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Old 01-04-2015, 10:57 AM   #15
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Hi, welcome to the forum. I'm sure you are not thrilled with the advice given so far. Don't let it ruin your dream.

As mentioned before, used Airstreams hold their value pretty well. Maybe buying a nice used one to get a little "experience" with would not be a bad idea.

Perhaps you could rent a small motorhome for a weekend or so to see how you, and family, like camping.

There must be a hundred different ways to ease into this in a frugal manner. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day. Take your time; get it right. Good luck, and stay in touch.
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Old 01-04-2015, 11:26 AM   #16
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It is all about being persistent and willing to labor to make the trailer what you want.


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Old 01-04-2015, 11:36 AM   #17
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1972 31' Sovereign
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In way over our heads

I have about 20K in my 72.

I fixed what needed fixing, and made it what my wife and I wanted.

I didn't dwell on perfection, nor did I care whether others liked, or their opinions on "doing it right".

I didn't care about resale.

From purchase to first outing was about 120 days, after which I redid a lot of what I had done and made the outside presentable.

It has been a work in progress ever since, and the most fun project I have ever done. Click image for larger version

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I will have owned the trailer two years this coming March.

http://s245.photobucket.com/user/JMD...72%20Airstream

The best advise I can give is to simply jump in there and do it. If you make a mistake, redo it. Don't waste a lot of time being afraid to make a mistake.

My frame was good all but the last two feet where the black tank had leaked caustic liquid...

I had rear end separation, and some floor rot under the front windows. I replaced the last four feet of frame, replaced the last sheet of plywood of the floor, and put floor patches under the windows.

The trailer was gutted, interior walls were removed, re insulated, re wired, and interior skins were replaced.

I used almost exclusively residential fixtures and appliances.

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Old 01-05-2015, 01:08 AM   #18
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1982 31' Excella
Everett , Washington
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Rivet thank you all

Thank you all for all the encouraging as well as sobering and practical advice. I really appreciate all of you wanting to help!

Couple things to clarify:
- I plan on quitting my job only after the trailer is ready to go - inside and out.
- I don't have much experience with handyman work but I do learn quickly and have both a right hand and a left hand (not both left / no offense to lefties :-p )
- The Summer 2015 timeline is important to us but not the most critical piece of the puzzle. We would be bummed if it took 2+ years, but time is on our side.
- We're not rich but are in a good shape financially - I do expect contracting out the most important/difficult parts and paying for some help when needed.
- We're quite sure we have the right trailer. One reason is that the interior would need to be redone even on a newer unit ( => happy wife ), and second reason being that the process of restoring it is just as important to us as the finished product (LOTS of growing...).

As for the state of the trailer:
- structurally it appears to be in a good shape but more inspection is needed
- I've seen small part of the frame (by the water tank) and there is only a bit of rust, mostly black factory paint - also the belly pan was dry underneath it even though it has been raining and trailer is on the open temporarily.
- subfloor had minor rot in the front which was replaced by the previous owner (he tore out the carpets and put in laminate floor which is there now, but the pictures of the subfloor he showed me looked solid)
- I suspect there is a small leak at the front vent, the drops seem to be coming from behind one of the old speakers in the wall - I believe that is the only one but want more evidence
- Previous owner did the plumbing and propane, and started working on the electrical (put in new batteries, and the inverter looks new)
- The inner skin was never pulled, and much of the cabinets (everything in the middle section) are still there
- Furnace is missing, water heater and the range work (tested by the previous owner), refrigerator and AC allegedly work but were not tested
- One piece of data I found important is that the trailer spent most of its life in dry Arizona where the previous owner got it from, and brought it to the rainy Northwest in March (less than 1 year ago)
- Oh, and there is a decent size dent at the back and couple tiny ones in the front

While we are figuring things out I'm just working on removing the things we don't want from the interior cabinets and walls. Our first big decision will be whether to pull out the inner skin and re-do the insulation and wiring.
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Old 01-05-2015, 01:09 AM   #19
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1982 31' Excella
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idea

One question about inspecting the frame - I had an idea to get a little camera (i.e. go pro hero) with light and a handle and get a look at much bigger part of the frame that way - anybody tried it or can assess the plausibility?
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Old 01-05-2015, 01:39 AM   #20
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I don't think you will get very far that way. There are a lot of cross beams and the bellypan should be tight to the bottom of the frame, so you will only be able to view the section right where you are looking.

My 2 cents would be to buy a trailer that is just a few years old, in good shape, and go camping. I wouldn't recommend anyone dive right into a full resto and a year on the road without trying it out first. I did the resto on ours, but we bought our trailer in usable condition, enjoyed many weekend trips in it, and did the floor repairs and appliance replacements over thew second winter we owned it, so we didn't miss any camping. Every year it has presented us with minor challenges to continue repairing and modifying, and that's with a vintage trailer that was in really well-cared for shape to begin with.

I've seen a lot of folks get in over their head and give up on the whole concept by going whole hog right from the start and burning out. I've restored a number of classic cars, some before the trailer project, and some after. I have one right now that I am over my head with, so I know how these projects can go!

I work in software too, I'm always surprised at how well our problem solving skills apply to this sort of project. It's like everything else in engineering, break it down into smaller bits until you've got something you can work on. You might want to start looking up info on how to drop that bellypan, because that is probably your first order of business.

Whichever way you go, folks here will be happy to support you and try to help you along nd answer questions. Don't feel pressure either way, you're the only one who knows what you want to do and how much time and money you have to do it. And share some pics, we love pictures
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Old 01-05-2015, 04:20 AM   #21
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Contracting out some of the work = good.

Your faith in the prior owner = bad.
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Old 01-05-2015, 06:57 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lubosak View Post
Replacing kitchen faucet was a major accomplishment for me.

Ummmm, did no one else read this line? To put it nicely, which I really try to do the majority of the time, if replacing a kitchen faucet is a major accomplishment of your mechanical skills, you probably need to start a whole lot smaller than gutting and refurbing a camper... Facilities maintenance and fabrication is my career, I've got auto restoration, industrial air conditioning certification, Diesel engine mechanic, power production equipment, journeyman electrician, tropo-scatter comm equipment, extensive plumbing experience, and amateur welding skills all in my resume, and I still cried like a baby when I dropped that belly pan. It was overwhelming the scope of the work to be done, and I didn't gut mine. Yes, you can learn it all, and do it yourself, but plan on making that first trip about the time your five year old graduates college...

Go buy a square box camper and have some fun in it, or drop the money for an Airstream that's ready to go, if that's what your dream is. Or, pay someone else to build yours to your specs... But refurbing a gutted early '80's Airstream when kitchen faucet is a major mechanical accomplishment? I recommend against...

Sorry if this sounds harsh. Go read my "Resurrecting Big Bertha" thread, and if, at the end of it you say, "Oh yeah, I can do that!" then jump on it. There are a bunch of guys on here that did a lot better job than I did, with a lot less experience. Read their threads also... The better jobs took years and years.

-Red, keeping it real...
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Old 01-05-2015, 07:10 AM   #23
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There is no way to "put this nicely".....LOL. And, i have many "projects" which came to an unfinished end for reasons I can not fully understand. However, for the "In over the head" idea, my advice is sell the unit you have. Then during the next year or so, learn all you can about vintage Airstreams, especially values and resources for purchasing one, then purchase one which has the $40,000 invested in the total refurb, and is on sale for $25,000.

Your family may even survive this without a divorce lawyer.
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Old 01-05-2015, 08:24 AM   #24
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Working on an Airstream is much more difficult than working on a house. None of the walls are straight and it takes constant skilled carpentry skills to make things look right.
Additionally, your Airstream may need lots of expensive mechanical and structural work before you even get started on your remodel.
If I was going to take a year off and travel on the road, I would look for a cheaper alternative. You can buy a serviceable SOB travel trailer for 10k or so; at least double that for a good AS.
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Old 01-05-2015, 08:36 AM   #25
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In way over our heads

You know what?

If you look at your 82 with an eye for getting it done, apply a work ethic, and you are not terrified of making a mistake you can get your trailer done in a reasonable time.

Trailer one

http://s245.photobucket.com/user/JMD...f3a3e.jpg.html


http://s245.photobucket.com/user/JMD...252cb.jpg.html

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Trailer two,

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Trailer two was a 14 Day turn in the shop, including new pex plumbing and a new hot water heater. It was a quick turn, I ignored some things for the sake of time, but the trailer is functional for about a thousand bucks in hard cash.

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Old 01-05-2015, 12:52 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Morgan View Post

Trailer two was a 14 Day turn in the shop, including new pex plumbing and a new hot water heater. It was a quick turn, I ignored some things for the sake of time, but the trailer is functional for about a thousand bucks in hard cash.
That seriously requires a 'results not typical' warning...
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Old 01-05-2015, 02:21 PM   #27
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Welcome; read on!
Your son will always have the AS memories ...
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Old 01-05-2015, 07:28 PM   #28
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I think you and your wife have all the right intentions, but intentions alone will not put this trailer back on the road in a condition you and your family will enjoy for any length of time. Most of the folks that do well with these old rigs have some level of DIY skills and while its not inconceivable that you cant rise to the challenge, its by no means a sure bet either. Just because you want something bad enough, does not mean you will get it. A refurb like what you describe is probably a multi year project unless you want to throw big bucks at it. You also need a tow vehicle. Have you got a budget for everything and a time line more realistic than 6 months to have the work done?

I would also advise a bit of caution on the "chuck it all, we're going camping for a year" idea as it relates to your future employment. A year out of the loop may take a toll on your long term career or it may not. The economy is on the upswing in general, but that can change or may not apply locally.

You titled this thread "In way over our heads". I think you already have an inkling of what might be down the road. Be realistic with your situation and your capabilities. Find a rig in good usable shape and camp locally to see if it fits you all. That's my advice, to take it slow in manageable bites. Best of luck in whatever you decide to do.
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