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Old 05-14-2009, 06:47 PM   #1
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Need advice on first purchase

Greetings experienced ones... I have made the decision to buy a used airstream (not just any travel trailer) as we have sold our camp. My thinking is why not have a camp we can move to different places!

My situation: I have a wife (who frankly is not that keen on me taking on another project), two kids (boy 7/girl 9) who are totally psyched. My former camp was really rustic-as in an Airstream will be the taj mahal by comparison.

I have about $3000.00 I can spend initially. I have looked at Craigs list and ebay and google and have learned a lot (electronically), but need advice from people who have actually physically repaired/owned/used airstreams extensively.

My skills are good (rebuilt mahogany chris crafts back from dust), enough plumbing experience to be handy, electrical passable.

My initial questions revolve around layout. My vehicle is capable of towing anything. What models would be best? Ambassadors? Tradewinds?

I would also like guidance on what problems to look for? It seems floor sag was an issue in some models and I see many people have put new axles under their trailers.

Sorry to be so vague-yet needy. I don't want a giant project-but need to know how to inspect frames? trouble spots?

Any help SERIOUSLY appreciated!

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Old 05-14-2009, 08:08 PM   #2
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Hi and welcome to the forum. You have all sorts of choices to make. I recommend that you start reading as much as you can.

Some things to consider:
  • Almost anything can be fixed if you have the skill and/or the cash.
  • Airstreams prior to 1974 had no grey tanks to store wash water so you will have to take a long portable grey water storage containers or camp where there is a sewer hook up. Some folks have retrofitted grey tanks.
  • Count on replacing axles on any trailer older than 30 years.
  • Look out for rotted floors - again fixable, but a hassle
  • Some longer trailers in the early to mid 70's were underbuilt and the rear frame sagged. Search for tail droop, tail sag, frame separation and the Beatrice years to find info about this.
  • Dented segments are hard to repair - they almost always have to be replaced to make them look perfect. expensive and time consuming.
  • what floor plan do you want? twin beds. full beds, etc.
Check out the classifieds for some used rigs and consider going to a rally in your area to tour through other Airstreams - this may help you understand what you really want and how you might use the space.
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Old 05-14-2009, 08:16 PM   #3
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The older ones seem to have been better made (other than the grey water issue). Better wood, etc. The floor plan that would be best is a couple of twins and a double.
Not sure of what model, but there are some projects near by. Wondered if a trailer from the south was a better option versus one that might have seen salt from roads in new england.
advice on models to search for would be appreciated!
thanks!
kc
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Old 05-14-2009, 10:46 PM   #4
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I would agree the older trailers were better built I have had two 59s two 64s and two 68s and one 2007. The 59s had nicer wood work, and I have noticed the 64s have a lot more rivets and bracing than the 68s. The 07 was built well enough but the wood work looked kind of cheesy.
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Old 05-15-2009, 06:23 AM   #5
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thanks Kevin!

I have found a 1969 26' Overlander nearby. I am awaiting answers to questions I had before trucking over to see it. But you have a similar version (if I read this correctly-you have 68?)

he has put a new hot water heater in, ac, heat, fridge all work. he has an asking price of $2800.00. Janet mentioned that the axles are probably suspect on anything over 30 years old (my math makes this one 40!).

Anything else that you would suggest to really scrutinize? he has sent me a bunch of pictures. It's not perfect-but looks pretty good. I can see where a couple of windows have had some duct tape around them-so I'll assume the worst that they leak like a sieve.

TRULY appreciate the advice folks!
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Old 05-15-2009, 06:52 AM   #6
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Digital Maine,
Be sure to take a copy of the handy-dandy trailer inspection checklist so you don't get sidetracked. Good luck with your inspection.
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Old 05-15-2009, 06:54 AM   #7
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In 1969 the body style changed and the Overlander was 27 feet long. Check the VIN, the size and year are indicated there.

Be sure to check the condition of the wood floor. Suspect areas include by the door, under windows and where the shell attachés in the very rear.
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Old 05-15-2009, 07:21 AM   #8
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Last summer we bought a 1072 tradewind for 3,000.00 so far our rebuild has cost almost 10,000. We didn't go into our project wearing rose colored glasses we kinda knew what we were getting into. But we are nearing the finish line!

It's the things that you CAN'T see that are the costly ones. Any soft spots or floor rot usually means that you also will find frame and floorstringer an/or outrigger damage. You can't check out the frame unless you have the belly pan off.

We too live by the ocean, so we know the damage salt air can cause. Check out the frame in the rear behind the bumper, that was where most of our Frame rot was.

We had one poor soul, called Fat&Lazy who posted here that he bought a AS and the back bumper was held on with a bungee cord when he got home he took off the cord and the bumper and part of the frame fell out. We didn't hear too much from him after that, I think he got real discouraged and gave up. So crawl all over it and take a really good look at everything that you CAN see. Post some pictures and you get replies if you need new axels. Most do.

Welcome to the world of airstreams!

Annette
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Old 05-15-2009, 07:49 AM   #9
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Be sure to get a "Title" and proof of ownership...these things have a retained value and are often stolen and resold.
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Old 05-15-2009, 09:09 AM   #10
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Late 60's to mid 70's Safari 23' would great. They have the rear bath, front bed and side beds. Lots of storage. Trailer weight is low and they tow well. Try to find one with the twin axels. Good for 4 people.
Unless you find a real deal, your $3000.00 is a bit low. Think more like $5000 to $7000 for one with a good body. Body condition is everything. Crushed or dented panels cost a lot to replace. Everything else can be fixed or replaced.
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Old 05-15-2009, 09:14 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalmaine View Post
Greetings experienced ones... I have made the decision to buy a used airstream (not just any travel trailer) as we have sold our camp. My thinking is why not have a camp we can move to different places!

My situation: I have a wife (who frankly is not that keen on me taking on another project), two kids (boy 7/girl 9) who are totally psyched. My former camp was really rustic-as in an Airstream will be the taj mahal by comparison.

I have about $3000.00 I can spend initially. I have looked at Craigs list and ebay and google and have learned a lot (electronically), but need advice from people who have actually physically repaired/owned/used airstreams extensively.

My skills are good (rebuilt mahogany chris crafts back from dust), enough plumbing experience to be handy, electrical passable.

My initial questions revolve around layout. My vehicle is capable of towing anything. What models would be best? Ambassadors? Tradewinds?

I would also like guidance on what problems to look for? It seems floor sag was an issue in some models and I see many people have put new axles under their trailers.

Sorry to be so vague-yet needy. I don't want a giant project-but need to know how to inspect frames? trouble spots?

Any help SERIOUSLY appreciated!
Dear Vague yet needy fellow Mainiac

I argee with all of the advice above. Also.....

Have you discovered RJ Dial's website www.vintageairstream.com? Read all sections and study price vs. condition page. Also study the Archives section for floor plans and sizes. Mr. Dial is the ultimate perfectionist and sometimes gets carried away rebuilding tail lights and axles then freely admits after the fact it would have been a better choice to buy and replace that part new first time around. His interest is vintage which many believe to be better built and offers valuable information about cost and value.
I would guess with offspring you should be looking at Safari (22') on up to the big guys. Many larger Airstreams are a better value because Wally Byam named the smallest one Bambi and now every person that looks at a trailer under 22' yells out BAMBI and then ask if it is for sale.

Having worked on boats will be a benefit and also a relief as RV's and related parts are about one third the cost of the same part used on boats. Unless you shop at West Marine then be prepared to pay four times as much.

Your wife sounds unconvinced about this idea and I dare guess that it could have something to do will your optimistic budget. Yes one can buy a trailer for 3k but is it ready to go camping? In the state of AirstreamDreamLand traveling on Interstate fixerupper first take the next EXIT 10k for time and money needed to be ready to roll. Now I am being optimistic.

It is all worth it and a great way for a family of four to travel and start saving some of the money spent on the travel vessel. So the budget is part of the decision of how quickly do you want to travel as compared to the time and $ spent refurbishing the trailer.

So, to recap.... 3k trailer and add $500. for every small project and 1000k for every large one like appliances and axles. That will easily get one to over 10k which is what most here will admit to. Many have spent much more. Don't even think about free labor.

General rule is do not buy the first trailer you look at for sale. Poke, probe, prod and peel back floors and bellypan. Scatch an sniff. Hop up and down and open and close. This includes black tank. Have fun searching and learning along the way. Attend a few rallies and bring a check book. Be prepared to travel a long distance for the right model for you.

Good luck finding the right one and if it is a fixer upper by the time you roll out from under the trailer your wife may not be mad at you anymore.
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