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Old 09-06-2010, 09:09 PM   #1
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Bowling Green , Kentucky
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'72 Sovereign Questions

I've been a fan of Airstreams for years, and the opportunity to purchase one has presented itself. Honestly though, I don't know what to look for as far as problems. I know a 38 yo trailer isn't going to be without issues. The seller disclosed that there is a soft spot in the floor in the bathroom. He says it's a rotten support beam but the subfloor is fine. Is that a legitimate statement? Is this beam steel? Wood? Easy repair or deal breaker? He says that the shell is water tight and only few dings here and there so that's a plus. The interior is original, and from the pictures looks to be in really good shape. He says that all of the fixtures work. The AC is going to need to be recharged and the 70's carpet was removed, can't say I'm sorry about that LOL, so It'll need floor covering. No biggie there. So are there any tell tale issues I should look for?

Thanks for any info guys and gals.

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Old 09-06-2010, 09:26 PM   #2
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Hey ducude welcome to the forums. There are lots of issues with a 38 yr old trailer. Is this trailer a center or rear bath? The support beam or crossmember in the frame is steel and if rotten there may be a lot more damage to the frame than you can feel. 70's A/S are prone to leaks from the back bumper area to under the floor. They can also suffer from rear end seperation where the shell starts to seperate from the floor and frame.A lot of the floor rot will be front and rear around the perimeter of the shell. check the vista view windows which are like skylight windows for leaks as well. The other expensive repair can be replacing the axles which aftre 38 yrs will most likely be shot. Here is atypical cost breakdown for repairs if you do the labor.
Axles $1500
Floor & Frame $1500 to $2000
A/C replacement $1000
Fridge $1500
Water Heater $600
Furnace $800
You can see how the costs mount to redo these units. What is the asking price?

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Old 09-06-2010, 10:04 PM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response. Wow, I though my Ducati was a money pit LOL. It's a rear bath, and they're asking $1900. The guy was saying that for $15-1700 it would make a great trailer so the price is obviously negotiable. He was more than forthcoming that it's a fixer-upper though. He did tell me that the AC unit had been rebuilt in the past, and it does operate, just doesn't blow very cold. That should be relatively simple. The floor though has me spooked. How does one go about inspecting those beams? Are they visible from below? Hand mirror and a flashlight? Is this a "shell off" repair? What about checking for shell separation? He didn't know the condition of the brakes as he didn't have the necessary hookup on his truck and at the moment I don't either. Is there a quick way to inspect those? And axles go bad?? That seems odd, but okay. How would I check those and what should I look for, or do I just automatically assume they're shot and plan to replace them? I'll definitely look for signs of water around the windows and skylights. He said all the windows are original. I'll be on the lookout for copious amounts of RVT.

Sorry if I'm asking a ridiculous amount of questions; I just want to know what I'm going up against. The wife seemed pretty on board looking at sub $10k RVs lately. I wonder if I'd be better of getting something else? I'm more than handy with a wrench, have to be if you ride a Duc , but with the new addition to the family I don't have the time to reorganize my sock drawer let alone completely renovate a vintage trailer. Crap, I think I just heard the voice of reason knocking on the door.
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Old 09-06-2010, 11:25 PM   #4
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Ducdude: The reason the axles "go bad" is that they use torsion devices instead of springs. There's a thread on here about how to measure the angles of the axles under load and jacked off the ground to determine whether they need to be replaced.

Look at it this way... if you bought this trailer for $2k, put $10k into it and have a mechanically-sound 31' Airstream. Check the price on a new airstream in that size range and decide if it's worth the work and time you'd have to put in to save $70k or so.

Full disclosure: I'm planning to do something very similar, though I'm looking more in the 25' range from the '60s... so maybe I'm not offering an unbiased opinion on this.
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Old 09-07-2010, 01:52 AM   #5
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ducdude $1000 to $1500 would be a good price. I agree with DKB $12k to $15k for restored A/S is good. Use an ice pick to check for floor rot. Virtually impossible to check frame rot. The underbelly is all enclosed but you can check condition of pan for signs of collapse and corrosion which will give indication of frame. Shell off maybe maybe not just a crap shoot until pan is removed for inspection.
Rear end seperation- look for large gap between shell and frame rail at rear, jump up and down on bumper and look for movement between shell and frame rail.
A 1972 does not have gray water tank so plan on opening pan to install one and replumb for it as well. 74 up has grey tank.
Axles quick check there should be 2 to 3 inches gap between top of rim and bottom os wheel well.
RVT is bad news, silicone corrodes aluminum. Vulkem (brand name) polyurethane sealant is what to use on A/S.
Once renoed you would have trailer that would last 40 to 50 yrs. Impossible to achieve with SOB (some other brand) white box trailer. Your call this may or may not be the project for you. Newer A/S for more money may have some of the same issues also. Better off to get cheaper one and redo unless you get proof frame/floor etc have been done.
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Old 09-07-2010, 06:36 AM   #6
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You may want to search threads here on the forums and see what is involved in repairing the floor in the rear. "Soft spot" is translated into big problem and lots of work. It is a very big job, not rocket science, just very involved. Make sure you have the skills needed and the time. Same thing applies to axles and AC which you can count on being dead and not just low on refrigerant. If you have the skills, tools , time and a place to work ( doing the rear floor requires taking most of the interior out and you have to have somewhere to put everything while you are working on the floor) you can have a really nice trailer for 10-12K when you are done. If you don't have the time, and it takes a LOT of time, you may want to pass and find something newer.
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Old 09-07-2010, 06:45 AM   #7
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Unless this Sovereign had a leaky rear roof vent, I can almost guarantee that the soft floor problem is rear end separation. My '72 had it and it required $3,000 to fix, new floor and separation repair. I would also ensure that the rest of the floor is solid, and that the black and fresh water tanks don't leak (both of mine did ). If you really want this Airstream, offer him $1500.
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Old 09-07-2010, 06:53 AM   #8
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You may want to check out this thread and the sub-threads.

Use the search engine and do a search on lomething like "major refurbs". There will be many hits on what to look for.

The ablolute best thing to do is to find someone who has done a full refurb from whom you could beg, borrow, or rent a few hours of his time. Take him along on the trailer inspection. There is nothing like the experience of having been there and done that to locate, understand, and explain the problems of any particular trailer.

It appears as if the seller is being up front with you - quite honestly $2000 is a good price for any decent shell - regardless of the frame and interior work needed.

It appears as if you do not need much education from the information in the Forums to help you negotiate this sale, but it might help to spend a few hours deteriming how much time, money, and work will be involved in bringing a trailer back to a roadworthy condition.

It was worth it for many of us who have brought a moldy oldie back from the clutches of the aluminum scrappers. Each of us has almost a unique reason for expending the time, effort, and funds for the endeavor.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

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Old 09-07-2010, 06:55 AM   #9
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The field test for rear end separation is to find a linebacker type to stand on and bounce on the rear bumper. The bumper should not more more than a teeny amount without a similar movement in the trailer body aka separation. Rear end separation can be repaired, but is a lot of work.

Unless you enjoy the work, you will probably spend less money in the long run on a restored or partially restored trailer. The flip side is don't expect to make money on a fixer upper. You will be lucky to break even.
Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine.
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Old 09-07-2010, 07:34 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the input guys. I really appreciate the insight and advice. It really sounds like this just may end up more than I can chew if I do decide to bite. I just don't have the time for another project. I'm really hoping to take the last week of my wife's maternity leave to hit the road and it's not looking like this is the trailer to do that in. I'm still going to keep my eye out for that right A/S, but for now I may need to settle for a SOB for the right now factor. At this point in my life I need tow and go. I can definitely see that this is a great community though and really look forward to the day I can officially join your ranks. Thanks again.

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