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Old 02-18-2009, 01:17 PM   #1
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1977 Sovereign hasn't moved in 25 years

DH and I are looking to buy a travel trailer. Our limit is $5000 so we're looking for something that would be a fixer-upper. We were tipped off from a friend that there is a local house being sold at auction and they have an old airstream that is being auctioned off as well. It's just a side note to the house, so it's not being advertised well at all. I'm hoping that this could be a great deal for us. It hasn't moved in at least 25 years. That is all the information I have. DH called the auction company and they had no additional information. It gets sold in one week and the only time we'll be able to see it is at noon that day and it gets sold at 4pm. So, what should we look for? I have heard that any airstream can be restored, but is that really true? Please help, we have one week to learn as much as we can and hopefully make an informed decision.

I don't know if it matters, but we're in our early 30's and have two little boys (2yo and 10 months). We're pretty handy people and the idea of fixing something up and making it our own is really appealing.

Have we lost our minds to even consider this???
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Old 02-18-2009, 01:29 PM   #2
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Good for you for checking into these Forums prior to bidding on an antique trailer!!!

You are quite right in thinking that "anything can be restored".

You just have to determine "at what cost?".

It should be possible to learn quite a bit about the trailer just from an outside walk-around. Pay attention to what the belly pan is telling you. Tires and brakes for certain - you should be able to peer into the windows and determine if there are any visible water leaks and get an idea of the general condition of the interior.

It appears as if you have exactly one week and one day to determine the time and money required to resurect this fossil. Your best friend will soon become the "search" function at the upper right hand of the pull down line options.

You need to determine the most common replacement items (AC, fridge, axles, water pump, cushions, curtains, water heater, charger...) and their costs - both in time and money.

You can also search for the cost that others have incurred when doing similar repairs.

I would suggest you take your time and money estimate and then double it - I believe most will agree with me on that statement.

Unless you really want to take on a project, your best bet would be to purchase the newest trailer in the best possible shape you could afford.

Knowledge is power in the world of old Airstreams - you have a whole week to learn all you can. The time involved in your study course will pale in comparison to what you could be getting yourselves into.

Good luck and please post back with the outcome - good, bad, or indifferent.
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Old 02-18-2009, 01:45 PM   #3
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We do really want to have a new project. This is the only available picture of it. Maybe someone can look at the picture and warn me about something I don't see.

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Old 02-18-2009, 02:01 PM   #4
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Hi, I live in "Toddlerville" too, we might be neighbors!

And I completely agree with Dennis.

First, I know exactly how you feel-- I was in pretty much your exact same position one year ago, when I found these Forums. I was starting a new family, and had always liked the looks of Airstreams, I've always tent-camped and thought there might be a better way for a young family, and also I had always wanted to restore something "cool."

So I stumbled across this site, and spent the next 6 months educating myself. And, I finally found one. But the homework is the key. I'll be blunt and tell you that if $5,000 is your TOTAL budget to purchase the Airstream and renovate it, then it's just not likely going to be enough money. With vintage travel trailers (vintage anything really), the purcahse price is just the cost to enter the game. The real expenses begin adding up after that. There are ways to limit your expenses, and it starts with reusing as much as you can from the original unit. But the kinds of repairs that this unit will most likely need after sitting unused for 25 years are going to get expensive. There is a great man in the Airstream world, his name is RJ Dial, and he does the Airstream community a tremendous service by maintaing a website with tons of useful information. One of the very useful bits of information he maintins is the Price Vs. Condition guide for purchasing vintage Airstreams. I suggest you read thought it very carefully, and get an idea of what these units are selling for around the country, as well as what the repairs might cost. Here's the link, and remember, this is ONLY a guideline, but it is quite useful:

http://www.vintageairstream.com/rr_topics_pricevscondition.html

Also, research on the Forums is going to be a key for you. I like to use the "search" link above, and choose the "Google" search function, and enter the keywords for the items you're interested in, I think that's the best way to find information on this site.

I will tell you that sitting unused for 25 years might be a good thing for some types of property, but for travel trailers, it's really bad. Things start to rot and go bad with that kind of neglect. Airstreams get leaky without proper maintenance, and I would be surprised if this one doesn't have leaks, and the accomanying rotted floors and possible rusted-out frame, that go along with the leaks.

All of these items can be fixed by the way, and for "handy" people, many of the projects are really a lot of fun. If you're interested, you can look at my blog, linked at the bottom of this post. I've done a floor replacement and partial frame replacement on the back half of my 1963 Overlander. It's been a lot of work, but a lot of fun.

And for more information on what you're getting yourself into, I recommend reading through the Major Renovations threads, found here:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f44/...ons-35399.html

Many of them are lengthy, but the amount of knowledge you can quickly gain is tremendous. Also, it is really inspiring to see what many of these owners have done with their coaches.

This unit might not need a full restoration, but from sitting unused for 25 years, my guess is that it will.

Remember-- there is ALWAYS another one. If you miss out on this one, and you still really want one, it might SEEM to take forever, but there really is always another one.

Good luck, and please do let us know how everything goes.
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atobols View Post
We do really want to have a new project. This is the only available picture of it. Maybe someone can look at the picture and warn me about something I don't see.

Attachment 75709
The major thing I see in the picture is that this unit is not crumpled up, and that's a very good start!
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:00 PM   #6
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Love all of the vista view windows on that trailer.

Something to note though: if you have $5000 to spend, you can get a road-worthy 31' trailer from the same era (mid-to-late 70s) in your budget. Saw one on Craigslist here in CT for $5800: I've driven past it and it's sitting in a driveway, ready to tow, rather sitting in a field.

Likewise, read through the classifieds here and see what $5000 will get you. Just a little more money gets you a trailer that has had quite a bit of work done, or is ready for camping. Don't worry - there are always projects left to be done on these trailers....

In other words - if you bid, bid low.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:13 PM   #7
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In other words - if you bid, bid low.
What would be low? I have a number in mind, but would like to know what others (who actually know what they're talking about) would be willing to pay for it.

We have been looking at trailers for a couple months, but no Airstreams because we thought they were way out of our range. We would like to be camping in whatever we buy within 3 or 4 months. It doesn't have to be perfect by then, but it does need to be roadworthy and usable.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:19 PM   #8
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What do I see? Grass. Just grass. That raises the humidity level around the floor and frame (think floor and frame integrity). There always are likely leak issues from roof vent gaskets that have gotten brittle. This would take careful inspection, looking under and behind every drawer or cabinet with a knife or ice pick. Can you inspect before the auction? Floor rot repair can get very involved.

After that - in order of declining cost:
  • Axles - Sitting without moving for years will damage torsion axles. Replacement can run multiple hundreds of dollars, but think $1000 as a starting point -- and it probably will take more
  • Does the A/C work? Don't use an extension cord with adapter to check. Plug in only to a 30A outlet (available at campgrounds).
  • It will require 4 new tires regardless of amount of tread showing.
  • Furnace. I'd never run a furnace this old around my much more prized family. There were Suburban furnace recalls in the mid-70s over plenum breakdown and potential carbon monoxide problems.
Don't overpay if your budget is limited. Sweat equity and some repair skills are a good starting point. This will take a lot of attention and as much as 1-2 years of work before you have everything functioning. Work on the running gear, brakes and breakaway switch first -- you'll have a partially functional "aluminum tent" that will be much more comfortable than a real tent -- and wa-a-aay more cool!

Welcome to AIR Forums!
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:30 PM   #9
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I'd bid REALLY low. If you do some more research you'll find that the big airstreams are probably easier to come by than the 23, 25 and 27 footers. I don't know how to link my thread about our Tradewind, but click on my name and you will see a place to view my posts, they are mostly about this project of ours.

We paid 3,000 for ours and we HOPE to have it finished for another 10,000. Yep that's right another 10,000 and I think that is being optimistic.

Ours too was not used for 28 years , It became a condo for mice. The floor up from and the rear under the bather were both rotten and a lot of the outriggers and floor stringers needed to be replaced. And none of this was visible until you drop the belly pan.

This forum has been a HUGE help to us, I just read, read, and read some more. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Annette
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:39 PM   #10
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No you have not lost your minds considering this. Buying it might be a different matter.

1st. Whose to say it has really been here unmoved for 25 years?

2nd. It depends on what climate and area of country it is in. (I notice you have kept your whereabouts secret, not a bad idea til you get the thing)

3rd 77 IMHO is a good year for AS trailers.For numerous reasons. That's a plus.

4th Your excursion Ford probably (but not for sure) is not gonna be the right Tow Vehicle for this trailer. (but you could prob get it home with that)

5th Will your neighborhood allow you to park it at your home? Many won't.It's gonna need to sit somewhere for a while to be refurbed. (Maybe as long as a year or so)

6th Do you have a paved area to work on it on? Not necessary but oh so helpful.

Unless there is alot of negative that is on the other side or rear exterior or unless the interior is condemned or unless the vermin urine situation is breath-taking (away).
I'd say less than $1000 = a steal.
1000-2000 = no sweat
2000-2500 = think clearly but don't hesitate nor regret
2500-3500max = You can overcome this and it gives some wiggle room.

Also of course to consider,
is there clear title? (not a deal breaker for me in many states)
is your income secure (i.e.do you work for the govt.)? Hard times are a comin' and then some.
Is it movable off the lot and how long til it must go. Also don't pay for all of it til you are sure you can move it. Once you pay if it is stolen what then. Hopefully you can tote it the same day.
I suppose the tires are flat and prob not all inflatable.
Do your homework in advance as to where you can take the 4 wheels and get them shoed quickly. New tires not necessary at first, during workover. It is possible to move it on just two tires for a short distance over smooth roads if need be. In that case you might want to buy better tires.
Have Jack stands and a few good jacks (bottle) and 2x6 scraps with you.
Do not pull all 4 tires at once. Take 2 at a time to the shop if possible.
Take a can of nut buster for the lug nuts and a spinner tool.
Have the right size hitch ball and/or shank available.
You may have to jack it up and down onto the hitch ball with your brought jack.
Take a step ladder with you and secure all the roof items before moving.
Don't step on the roof until you read how here on the forums.
Tape the access doors (all of them) and the entrance door closed before you leave. Remove the duct tape as soon as you get it where you are gonna leave it. Clean any tape residue with alcohol. Drink some of the alcohol. < g >
How far would you have to tow it out of there to your place?
What kind of terrain and what kind of traffic?
Lots of little details to think of, don't neglect them. If you snooze you may lose.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:40 PM   #11
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I'd be in the sub $1,000 range, sight unseen. If the inside turned out smelling fresh and "just felt right" and most importantly "Do you like the layout?" I'd bump up my bid, but probably not much.

Just don't your emotions take over! Prior to me finding my safari, I'd had people offer me trailers that met my needs and budget! This forum is full of amazing people!
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:40 PM   #12
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Angry

(Sorry, I have no idea why the angry face is next to this post-- I promise I'm not angry )

Quote:
Originally Posted by atobols View Post
What would be low? I have a number in mind, but would like to know what others (who actually know what they're talking about) would be willing to pay for it.
Looking at RJ's site, which is just a guideline of course, and assuming it is in "As Found" condition (sitting 25 years, it's not likely any better than "as found" condition), the price guideline is $1800 - $2400.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:42 PM   #13
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Ours too was not used for 28 years , It became a condo for mice. The floor up from and the rear under the bather were both rotten and a lot of the outriggers and floor stringers needed to be replaced. And none of this was visible until you drop the belly pan.
This is what really scares me! We can do a lot of things, but I really don't want to get into replacing the frame or the floor.

We won't even consider buying unless we can get inside and check it out. What do we need to look for specifically that would tell us that it isn't structurally sound?
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:48 PM   #14
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Looking at RJ's site, which is just a guideline of course, and assuming it is in "As Found" condition (sitting 25 years, it's not likely any better than "as found" condition), the price guideline is $1800 - $2400.
I did look and saw that it said 1800 - 2400. I just figured that this one was probably in the "about as bad as possible" condition rather than "as found." That should cut the price in half, right?
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