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Old 07-28-2015, 06:18 PM   #1
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1974 Argosy 26
Pensacola , Florida
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Hi all! Considering restoring an older AS

Hi from Ohio!

I've got a little over a year or so between now and grad school, and after stumbling across a blog about a vintage AS restoration, I am thinking that could be a challenging and fun way to fill some of my time. I am thinking that by the time grad school rolls around, saving some rent money by living in the AS would be a way to stay within my stipend. I don't know much about how realistic that is, but I'm here to research and learn.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 07-29-2015, 10:29 PM   #2
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I did it. I am restoring a 1952 Silver Streak Clipper. Challenging, very much so. I am into year 2. I am over the hump. Be ready for a very big learning experience. It's not cheap. Only one thing I can pass on. Do it properly. Read a lot of builds. I did not really study before I bought. Many issues to deal with. Big thing is going to be either a shell off or on. Mine is getting about 80% new exterior skin, new interior, new frame. It's a great investment. Zero labor cost.
Good luck and just go do it.
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Old 07-30-2015, 06:35 AM   #3
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It could be a good idea, but be careful. You could find that one trailer that just needs a bit of cleaning up and some minor repairs for cheap, or you can find what everybody else seems to find, the old rig that has sat outside for many years without being maintained and has floor and frame damage and lots of problems with the appliances.

You dont mention your level of expertise in things mechanical and electrical, but you need to be pretty handy if you plan on doing this work yourself. Just buying the trailer will set you back some, then plan on spending that same amount or more on materials and possible upgrades to new appliances. For sure it will need new axles too, they are always shot after 20+ years. And whatever time you plan for a specific repair, multiply it by about 3x and you will be closer to reality.

And keep in mind that they were never really designed for cold weather use. Its a big aluminum can with about 1.5" of insulation so when it gets cold outside, it gets cold inside. You will be using lots of propane to keep things cozy. And you have to have some sort of access to water and sewage so that means either a campground or somewhere to park it long term.

Keep all these things in mind before you take the plunge.
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Old 07-30-2015, 06:47 AM   #4
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Living in an Airstream in Columbus, Ohio during the winter will be an exercise in burning massive amounts of propane and still being cold. Are you looking for a multi-year project with the end result being a cool camping trailer or are you looking for a cool and cheap abode that will be ready within the next year or so? If the latter, don't do the Airstream thing and look for something else!
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Old 07-30-2015, 06:52 AM   #5
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The cold issue is really an issue not only in regards to comfort but plumbing! Water lines and tanks freeze fast!
Consider a wood stove for heat, that can be a hassle, especially if you're not at home a lot, but it's cheap and effective....
Just a thought!
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Old 07-30-2015, 07:10 AM   #6
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Where do you intend to do the work? Do you have a shop, or do you intend to live in the Airstream while you are renovating it? All such projects seem to cost several times the original estimate and take 10 times as long. Are you prepared for that? You mention that you have a year or so until grad school. I'm thinking that you would probably be money ahead to get a job doing something during that year and save your money.
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Old 07-30-2015, 07:24 AM   #7
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It took me 2 years of hard work to get my 68 back in shape, I always tell folks multiply the time you think it will take by 4 or 5 (or more) and the $'s by 3 or 4 and you will be close. That is if you have the skill set to do all the work yourself; carpentry, electrical, plumbing,HVAC, sheet metal , floor covering, and on and on. Consider that and consider the tools you will need if you don't have a shop. It gets expensive fast.
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Old 07-30-2015, 08:20 AM   #8
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bikeukeguy, it's so good to hear that you're doing it! Looking around these forums, I am getting a better feel for how much technical expertise - and work, lots of work - this could be. I agree that it seems like a good investment!

aquinob, it does seem that many people think they're getting a great, cheap deal... only to find that their trailer needs a shell-off restoration. I'm fairrrly handy but I'd definitely be relying on the expertise of a few friends and family members who have already expressed interest in helping. I am looking a graduate programs in the south mostly, so staying cool will be a much larger concern than staying warm I think - didn't mention that! Do you have any advice about finding a more private space to "park" the trailer? I've looked into a couple of RV and mobile home parks (just to get a feel for prices), and I'm not super impressed with what I'd get. I am definitely more into the idea of a more rural setting... which I am sure my dog wouldn't mind more space outside, either!

AnnArborBob, luckily most of the programs I am looking at are in warmer areas, but that's good to know about the insulation! I'd love to have a few years to work on a project, but you're correct that, with a full-time job and a year to make this happen, I've got some significant time constraints. I am beginning to thing this may be a post-grad school project.

AtomicNo13, thanks for the info on the wood stoves! I'll do some research on that!

kb0zke, I don't have a shop big enough to fit an AS, but I do have a garage I could temporarily store smaller pieces in. Heading into fall in central Ohio, that might not be ideal... Advice?

68 TWind, that math seems to be a common theme in these threads! It'll take more time and more money than I am anticipating... Good to know!

Thank you all for your replies!
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Old 07-30-2015, 09:54 AM   #9
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sospeso, my suggestion would be to find a space where you can pull the coach completely inside and have at least the same amount of space to work. Heat, cooling, and electricity will be required. If you need to do a shell-off restoration you will need twice the trailer space just for the trailer and shell, and then add in the workshop space. Depending on the size of coach you are looking at, you might be able to find an old gas station with two service bays. Most of those are long gone now, but once in a while one comes up. Start checking your local real estate flyers for spaces that might work. You will have to use plenty of imagination to figure out what might work for you. Add the rental of that space to the cost of your project. Also add in the wages you won't be getting and you can see that this can get very expensive quickly.

I'm not trying to discourage you from this, but more than one person has bitten off more than they could chew and ended up losing a large amount of money and time. Keep your eyes open. There is another thread here started by someone who thought buying an Airstream would be better than paying rent. I believe he ran the numbers and figured out that he would be better off paying the rent, living frugally for a few years while he paid off his debt and built up a substantial down payment fund. THEN he will buy the Airsteam, pay it off in a couple of years, and have a debt-free home.
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