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Old 09-06-2011, 05:33 PM   #1
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1981 31' Excella II
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Sanity Check to Airstream or Not to Airstream?

I am trying rationalize my decision to look for a good used air stream that might be 30-40 yrs old versus buying a used conventional trailer. My rational is this. A 30-40yrs old Airstream that has been taken reasonable care of is probably in better condition than a newer more leak prone square edged trailer. Conventional trailers seem to leak and rot within a few months to years and that is why you don't see many over 10 yrs old. I am trying to stay within the $5000 price range whatever I buy. I have seen a few Airstreams and they look like they would be a little more work that I want to put into one that I am planning on using this fall. I don't mind doing some work on one but I don't want a 2yr $10000 project. I am doing this to be practical not because I am bored and want something to do. My intent is to use it till I die and not because it is trendy, cool, or whatever. I am an engineer and I respect designs that have withstood the test of time. I have done a fair amount of research on this sight so I think I know what to look for but there are always hidden problems.

So am I unrealistic in thinking I can get something for $5000 that won't be a basket case? Check for rot assuming you can get to the floor after the current owner put in flooring. Jump on the bumper to make sure the frame has not separated. Look for rust and corrosion. Check the axels to make sure that they are at least not resting on the stops. Look for big dents and signs of shade tree repairs.

I grew up with RV's and boats and ALL of them leaked and rotted. We never had an Airstream though. So my experience with square corners tells me that they will leak if not caulked on a yearly basis. I know Airstreams are not leak proof but the materials are much more tolerant of the occasional leak than untreated white pine is.

Perry
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Old 09-06-2011, 06:32 PM   #2
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My .02? We bought ours at slightly more than your budgeted price point...it leaked (and still does in really heavy downpours) but is manageable. But, I have easily dumped twice what we paid for it in parts and appliances, and if I put my own sweat equity into account, it's at least tripled, and ours was in really good condition for a 40 year old trailer who spent most of it's life in a dry area of the country. I think you might be unrealistic in the $10k thing though, because you can easily eat that up just with having to replace the major appliances (as we had to, over the course of the past year).
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Old 09-06-2011, 08:09 PM   #3
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Old Bridge , New Jersey
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I don't know, I think if you look diligently and don't give up you'll find yours. I wasn't looking to spend the amount I payed for mine but when it came up I couldn't resist and went for it. At first I had buyers remorse but now I know I made the right decision. I also did not buy it for any trendy reasons and have never met any other people who own a A/S trailer as yet. I looked at what was available and realized that a 30-40 year old trailer in good shape was better than what was being made today. I am retiring in 6 years and will have it pretty much done within that time frame and I don't have to rush because it's in pretty good condition, and I have already used it a few times.

Good luck.
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Old 09-06-2011, 08:15 PM   #4
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1981 31' Excella II
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Well I want to start with something usable not perfect. If the fridge and stove and AC work I am happy. I don't need the furnace or the hot water heater but they are nice to have. I would like the toilet to work. I don't need to replace something unless it cannot be fixed and there are very few things that can't be fixed.

Perry
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Old 09-06-2011, 08:17 PM   #5
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To Airstream or not to Airstream... is there even a question?
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Old 09-06-2011, 08:29 PM   #6
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For that money you are better off with the far better built vintage kin trailers: Avion, Silver Streak & Streamline. Because they were built in fewer numbers, featured true body-on-frame construction, the same price as paid for an A/S will deliver a trailer needing much less in the way of repairs. But I would bump my looking price to at least $8k as to asking prices. There are many good choices at that price.

I especially think the 1973-77 Avions to be of high value due to design & construction quality for the prices asked. Here's an example of one outside of Sarasota, FL for sale at present, a 1974 26' (closer to 24').

They'll all want new curtains, flooring, upholstery, beds, furnace, converter, batteries, cables, vent covers, etc. Do your homework to see what a full suite of appliances costs -- ballpark -- and then use this forum to narrow down to specific brands.

I'd recommend LT tires, disc brakes and new axles (as required; 15-years for torsion and other rubber types), shock absorbers, as well as a Maxbrake controller. Price these. As well, new breakaway switch, 7-way plus chains. A hitch no less than a Reese Dual Cam. All new LED exterior lamps. One has an obligation to make it new past a certain point, IMO, for road-worthiness.

Freeze damage can happen to any of them (more likely with A/S), and electrical should be examined for lousy repairs. The A/S Achilles Heel is frame separation, FF or RR, plus concerns about body/shell separation as well as the tongue from the frame. The advantage of an A/S is that there are so many extant, the factory is open, and there are probably three fixes for every problem.

Spending $10k is nothing when one includes in all that is necessary to tow a trailer with another vehicle (and it's changes if warranted). Too narrow a focus, I am trying to suggest (to trailer only) is misleading. Pouring a small pad at the house, making a sewer run and a 30A drop to keep it at the house, fully-functional . . . you see how things can add up.

Being specific in your thinking -- your questions -- will be of help in this thread, as I would consider $10k on a 20-year-old or 30-year-old trailer par for the course, as would many others around here. That's $10k past the purchase price. (At 40-years you are looking to start spending real money).

My folks bought their Silver Streak and kept it 27-years (with but two tow vehicles). Replaced only the awning and the furnace in that interval (outside of carpeting). That trailer was sold some years ago to another owner and it is running the roads yet.

The right one of this trailer type, well-chosen and maintained, will indeed last you a lifetime.

A new Silver Streak was the same price as the median priced American house in it's era. Buying used is a tremendous bargain, and replacing wearing components due to age or use is easily done once safety items are made brand-new. Expand your search as well as narrow your questions to specifics. Labor is the killer cost, and most of these trailers are DIY friendly (unlike rotted frame SOB's).

.
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Old 09-09-2011, 06:16 PM   #7
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1981 31' Excella II
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I think I am going to just look at Airstreams. I have just about had it with the transient nature of the SOB trailers. My newest vehicle is over 10 yrs old and I have some that are around 20 yrs old. All of them run like new but it takes some work to keep them that way. So buying something that is not going to be here on the long haul is not my style. I have considered an AVION and will keep doing so but they are few and far between.

Perry
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Old 09-09-2011, 06:32 PM   #8
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I thought I'd be able to fix mine up for 10K over purchase price but I think I was 4 or 5K low. I'm already over the 10K figure and I'm not done.
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Old 09-09-2011, 06:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by REDNAX
For that money you are better off with the far better built vintage kin trailers: Avion, Silver Streak & Streamline. Because they were built in fewer numbers, featured true body-on-frame construction, the same price as paid for an A/S will deliver a trailer needing much less in the way of repairs. But I would bump my looking price to at least $8k as to asking prices. There are many good choices at that price.

I especially think the 1973-77 Avions to be of high value due to design & construction quality for the prices asked. Here's an example of one outside of Sarasota, FL for sale at present, a 1974 26' (closer to 24').

They'll all want new curtains, flooring, upholstery, beds, furnace, converter, batteries, cables, vent covers, etc. Do your homework to see what a full suite of appliances costs -- ballpark -- and then use this forum to narrow down to specific brands.

I'd recommend LT tires, disc brakes and new axles (as required; 15-years for torsion and other rubber types), shock absorbers, as well as a Maxbrake controller. Price these. As well, new breakaway switch, 7-way plus chains. A hitch no less than a Reese Dual Cam. All new LED exterior lamps. One has an obligation to make it new past a certain point, IMO, for road-worthiness.

Freeze damage can happen to any of them (more likely with A/S), and electrical should be examined for lousy repairs. The A/S Achilles Heel is frame separation, FF or RR, plus concerns about body/shell separation as well as the tongue from the frame. The advantage of an A/S is that there are so many extant, the factory is open, and there are probably three fixes for every problem.

Spending $10k is nothing when one includes in all that is necessary to tow a trailer with another vehicle (and it's changes if warranted). Too narrow a focus, I am trying to suggest (to trailer only) is misleading. Pouring a small pad at the house, making a sewer run and a 30A drop to keep it at the house, fully-functional . . . you see how things can add up.

Being specific in your thinking -- your questions -- will be of help in this thread, as I would consider $10k on a 20-year-old or 30-year-old trailer par for the course, as would many others around here. That's $10k past the purchase price. (At 40-years you are looking to start spending real money).

My folks bought their Silver Streak and kept it 27-years (with but two tow vehicles). Replaced only the awning and the furnace in that interval (outside of carpeting). That trailer was sold some years ago to another owner and it is running the roads yet.

The right one of this trailer type, well-chosen and maintained, will indeed last you a lifetime.

A new Silver Streak was the same price as the median priced American house in it's era. Buying used is a tremendous bargain, and replacing wearing components due to age or use is easily done once safety items are made brand-new. Expand your search as well as narrow your questions to specifics. Labor is the killer cost, and most of these trailers are DIY friendly (unlike rotted frame SOB's).

.
I'm with Rednax on this one. You can pick up an Avion for that money and you'll never have to worry about the axles. If the polished look appeals to you, be sure it's pre 67. The Avion used mostly standard square interior acoutremont (sp?) so even if it's a mess inside, a trip to Home Depot and about $700 will get you new from stem to stern. Most appliances for RV's are pretty standard and there is always somebody somewhere parting out a late model SOB with parts galore. Not to try and discourage you from Airstream, but we all love our vintage kin and some of them from an engineering perspective were actually better than AS.
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