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Old 07-08-2013, 10:51 PM   #1
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Wanted: wisdom and experience. And a trailer lifestyle

My wife and I have three kids. 4,2, and one. Yep and we want to travel. My youngest was born a preemie but is slowly growing out of some medical setbacks.

I'm looking to find a cheap project trailer that I can put 200-300 dollars into regularly to get rolling over time. How can you help, you ask?

Guide me in choosing a year & model that would suit a growing five person family. (these kids are small) My current TV would be my Tahoe, but I'm open to changing eventually. I've been lurking around everything on the web and in print Airstream related. My reading tells me I'd love a new 27 FB or 30 bunk. Haha. That's not an option. For now. My thoughts are leading me to 60s model projects and there are some Ambassadors and an Overlander available nearby needing overhaul. Am I headed in the right direction?

Restoration doesn't scare me, but uncovering that giant hidden cost once I get this thing to my backyard does. What are the no compromise things I should look for knowing I want to do work, but not pay for absurd repairs? Yes this would preferably need to be a backyard endeavor.

Thanks in advance for the encouragement and inspiration.
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Old 07-08-2013, 11:20 PM   #2
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Howdy!

Tall question.

Get and read the book "The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming"... Read it a couple times.

Read as much as possible on this site.

In other words, do homework which it seems you are ready to engage... Good!

Check Craigslist and other sites, even eBay. Look at what is offered and prices to gauge the value for your $ or $$$..$$$$$$$?

Decide whether you will live with basic functionality and write it down with your loving dear wife (DW).

Kids don't remain "small"... If your target is to have one trailer which you build up/repair, do you want bunkhouse or what?

Lots of questions? This is nothing. You are just starting...and by asking questions you are ahead of me!!!

I would seek folks in Richardson area and see if you can help work on their AS or Argosy, etc. this will give you a hands on to help choose what is best for you and your family.

Hope your children continue to thrive!

Peace
Channing
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Old 03-26-2015, 12:48 PM   #3
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The hunt continues. Tent camping in Texas wears on my wife. She is up for some remodeling work though.

I'm leaning towards the mid to long 60s models needing total restoration. Anybody ever converted an Overlander or longer to a front dinette with mid bunks? Or twin bunks on both sides (quads)?
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Old 03-26-2015, 03:29 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oneshot View Post
.

I'm looking to find a cheap project trailer that I can put 200-300 dollars into regularly to get rolling over time. How can you help, you ask?
Sorry, but this is a fictional trailer that does not exist, one cannot have cheap and project together in any sentence about an airstream. I am doing an, in what in my opinion is an affordable restoration and I literally spend that amount of money or more every one or two weeks have been for the last 7 months. And I am doing every bit (with the help of my other half) in house so not paying market rate for anyone to do anything.

With that many kidlets, buy the best you can possibly afford. And as the previous poster pointed out make sure they can grow into it. I know this first hand as my three outgrew mine.

Happy hunting and make use of the inspectors feature on this site to see if anyone on here lives near you and is able to do an inspection before you buy.
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Old 03-26-2015, 04:03 PM   #5
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Concur with the Sign Lady. I don't think you are being realistic with looking at a cheap airstream that you only put in 2-300 at a time. If you were to add a zero to either of those numbers that is more realistic in terms of annual expenses with an old trailer you are trying to rehab. Assume you were to find an older 60-70's vintage trailer for 5 grand. Chances are it will have some rot somewhere in the floor and need one or more major appliances replaced. If you look at my blog, You'll see that I am on the third year of rework with the first taking most of a year of part time work. You have little kids, you want to be camping with them, not spending every weekend working on the trailer wondering what you got yourself into.

For cheap, buy a tent camper as a starter and see if you like it. Don't buy new, depreciation is worse than a car. After a couple of years, you get your feet wet and can then upgrade as finances improve and the kids get older.
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Old 03-26-2015, 04:47 PM   #6
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Oneshot,
When we started with our first campers in the early 70s, I found ones that had good bones and made them nice and camped with the family and worked thru improvements at the same time. After a couple of years, sold for a little profit and got something better and worked on it while we used it. I always had a list of "to do's" but the kids grew up camping and that's a good thing. It wasn't till camper 5 or 6 that it was something nice enough to just do maintenance. After a Holiday Rambler 5th we got our first AS last year...an 03 Classic 31. Just a little suggestion would be to also look for an 80s or early 90s Holiday Rambler that needs TLC as that era of HRs were excellent quality. Aluminum framed so structure held up well. You can replace appliances easily. Get something affordable
you can pull with current TV and work your way up. Camp while they are little...you'll never be sorry. Our kids are grown, have their own families and love to camp.
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Old 03-26-2015, 05:21 PM   #7
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Mid 60's units don't have a grey water tank. Which I would consider to be necessary with children.
I have a '74 Argosy 26' with a front dinette which makes into a bed. It is a center twin with a rear bath.
It is ready to camp.
I would consider selling it for the right price.
If interested. Send me a PM with your email address and I will fill you in on the details of what has been done to the coach in the last 5 years.
Again! It is ready for travel. Just load it up. Hitch it up and you are on your way.


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Old 03-26-2015, 05:26 PM   #8
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Phew, I knew I came to the right place for the wisdom and experience part. A little update to the original post:

-This summer the kids will be 6, 4 and 3. The little guy is very healthy now, praise God.

-When I said $200-300 regularly I didn't mean every other month. I meant every paycheck equal to ~$7800/yr. In addition a few bonus big investments a year could easily happen when necessary. The idea would be for my 'DW' and I to do most/all labor. We are handy and confident. (Just finished gutting and remodeling Kitchen incl. woodwork, electrical, all new fixtures, plumbing repairs, etc.) I'm less cheap now except that I do work myself rather than hire out whenever possible.

-The time investment for us would vary, but the house projects we've completed have been bonding experiences for us. We were expecting to spend a full day once a week together on this project. We also don't have expectations on readiness. Ideally I'll put together a working garage in my backyard to keep the project close.

-We traded the Tahoe for a Suburban 2500 with the Vortec 8100. I suspect many will confirm this will more than suffice as a TV.

We would continue taking annual+ family vacations/camping trips while under construction via other means. Call me crazy, but I in fact do want to spend my spare time and money working on replacing rotted floors, bad rivets, and installing new appliances.

To answer some other questions and advice:
-I've read "The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming" and "Restoring a Dream" in addition to even more web research since the original post.
-I setup a couple craigslist IFTTT filters to notify me of sales posted for months now.
-We've been to a couple RV shows to sample the market
-I've got multiple friends with campers, TT, and one 5th wheel I've been annoying with questions. I don't think a tent camper would be worlds better than our current tent camping level.

I truly appreciate the thoughtful comments. I learn from them all.
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Old 03-26-2015, 05:32 PM   #9
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I have a 1970 overlander with rear end sag, tore the rear bath out and then got my globetrotter and been working on it so the overlander is just sitting. $6000 but I am in Montana. Are we allowed to advertise?
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Old 03-26-2015, 06:03 PM   #10
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IMHO you want it all, a cheap Airstream with a great frame, floor and shell, that needs work, but you can still use all the time to travel........Do I have that all covered?

You might just come across such a rare beast but don't count on it. Trailers with good frames, floors and shells tend to have good interiors and exteriors and command big dollars. Trailers that are cheap usually are already gutted and need a lot of work to become usable, so you wouldn't be able to travel immediately.

I think you need to prioritize your priorities. What do you value most, soundness, immediate use, cost and hours labour needed to work on it.

I for example valued mechanical and frame soundness when I bought my 310 turbo diesel. The interior was complete but needed updating. I completely missed the rotted subfloor as it had been successfully covered up and it was the end of a dry spell when I looked at it. I spent almost $20,000 buying the coach and lost a years use renovating the inside but I wouldn't trade the coach or the experience for all the tea in China. The reno took almost every weekend and three solid weeks to complete.

Cheers
Tony
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:27 PM   #11
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Um, I want a repairable restoration, not a miracle. I am willing to totally disassemble, replace floor, get frame welds fixed etc for the right end solution. The shell in complete form would be ideal.
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:52 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oneshot View Post
Um, I want a repairable restoration, not a miracle. I am willing to totally disassemble, replace floor, get frame welds fixed etc for the right end solution. The shell in complete form would be ideal.
Whats your time-frame for all this work? A shell off would take quite a while, maybe over a year of part time work or more. In the interim, you have lots of mess, parts all over the place and no camping.

If the priority is to get going with camping, look for trailers that have been reworked or are fairly new. Long term the money may not be that much more than starting with cheap and putting it all in yourself. It's way too easy to underestimate what work is needed and overestimate how quickly it will get done.
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Old 03-26-2015, 07:56 PM   #13
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New name for this thread:
wanted: encouragement, support, tips, lessons learned, expect to pay $___ figures, do this - not that, etc.

Some folks seem a bit mad this stuff costs money I guess. Let's just get past the fact it'll cost more than I expect and take way longer so we can talk about fun stuff.
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Old 03-26-2015, 08:01 PM   #14
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Whats your time-frame for all this work? A shell off would take quite a while, maybe over a year of part time work or more. In the interim, you have lots of mess, parts all over the place and no camping.

If the priority is to get going with camping, look for trailers that have been reworked or are fairly new. Long term the money may not be that much more than starting with cheap and putting it all in yourself. It's way too easy to underestimate what work is needed and overestimate how quickly it will get done.

Thanks for the thoughts. We don't have a due date. I'm expecting a shell off could easily take 1-2+ years if I went that route. We will continue occasional tent camping and other forms of travel until ready. I kinda like the idea of the work and to get a trailer closer to what we need/want I think it could be a significant savings.
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