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Old 03-16-2015, 02:50 PM   #1
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Looking, 31' 1978 Sovereign

Hello everyone, I finally made an account after using your forum for years... watching your renovations and absorbing. I am finally looking for an airstream of my own to completely renovate.

My goal is to buy a 70's era 31' Airstream. Then gut and remodel it from the ground up (im assuming there will be subfloor replacement no matter what, and wiring as I want to install solar). I have the skills, tools, covered area, and time at my disposal. Working from home gives me the flexibility to dedicate atleast 1-2 weeks a month on this project.

On wednesday I am looking at the first prospect- however I am not in a rush. It is a 31' 1978 sovereign. It is a centerbath (possibly has less of an issue with frame flex?) which I like. The shell looks good, no major dents on any panels, only some mini rock dents on the pan edges. The owner said there is rot on the back bedroom floor, and the bathroom floor is "soft". I am assuming the worst- however I have planned on it. My question to you is this (I could not decice this frol forum searches or classifieds)- What is a fair price for a trailer that needs significant subfloor work, but has a decent, recently sealed (any guess as to how well it was done) shell?

No matter what, a dented up shell bothers me... but electrical, wood, and rivets dont- I know I can fix these things. The seller is asking 5k, no previous history- other than they think it came from a dryer climate and it was going to be a reno project but money troubles have changed things.

Any insight would be greatly appriciated.

Thoughts?
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Old 03-17-2015, 10:50 AM   #2
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1979 31' Excella 500
Florida , Florida
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Welcome!


I wouldn't pay more than half that 2500ish. I paid 2900 for mine. 79 center bath (started at 3200) at the time I was super excited and maybe too unwilling to walk away. Mine has the same issues rear frame rust from excessive water leaks. My rear floor was basically gone.

Your correct you'll be replacing the entire subfloor and some frame work depending on how bad the rust is.

Check out my restoration thread.
Like I say "there isn't a single thing on this trailer that I'm not going to repair, replace, or restore."

Make sure you can get the title too,
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Old 03-17-2015, 11:33 AM   #3
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1977 31' Sovereign
Stuart , Florida
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My wife and I bought a 1976 31' Sovereign (center bath) for $3000. I am replacing the front and rear 4' of the floor. Take a good look at the frame (or what you can see of it). We saw a "little" rust on the frame and thought it would not take much to fix it. Turns out there was a lot more frame rot than we expected. Also we we are replacing the brake actuator and some of the brake lines. It sounds like a lot of work but I still feel $3000 was a good deal.
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Old 03-17-2015, 11:34 AM   #4
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Actually it is a 1977 Sovereign. You think I would know the year of my Airstream!
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Old 03-17-2015, 02:44 PM   #5
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Thank you for the input! I decided today to stop and knock on the door of the owner of an airstream close to my family's home. Just asked if the owner had ever considered selling it - he said, "from time to time". He said, "Is it worth 10k to you?" (I hope he doesn't expect to get that for it unless its really a solid trailer..) Never being stored in-doors I'd imagine the windows have been leaking for years.

I live in Central Michigan and so things get pretty cold in the winter, and this thing has been sitting in his yard for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I'd see it on the way to school every day and thought one day I'd own one. Why not ask?

It is a 1978 Land Yacht Ambassador, and from what I can tell it is a 28' based on the models released that year. After 5pm today I am taking a look at it - I plan on taking tons of pictures and looking over it inside and out very closely (inside cabinets, looking for soft spots on the floor, etc)

He said he has done a lot of work on it over the years and is the original owner of the camper. Once I know more I'll post up some pictures with concerns and questions!

One thing I noticed right away was the shell was in almost perfect condition (besides the aluminum being faded and in need of a polish). It also has rock guards on the front that are aftermarket (wonder if they are hiding something...?) Overall first glance it looked really good on the outside. Excited to see the inside.

--Joel
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Old 03-17-2015, 02:52 PM   #6
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1968 30' Sovereign
Rockford , Michigan
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Hi Joel, Sounds like lots of fun ahead for you.... I'm also in GR, and last July 4th bought my '68 31' Sovereign knowing it would need a shell-off restoration. If you are interested in connecting, PM me. My frame is currently next to my shell in my barn, waiting for warmer weather to coat with POR 15. I'd be happy to show you what I have done.....
Mark
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Old 03-17-2015, 03:50 PM   #7
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1976 31' Sovereign
Oswego , Illinois
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Smile buyimg AS

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelscott View Post
Thank you for the input! I decided today to stop and knock on the door of the owner of an airstream close to my family's home. Just asked if the owner had ever considered selling it - he said, "from time to time". He said, "Is it worth 10k to you?" (I hope he doesn't expect to get that for it unless its really a solid trailer..) Never being stored in-doors I'd imagine the windows have been leaking for years.

I live in Central Michigan and so things get pretty cold in the winter, and this thing has been sitting in his yard for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I'd see it on the way to school every day and thought one day I'd own one. Why not ask?

It is a 1978 Land Yacht Ambassador, and from what I can tell it is a 28' based on the models released that year. After 5pm today I am taking a look at it - I plan on taking tons of pictures and looking over it inside and out very closely (inside cabinets, looking for soft spots on the floor, etc)

He said he has done a lot of work on it over the years and is the original owner of the camper. Once I know more I'll post up some pictures with concerns and questions!

One thing I noticed right away was the shell was in almost perfect condition (besides the aluminum being faded and in need of a polish). It also has rock guards on the front that are aftermarket (wonder if they are hiding something...?) Overall first glance it looked really good on the outside. Excited to see the inside.

--Joel
In my opinion $10.000 for 28 ft. is about normal unless exc. cond. also rock guards on front could be he didn't want road rash, you can see behind them and see if any large rock dents as they hide them very well, as far as his price he has had long time no's what has been done. Clear coat fade normal, one to check is end caps inside as those years prone to crack esp. when sitting out side, rock dents in lower wraps unless big dents normal, they can be replaced only prob. they are plastic now not alum. Shell almost perfect cond. huge asset. Also is orig. cond. no geegaws hanging, mods to insides. If the one you are looking if has orig. univolt conv. plan on replacing w/3 stage or 4 stage conv. they are not exp. If you pm me or call 630 292 9409 I can explain what to look for some and hidden things. To many to list here Bill
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Old 03-17-2015, 08:07 PM   #8
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1978 31' Sovereign
Hot Springs , Arkansas
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Welcome to the forum!
My 78 had the typical issues, a couple of soft areas in the credenza area being the worst of them. If everything else is in good shape 2500-3500 would be fair. Either way you go they will all need something done to get it back into shape.
The smaller AS's command a higher price, and most people would prefer to pull a shorter, smaller rig. I am really glad I found mine locally, and am the 2nd owner.
It had been parked for years, and was used for storage. I took it home for 1500.
I hope you can get a good deal too.
Clayton
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Old 03-18-2015, 01:40 AM   #9
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Thank you for the insight guys, he was out today and so I couldn't look at it like I had planned, however later this week is looking good. Mark, I would love to see what you have done, i'll get in touch via PM this week.

Bill, Thanks for the input, ill give you a call, would love to pick your brain on things to look for when I get out there.

He is the only owner of the trailer and really if he wanted to sell I guess he would have put it up online or put a for-sale sign on it, which would make me thing the rock guards are just rock guards.

Cheers,
--Joel
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Old 03-18-2015, 06:34 PM   #10
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Hey everyone, I had a chance today to look at two separate airstreams. The first was a 1978 31' Sovereign Center bath. The shell was in pretty good shape, but the interior was a mess. There was significant floor rotting in the rear, and it looked like someone had installed some electrical by drilling through the subfloor and compromised the lower flashing on the back of the trailer. Most of the rot was from window leaking.

The guy that owned it was asking 5k obo. He had used a clear sealer on the exterior on most of the windows, but did not finish sealing the top vents, door and other areas. From what I've seen and read, he used the wrong sealant and it was very poorly applied.

The second trailer I looked at was a 1978 Ambassador, rear bath, with the two bed configuration. This trailer has literally been sitting since I first spotted it back when I was in highschool (1999ish). I wouldn't be surprised if it sat previous to that. Seems like they used it for 10 - 20 years then parked it and never used it again. They are a very old couple and my guess is they just can't travel like they used too.

The exterior of the trailer is undamaged, and in my novice opinion is in excellent shape for how old it is. Compared to some other trailers I've seen. I couldn't find a single dent in the lower skin, or upper.

I took a ton of photo's inside and out. I was able to peak down the sides of the couch at the front and found significant water damage on both sides (and I'd assume the entire front perimeter behind the couch is also junk).

The rear bath sub-floor was partly visible from the rear hatch, and noticed it was fragmented and crumbling, also needing replacing. I'd imagine the frame has significant rust in these areas.

The undercarriage of the trailer seemed like it was untouched, wheel wells were not rusted through yet, however had plenty of surface rust.

I am uploading pictures to my dropbox and will share more once they finish.

I guess my question to you all is this, how much would you pay for a trailer in this condition (I know its worth nowhere near 10k..)? The shell is in great shape (or is it?), and I plan on completely gutting and doing frame restoration and new sub-floor - shell off.

Any insight is greatly appreciated!
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Old 03-18-2015, 07:15 PM   #11
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Here is a link to the pictures of the 28' Ambassador. What do you guys think?

https://carousel.dropbox.com/photos/cc/fhDUmTI57YmWH7O
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Old 03-18-2015, 09:49 PM   #12
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1978 31' Sovereign
Hot Springs , Arkansas
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Given the choice between the Sovereign and the Ambassador, I would go with the Ambassador. (although I do like the 2 closets in the Sovereign). The soft areas behind the couch are more than likely due to the built in leak at the skin/frame junction. A leak at the Winegard antenna will cause soft areas along the street side and curbside walls. The pics are typical of the general state of repair of a 37 year old AS.
My floor is soft in a few places up front, but not enough to cause me to loose sleep, and whoever inherits it can fix it. The high traffic areas are rock solid as is the entrance. As for demolition and replacement, if you have the tools, and patience, replacing the floor is pretty much straight forward. There are a gazillion posts of rip-outs and replacements.
Now this is a wild guess on my part, but from what I can see of the Ambassador, 3,500-5 thousand would be about right. The Sovereign as you described it sounds like a headache.
Clayton
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Old 03-19-2015, 12:29 PM   #13
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Thanks for looking at it. Also I'm not sure if you noticed, but there have clearly been rodents living in the couch... so there must be a way into the camper as it is. Right after walking in I could smell a strong mold odor. What do you think about the windows? In one or two of the shots you can see this orange sappy looking stuff between the panes on the outer perimeter. Is this melted uv protection or something seeping out of the rubber seals? Also there are a few of the smaller upper windows that clearly have the peeling that is common in these older trailers.

The floor was actually wet on the sides of the couch, It felt like the floor was soaked in those areas. The snow has been melting rapidly for the last 2 weeks and my guess is the snow on the top has found its way inside (for years).

Just finished reading about the gantry shell off rig, that is the route I'd go with this - seems like the best option.. just wish I could see what the frame looks like without buying it.. but that is a risk i'd have to take I guess. Doubt the owner would let me pop some rivets and look at the area under the couch!

May have to take the chance at insulting him and offering 3 - 3.5k, I don't think I'd pay any more than that.

-Joel
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Old 03-19-2015, 12:46 PM   #14
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great photos, they tell a lot. I would think that Ambassador is no more than a $6-7000 unit needing all kinds of interior repairs and such. The skin looks good and that helps. The rear bedroom Sovereign is a favorite design of many owners, but if you are going to gut it, that probably doesn't matter. Best of luck to you
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