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Old 11-02-2006, 06:56 PM   #1
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Question Airstream Buying advice?

Hello everyone! I'm looking to be a new Vintage Airsteam owner and I'm a little overwhelmed by all the choices. It also is tough because there are so few for sale near me. I have been looking (in Classifieds) at a few trailers for sale in Texas and I could use some help so I don't make too many mistakes. I haven't even ever owned a travel trailer or RV before so I'm fresh off the Turnip Truck!

My needs: Trailer to park at In-Laws (in San antonio, TX) to provide a guest house of sorts for my family. Probably no more than 30ft long for storage space reasons. It needs to be towable for camping a couple of times a year by a mid-sized V6 SUV with a max tow rating of 5000lbs. We are growing into a family of 5 in March so it needs to Sleep 2 adults and three small children. It needs to be Pre-1980 for budget reasons, as I'd like to not have more than $5K in it after it is all made usable. I also am pretty handy but have no good working area around my house to work on a trailer this size. I guess that means I need one in good shape, or need to pay to have it fixed somewhere.

Trailer Prospects: I have found a trailer in Houston and one in Austin. I'm leaning torwards the one in Houston because it is in much better shape, but the Austin one may be more desirable due to length and year. I can pick neither as well if needed!

Austin trailer:
http://austin.craigslist.org/rvs/221373213.html
1967 24' Tradewind - Asking $2600
A very good condition shell but not sure about alot else. Has great body, tires, bearings, and appliances there but untested. Would have two twins in the middle if they were still there. He started stripping it out to make it a Juice Bar and then stopped. Known Needs: AC unit, Beds and bed framework, curtains, replace soft spot in entry floor, vinal on floor, rear access panel door, replace two wndow panes, both Propane tanks missing.


Houston Trailer:
http://houston.craigslist.org/rvs/223549394.html
1971 27' Overlander - Asking $4200
Looks and sounds to be in good shape, but hasn't moved for 18months since he bought it and parked it. Cold AC, working appliances and bathroom. Has twin beds with a bunk on one side. Interior has ben upgraded with new cusion covers, curtains, and flooring all around. Fridge has been replaced, but 110V only. Exterior is in good shape with a couple of dents on the lower areas (worse one in photo). Floor is supposedly solid. Known Needs: Tanks recertified, 4 new tires, a window fixed to open right, and roof vent caps.

I have seen neither of these since they are both 4+ hours away from my home in Dallas, TX but could go this Saturday if I need to. Please help a new guy out with some advice!

Thanks - Erik
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Old 11-02-2006, 08:45 PM   #2
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Buy the best unit you can within your budget. You can usually get them for less money than it would take to upgrade or repair an inferior trailer. Even if you value your time at $0 per hour you can usually beat the price of repair. Look for a motivated seller. Figure they are always hiding some defects and look closely to discover them before you start talking real sale price. Not much different than buying a house or a car.
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Old 11-02-2006, 11:32 PM   #3
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Weight & Length are drivers..

Welcome to Forums, and practice learning how to use Search tab above, for threads on this subject over past few years..

With a mid-size V6 powered SUV, you can't practically tow anything longer than 24', so drop idea of 27' or 30' trailers.. Remember (as car salespersons will rarely make clear..) Tow Rating for vehicle includes ALL of the following:
1. Weight of Passengers and luggage and stuff in SUV
2. Weight of Hitch assembly and bars, etc
3. Weight of Trailer, including all its stuff

What this means at practical level is that trailer with GVWR of 4500# or more will cause you to exceed limits on SUV, and yes, you might get it 100 miles on mostly level roads wth no excitement, but overloading a tow vehicle will significantly increase risks of problems in event of panic stop or hills or the need to swerve abruptly...

Other major advice I'd offer is to resist temptation to buy anything sight unseen.. There are many really bad Airstreams on market, and if you have limited budget and high expectations, you need to be prepared to shop and shop for one that fits, and move really fast when you find one, because you are not alone....
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Old 11-03-2006, 07:46 AM   #4
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Erik,

I am convinced that "vintage" airstreams (especially 70s) fall into two categories: those with floor rot/frame rust/corrosion issues and those whose issues have been repaired.

Two years ago, I too hoped to have a usable vintage Airstream for $5-$6K and purchased an "all original" '72 Overlander for $4500. I soon found out what many on this forum already knew. I cannot begin to count the hours invested in that trailer (bathroom alone) before it was "usable". I eventually replaced all appliances (water heater leaked, toilet, furnace was unsafe, and refrigerator stopped working).

I sold it last March (gave it away at $7K, about $1500 less than I had in it, not counting my labor, which cannot be counted) and am in the middle of restoration of a '73 Sovereign with worse frame corrosion than the Overlander. (It was already gutted, which is what I wanted so I could build bunks for my full size family). As soon as I removed the belly pan and banana wrap, my expectations were confirmed...major rust/corrosion!

I say this because none of this is necessarily obvious until you start removing aluminum. (Most sellers wouldn't appreciate you doing this.) But realize that the unit is over 30 years old.

I don't think you'll have a usable unit for much less than $10K. (You might save $1-$2K if you do the work yourself.) Having spent countless hours involved in all aspects of repair/restoration, $10-$12K seems much more reasonable than it used to.

Your tow vehicle is definitely an issue. I'm no expert on this but agree with Condo. I've towed a '72 Overlander over 5000 miles and even with a full sized E-350 Powerstroke Van, you still know it's back there. (With 7 children, I gave up mid-sized "economy" vehicles a long time ago.)

You could take your chances with the Overlander but you'd still need to purchase a new tow vehicle. The Tradewind will be lighter and you could restore it to your liking but it won't be quick, and won't be easy.

My words are based on my experience, which I've seen echoed by many others on the forum. There are a few who get lucky and find the 30 year old unit that has been well maintained (bathroom plumbing never frozen and leaking, rear seal well maintained) but they don't post much.

Good luck!
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Old 11-03-2006, 08:53 AM   #5
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There may be an issue with that '71 Overlander. It's really hard to judge from just photos, but there appears to be a slight gap between frame and body on the rear streetside. That might be a result of rotted floor in that perimeter or frame damage.
Since your TV will really not accomodate a 27' trailer as
Condoluminum pointed out, you might want to scratch that one and go look at the '67 TW.
If I were in your shoes, I would ask the owner if he's willing to hook up the electric and LP long enough for me to check everything out.
The $1600 savings on the TW vs the Overlander might be enough to cover the necessary interior repairs.
Since both trailers are within a 4 hr drive, I wouldn't buy either without a thorough personal inspection.
Bear in mind that almost any vintage Airstream is going to require additional $ to assure that axles, tires, etc are in sound roadworthy condition.
Allow extra budget also for drapes, upholstery or other upgrades. If you go for the inspection, be sure to poke around the floor wherever possible with a screwdriver or icepick to check for any soft spots. Make a list of any missing hardware, lights, etc.
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Old 11-03-2006, 04:07 PM   #6
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Thanks for the help so far!

Thanks for all of the advice so far. Sounds like if I own anything larger that a 24' it won't be a "travel trailer" for me! This is very helpfull so please keep the comments comming! Here are more photos sent to me on the 67' Tradewind and he lowered his price to $2200:

http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/emonso...m?.dir=a277re2

I have asked if it can be checked out with Electical and Gas hooked up, but no resonse yet. Any Airstream Owner around the Austin, TX area that could help me out by looking at this trailer? What do you think?

Thanks - Erik
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Old 11-03-2006, 04:39 PM   #7
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I have a 68 trade wind. I love it. Having said that I think this one is way over price even if the floor is good. If the refer is ok and the axles, I would maybe say $1200. But that is just me. There is just a lot wrong with that camper. Sorry to be the one to say it, but there it is. On the other hand, the propane lantern in the front rocks! Good luck either way.



by the way what is that patch looking thing next to the water fill on the front, that scares me...
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Old 11-03-2006, 05:45 PM   #8
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Eew!

After reviewing the additional pics, I agree with Gen Disarray that this is a $1200 trailer, but considering that you are in an area where vintage Airstreams are scarce, maybe $1500 tops.
Is there a window glass missing on the streetside? You will have a tough time staying within your budget of 5k to put this TW back into decent guest house or travel trailer condition.
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Old 11-03-2006, 06:14 PM   #9
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Rivet Devil's Advocate Here

I recently met someone who got a GREAT $300 Airstream from the nephew of the little old lady who passed on. Even so, he'll be putting lots of money into it. A 30 year old furnace and water heater HAVE to be replaced, and the refrig is probably on borrowed time. The floor and the frame are solid... the carpet is funky and old. And there's always going to be mouse poo somewhere. Then there's the noisy old univolt. His has relatively new axles though.

OK? Nuff of that? Here is another story. I recently met a 50 year old woman who is taking care of her 93 year old mother who has nothing but social security to live on. The daughter is a teacher and doesn't have a lot of spare cash either. They were living in a 14 ft camper until she found a 32 foot 5th wheel that the owner had parked in his lawn for 5 years. Long story short, he was asking $1500 but decided to sell it to her for $500. It needs the steps repaired and had one light fixture that needed to be replaced and one spot where the carpet had worn through to the subfloor.

She has no vehicle to tow it, but pays someone to move it for her when she needs to move off site. (Our main campground has a 28 day limit, then you must pull off for 7 days, but it costs about $1100 per year! Dirt cheap.)

Morale of the story - Do you need basic housing for a year or two? Then don't be married to the idea of an Airstream. Get a big, ugly, cheap SOB, park it in the yard and live there until you can afford somehting better, then give it away cheaply to someone else who needs "a roof". If you're completing your education or going through some other kind of financial difficulty, it's important that you make no decisions that are going to impede your progress... if you need cheap housing, go for cheap housing. Get to your goals. Add the Airstream to your "goals" list, but recognize it may not be practical right now.

There is always a difference between what you need and what you just want, and most of the time getting what makes you drool may not make you happy six months later.... ask me about my Lexus... after six months any car is transportation.... the payment book however lasted for SEVEN YEARS!

I still own the Lexus, and it still runs great, and I'll probably give it a decent burial at 300,000 miles... but ye gods, I won't buy another. A Toyota, with most of the same amenities for $15K less, yes... but $15K to buy a logo - screw that!

Just my two cents, and playing the devils advocate - for a different point of view.

Good luck to you and your family.

Paula
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Old 11-03-2006, 08:39 PM   #10
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Foiled Again, Wish we knew someone like you or the Forums before we purchased our 67 GT. It's an old cliche..but we live and learn.
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Old 11-04-2006, 09:15 AM   #11
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Foiled Again and Rog0525,
I have seen now some of the rehab photos and they are pretty scarry. If I were to just by SOB trailer are there any older cheap ones that are better than others? Are there any other vintage trailers that don't have floor rot and frame corrosion issues that seem to be here on the Airstreams? I can afford the time and money to redo some cosmetics on a trailer but not these floor and frame issues. I really don't even care if this trailer has a bathroom or shower if that helps. I see us using the bathroom in the house and camping at facilities that have bathrooms/showers anyway. Mostly I want a place to sleep, cook, and eat that has climate control. Please help!

Thanks again! - Erik
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Old 11-04-2006, 09:45 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmtx
Foiled Again and Rog0525,
I have seen now some of the rehab photos and they are pretty scarry. If I were to just by SOB trailer are there any older cheap ones that are better than others? Are there any other vintage trailers that don't have floor rot and frame corrosion issues that seem to be here on the Airstreams? I can afford the time and money to redo some cosmetics on a trailer but not these floor and frame issues. I really don't even care if this trailer has a bathroom or shower if that helps. I see us using the bathroom in the house and camping at facilities that have bathrooms/showers anyway. Mostly I want a place to sleep, cook, and eat that has climate control. Please help!
Thanks again! - Erik
Erik, rather than look for an SOB, I suggest you look for an Argosy. They are great trailers and are generally quite a bit less money than the silver bullets. There is a 24' Argosy for sale near my location for $1800.
They show up frequently on eBay.
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Old 11-04-2006, 10:28 AM   #13
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Erik,

We've all fantasized about the unbelievable bargain (finding a Martin guitar at a garage sale for $25) but the majority of people who play the lottery lose.

If you're patient, you may come across the unbelievable bargain, but it could take a year or two, maybe more. If you can be patient, it may be worth it.

The range you're willing to pay is in the "get burned" range ($3K-$7K) in my opinion. (Most of, if not all Airstreams in that range are 25-35 years old and are being sold by 2nd, 3rd, 4th or later owners. Things are generally intact and appear better than they probably are. Major restoration will push you up to the $10K pretty easily, unless you possess the knowledge, tools, materials, and patience to complete the job yourself. (And you'll still be close to it anyway, especially once you replace the fridge, furnace, water heater, etc.)

The $2K and below is the range (in my opinion) in which you can find a good shell and start over. At the end, I hope to have no more than $7K-$8K (including axles and wheels) but should have an $11K-$12K trailer. (At least I wouldn't sell it for any less, knowing what I know about the availability of quality restored Airstreams.)

The $8K and above range is usually the 1st or 2nd owner, and they know what they have and will not accept less unless under duress. Again, considering the hours I've spent restoring (not camping), it's starting to look more and more worth it. But like you, we had a budget ($5-$6K) and that's how I ended up in this mess.

We did look at an '85 SOB for around $5500 before I became "hooked" on aluminum and it was okay. The frame is easy to inspect, that's for sure.

I guess the bottom line is: membership into the Airstream club has never been cheap. Unless you're willing to risk/take on a major project, it might be better to keep saving until you can afford a newer unit.

As another forum member from your neck of the woods says (Dennis from Houston), "Suck it up, spend the big bucks, do it right the first time!"

Good luck!
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Old 11-04-2006, 11:20 AM   #14
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PizzaChop -- good answer!
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmtx
If I were to just buy SOB trailer are there any older cheap ones that are better than others? Are there any other vintage trailers that don't have floor rot and frame corrosion issues that seem to be here on the Airstreams?
I'd say that age will give you issues whether you are looking at Airstream or an SOB -- except the SOB will have them worse and you'll have nothing of value once you've addressed them. A fellow a block over pulled a smallish SOB into his driveway about 5 months ago. He had the skin rolled up and wood frame and floor exposed. I saw problems galore and think that he was so frustrated that summer ended without any major structural repairs. The trailer went away and I haven't checked to see if he'll be continuing the project.
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