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Old 08-15-2014, 03:30 PM   #15
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2005 30' Classic
Burlington , Ontario
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I can't comment personally from experience with Airstream restoration - I opted to buy a used but fairly new one.

But I do have some experience in restoring old Brit sports cars. In that field the wisdom seems to be that unless you want to do it for the experience, you are better off financially using one someone else has restored - always provided of course that they have done a decent job!

I didn't heed that info and restored several old sports cars only to have them be worth abut half what I invested! It was fun, I learned a lit and developed some new skills and had the satisfaction of doing it, but I wouldn't do another!

I suspect restoring old Airstreams might be in the same category.

So I think it depends what you want out of it - if you intend keeping it a long time, it still could be the way for you to go. You would have the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself and could work to the levee of quality that you are satisfied with.


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Old 08-16-2014, 10:21 AM   #16
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If you are going to see the '69 Ambassador in Winnetka that is on as well as ebay (for a long time, BTW), a couple of observations:

No where in his long description are crucial mechanicals: axles, fridge, ac, furnace, listed as "replaced" or "newer."

More importantly, there is not a single syllable about any work on the subfloor or frame. If I recall correctly (please correct me if I'm wrong on this 'Streamers), a design change beginning in this model year made floor rot and frame issues very common--almost universal in our midwest climate. Plus, the seller has added a lot of weight in the remodel and without reinforcing the frame that makes me very uneasy.

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Old 08-16-2014, 11:07 AM   #17
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Then there's the two huge dents...
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Old 08-16-2014, 02:56 PM   #18
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Portsmouth , Virginia
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If you look at the one pic of the streetside, you will also see some rust staining on the frame just forward of the bumper and it looks like there is a bit of a gap between the sheet metal and top of the frame that might indicate some rear end separation.

Other things to note are no awnings, the top of the wheels is about even with the side of the aluminum which most likely points to old axles.

Fridge and stove are newer, looks like lots of newer woodwork. Not sure if I would want to fill up that tub with what it would do to the frame.

It shows well enough in the pictures, but if nothing has been done either structurally with the frame or the axles are original, then I think it is overpriced. (especially with two huge dents).

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Old 08-18-2014, 07:40 AM   #19
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A couple of thoughts...

"Is it worth it?" - Yes, for many it is a labor of love! As others have mentioned, if it is a labor of love for you and you don't plan on "making money on it" when it's time to sell, it can be worth it.

"Major renovation while living in it" - this is tough. It really depends on how major of a renovation you are undertaking and your tolerance for living in a construction zone and "without" while working on it. (Sounds like you may have a high tolerance for these based on your comments about living in a tent, etc.) Start with the best trailer you can find - and avoid the full-monty style restorations.

"Winter living during the Illinois" - This one is to me could be a deal-breaker. Winter conditions in a tent - without options? Is this really do-able? Maybe being an outdoorsman from working on road crews & in construction makes for a hearty lifestyle, but that seems a bit much. During a major renovation an Airstream is not much more than a hard-sided at times, it's even less. Again, this will depend on the starting condition of the trailer and to what level it needs to be disassembled.

"Full-Time Living in an Illinois" - Even in a new Airstream this is going to be a challenge through the winter months. Airstreams are really intended as three-season trailers. In addition to reading through the "full-monty restoration threads" I would also suggest you hit a few of the "winter-living threads". Issues that will need to be dealt with are insulation, humidity and water/tanks freezing up. One of my "favorites" is this oldie but goodie Winter Living by Rubyslipper Airstreams are not insulated like a house and most have exposed water lines that will freeze.

"Place to park near Chicago" - If you are considering a pre-1974 trailer, you will need full sewer hookups as they didn't have any grey water tanks and dealing with a blue-boy on a full-time basis will get real old, real quick.

All that being said, it is do-able, won't be with challenges. If you have a back-up plan for getting through the restoration and severe winter conditions, you will end up with an Airstream to live &/or travel in and hopefully to be proud of when you are done. Good luck!

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Old 08-18-2014, 10:56 PM   #20
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We wanted an Airstream then got sticker shock for gutted roaches. So we ended up with a Streamline. Similar, but cheaper since they are less popular.

But if you're a contractor you can easily live in one while fixing it. As long as the floor is solid and you don't have to rip it out, the rest can be fixed in stages.

I taught myself how to use PEX and did the plumbing in a weekend.

A new furnace took me a week (a few hours a day, working full time, etc).

I'm into ours well under $10k, and could probably get what we have into it if we had to sell. But then it was in great shape when we bought it. 2 owner, stored in a barn, all electrics and plumbing still worked.
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Old 08-19-2014, 05:56 AM   #21
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I probably have more in my trailer than it is worth but I know what I fixed will stay fixed and I know the trailer inside and out and can fix most things on the fly if I have to. I have spares for all the stuff I fixed. Even a new trailer is going to take maintenance.

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Old 08-19-2014, 06:19 AM   #22
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Our first Airstream was a very used 1977. We were able to use it after a few minor fixes. We worked on it and enjoyed it at the same time. We did not full time, though.
We then purchased a more gently used Airstream that had some options we wanted.
Our current AS we bought new. Knowing what we know now, we might have opted to keep the old one and do a total renovation. At the time we didn't have the time or money to do that.
There are plenty of ways to do it and you will find one that works for you.
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Old 08-19-2014, 07:10 AM   #23
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a voice of dissension:

"Is buying vintage and fixing it up worth it?"

If you have to ask if it's "worth it" then maybe it's not.

For us, there was no question if it was "worth it."

my restoration & travel blog:
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Old 08-19-2014, 08:05 AM   #24
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Everything Shari says is right on. My biggest thought about any aging steel in Illinois is it's rust rotted. For a place to park there is a fair RV park in Marengo with a few full hookup sites available. It's mostly a park model park.
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Old 08-20-2014, 12:31 PM   #25
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1969 Ambas Is it worth it?

I have a 1969 Ambassador mid twins. If you look at my threads you can get a good feel for what may need to be done. Feel free to IM me if you want to chat, I'll give you my phone number.
Some things to look out for, and noted above. Rear end floor and frame rot. The back seal between the bumper trunk and body leak, letting water seep into the floor. I had to replace the about three feet of the main rails back, and out riggers, and 4 feet of floor. Also the front Frame from the front door forward. The big question for any of these is what kind of shape is the frame in. The inside will look great, but if the floor and frame is rusted out it will be a bunch of work.
To check for rear frame separation/ Rot, put you foot on the rear bumper and push down. Is there is any movement between the body and bumper then there is problems. They should be bolted together tight and move as one.
Now with that said, if you are living in a camp group with bath house I would not worry about it too much. Just make sure they are ok with you working on it in their camp ground. It can get messy.
Looking back, the most import thing to look for is a clean shell. As few dents as possible.
Not all those who wonder are lost.
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Old 08-20-2014, 12:39 PM   #26
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I also want to point out that vintage trailers are becoming all the rage, and the value of a finished trailer will be much higher than it was just ten years ago.
"Let's look Death in the face and say, 'Whatever man.'"
~ Hurley

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Old 08-20-2014, 12:52 PM   #27
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And while it's been ten years since we bought it and we're just now getting ready to finally get our act together and put the shell back on (life got in the way) I can tell you from experience that you'll meet cool people and have SO MUCH fun. We went on a trip to Disneyland, and one forums member came to pick my family and me up from the airport and drive us shopping and to our hotel and hadn't met us in person ONCE. I've been to many Airstream rallies, the Vintage Restoration event, and just had so much fun in general. We have not been able to travel in our Airstream once yet. It's like having a low-paying job that's fun. The benefits aren't necessarily visible. Look how many friends you've already made!

From my experience the members are very supportive here to those who don't know what on earth they're doing.

I don't know how long you are willing to wait, but attending this would be perfect for you. the 2014 one is over but there will probably be another one 2015. We went, and got lots of great information and you will get a first-hand look at what it takes to fix one up.
"Let's look Death in the face and say, 'Whatever man.'"
~ Hurley

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Old 08-20-2014, 01:40 PM   #28
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We had our AS appraised this spring: she appraised for $16,000 more than we had spent. And, we're not even done yet. Is it worth it? Financially, if you do it right, YES. We have done full monty, and don't count our labor as part of the cost.


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