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Old 10-27-2013, 04:56 PM   #1
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Stephenville , Texas
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New Here

Hey folks,

Found the forum after an extensive search for Airstream restoration/remodel/repair/renovation! Excited about the potential of restoring an Airstream. Quickly:

I'm 25, and have been interested in downsizing my life and living simply for over a year. I've looked into building a tiny home on a flatbed, but have finally settled on owning an Airstream and remodeling it to my specifications based on my lifestyle.

My situation: I have no family, nor do I foresee one soon. Looking to create a bachelor pad with room to expand in the future. I have absolutely no special tools for doing any serious frame repair work; therefore, I'm in the market for a unit in good condition that won't require any serious overhauls of the frame or structure.. *Looking for suggestions here*

Budget-wise, I'd like to spend no more than $8-12,000 for the entire project. A) Is that possible? B) What can I realistically look at spending for a project such as this.. Assuming that I will reuse/repurpose anything I can..

Feel free to redirect me to specific threads (I'm terrible at looking around.. Rather just ask my questions openly.)

Thanks!

Seth
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:02 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forums, you've come to the right place.

My answers to your questions:

I have no family, nor do I foresee one soon. Looking to create a bachelor pad with room to expand in the future. I have absolutely no special tools for doing any serious frame repair work; therefore, I'm in the market for a unit in good condition that won't require any serious overhauls of the frame or structure.. *Looking for suggestions here*

Do a search for "inspection checklist." This should help you educate yourself, and know how to conduct a good inspection of a trailer. Yes, it is a good idea to avoid anything that will require frame or shell work, as special tools and skills will be required. Just realize that any vintage trailer that is 30+ years old and has been sitting most of its life in a field will have isses such as rotting floors, rusted frames, etc..

Budget-wise, I'd like to spend no more than $8-12,000 for the entire project. A) Is that possible? B) What can I realistically look at spending for a project such as this.. Assuming that I will reuse/repurpose anything I can..

Not a simple question. It depends in part on how big of a trailer you want, how bad of condition it is in the first place, how much you spend to buy it, and mostly, how nice do you want it to be when finished. Also very important, do you intent to tow it down the road, or will it remain parked and stationary? If it is never to be towed, then there are some shortcuts you can take that ignore the whole frame, floor, towing safety aspect of the project. Quick answer would be that your budget seems reasonable, but you won't end up with a high-end luxury trailer, but probably something that is liveable.

Feel free to redirect me to specific threads (I'm terrible at looking around.. Rather just ask my questions openly.)

Do a search for "full monty," "shell off," and "links to major restorations" (as there is a sticky with this title somewhere). This will direct you to the play-by-play complete restoration threads. Also subscribe to the Vintage Airstream Podcast (The VAP), and get the DVD with all the back episodes. You can listen to the podcast as you commute or browse craigslist for your trailer, and you will get a better sense of what to expect in rehabilitating an older trailer.

Manage your expectations, and realize that the project you are considering will probably not be cheap, easy, or quick. If you don't enjoy doing all of the things required (ie., wood work, upholstery work, plumbing, electrical, etc.), then the project will seem like a chore rather than a hobby. Also, consider where you are going to do the work. I have the huge benefit of being able to park my trailer next to my garage, so I can work on it every day without having to drive somewhere with a truck load of tools. Speaking of which--you will also need to consider your tow-vehicle, if you don't already have one.

good luck!
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Old 10-28-2013, 01:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for your response.

I'm quickly realizing that either my skills need to evolve as this project does or I need a rig with electrical, plumbing, and upholstery, etc. already in working condition.

I have time, and it's not necessary that I make a move NOW. It's just something I want to do soon. I currently live in my mom's house which is fully paid off, but I'd rather have a place of my own that can move with me!

I expect it'll be some work, but fun nonetheless.
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Old 10-28-2013, 04:42 PM   #4
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Your best bet might be to look for a trailer that has already had the major systems work done. If it has been done correctly, then you will exhaust most of your budget on the initial purchase, but there shouldn't be that much left to do. The trick is to figure out if the work was done completely and correctly. Educate yourself on what to look for, and what questions to ask. Request pictures and receipts for materials/labor if a seller claims to have done extensive renovations. There is a trailer conventionally known as a "polished turd," which has had very superficial refurbishment--it looks shiny and new, but under the new floor is rotting subfloor and rusting frames,etc., etc., learn to recognize and avoid these.
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Old 10-28-2013, 05:22 PM   #5
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I'd say spend about 6 months familiarizing yourself with everything about all the different models and years of airstreams. Work on increasing your initial budget while doing research. This way you'll feel a bit more comfortable when it comes time to actually do some "serious" looking.
If your "skills" aren't quite up to major systems work, that's fine. Make it a point to actually TEST these major systems when you go out looking. Don't take the sellers word. The fun stuff is really the smaller things anyways (personalization and making it your "own" )
In the course of your search, you'll most likely find a trailer that is almost irresistible! Remind yourself that if it looks to good to be true....it probably is ;-) I've seen pictures of Airstreams that look GREAT, only to travel a few hundred miles only to be disappointed.
An Airstream is like a good Woman, there's one out there for everyone. You just have to keep looking till you find the RIGHT one!
You're definitely in the right place however, this Forum is THE source for the right info and is filled with GREAT people that are always willing to help.
Good Luck my friend.....

Todd.
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Old 10-28-2013, 05:39 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Belegedhel View Post
Your best bet might be to look for a trailer that has already had the major systems work done.
Ditto. Conversely don't expect to make money on your restoration expenses. If you are lucky you will break even, maybe even lose. That is figuring your labor at $0.
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:09 PM   #7
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You are getting great advice!
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Old 10-29-2013, 06:30 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by gruesome View Post
Thanks for your response.
I'm quickly realizing that either my skills need to evolve as this project does or I need a rig with electrical, plumbing, and upholstery, etc. already in working condition.
Plumbing and electrical are actually some of the easiest pieces once you get skills.

I would recommend taking time to understand the basic science of everything you tackle. The fundamentals. E.g. I bought my adult son an elementary kid's electricity experiment kit after he bought his first motor boat project. He soon was able to safely rewire it. This will also allow you to understand the terms folks here use (volts, amps, fuses). Same for plumbing water supply and drains (e.g. understand what traps and vents do and why).

Do not cut corners. Do not cover things up. Peel back whatever you are working on and look deeper while you've got it opened up. Do it right the first time. If you do not know what "right" is, then figure that out first.

Just like a house, fix the structural and get it dried-in first. Inspect and test wiring and plumbing before you start finish work.

As many of the amazing owners here show, major structural problems in an Airstream can be fixed, but for you they could break your spirit as a first-timer. Avoid rotted floors and frame corrosion.

Tools are crucial. Part of learning how to "do it right" is buying the right tools before your start. Each project will expand the toolbox and your skills.

Think big! Have fun!
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