and curators. A vintage trailer is more like a house built
30, 40 or 50 years ago that was never updated and has been under
constant earthquake conditions than a "barn find" vintage car. With
that said, we try to match owners and trailers so that we aren't
ripping up nice vintage trailers to produce highly custom units. If
someone shows up with an all original unit we find a similar trailer
that has one wheel in the recycle yard for their project and a buyer
for the good one.
8. Make sure that your coach is in very sound physical condition
before you start redecorating. It is really disheartening to owners
and shops to have to take out all of your hard work on interior
finishes to get down to the bones of the project in order to repair
them. Start with the chassis, axle, belly pan, windows and shell
before picking out the "Route 66" fabric and the Coca-Cola accents.
The same goes for the electrical and plumbing system.
9. Units built before the early 70's do not have gray water tanks.
Campgrounds frown on dumping gray water on their property. Units built
before the mid 60s sometimes don't have sewage holding tanks.
Campgrounds REALLY frown at digging a hole under your trailer and
dumping into it! You will need to upgrade these systems so that you
can try to work around some persnickety rules that won't allow older
trailers into some campgrounds.
10. Some campgrounds won't let older trailers in. These rules are made
by zoning departments trying to keep things neat and clean. The are
aimed at Red Green who shows up with the 1980 Dodge Winnebago with the
sidesheets held on with duct tape, the tailpipe tied up with bailing
wire and the slant six engine dripping more oil than the Exxon Valdez
and he wants to leave it there until he "can make a few repairs." If
your Airstream looks nice and shiny (not necessarily polished) the
untrained eye of the gate keeper at the campground probably won't ask
how old it is. And if you are nice and safe while you are there, they
probably won't take a second look at the rest of us showing up as well.
I hope I haven't scared you away but that I have left you with open
eyes. Do not go shopping alone. Take a skeptical and hopefully
knowledgeable friend along. If you don't have a knowledgeable friend,
find a mobile RV repair tech to take with you or get the owner to take
the trailer to your friendly local Airstream dealer for a pre-purchase
inspection. It will give you great negotiating power. You should be
able to negotiate for any repairs required to keep you and your
intended trailer safe and dry.