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Old 11-08-2007, 10:18 PM   #1
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1978 23' Safari
High Mountains , Colorado
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Rescuing 1975 Ambassador

This is going to have some ups, and it's going to have some major downs.

I was offered the chance to "recover" an unidentified Airstream that had been several years abandoned in the woods. Without much thought I "volunteered" and packed up spare wheels, jacks, shovels, etc. and navigated to the location. It didn't look too bad at first--two wheels missing, some major frame modifications, but basically an intact 29' Amabassador.

The down was that it was full of dried nesting material and poop--squirel, chukkar, rat, mice, whatever? And it turned out the nesting material had it share of cactus thorns, so not only was it disgusting, it was painful to remove.

Here's the result: A normal Ambassador with Zip Dee...

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The kitchen counter is exactly the same as the Sovereign. Nice big fridge next to a four-shelf (plus floor) panty that you can't see or get anything from the back. The rear twin beds have an interesting table between them that has a pull-out that could be used to play cards or run a laptop.

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The dinette area is where the 2' in the Sovereign are missing, making it more like a 27' Overlander. However, the 29' Ambassador is unique in the 50" window on the street side and the 20" window on the curb side and just a straight couch under the front window.

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In contrast to the kitchen picture above, which has been hosed down with a high pressure car wash wand, here is the bathroom with all the encrusted rodent urine. Keep in mind that even the hosed down front is still digusting, you just can't see it, but at least the carpet and pad have been removed, along with all the outer fabric around the foam.

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The exterior also has major problems, beginning with the missing banana skins aft of the wheel whells on both sides. The missing skins expose significant corrosion of the frame outriggers, like salt water was captured inside the skin and corroded the bottoms of the outriggers mostly away. In addition, the frame aft of the axles has been modified with a very heavy steel addition, enging in a new (and grotesque [to me]) bumper locker.

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In the photo of the corroded outriggers you can also see that the access door hinge has been modified. Higher up there is a lot of anti-leak sealant of unknown type. This is also visible around the big 50" window up front (see above photo).

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Next post: evaluation

Joe
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Old 11-08-2007, 10:21 PM   #2
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Congrats on the nice fine! It looks in relatively good shape. You've come to the right place for answers to your resto questions. Keep us posted on your progress.
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Old 11-08-2007, 10:35 PM   #3
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Evaluation (the purpose of which will be revealed in the next post):

1. Even with carpet and pad out, and high pressure water applied, the nooks and crannies are still filty. The interior cannot be recovered/cleaned without disassembling most of the cabinetry.

2. The Zip Dee fabric is torn in many areas, but the hardware appears OK.

3. Fridge function is unknown, but the interior has only a few small cracks and appears in good shape, considering.

4. All the water piping is cut or broken.

5. Exterior lights work, eg, running lights, brakes, turn signals.

6. Door and frame are OK, but the door hinges have stripped the threads on the screws. The inner door handle works, the outer one does not. The door latch can be locked from inside. The door catch is broken (Vintage has these at a very reasonable price), but the latch tongue works smoothly. However, with the broken outer handle, if the catch is fixed, you would not be able to open the door from outside once it is closed. Recovery and travel with the broken latch was possible due to a inside chain lock that could be secured by reaching in through the adjacent window.

7. The windows operate, but the catches are worn and it is difficult to latch them open.

8. At least one vent has the translucent center section, which is broken.

9. Interior lights work, for the most part.

10. Plastic fittings (shower pan, counter top and sink) in the bath are intact and the toilet foot pedal valve operates smoothly.

11. Most of the doors and latches for the closets are operable.

12. About half the tambours appear to be in good shape. The other half are either difficult to move or are torn across their width.

13. The axles are shot. Only two wheels (the original aluminium, by the way) remained on the trailer. The tires are wasted. However, the brakes worked reasonably well (they dragged and did not pull to one side or the other). The drums were cool even after an hour at 65 mph.

14. The frame corrosion is unknown, but the rear outriggers may provide a clue. The reinforced rear frame appears to be an attempt to fix tail separation. It also appears very heavy and irreversible. There is no belly skin aft of the axles.

15. The rodents nested everywhere, including inside the oven. This may mean that the oven insulation is compromised, even if the interior can be adequately cleaned.

Next post: what it's worth and what to do next?

Joe
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Old 11-08-2007, 10:48 PM   #4
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1978 23' Safari
High Mountains , Colorado
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What's a trashed Airstream worth?

What's it worth to me?

1. Two aluminum wheels -- $200

2. Zip Dee arms -- $200

3. Spare 30" double pane windows -- $100

4. Glass rear window -- $100

5. Two 20" windows -- $200

6. Exterior access doors (fridge/under bed storage) -- $200

7. Metallic water heater door -- $50

8. Oven door handle -- $10

that's about $1,000, plus if the fridge works that would be another say $300.

It cost about $100 in fuel to recover this trailer, plus a lot of digusting hours getting the first layer of rodent poop out.

If anyone is interested in mid-bath shell, I'll let it go for $1200, otherwise it gets parted out.

I have seen where other members are looking for tambours, curved front glass window panels, battery compartment doors, etc. These all tip me towards parting out. But even with all the above mentioned components removed, there is still the intact shell and many windows. What to do with it?

One suggestion has been to donate it to a maintenance rally. The Denver unit has one every year and the 4CU has been discussing same. Who out there needs skins, windows, latches, trim, etc.?

Post your ideas here and all will be considered. Anyone for making a gazebo out of one of the ends?

Joe
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Old 11-08-2007, 11:25 PM   #5
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If you decide to part it out, you'll have no problem getting rid of pieces. Problem with that is the shipping, and time and effort. If that's what you decide to do, I'd like a short piece of the lower rub rail.
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Old 11-09-2007, 06:46 AM   #6
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I would like to take a look and see. I do need a streetside wing window. If you decide to part it out
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Old 11-09-2007, 08:21 AM   #7
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Let's make a "Concept Demonstrator"! Keeping in mind that some people really want a dry bath, so keep the mid-bath as the core and take 11' out of the length....

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Yes, making the bed would be a pain, figuring out what to do with the corner to the right of the sink, and compromising on the fridge height would all need to be more fully thought out, but...this could definitely be a great little two-person Airstream and with two axles it would tow great. If you added about 3" depth between the frame rails, you could have plenty of water and waste tank volume and the double axles could support the weight easily.

I'd also minimize the windows--no window in the bath, maybe a curb side window over the bed, a street side window at the end of the dinette table, and narrow window in the door.

Blu_Hwy_Ldy has already demonstrated that you can place a dinette over the wheel wells in this fashion and get reasonable seating comfort. Maybe canting the seat angles just a little would further improve this.

And you'd be the only Airstream in the park that could pull up next to friends, pointing the same direction, but your doors would face. Cool (a modern word conveying empathy and deep understanding)!

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Old 11-09-2007, 12:05 PM   #8
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Concept Demonstrator, excellent! I love the living room and kitchen on my Ambassador, but not the rest. Could someone really cut off the last 7 feet?
I am new to this site, thanks everyone for all the great ideas and info.
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:26 PM   #9
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Based on pics and description, it is definitely worth restoring, especially considering its floor plan (center bath).

While it true that parting it out will probably bring more than the whole thing is worth at this point (which I would judge between $1000-$1600), the time effort in removing parts may quickly negate the difference.

Just from the pics, the biggest lost part(s) I see are the two rear corner banana wraps (and bumper?). The shell looks to be in pretty good shape, right?

The rear frame may be a bit overbuilt, but at least you can see what you have.

I cannot think of an instance in which I would part out an otherwise decent shell, although it is certainly in the eyes of the beholder (or property owner).

For less than $8000 (and a lot of work), it could be a $12000-$15000 unit (IMHO).

It's a lot of work, but worth it in the end. (I think)

(P.S. - Be careful of the window latches as they'll break fairly easily if not lubricated)
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Old 11-09-2007, 01:21 PM   #10
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Ron/Pizza Chop

You'd have to take a look in the cabinets to understand what a challenge that working on this Ambassador is. I'm almost reluctant to go inside, even though I've Cloroxed every nook and removed 75% of the filth. There is still so much to do and it will never be clean unless most of the cabinetry is removed and the interior hosed down several times. Ick.

I do like the fact that a PO painted the floor. It is in very good shape, no soft spots that I've found.

If someone makes an offer, I'll be happy to allow this shell to be saved and reborn. But an offer has to come reasonably soon--I can't store this forever and I have quite a few needs for the parts for other projects.

'm definitely not going to be the one to restore this Ambassador--Unfortunately. I do like the mid-bath models.

Joe
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Old 11-09-2007, 04:57 PM   #11
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Joe, have you placed a classified ad here on the forum? They're free and easy to set up.

Jim
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Old 11-09-2007, 06:26 PM   #12
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Jim and Susan, thanks. No, I'm about the worst person in the world when it comes to money and prices and stuff like that. The idea of "selling" something makes me crazy, but I'm going to have to do that when I put up one of my other Airstreams for sale in the spring. Crap.

I take the tack of saying what it's worth to me and don't try to "estimate" what I could get for it. If I was a salesman I'd starve.

Joe
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Old 11-09-2007, 08:20 PM   #13
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Joe,

You could probably sell it on the forum for $1000-$1500 (or ebay for that matter).

I purchased my 73 Sovereign off ebay in 2005 for $2275 basically because of the shell and the floor plan (center bath). (It started below $1000 but eventually made it up to my price.) It stunk, had major rear frame rust, floor rot, and dead or missing appliances. Axles were obviously shot as well. I had to drive 5 hours to get it.

But I knew what I wanted, and knew what it was. These type, in my opinion, are the "can't lose" variety, assuming a person has the necessary tools and skills to complete the job.

Again, by the time you start cutting windows out, removing stuff (skin panels), you'll have some serious time involved for your return.

I have less than $8000 invested in my Sovereign (quite a few hours though) and have a like new coach (all new appliances, axles, tires, wheels, etc.). It is much lighter than the newer ones and tows like a dream.

There are others out there like me. I'd give it a try. I wouldn't take less than $1000 at this point, but it's worth a shot.

So where exactly are the high mountains of Colorado? (I am a WSC grad, class of '87)
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Old 11-10-2007, 08:05 PM   #14
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so how feasible would a resoration of this magnitude be for a newbie to airstreams and travel trailers period. I'm very handy and could handle an equivilant restoration of a house, but i know nothing about trailers. i was searching the book store earlier today for something about airstreams or trailers in general but no luck. at least nothing with any meat in it.
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