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Old 01-12-2015, 05:57 PM   #1
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CFA happy's Avatar
1976 27' Overlander
Johnson City , Tennessee
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 12
Question Help before we buy

Hi - it's my first ( hopefully of many) post here. My husband and I are looking at purchasing our first Airstream - it's a 1984 34'Excella which has spent many years parked at Ocean Lakes in Myrtle Beach. We are new to this and aren't certain what questions to ask - or what to look for. We know there is rust on the A-frame, the water heater is bad and the stabilizers don't look so good. tires have some dry rot but held up well for the trip out to be inspected, held air on the site for 6+ hours and then back to the storage lot. It had been winterized. Everything in the Airstream interior is original - so we know lots of upholstery changes and new flooring. Pulled the carpet back in many spots and the sub-floor appeared to be sound. Awnings were all working & in good shape. Exterior only had one small scratch but needs polishing and new striping. Any advice? The asking price is $5,000....

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Old 01-12-2015, 06:10 PM   #2
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Welcome, CFA Happy. I'd suggest that you replace all of the tires BEFORE taking the coach anywhere. A blown tire can cause a LOT of damage. I'd also suggest that you grease everything that can be greased.

Be prepared to do a lot more work than what you think you will need to do. More than one person has removed some flooring and then found that there was some frame/outrigger damage. Such is life.

David Lininger, kb0zke
AIR 54240
Heartland mpg 181 (sold)
1993 Foretravel U300 (for sale)
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Old 01-12-2015, 06:34 PM   #3
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2002 31' Classic
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Monroe , Iowa
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It would be nice to have it un-winterized so you could see what works and what doesn't.

The price is very affordable, but you may find that the repairs needed are quite expensive. Perhaps you could have it looked at by someone who is very familar with older Airstreams.
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Old 01-12-2015, 06:52 PM   #4
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1994 34' Excella
Warren , Manitoba
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 258
Welcome to the forums and Airstreaming!! The price seems reasonable, but as said in previous posts be prepared for some possible major expenses. I picked up a 1994, 34' last year for a couple of thousand more than what is asked from you. I just replaced all 3 axles complete with new tires. A little less than $5000. Be prepared for fridge work, A/C work or repair, furnace work or repair, converter replacement, plumbing repair, and a few more costly things. I spent about $8500 over and above purchase price last year, and will spend about $4000 this year. I am not trying to scare you, but be prepared. If you can do most of the work yourself you will save a lot of money. People on this forum are great with helping, as most of us have gone through the rebuild projects. Another good idea is to get involved with a club (WBCCI), as you can learn a lot at a rally, and where to source things locally. A work in progress can be fun!! In a lot of cases at a rally you might even find parts you need, as a lot of us have "stashes in the shop". Chris
WBCCI #7394
2002 Chev 2500 HD Duramax
1976 31' Gone but fondly remembered
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Old 01-12-2015, 07:13 PM   #5
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1987 25' Sovereign
Oregon , Ohio
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When we redid our 87 Sovereign I found the best place for replacement parts is the internet. Just today I ordered a new charger converter from E-bay. The MSRP is $330, I got this one for $151 shipped to the house.
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Old 01-12-2015, 07:36 PM   #6
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1976 27' Overlander
Johnson City , Tennessee
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 12
Before we buy

We are working with the owner to have a full inspection done - guess we will find out if there are any deal breakers....thank you to everyone who is sharing their wisdom!
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Old 01-13-2015, 05:34 AM   #7
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1986 34' Limited
1966 24' Tradewind
Conifer , Colorado
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Hi CFA happy and welcome to Air Forums and the Airstream community. We have an 86 Limited 34 footer that we thoroughly enjoy while traveling. It has had many of the repairs and upgrades mentioned above. I had it appraised some years ago for "agreed value" insurance purposes. The "agreed value" was $22K. I have no idea what the market value would be. 80s trailers, especially the long ones, are not a highly sought after Airstream. But they sure make for comfortable traveling.

So after a lot of work and thousands of dollars in parts you probably would have a very nice 84 Excella. You should anticipate a rusty frame being close to the ocean and being in the beautiful but wet southeast for many years. The wood subfloor may also have rotted out places along the perimeter of the interior. I hope you can work on it yourselves to stay somewhat above water on these old Airstreams. They can be money pits. Keep your receipts.

Again, welcome to the forums. You might have found the Airstream Knowledge Base toward the bottom of the home page. Then click on Travel Trailers, and then select the Excella in your year range. You will find many Excella enthusiasts lurking there and lots of information on this trailer you are considering. This is a good place to start a thread specific to the 84 Excella.

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Old 01-13-2015, 11:19 AM   #8
Tom T
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Vintage Kin Owner
Orange , California
Join Date: Nov 2014
Posts: 425
Originally Posted by terryV View Post
It would be nice to have it un-winterized so you could see what works and what doesn't.

The price is very affordable, but you may find that the repairs needed are quite expensive. Perhaps you could have it looked at by someone who is very familar with older Airstreams.
I agree, if after you look at it yourselves & think it's worth pursuing, then find somebody near it who does trailer restorations & repairs to do a paid pre-purchase inspection (PPI) & give you the good, bad & ugly + cost to fix it all up.

This holds for whatever trailers you end up looking at, so save the PPI $$ for the one or two you really want, & don't be afraid to walk on if it looks like too much work.

We had an AS et al vintage trailer restorer within 2 miles of our home who coached us a bit as we were looking & then he did the PPI for us before we bought our restored 1960 Avion T20.

The best advice he gave us, was that with As's & vintage kin being so involved & expensive to restore & repair, what seems like a great deal for a few $1000s, can end up costing more in the long run, than a well kept & sorted one which can take another $20-50,000++ to get done!

Even if you & your hubby have the time & skills to do the work yourself, there can be significant cost & extensive time to do so. As with classic cars - you'll want to find the best example you can within your budget, & then still have some reserves for the work & extras that undoubtedly will come along!

So we bought someone else's basket case - after THEIR restoration & refurb!

I suspect that if you start adding up the costs to get this 81 up to snuff, that you might be better off finding one in the $10-20,000 range that's either well kept or someone else spent their bucks & time for their resto. Other than getting the tires & running gear checked out & updated for a 800 mile July run across the southwest desert from Albuquerque to SoCal, everything on it was in good working order & good condition (if some owrk not up to my stds.).

That said, we spent $12000 to purchase it, & another $5000+/- on misc. stuff to outfit the trailer (my wife's furnishings & era deco) & some mechanical stuff (including the new tires, brake & wheel bearing service noted by others above, an on-trailer wireless brake controller & Hensley Cub WD/anti-sway hitch). And I can still see another $2-5000 of stuff I'd like to do or add over time, to get it to our preferences (we'd prefer to have a period correct galley & a real LP heater back in there, & an onboard grey water tank, which wasn't a common option back in the 1950s-60s).

Some pix of our Avion are here fyi, to see the condition we got ....

My wife did all the online searching for her little vintage trailer, & found Tin Can Tourists & a few other websites specializing in vintage trailers helpful in finding well sorted prospects, & she took a year & a half to find the one we have. So be patient.

One of the regular advertisers on Tin Can Tourists & other sites selling restored trailers was a shop in NC or SC, that may be a good prospect for doing your PPI in Myrtle Beach, or for better condition trailers.

One thing about the 84 you're looking at & other older trailers, is that it also opens up a whole additional scene of the vintage trailer rallies, which are a load of fun & popular with the general public coming out to see how we &/or their our parents/grandparents lived the trailer life!

Be patient & take your time.

Good Luck in your Search!
Tom T (janabanana48's other half )
Orange CA
1960 Avion T20, #2 made, Hensley Cub, TV tbd- looking for 08-14 Cayenne S
1988 VW Vanagon Westfalia CamperGL (Orig Owner)
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Old 01-13-2015, 05:08 PM   #9
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2013 31' Classic
billings , Montana
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Was in Johnson city last year to pick up our present classic it was 9 mos old, my opinion is to buy one a lot newer, a lot less headaches and cheaper..
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Old 01-13-2015, 07:33 PM   #10
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Denville , New Jersey
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I purchased a 2006 winterized Bambi for 25k a few years ago, turns out the toilet seal was not working, only way to fix was to take toilet out, a very big unexpected expense right after purchase. There were a few other issues that cropped up, I know so much more now than my heart did a couple years ago.
2006 Bambi CCD ("EireStream!!")
2010 Funfinder
2005 T@B
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For some perfection takes a little longer...
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Old 01-13-2015, 08:23 PM   #11
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Fort Myers , Florida
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My thoughts would be to get tires, pack the trailer wheel bearings and get your hitch set up. I will share that those who have undertaken the upgrading of an older unit always share the "more than they expected" phrase. I also have read that the rubber axles are good for about 20 years. It is my opinion that the main benefit in buying older is to get a higher quality build materials unit. Naturally from decade to decade there are variances but all clad aluminum in particular older models, all wood cabinets, etc are some of the benefits. I am not sure that it is a financial benefit if too old but that is better determined by those who refit these amazing trailers.
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Old 01-13-2015, 09:03 PM   #12
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2009 27' FB International
2007 25' Safari
Greensboro , North Carolina
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By the time you get all the work done you could have upwards of $20,000 total....especially if there is a lot of corrosive damage due to the salt air on the beach.

Very good advice re: get a very thorough inspection by someone who has expertise in Airstreams...I mean someone who knows what fails in old ones by the sea.

I personally would not consider a trailer which had been exposed to salt air for a long time. Too many other units for sale which are in very good or excellent condition for the same money as you may end up spending on this one.
Happy trails and Good Luck
Ms Tommie Fantine Lauer, Greensboro, NC
AIR #31871 WBCCI #4165 K4MTL
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Old 01-13-2015, 09:14 PM   #13
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1999 34' Excella
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Round Rock , Texas
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Our 1999 was more than 3 times the cost you mention...and we are it's 3rd caretakers.

I expected additional costs... and aside from needing axles in the future, standard constant maintenance and keeping an eye on the 'known' leaky areas, all is 'good'.

You are right to be concerned about the running gear and that includes the frame. Just referencing your concern over the stabilizers should lead you deeper into the rig. It may NOT be a deal breaker... but someone nearby with the skill should be employed to assist your evaluation.

Don't pull the AS another foot without replacing the tires... and repacking the bearings....and checking the brakes... you do have working brakes, right? yeah, it is the 'law'.. but also, smart.

Enjoy the journey... you may have found a great unit... just need to have it evaluated...
Peace and Blessings..
WBCCI# 30676
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Old 01-14-2015, 06:27 AM   #14

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , WNY
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Thumbs up Welcome Aboard....

Just my experience....

When looking for our first I found it much more comforting to consider seriously only the Airstreams that were being used on a regular basis.

A very good observation....
<<QUOTE "I personally would not consider a trailer which had been exposed to salt air for a long time."QUOTE>>


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