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Old 02-21-2013, 04:15 PM   #1
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'80s to '90s major design changes?

I sold my Airstream MoHo in 2009 and bought a square white box trailer and a truck. Only because I knew another Airstream, a trailer this time, was somewhere in my future. Well, the time has come, and I the white box is on it's way out.

I'm looking for a 80's - 90's, 28-32 foot trailer. I do know we want a mid bath rear twins or queen. Oh, and I want a steal... ok, at least a deal. I'm really looking in a 1500 mile radius for a deal. I don't mind traveling for the right buy. I'm capped at $11k for this purchase, and I don't think that's out of question.

My question is: When are the benchmark design changes for airstreams in the 80's - 90's? I've heard of heavier frames, wider bodies, better construction? in older ones? or the 90's?
Is there a point when construction quality dropped off? I'm not saying it ever did, but sometimes when a large company gets bought, the numbers are crunched, and quality dips in favor of profits.
Or a point when quality took a drastic turn for the better?

Is there a great resource that I'm missing that has all this information? For cars and trucks I always do a wikipedia search and you can find every option, change, etc. for every year, but I can't seem to find a similar resource for airstreams.

Thanks in advance, and I'm totally open to any suggestions, advice, or ideas.
Thanks,
Kevin
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Old 02-21-2013, 04:35 PM   #2
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I believe that most of the product line was reworked in 1982 marking the end of the problematic Beatrice years. I'm not sure but I think that's when the upper corners were squared out more, adding a sense of interior space.

In 1995-1996 the longer trailers widened from 96" to 102". This was a major change.
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Old 02-21-2013, 04:46 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
I believe that most of the product line was reworked in 1982 marking the end of the problematic Beatrice years. I'm not sure but I think that's when the upper corners were squared out more, adding a sense of interior space.

In 1995-1996 the longer trailers widened from 96" to 102". This was a major change.
My 1983 is still pretty rounded.



Since the same replacement panels fit 83-93, I'm takng the position that they didn't get squared off till at least 94. My Excella is still a narrow-body.
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Old 02-21-2013, 09:48 PM   #4
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When did the glass go frameless?
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
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I believe that most of the product line was reworked in 1982 marking the end of the problematic Beatrice years.
What was problematic about the "Beatrice" years?
So 6" wider is a "wide body"? Actually, I'm sure it makes a difference.

There's a 1996 30' in my area for $16k that would be perfect. Wish I had an extra 5 grand laying around. Toys like this should be paid for in cash, in my opinion.

Thanks for the input.
Jammer, that is a nice looking trailer.

Kevin.
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Old 02-22-2013, 09:51 AM   #6
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Not sure when they switched to the particle board.

In late 93-94 they started transitioning back to plywood floors starting with the longer trailers first, not sure how long it took for all trailers.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:08 AM   #7
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What was problematic about the "Beatrice" years?
It was the era when frame separation and rear end sag was a major problem, and in general, the interior build-out isn't as highly regarded as either the earlier or later trailers. These are usually the cheapest trailers to buy. That said, there are some excellent restorations out there, and some people like them because of the rear-bath floorplan.

Quote:
So 6" wider is a "wide body"? Actually, I'm sure it makes a difference.
Combined with the more squared-off corners, yes, it makes a large difference because it opens up floorplan alternatives that just won't fit in a narrower trailer.

Quote:
There's a 1996 30' in my area for $16k that would be perfect. Wish I had an extra 5 grand laying around. Toys like this should be paid for in cash, in my opinion.
That's a pretty good deal for a 30' although in that age range, condition makes a huge difference. If you want a ready-to-camp 30' then you may find that your budget is backing you into a corner. Be careful to be sure you are getting your money's worth and not a trailer with floor rot and mechanical problems.

Quote:
Jammer, that is a nice looking trailer.
Thanks. If I had it to do over again I would have looked for something 3-5 years old, and probably waited for a 34' to come along.
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Old 02-22-2013, 10:46 AM   #8
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I know some of the problems with the 70's era trailers and grapple with them presently.

What I do like about them is the exterior. The slight bulge in the center with a subtle return to the frame. The strong rivet pattern around the windows. I also like the looks of the windows and the placement especially next to the door with vista windows. A strong line up.

To me, maybe, without going too crazy, they kind of have a masculinity femininity juxtaposition to the design. Nice curves punctuated with robust elements.

Hows that for blah blah?

Now throw a 1965 ribbon mahogany interior into it or a mellow birch interior of some 50s units and then modern system and you really have something.

Tony
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Old 02-22-2013, 11:18 AM   #9
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Whoops, I meant "nice trailer vswingfield" for the photo, but Jammer, I'm sure your trailer is beautiful as well, I just haven't seen it.

Jammer, this is an interesting point because I've seen several 34' in my neck of the woods. And I know 4' is such a small margin of length, but they just look so loooooong? with the 3 axles and everything. I have a modern diesel truck, so weight isn't an issue, but we're the type of campers that never camp on pavement. I've actually never used hook-ups. 100% boondock. And if you know Oregon, it's not flat, and I took my AS MoHo places that some cars wouldn't try. I also flipped the axles on my recent SOB to make some of the rutted roads passable; still scraping the bumpers. I just can't see a 34' AS trailer making it off the beaten path without some serious dragging damage.

Tony,
I've never seen a well taken care of AS from any era that I didn't appreciate. I like the looks of them all. For me the classic looks of the AS are a side bonus. Build quality, longevity, and value are paramount. After owning a SOB for 4 years, they are disposable in about 10yrs. With a build that's one click above cardboard.

I've looked at this 1996 pictures about 20 times. I've just got to convince my co-owner that spending another $5k would be worth it.

-Kevin
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Old 02-22-2013, 12:06 PM   #10
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Yes Kevin

"I've never seen a well taken care of AS from any era that I didn't appreciate."

I should of ended with that.

Good luck with your decision

Tony
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Old 02-22-2013, 01:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wazbro View Post
Not sure when they switched to the particle board.

In late 93-94 they started transitioning back to plywood floors starting with the longer trailers first, not sure how long it took for all trailers.
My 1983 Excella has a plywood floor. Needless to say, I'm glad.
Quote:
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Whoops, I meant "nice trailer vswingfield" for the photo, but Jammer, I'm sure your trailer is beautiful as well, I just haven't seen it.

...

-Kevin
Thanks!
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Old 02-26-2013, 12:59 PM   #12
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So I went and looked at a 1987 34' last week that looked great in the pictures. He listed it for $16k. First off, it's waaaay too long. I would need a 12" lift kit for the 3 axles if I was going to try and get it to our beach lot. Second, it was awful inside. I took off my shoes to be polite and my socks instantly got wet. It smelled like mold and urine inside. I felt a really soft (and wet) spot by the door and pulled up the corner of the carpet and there was no floor underneath.
It was a good lesson on not trusting internet pictures, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to buy something without someone to SMELL the trailer for me. Can't get smells through the internet.
Another thing that surprised me is the size. Yes, it's long, but my shoulders rubbed both sides of the hallway walking back to the bedroom. I'm thinking that extra 6" width on the newer widebody versions might be worth it?

I'm going to look at the 1996 today in a couple hours. I'm buying this with my Brother-in-law, and he and my wife actually OK'ed spending a little more on a newer trailer if it was worth it. Still trying to figure out how 4 adults and 2 kids are going to sleep in it.

Thanks for all the ideas. I wish that 2001 in GA in the classifieds was a little closer to take a look at.

-Kevin
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Old 02-26-2013, 01:53 PM   #13
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You are absolutely right about the "smell" test in the trailer. It is amazing how many fail that and once I have found it, all interest fades immediately.

You are also right that photos are never a substitute for an actual inspection. Don't fall in love with an Airstream from the photos.

I had a friend who I helped purchase his first Airstream. He got all excited about one from the photos and it required a 500 mile one way trip to inspect. He took his truck and new hitch so he could bring it home as he was sure it was the one. He called me shortly after arriving, finding the trailer sitting under a tree, green slime growing down the sides, and the smell inside, he said, was grim.
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Old 02-27-2013, 09:27 AM   #14
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I talked through the "plan" on the drive to the viewing of the trailer. How we would try to negotiate the price. What things were worth to us, like having an awning or the fact there was no grey tank. She was taking notes, as we do, including we can walk away from "this thing". However, like going to war, the plan often becomes useless when you cross enter the situation.

There is no doubt you are always in a bad negotiating place when you take such a drive. Also you are going into sellers comfort zone. Also, of course, you have aluminum clouding your vision. And then, he who wants it most loses. Always be willing to walk away. With that said sometimes things just work out sweet. Or they work out on balance.

Tony
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