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Old 06-24-2012, 08:00 AM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1993 34' Excella
San Antonio , Texas
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 17
How to choose an Airstream..

Hello All!

I'm new and old to the Airstream brand. I spent two winters in one over twenty years ago in Maine while my parents built a house. Brrrrr.

Now my husband, five daughters, and I are considering getting an airstream for camping. We like the airstream over the other trailer brands because of the durability, longevity, and retention of value. They are also better looking.

We're looking at a few options.

1978 31' Land Yacht needs complete remodel. Central Bathroom in it. Beds and original sofa removed as well as overhead in rear. New tires and axles are supposedly good. One soccer ball sized dent front upper corner below window. He's asking 4500 but came down to $3500 over the phone. He's been offered $3200.

1976 - 31' Land Yacht. Flooring out, sub floor exposed, needs redo including air, tires, rear bath, ...No titile Asking $4000 obo negotiable with cash.

1993 Excella 34' - Damage to an awning support and "cosmetic damage" to the skin around it. We're going this afternoon - so I'll post pictures.
Been smoked in for a year. Asking $12,900 for this one.

I'm a bit nervous about pulling, parking, and especially backing this big boys up. I've pulled horse trailers that are 20' and felt comfortable but that 34' Excella is a bit daunting. Trees in a campground are sudden fear invoking creatures.

My husband is mechanically handicapped - it's kind of cute. I'm bizarrely handy. I have tools. Time is an issue but I'm out in the garage working on one project or another every other night. I can make cabinetry, lay flooring, rewire, change out pumps, re-plumb sinks, paint and what not... Once when we were poor students, I performed a complete rear brake overhaul and changed out a half axle. Changed out an alternator when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant. That was a bit challenging to get in the right position. do you all feel- old and complete overhaul or newer?

Can you get the cigarette smell out of the upholstery and curtains??

How hard is that 34' to park?

How much does one typically spend on a rehab if you're doing it yourself?

Can I add bunks to the back twins?

All the girls are 10 and under so it won't be too tight please give me your thoughts...

(Mom of five, wife of one!)

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Old 06-24-2012, 09:12 AM   #2
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Sioux Falls , South Dakota
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You wrote:

"durability" ---- Not my experience

"longevity" ---- Not my experience

"retention of value" ---- Not my experience

"They are also better looking" ---- I like em too

On the 34' trailer verses the 31' trailer ----- The parking will be less of an issue than the selection of tow vehicle. 31' is a big tow and go trailer in my opinion.

Click on the link to see a picture of the Sioux River falls near my home.
Eastern South Dakota is very pretty with hills, rivers, and trees.
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Old 06-24-2012, 09:21 AM   #3
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1977 31' Sovereign
1963 26' Overlander
1989 34' Excella
Johnsburg , Illinois
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I have a 63 26 footer, 77 31 and 89 34. In smaller state parks with trees, the 34 does not fit in some sites but if there is enough room it is not problem. It will require a bigger tow vehicle. The 26 goes anywhere but would be tight with a bunch of kids. The older the unit the more maintenance.
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Old 06-24-2012, 09:57 AM   #4
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If you plan on removing/replacing all the carpet, foam upholstery and curtains most of the smoke smell will go with it. Then it's just a matter of wiping down or painting the walls & cabinets with something like Simple Green. Should work for most except the extremely sensitive noses.

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Old 06-24-2012, 10:11 AM   #5
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1990 32' Excella
Adirondack Mountains , New York
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 113
Hello and Welcome,

We purchased an 1990 Excella, 32 footer. I had limited towing experience and after our first trip (where we had to back down a narrow, country lane around Lancaster, PA. In the dark because our GPS lead us to a closed bridge) I was glad I practiced in my 3 acre field a few times. With some practice I believe you will find it fairly easy to back up, turn corners, etc. We wanted a usable trailer right away and opted to spend a few bucks ($16K in 2005)on a used one in good condition with all systems working and I didn't want to spend $90K -$100K for a new one. Good luck on your search.

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Old 06-24-2012, 12:27 PM   #6
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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If time is an issue, then performing a complete overhaul may not be the best choice for you. I have been putting most of my weekends and evenings into a rebuild of a 21' trailer. I am 1 year into it, and have just started the reassembly (vs. tear down and repair).

I may be speaking complete heresy here, but here goes: the advantages of Airstream are a great history, an active community, and most of all, a unique aesthetic. Durability, value-holding, and quality are all quite debateable.

If your objective is to go camping in a unit that will comfortably accommodate 7 people, not be overly difficult to park, and attainable for a reasonable price, a more conventional trailer might be your best bet. In terms of cost of rennovation, it really depends on how deep you go, how much upgrading you do, and how much of the original appliances, etc. are still useable. By the time I am done with my trailer, I would guess that I will have around $10k into it on top of the purchase price. I just looked on my local craigslist and found a 2006 31ft SOB with slide-outs reported to be in "like new condition" for $11k--sleeps 10!

Not trying to talk you out of an Airstream--the debate always reminds me of someone who declares that they want a sports car. There are those folks who will meticulously restore a classic car, but won't enjoy it for years, and those who will go buy something off the lot and start enjoying immediately.

good luck!
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Old 06-24-2012, 12:59 PM   #7
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1975 31' Sovereign
Pierre , South Dakota
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 133
Sounds like you have the skills and or wiling to learn the skills to renovate an Airstream.Like others have said Airstream qualities are debatable. But they were made by humans and can be repaired/rebuilt by same.
My biggest surprise was the frame rust and evaluating the need for a new frame.
You need to SEE the condition of the frame of any Airstream before purchase.
ANY Airstream will require maintenance.
Maybe contact one of the clubs inspectors to inspect the trailer after you narrow down your prospects, but before you put your money down.
Good Luck,
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Old 06-24-2012, 01:02 PM   #8
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 6,337
Before you Buy!

Read anything with "full monte" in it. Go to Advanced Search and type in those keywords. Also go to "Frame off" as in restoring down to the frame - or even replacing the frame. Anything is possible - not everything is advisable. Oh, and how much you spend depends on how many of the kids are college material!

Next - there are volunteer inspectors who will look at a unit with you. By all means check them out!

Next - RALLY! Really. There are WBCCI and Forum rallies all over the place - (WBCCI are usually closed - some units are very fuddy-duddy but the not the 4 Corners Unit), and most will welcome prospective buyers for at least a day if not the whole rally. Most owners love to show off their units and looking at a couple of dozen different floor plans - and meeting people who have restored units can be priceless! At a big Airstream rally there are usually a couple of units for sale, or someone knows of people who have aged out of camping and have a nice unit.

NEXT - Texas has one or two "Airstream only" communities - locals chime in here! These are happy hunting grounds for good big units for sale! Also great places to visit to get more of the lowdown!

With 5 kids, I'd probably go for a 34 footer. (I'd also tow with a big 1 ton VAN or maybe a semi-tractor trailer with a sleeper cabin to have a place to hide out, tho' that could get you SIX kids!) OTOH, the 31 with the central bathroom has LOTS of advantages mainly privacy in the back bedroom and not having to crawl over or between sleepers to take a late night comfort break.

Oh, and don't forget to check the Classifieds right here for Airstreams.
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Old 06-24-2012, 01:08 PM   #9
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
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Virginia Beach , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2004
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I was IN San Antonio for a week last year. The older sections of the town apparently have NO zoning enforcement. I saw dozens of places where there were 7 to 20 trailers in a neighborhood and quite a few were old Airstreams. I also saw a very nice Silver Streak and a couple of Avions so... Get your Google Earth, and go prospecting!

There is also a dealership in Buda - not universally admired by locals - but a good place to "review basic needs, wants and must haves".

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Old 06-25-2012, 12:05 AM   #10
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1993 34' Excella
San Antonio , Texas
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 17
Taking a chance.....

Thanks for all the great input in such a short time period! Great points but I didn't see them until after we grabbed the silver! Didn't expect to act so quickly and hopefully we won't get burned.

We're going with the 34' Excella. It needs work but not the complete tear down that the oldest trailer we looked at needed. We did look at some used aluminum trailer and just didn't like the feel of the fiberglass trailers - they just felt cheap to us. We looked at some nice ones too!

Interesting part of the whole thing was the seller was from the same area in Maine as we're from and lived in the same town in Florida. Small world and all that. The day he bought the trailer he hit a parked car. Still feels pretty sick about it. There is a linear and very shallow dent over the wheel wells and the awning attachments were buggered up. The other awnings are intact and functioning.

The center rock shield needs a new gasket. Windows need new screens but open and close. Door is on tight and closes well - no water damage. Step needs repair or tightening. The areas under the beds, sink, tub, and refrigerator are dry and free of all signs of water damage. The under body was spotless. Tires appear good and are said to be less than 2yo. Middle passenger shock showed some oozing, so probably needs replacement. AC blew cold and is new. New propane tanks, batteries look fine (no corrosion/wires look good), new water heater. Bathroom works but shower wall has some peeling going on and door needs work or replacement. Center bath unit. Rear twins. Dinette. Couch with table and chair.

External top of trailer looked clean, solar panels are there, no obvious issues except for rear vent is reported to leak and needs replacement. There is a 2" area that feels like rust has formed between the wall of the trailer and the vinyl ceiling next to the leaking fan. Hopefully not major but concerning. Anyone with experience with this sign?

When speaking of the frame - I looked up the "full monte" and whoa - that would be a bit too much right now. Kids would have to run wild for a long time. That just won't do. I'll have the frame checked out and if it's in good shape - can you seal or paint corrosion prevention on from underneath?

The refrigerator stopped working in the last week or so. Has electric but won't cool. Any common issues to check?

Saw some mouse droppings and a few ants under the stove but the duct work and wiring looked intact. Anyone know how to stop the invasion? Holes to plug? Best way to get rid of ants?

'05 Tuscany Conversion van with an E350 Diesel engine. The hitch states says 10,000 lb towing capacity but only 500 for the tongue weight. PO states 800 lb tongue weight. Reinforce hitch or get bigger one? The trailer is coming with sway bars.

This is an awesome forum and I really appreciate the wise counsel!

I'll post a picture of the dent. Hoping to find someone to give it a good looking over.

Thanks again to all of you!
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Old 06-25-2012, 12:49 AM   #11
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1993 34' Excella
San Antonio , Texas
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 17
Damage to side panel

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Old 06-25-2012, 01:12 AM   #12
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 6,337
Can't help you with a lot of that, but

SHOCKS - airstream takes a special horizontal shock. There are others that fit but don't perform properly. Order from the factory or your local dealer.

REFRIGERATOR - this is a sealed Ammonia refrigerator. Should work on either propane or electricity. These refrigerators don't have a compressor or make noise like a home refrigerator, and they take quite a while to cool down. First thing to do is open the rear excess panel and have a look-see. The refrigerator plugs into a 120 outlet - and the plug could have worked itself loose over time. If the Propane is shut off, well duh! No propane. My newer unit has an ignitor that will light the burner automatically. Some older units have a pilot light that has to be turned on and lighted, so check which type you have. You could also have some debris in the side or top vent, and cleaning that out could help immensely. How to tell if your A/C is toast? If you smell ammonia, the cooling unit is gone. If there is anything greasy looking coming out of the cooling unit, its already leaked out all of the ammonia. Replacing an RV refrigerator is expensive, but several people here have successfully replaced the cooling units. Do a Search for the procedure. Also check the gaskets as they can get rigid or crack.

Good luck and happy trails. Too bad you JUST missed the restoration rally in New Mexico!


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