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Old 10-10-2016, 12:46 PM   #1
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1980 20' Caravelle
Chicago , Illinois
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 7
Newbie Here - Our First Trip!

Hello! My wife and I just purchased our - new to us - first Airstream, a 1980 20' Caravelle. We've been looking for a while and when she (we're still trying to figure out a name) popped up on Craigslist, we knew that we had to see her in the flesh. Becoming smitten, we took her home the next week.

Given that she's 36 years young, we knew that she would need some work. In the 4 weeks that we've had her, we've installed new drum brakes ($$$), repacked the bearings, and replaced all the foam/fabric inside. We also shored up some loose screws attaching the fold out couch to the wall. Even just after a deep scrub, it's amazing how well she's cleaning up!

We took her for her first trip this weekend. We decided to go just for a night about an hour and a half away from home and see what we'd need to work on over winter. Somehow, on the way over, it rattled enough to shear the plastic coupling from the PEX into the hot water heater (which we only discovered after filling the tank and turning on the water pump, finding a giant puddle), and shook our couch apart from the wall. We were simply driving on the interstate so I'm surprised that it shook that much. Of course the coupling is plastic and sheared flush with the tank so there's no way to get it out. I guess replacing the water heater is in order...

It was great, however, to have her out in her element. Other than the water and keeping off the couch, everything else system-wise seemed to work.

The trip home, however, was a little rough. We stopped about halfway (45 minutes) home - all highway driving - and found that not only did the couch detach from the wall again, but our upper kitchen cabinets were falling down. The roads didn't seem that rough, I avoided all potholes, and I didn't go over 60 MPH.

Is so much vibration normal? It looks like the shocks are shot - think replacing these will help? Thanks for any advice!

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Old 10-10-2016, 05:19 PM   #2
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1973 Argosy 24
hartselle , Alabama
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 550
I would start by having tires balanced or replaced/balanced, and would also do some searches on your axle/axles condition. See how things go with known good balanced tires but kinda sounds like your axles may be bad. You can also look into centramatic wheel balancers.

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Old 10-10-2016, 05:20 PM   #3
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1973 Argosy 24
hartselle , Alabama
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 550
And congratulations on your purchase. The forums will provide tons of info.
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Old 10-10-2016, 08:25 PM   #4
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1986 34' Limited
1975 27' Overlander
Conifer , Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 4,208
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Hello from Colorado and welcome to the vintage Airstream hobby. Your 80 Caravelle is a rare trailer. They were only made a few years. The mission as I understand it was to build a "lightweight" trailer that could be towed by the small economy cars of the day, think Chevy Citation or Ford Falcon.

How about Carabell for a name of your Airstream? Better yet, Clarabell.

There is a good article in Airstream Life magazine on the Caravelle which you would surly be interested in. I don't remember what issue, but it was several years ago. You can also research your Caravelle on the Vintage Airstream website. You might find some photos of the original and how folks have modernized them, like a new water heater.

The rough ride is likely caused by the rubber rods in the axle becoming rock hard over the years. So add replacing the axles and shock on your project list. Some folks say towing a lightweight Airstream with a heavy duty truck and a cinched up hitch will cause the trailer not to "float" on its axles like it should. Airstreams are built to flex. Maybe you took your first trip pulling it with a Peterbuilt. But my bet is your axles are rock hard. Replacing them is about $800 a piece including brakes and bearings, and you do the install. Special Airstream shocks are about $25 each. I was able to get mine installed on my 66 Trade Wind.

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