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Old 02-11-2011, 02:56 PM   #1
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1978 31' Sovereign
Oakley , California
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Unhappy Newbie...Found one to buy, Is it worth it?

Hi All,

I have caught the AS bug and stumbled upon one, via a friend of a family member. I need some guidance as it relates to his asking price, problems with the coach and possibly my alternative offer. A kind of "What would you do, if you were me" scenario I guess.



Here are the specs as I know them.
  • 1978 Sovereign 31'
  • Asking price is $3,000
  • Purchased "wrecked" 20 years ago from the original owner
  • Not sure if title is clear or a "salvage" title yet
  • I have pics, and the only damage I see was to curbside lower panel and has been covered with a 2 foot aluminum patch
  • It has sat at the same location for the past 20 years, and used as weekend hunting camp
  • Inverter is not working
  • Water heater is out
  • Kitchen faucet (a Kohler?) is "broken"?
  • Owner believes the heater and AC both work, although he says that he does not use them...he uses a space heater. - hmmm
  • 1 small leak in back somewhwere up high (he claims it weeps and drains into tub?
  • Coach has all original equipment inside
  • center twins and front pullout
  • No front window stone guard
  • Does have the awning
  • all windows are ok (not broken)
  • He cleaned carpets last year and said that they look surprisingly good
It is located several hours away from me and I don't want to waste the gas or drive time taking a looksee if the price is outa' the ballpark.

Can ya'll give me some guidance on his asking price and/or what I should offer.

I'd like to take a slow approach to renovating an AS and would like to start with something of value where there is room to make the improvements and not create a money pit with no apparent return.

I keep hearing the advice my Dad always gave me: Son, the difference between a really good used car, and a really bad used car is rarely more than a thousand bucks." - Is this coach a "good one" or a bad one" at the asking price?

Thanks in advance for your help and guidance!
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Old 02-11-2011, 03:07 PM   #2
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Welcome Phrunes,

Glad you found us.. Im sure you will get some good feedback.

Good luck

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Old 02-11-2011, 03:29 PM   #3
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Hi, Phrunes, and welcomes to airforums.com!

I would ask what you want to do with that trailer. Is it to travel in or as a cabin to visit? If you want to travel in it, a wild guess is that you could well need a minimum of $5k to well over $10k in parts and repairs.

All the appliances, plus some plumbing and electrical, and then, if it has sat for 20 years, axles and frame are highly suspect. That maximum could quickly become a minimum.

Another problem is that it would need a lot that work (not the appliances) just to get it home to start and clean it up.

My own opinion is that unless you are a handyman and are really comfortable with tearing stuff down to rebuild, keep looking. You will find a good, ready-to-roll one in the $10k - $15k range no problem.

But keep reading, I'm not the only one with an opinion on that kind of stuff here

ps: there are two popular configurations of that type of trailer: one with the bathroom in the rear, the other with the bedroom in the rear. They each have an advantage: rear bath gives you a very large bathoom, rear bed gives you and any guests more privacy for those nocturnal runs to the loo...
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Old 02-11-2011, 03:41 PM   #4
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I think Dad was right. A few thousand more at the beginning makes a big difference.

Or, you could just buy this one, which looks like a pretty well-done trailer, given the list of upgrades. It's probably a good touchpoint of the upper end of a restored 70s Sovereign. Having done a restoration on a vintage trailer, paying upfront for a well done trailer is something of a bargain, because you seldom get all of the $$ back...

Good luck hunting!

Tom
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Old 02-11-2011, 03:42 PM   #5
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Sounds high for one that has just sat as a hunting camp for 20 years - especially with the issues mentioned.

Check out this "Price vs Condition" guide to get a better idea of it's condition/value. My guess is the fair price should be in the <$2400 "AS FOUND" range...especially with a salvage or no title!

Long late 70's Airstreams are pretty plentiful...this friend of a friend deal doesn't sound like it is one to me.

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Old 02-11-2011, 03:47 PM   #6
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Phrunes first of all welcome to the forums. Aluminitus as it's called is an incurable disease but it is not terminal and you can live a full and productive life as long as you have frequent exposure to a/s. LOL.
Seriously from what you describe about this trailer I would not consider it ready to use and make improvements as you go. No matter what you spend you will not get it back on resale. It's the same as classic cars, they never sell for as much as you spend restoring them.
Let's cover a few basics, it's 33 yrs old and has been sitting for 20 yrs. The basic substructure will most probably need extensive repairs to make it safe and roadworthy. No matter what the seller tells you it is leaking. They all leak. The rear bath 31 ft model is especially prone to a condition called "rear end seperation". All a/s are prone to leaks from the rear bumper area causing the floor to rot and the frame to rust out. Combining this leaking with the extra weight of the rear bath and waste holding tanks can have the result of the shell of the trailer seperating from the floor/frame combination. If you go to inspect it bounce up and down on the rear bumper and look to see if the body moves away from the rear frame and bumper. Check the floor all around the perimeter of the shell where it meets the walls and look for rot, especially below all windows,doors and any other openings in the body. Look at the aluminium belly for signs of corrosion around the attaching rivets. If it appears severly corroded or the belly has separated from the frame that is a sure sign that the frame is severely rusted out.
On to the axles which are probably original (33yrs old and sitting for 20 yrs). They will need to be replaced at a cost of between $500 to $750 each depending where you buy them. New tires $100 each and maybe rims also $40 each. So safe running gear will cost you $1600 to $2000.
A total frame rebuild will run you upwards of $2000 unless you can weld it yourself and then it will still be close to $1000.
A new floor will cost $500 to $1000 for materials alone depending on the type of materials you choose.
Now on to appliances
Water heater $500
Furnace $800 don't trust the old one.
A/C $800
Fridge $1200
Stove probably works fine, seldom does anything go wrong with them but is you want to update another $500.
Power converter and battery $250
Propane tanks and regulator $250
So you could conceivably dump another $4300 to $5000 making it usable.
All totalled you may spend $10000 to make this trailer ready to use and that is if you do all the labor yourself.Triple that cost and add it to the parts if you pay for the labor making it now $40000.
Ask yourself do I want to spend that much money,time and effort on this type of restoration or just look for something newer and usable now. That will be your decision and yours alone. I'm not trying to discourage you but just let you know what it takes. I am currently doing a 73 31ft model that I already owned and plan to spend $30000 on the full restoration with the full knowledge that if I sell it I would be lucky to get half that back. That is my choice.
If you want my opinion it is worth maybe $1000 if the shell is in fantastic condition and worth a restortaion. 70's 31 fters are not highly sought after models and therfore not of any great value for resale. Now a 50's 18 fter is a whole other kettle of fish. They are desirable and have significant value regardless of condition.
Anyway this is long enough for one post and others will offer their advice and opinions as well. Good luck and let us know what you decide.
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Old 02-11-2011, 05:34 PM   #7
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It sounds like a big pile of junk. I think you can do a lot better for $3,000.
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Old 02-11-2011, 07:00 PM   #8
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Thank you all. Sage advice for sure. I planned on actually using it. I'm pretty handy. It's a west coast trailer. I plan on keeping it forever. Does this make an offer of $2,400 reasonable? I'll post a pic of the exterior and possibly some of the interior if I get them soon. Thank you all again.
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Old 02-11-2011, 07:00 PM   #9
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I bought a 1976 Sovereign last June that was licensed and had been used regularly. If the seller had paid me $3,000 to take it I'd have lost money. For entertainment for the rest of the summer, I'da been way ahead if I'da just paid the biggest guy in town $100 a day to come out and just beat the crap outa me. It wouldn'ta hurt any worse than working on that Airscream every day the next three months.
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Old 02-11-2011, 07:05 PM   #10
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Picture of the 78 Prospect AS Trailer

Here it is...overall, what do ya'll think?
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Old 02-11-2011, 07:12 PM   #11
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Much better than what I imagined.
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Old 02-11-2011, 07:39 PM   #12
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That is not a 78. The door hinge is a giveaway. It is a 71 - 73 based on the door handle and a few other things.

The items of concern are really not visible in the picture. The quads are hiding the axles and the other major concern is the rear bumper to shell connection. Standing on the rear bumper will tell you a lot.

What you can see looks good, but a good inspection will tell you much more.
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Old 02-11-2011, 08:03 PM   #13
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Phrunes that shell looks pretty good from the one picture. IMO I would offer $1500 and be prepared to go to $2000. Start with a low bid, you can always go up. It's hard to lower your offer once made. Do you have any other pictures you can post?
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Old 02-11-2011, 08:38 PM   #14
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I love the big old trailers.. Beasts!
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