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Old 02-02-2013, 08:35 AM   #1
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1979 31' Sovereign
Toronto , Ontario
Join Date: Jan 2013
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AS purchase do's and don'ts

I am just beginning my search for an AS. I am looking now at early 70's models 28 - 31'. The plan is to undertake any necessary interior repairs and remodelling (I have experience in most aspects), but to find something that is structurally safe and sound otherwise. I am in the Toronto, Canada area and expect to have to travel some distance to find what I need. I am looking for any thoughts and suggestions from any of you out there regarding any specific things I should be looking for when viewing an AS of this vintage. Any deal-breakers , common pitfalls etc. Thanks very much.

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Old 02-02-2013, 09:00 AM   #2
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1968 24' Tradewind
Oxford, , Mississippi
Join Date: May 2009
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Having bought one myself without know exactly what to watch out for and having helped several other folks new to Airstreams look at trailers after I spent 2 years working on mine, I would suggest that if at all possible get someone to go with you who knows what to look for. I helped a fellow from Georgia look at a really nice looking Safari last fall. It was a 67 and the outside was great but the systems, frame, and appliances were terrible. When I pointed out all that he was going to have to do to get the trailer back to safe and fun camping condition he did not buy it (he was not a do it yourself guy). At first he was almost angry as I kept finding things that had to be fixed but then he realized what was going to be involved and that I had saved him from making a big mistake. The trailer had great potential for a dedicated do it yourself person but not this gentleman. So many things he never thought about because he had no way to know. There are many considerations that will affect what it is worth, time it will take to fix, etc, that you just won't know until you "have been there, done that". Another option is to find someone close by you who has restored an Airstream and go visit them. Let them show you all the areas to check and things to watch out for. Final point to keep in minds is that when you do find a trailer, multiply the money you think you will spend of fixing things by 2 or 3 and multiply the time you think it will take by a factor of 4 and you should be about right. Good luck finding your dream trailer. It took me 2 years of searching and then one day I found mine in a field 10 miles from my house!!

Bruce & Rachel
68 Trade Wind
2001 Toyota Tundra
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Old 02-02-2013, 09:23 AM   #3
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
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Another thing to watch out for with an inspector is the inspector themselves. Some can be very forgiving about things, and would accept faults in their own use, so they don't "see" them. You may find out later that what they thought was OK for them, is not for you. (this is a variation on what '68 Tradewind, above, says)

One of the biggest things to understand about yourself is just what level of faults in the Airstream you are considering are you willing to take, and how able are you to do your own repairs. If you are very capable, have fun doing things and don't mind a job under construction for a good bit of time, you need not be as critical about the rig you are considering. If, on the other hand, you want to camp, go out and enjoy the camping experience with few problems or issues with the AS, and are not handy with your own repairs, you best buy a pretty good unit to begin with. Also have a shop available which you trust and can afford to take it to for repairs.

Like so many things, there is no simple answer to your initial question.
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Old 02-02-2013, 10:26 AM   #4
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1972 25' Tradewind
North Vancouver , British Columbia
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I think that the best thing you could do for yourself right now is to read these forums, particularly the trailer restoration threads. These will serve as a fairly effective education about what others have encountered and the processes they went through to fix them. I think this will put a more realistic perspective on things for you. It's one thing for people to list things to look out for and quite another to read those threads that show the problems encountered and how they were overcome. In the case of 30 to 40 year old trailers, knowledge is power.
Cameron & the Labradors, Kai & Samm
North Vancouver, BC
Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - Mame Dennis
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Old 02-02-2013, 10:47 AM   #5
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1960 28' Ambassador
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1998 25' Safari
Avonton , Ontario
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If you get to the Stratford area, stop in and I can show you lots to look out for. Axles, frame, floor and plumbing can be real time issues.
Doug & Terry
60 Ambassador Int.
1950 Spartan
1966 Globetrotter
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Old 02-02-2013, 10:47 AM   #6
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1977 31' Excella 500
Los angeles , California
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In a trailer of that vintage I think you should always expect to do some work whether it is frame, skins, wiring, pluming, etc. If you are knowledgable in these respects then have at a trailer that looks good from the outside. Even if the frame is in good condition there are design flaws that you can rectify yourself and rest in the sense that you are doing the trailer good by reinforcing or better yet repainting to prevent further rust damage.

The fact that you're looking at a 70's long puts you in the category that you are in for some work. These were prone to a lot of problems that others weren't. If you get one for a deal...lets say below 2500.00 or less and there are MANY out there expect up to or even more than 1000.00 just to get her home safely in tires, brakes, and possibly new axles depending on how far you want to tow.

Inspectors are very helpful but if you are taking a trailer apart you are now the inspector and you'll learn very quickly that if you're a weekend wrencher that it could take no less than 1 or 2 years to come close to being able to use it.

Owning an AS is like rock climbing. you'll find out a lot about yourself and what you can accomplish. These forums are here for people to express their fears and for others who have gone through the pain and reward of doing it themselves. If you give up quickly in life the AS might be the perfect thing to get you over the hump of never say die.

just be aware of what you have to understand when you work on your trailer. Welding, riveting, glass repair, 12v wiring, 110 v wiring, propane systems, water pressure, plumbing, carpeting, wood flooring, cabinetry, abs repair, axles, brakes hydraulic and drum, brake actuators and controllers, AC, vents, caulking, upholstery, weight distribution hitches, towing harness and wiring (especially with 70's trailers since they switch a lot of the wires) and the list goes on and on.

If you've done home projects or even built your house it will help but if you've rebuilt your trailer then plan on building your house...YOUR HOUSE WILL BE A PIECE OF CAKE!!!!!!

Good luck.

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