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Old 02-26-2016, 08:00 PM   #1
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Dripping Springs , Texas
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Gutted/Restored vs. Complete

OK I'm going to be asking a lot of questions in this forum! Please help me narrow my AS search. I prefer vintage and would prefer a turnkey experience but also like the idea of outfitting one to my family's camping needs (husband is 6'8" and would never be happy if he had to scrunch up in bed!) I have come across a few listings for empty but refurbished trailers (i.e. Frame rebuilt or restored, subfloor replaced, insulation replaced, exterior dents fixed, exterior sealed). They are in the $7-10K range though which seems steep. Still, I'm wondering if finishing out one of those would be more economical than getting a top-to-bottom refurbed, ready to roll unit. And could the finish-out be done by a general contractor or would we be in need of a professional Airstream remodeler?

As you may have guessed, we are not a very handy people, but could learn in manageable chunks. Overall I'd rather be camping than remodeling in the first years.

Option 3 would be finding a vintage trailer that is complete and maybe a little crusty but with the frame in good shape. It just seem like these would be rare, but maybe my newbie brain is only receptive to the horror stories?

If it makes a difference, we are a family of 4, and would be weekend camping with longer hauls in the summer.

Thanks for any advice!
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Old 02-27-2016, 06:47 PM   #2
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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A few thoughts:

$7-10,000 is not unreasonable for a trailer that has had the "heavy lifting" done, and done correctly. It is no small task to lift the shell, repair the frame, and replace the subfloor, etc.. If you brought a trailer that needed this work done in to a professional repair place, I have no doubt that you would quickly have the $7-10k invested (purchase price of trailer+floor/frame repair).

BUT...Having this "blank slate" only get's you about half way to the finish line. You still have to build out all the cabinetry, install the plumbing, and gas lines, set up the fresh water and holding tanks, etc., etc... This is all very custom work, especially when it comes to dealing with the curves of the interior walls. A skilled cabinet maker who does custom work can do the job. A plain-jane contractor who is used to updating kitchens probably is not going to be your best bet. A reputable shop that works on trailers and RVs can do the gas, plumbing, and tanks--these aren't particularly unique to Airstreams.

Getting a top to bottom completely refurbished trailer, done correctly by a skilled owner or professional restorer is going to cost you somewhere in the $40k+ range. The pricetag may look very close to that of a brand new trailer, for a very good reason--it is a brand new trailer, just with a vintage shell. Can you take that gutted shell mentioned above and build it out for less? Possibly, but only if you do the work yourself.

Your option 3 of finding a slightly crusty vintage unit and getting it fixed up: Many, many, many shell-offs have started with that very intention. Yes, there are a very few exceptions, but most 40-50 year old trailers that have been sitting parked in someone's back yard for the last few decades are going to require a lot of repair work (frames, axles, floors, shells, etc.).

My recommendation, if you are looking to do this as economically as possible, don't want to do the work, and want to be camping right away, rather than refurbishing, is to look for a trailer that has already had all the repair work done, maybe it isn't a high-end complete rebuild, but it has been updated and repaired, and the owner has now decided after using it for a few years, they want something larger, etc.. Another option is to look at the 80's and 90's vintage trailers. The repaired or newer model trailer mentioned can be had for ~$20k. You just need to make sure you know what you are looking at, and don't get suckered into buying a trailer that is being "flipped."

As for your tall husband, I would recommend you visit a rally and go through several trailers during the "open house" portion of the rally. Your husband may find that there are too many low hanging cabinets, AC celing units, etc., for his comfort. I'm only 6'0", and have managed to knock my head on the door frame a time or two.

good luck!
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Old 02-27-2016, 10:02 PM   #3
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Thanks very much! The only motivation I'd have to refurbish was if it was significantly less $$ than buying one already good to go. And since we realistically don't have the time or skills do do a rehab correctly ourselves, sounds like we have the answer. Now just the tallness factor to contend with 🤕
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Old 02-27-2016, 10:58 PM   #4
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I'm 6'-3" and my Tradewind was fine, but any taller would be a bother. Not sure you'll find any vintage trailer that will allow him to stand upright. If you can't do the work, you'd probably be better off budgeting for a lightly used newer trailer or fully restored vintage unit.
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Old 02-28-2016, 09:13 PM   #5
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Cameront120 - I broke the news that he probably wouldn't be able to stand upright in an AS and got a look of grim determination. He's used to stooping, at least. 😑
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Old 02-28-2016, 10:16 PM   #6
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Not saying your husband can't do it--I have a friend who is 6'7 who has walked around in my trailer, and can do it fully erect. He probably had to stoop when passing near the AC unit. You will only know it's a problem by tring it out. I'm just trying to point out that the length of the bed may be the least of his problems. You may also want to do a search for a thread called "Shell off headroom epiphany" started by Darkspeed. This forum member spliced a section into the body to lift the height of the shell by about a foot. Might be fun reading, or it might inspire you to track down that trailer and see if it is for sale...

Good luck!
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Old 02-28-2016, 10:25 PM   #7
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Buy our 75 Overlander. We originally bought it thinking we would be full timing - change of plans. I replaced the plumbing and made sure everything works.
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Old 02-29-2016, 10:05 PM   #8
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nrgtrackr - Do you have a listing? I'll check it out!
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Old 03-01-2016, 12:58 PM   #9
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Sorry, I temporarily pulled the listing as we are currently in Mexico and the AS is in Colorado. When we return to Colorado at the end of April the listing will go live again.
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