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Old 09-11-2010, 11:41 AM   #1
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Deciding which way to jump.......

Hello all,

I am new to the forum and this is my first post so be gentle with me.

I am in the market for an Airstream but I am in a dilemma concerning which one to buy. I have looked at new, "vintage" (I am defining vintage as any thing older than mid 70s), or a later model in good shape (Skin wise at least)- say a late 80s/90s model in the 25' to 34' range. My latest mental ramblings have washed me up on the shore of a 34' excella, that has a tired interior that I would yank out and totally remodel to my perfect (I hope) floor plan, lighting, appliances etc.

I am on the road with work 9-10 months out of the year so for all intents and purposes I would be a "full timer"- living at the various project sites in my wingless airplane.

I have found a place that manufactures custom aluminum frames/subfloors that looks like a solid upgrade if I were going to be working on/replacing parts of the original steel/wood frame anyway.

Some background on me: I have experience with carpentry/plumbing/electrical work (although not on trailers) so building a complete interior would not be beyond my abilities. (I hope!)

Pros and cons according to my feeble mind:

Buying new:

Pros- Hitch and go, no "nickel and dime" repair issues.

Cons- the price tag, although they are very nice, I am having a hard time justifying $70,000 for a new 27'-30' stream from the factory. AND the people having problems with clear coats, etc. For $70,000+ I am thinking that a trailer should be perfect/problem free for many, many years.

Have to live with the floor plan/interior the factory installed.

Vintage:

Pros: Don't know why but I love the thinner aluminum strips/rows of rivets they used to use to do the front and back curved roof pieces. I also really like some of the retro interiors that people have installed.

Cons: Hard to find a trailer with skin in good shape (?) Insulation? Other cons I am not aware of?

Late 80s/90s:

Pros: They are available on the market at a reasonable price w/ skin in good shape.

Cons: The stock interiors are "cheesy" to my eye (hope I haven't offended anyone), but with that said I would feel kind of bad yanking a perfectly serviceable, albeit cheesy, interior out.

Weight- not a huge issue (I have a GMC 2500 Duramax with chip, should pull any airstream no problem), but a 34 footer with a plush, loaded interior and all my gear for work will push the fuel gauge needle towards the red pretty quickly.


Whew! Didn't mean to ramble, anyone have any thoughts, suggestions, experiences, good jokes that might guide my decision?

Thanks in advance-

JDavid
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Old 09-11-2010, 12:10 PM   #2
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We are re doing a 1988 excella 29'. Our interior was not cheesy, it was very drab and boring. We have replaced carpet with vinyl flooring, making all new curtains and recovering the couch. May also paint the interior at some point. Time consuming yes, but none of this work is very expensive and the trailer is new enough not to need much in the way of major repairs. So far, we are still under $15k and very happy with it.
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Old 09-11-2010, 12:18 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply mcair, "drab and boring" describes those interiors also.
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Old 09-11-2010, 12:22 PM   #4
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Hi JDavid welcome to the forums and I wish you luck finding that perfect "wingless airplane".
First there are some basic design flaws that are common to all airstreams from 70's until this years model. they all suffer from leaks in the rear bumper area which will rot out the floor in that area. There are some people with 3 yr old trailers having the entire rear floor replaced. Like any trailer water leaks will cause the most damage to the floor and the underbelly and insulation down there collects water and rusts out the frame. Salt and contact of dissimilar metals like steel frame and aluminum will also cause a lot of corrosion. Upon purchase the first thing to be done is to stop any water leaks.Try to find one that has spent it's life in a dry climate.
Early 70's models had 3/4" floors and later years have 1/2". Post 84 with the wide bodies they started using OSB for flooring which rots out quickly. They also started using off the shelf parts which are the same as used in all other brands of trailers.
Longer models 31' and up especially the ones with rear bath suffer from rear end sag and seperation where the shell actually comes loose from the floor/frame assembly.
I don't know much about pre 70's models except that some time back then they were using tube frames which were not very strong.
IMHO if you want vintage look for an early 70's model under 29' with a center bath layout which lived in a dry salt free climate. Inspect it well for water leaks in the rear bumper area and from all openings like windows roof vents etc.
Axles are also an expensive fix common on all older units. The axles should ride high enough to have 2 to 3 inches clearance between rims and wheelwells. The axles should also drop ( have plenty of travel) when jacking off the ground. Expect to spend $750 for bolt on replacements per axle.
Operational appliances are another cost factor. New fridge $1500, water heater $600, furnace $800, stove $500, A/C $1000.
Make sure it has an updated power converter (110VAC to 12VDC). This runs all your lights, fans, and appliances wihile plugged into shore power. It also charges your battery. The old ones often fail and if working they overcharge and kill the battery.
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Old 09-11-2010, 03:15 PM   #5
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Great info wasgachris,

The floor rot problem seems to be very common from my research (and as you pointed out in your post) so I am looking at the Vinstream all aluminum chassis from the get go. I have a similar type of all aluminum decking on my mini pontoon boat that is rock solid and rust/rot free. Has anyone converted to the Vinstream chassis and if so do you have any feedback? Anybody know how much it costs?

Thanks,

JDavid
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Old 09-11-2010, 04:23 PM   #6
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Many People buy an RV thinking they are going to like it then find out they don't. Then, they hold it a couple of years thinking they don't want to take a bath on it, then realize they are taking a bath anyway paying for registration, insurance. and storage, then they put it up for sale.after it is 2 or 3 years old and used just a few times. Try to find one of those and you will be happy you did.
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Old 09-11-2010, 04:47 PM   #7
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Owned both used and now new. Although I really like our 07 25' Classic, I would have to say the better finincial decision would be, used. I would never buy another travel trailer new and I would say especially an Airstream. They are just not built to the high standards you would expect for something in this price range. You can buy a used Airstream in excellent condition for a fraction of the new price. You will be working on it no matter if you buy new or used. Save yourself a load of money and frustration and buy used.
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Old 09-11-2010, 06:26 PM   #8
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Craftsman/Jim- sound advice. Me thinks I will be buying used as you both suggested. Thanks for your input.
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Old 09-11-2010, 07:54 PM   #9
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Odds are 20ish yrs and older is going to have many problems, just the nature of the beast. Axles, floor, compartment & window seals, ect. Of course all appliances will be a matter of how much longer. Realist view is the only way to have a dependable trailer is tear it all down and rebuild from bottom to top. You'll end up with the same amount of time and money in a 1960 as a 1980. Not much different than restoring a classic car. The must have is you preferance of body style and GOOD SHEET METAL. Without a good exterior body that you really like its hard to commit the time and $. Oh you want a joke? Airstreams are the standard of enginering and workmanship right? Well maybe, but I'm pretty sure they were all made on Mondays and Fridays!!!!!!
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Old 09-11-2010, 08:00 PM   #10
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You know, while the idea of upgrading to an aluminum chassis and subfloor is tempting, that can't run cheap. If you start with, say, a mid-80s Excella and make such changes, I'm guessing you could easily wind up with a trailer with $40k invested whose resale is a fraction of that.

You could buy a 3-4 year old trailer for $40k rather than $70k. Keep in mind that even an almost new trailer can have nickel-and-dime issues, as well as the temptation to make more upgrades.

A lot depends on what you want. A 60s trailer is more narrow than the newer trailers. Moving into the 80s increases availability of features like center baths and front panoramic windows.
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Old 09-11-2010, 09:09 PM   #11
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JUMP in2 da reading first...

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f353...hed-62087.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f353...new-56911.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f142...new-36995.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f349...rse-39275.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f48/...-it-21921.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f463...eam-43092.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f353...pay-43186.html

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f353...-as-43527.html

cheers
2air'
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Old 09-11-2010, 09:22 PM   #12
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"but I'm pretty sure they were all made on Mondays and Fridays!!!!!!"

Thats funny putback. And I agree that it all starts with good sheet metal. As far as tearing it all down and building from scratch, I think that will be the route I take.

Thanks all for your input.
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JDavid View Post
As far as tearing it all down and building from scratch, I think that will be the route I take.
But you can't do that AND live in it, at least no where near comfortabley you can't.

I'm with the "get-a-5-year-oldish-model" and live in it crowd. I'm willing to bet your opinion will change with time, but in the meanwhile, you will have a comfortable modern home that has most of the bugs worked out, instead of a construction site...
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Old 09-11-2010, 10:26 PM   #14
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But you can't do that AND live in it, at least no where near comfortabley you can't.

I'm with the "get-a-5-year-oldish-model" and live in it crowd. I'm willing to bet your opinion will change with time, but in the meanwhile, you will have a comfortable modern home that has most of the bugs worked out, instead of a construction site...
Sound logic Aage, but after have served in the Marines for ten years and living in desert environments (130+ degrees F, in a tent) and arctic environments (negative 40+ degrees, in a tent) there were times when I would have given a pound of flesh for a totally striped, hard skinned structure to spend the night in. So living in it I could handle, but I won't have to. I have an old SOB trailer that serve as an abode while I work on my dream-stream.

Has "Dream-Stream" been copy righted yet?
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