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Old 01-04-2010, 04:06 PM   #1
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1974 31' Sovereign
Port Richey , Florida
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New to Airstream, Where to Begin

Hello all, I am new to the forum and want to be new to the Airstream community. I have an opportunity to get in entry level with an older model, say 77 which I will definately need to overhaul.

Could you folks give me some things that I want to concentrate on when I go look at the model this week. The one thing I know of is the frame that holds the bumber has been rusted through in places.

I would like to do the inside in my own format, so I am not sure how far out of bounds that might get. Also, the AC unit no longer works on the roof, so I know that must be replaced or repaired.

Any info for me to use when i look at the model will be greatly appreciated and I look forward to one day giving back to this community.

Thank you in advance.

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Old 01-04-2010, 04:12 PM   #2
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Welcome to the world of Airstreams. I'm a newbie here too, but there is a TON of information and lots of GREAT advice and help here on the forum! I'll let those who've been here/done that answer your questions ;-)


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Old 01-04-2010, 04:13 PM   #3
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1999 34' Excella
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Welcome to the group. You'll find tons of information on just about everything you can do to an Airstream on this forum. Just click on the forum button on the left and dig in. If you need help, just ask.
Again, welcome.
Annette ...... Canopener Party Planner
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Old 01-04-2010, 05:31 PM   #4
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welcome to the forum. You might take a copy of the inspectors checklist with you to help get some perspective on what you're looking at

Most parts are still available and if you're handy you can do many repairs your self. Replacement skin sections are expensive however and so you may want to consider carefully your level of expertise and interest in a big project.
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Old 01-04-2010, 05:46 PM   #5
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2012 23' FB Flying Cloud
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Greetings from Walton County

Welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

In looking at Airstreams of 30+ years old, you should pay particular attention to the running gear. This includes the axles, shocks, brake system, wheels and tires. Some units of this vintage that have not been used for a long time need all of these replaced or completely rebuilt.

I would suggest going through the threads here on the Forums dealing with the restoration of vintage units. These should give you some insight into what you will need to do, and come up with a ballpark figure of what your restoration will cost, and how long it will take. With this information, you will be able determine if the unit that you are looking at is the right one for you.

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Old 01-04-2010, 06:20 PM   #6
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1976 31' Sovereign
Missouri City , Texas
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Pictures of the trailer you are looking at inside and out will help forum members give you an informed view of what you are looking at and the area's of possible problems. Take your digital pictures and then attach them to a reply to this thread by following the instructions below the reply window in "Additional Options" "Manage Attachments".

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Old 01-04-2010, 06:27 PM   #7
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1974 31' Sovereign
Port Richey , Florida
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Thanks for the reply, I do not yet have pictures as I have not yet made a purchase. Big project is not a problem, i have done houses, so this is just the same to me with irregular shapes, but being a cabinet maker by trade, should not be to hard. The frame and electrical will be my challenges.

I am definaltely getting involved in this, so any hints while i shop are all greatly appreciated. When I make a purchase, I will be a regular on this forum, trust me.
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Old 01-04-2010, 07:13 PM   #8
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1978 31' Excella 500
Genoa , Nevada
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I'd reccommend get a unit that you can go camping in for a while before starting the major got-ya job. Find something that's pretty good inside with a lot of the major stuff working, but plan on doing the axles and brakes before you head out anyway just because you'll want to. Refrigs are hard to know if they'll last years or days. I repaired my leaky water pump with a piece of innertube type rubber, seems to work fine for a couple cents. Plan on re-grounding about everything, that's where a lot of mystery electrical problems start. The ZipDee pullout awnings are fun, get some advice on them before you pull one out.
In old wood working, barns and such, I've found that things that have sat for decades look good and solid when you start working on them, then every nail soon seems to be falling out soon after you start working on the adjacent piece.
I admit to being powerless over housecleaning and social niceities
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Old 01-04-2010, 07:35 PM   #9

2003 25' Classic
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Thumbs up Welcome aboard....

Like a prepared.

Whatever your budget for this adventure is, you will exceed it.
However long you think it will take, it will take longer.

An overhaul of "say 77" can quickly turn into a complete restoration. I have to go along with Neveda, shop for something as camp ready as you can afford. And get to it,
Just my 2 cents.

A little more background would be very helpful.

If you can take a bunch of pic's, there are a lot of folks here that have done countless restorastions that could supply much more info.
We were young and knew we're old and everyone else knows everything.

"It is more wiser to ponder all things with diligent suspicion, than follow with blind assumption."

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Old 01-05-2010, 06:12 PM   #10
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1993 30' Excella
Lakeland , Florida
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Welcome to the best resource site you can have.

Now be prepared to enter into the unknown world of "It's old and who knows who's worked on it, or what they used". It can get interesting to say the least.

I was lucky in finding a 76 Argosy 22 in really fair shape and when pulling up the floor was pleasantly suprised that no real damage was there, and looking under the dinette base cover and the galley the wheel well liners are pretty good, but I can only imagine if I removed something only to find a hidden suprise, the sinking feeling everyone has experienced. Like when I went to check out the furnace, what furnace?, someone removed it and capped the vent, suprise, suprise, I was going to replace it anyway.

If you can find someone in the area of the trailer it's a head start, looking at the frame may be a problem it's all enclosed, but most of the trailers are accessable to determine whether you need an axle or two, tires older than 5 years pitch them, and how the appliances work, or not.

Everyone loves pictures and it's a big help in someone saying oh watch out for that.
Good Luck on the hunt and see you on the road.

John S.
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:05 AM   #11
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1974 31' Sovereign
Port Richey , Florida
Join Date: Jan 2010
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OK, i have some pics and some questions. I finally got to go an take a good look at this thing. Here are some of my concerns and maybe you all can tell me what i am in for.

First, the body and rivets. This picture shows the skin where it meets the bottom, is pushed in and currently caulked with about 300 tubes of silicone.

This picture shows a tear in the skin (also visible from the inside like some thing penetraged all the way through the hull) above the door

The underside looked ok, but I could not see past the protective barrier, but it was there for the most part. There is rust damage to the frame that hold the rear bumper.

The owner spoke of a problem with the brake line on the front, needs to be replaced. I am not familiar with the unit on the front of this trailer and any brakeing system so please feel free to educate me, I really want to better understand whats going on with this feature and its necessity.

Most of the stuff in the front is already gone, which I do not mind, but here is how the inside fairs. I would like to know what most of you do with the interior walls and wiring.

Overall, it looks ok, all the windows work and are glass not plexi.

So, there you have it, fire away and give me all the feedback ya got, I sure could use it and thank you all for taking the time to help me.
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:38 AM   #12
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The coach does have several areas of body damage.

The damage you say that's above the door, doesn't show in your photo.

Your Airstream has the original style of "Excella Vacuum disc brakes". That braking system was the first for the RV industry. Usually at this point, several different repairs to it may be needed. The "booster assembly" that's behind the LPG bottles, may need replacing. If so, the new style disc brake "actuators" do not require a source of vacuum, like your present system must have.

Some owners have switched back to electric brakes, because they were told that there is "no" repair parts for the original system. That is not correct. Many repair parts are available, for the brakes themselves, and the "sync valve" that's the heart of the actuator, can be overhauled.

The disc brake system, on that Airstream, left the electric brake system, back in the dust. It had tremendous braking power and is still far superior to electric brakes.

The nicest part, is that the system can be upgraded, with current technology.

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Old 01-06-2010, 08:06 AM   #13
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1974 31' Sovereign
Port Richey , Florida
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Thanks Andy, the second photo shows where the split is, its like someone used a large knife and stabbed the hull, the current owner put silicone on this cut as well. I should have gotten a closeup of the cut, but you can see the scar, above the door between the right side and center of the door. I think this panel need replacing.

Also, I see the mounts for an awning on the side, but I am not sure if I want to add it back. The rear awning works but the front one will not retract by itself. I think both need to be replaced as well.

Qustion, if the brakes cannot be hooked up to tow it out of there, are there any issues I need to be aware of in getting it from where it is to where I am going to work on it?
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Old 01-06-2010, 08:09 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by FloridaMV View Post
OK, i have some pics and some questions. I finally got to go an take a good look at this thing. Here are some of my concerns and maybe you all can tell me what i am in for.

The underside looked ok, but I could not see past the protective barrier, but it was there for the most part. There is rust damage to the frame that hold the rear bumper.

This pic is the one that stands out the most for me. Looks like serious frame rot and the shell is collapsing in that corner too. With the shell collapsing like it is the floor is also rotten in that corner. I will bet that what I see is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the frame rot goes.

This could get very costly.


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1965 Chevy Suburban 454
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