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Old 09-18-2006, 06:38 PM   #1
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1978 31' Excella 500
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Smile poised on the diving board

Hi all! I have been perusing the forum and other sites for the past week. Many years ago my parents owned an old airstream that sat on a piece of land in Florida. This was sold many moons ago and as I have gotten older, and both parents have passed on, I keep recalling good memories of that airstream.
Then as I found out my neighbor has a 73 Land Yacht and began talking to him about it, I began to seriously consider buying a vintage airstream.

This past weekend I found one; a 68 Sovereign and am now poised to dive into the Airstream experience.
Are there any tips as to what to specifically look for as regards condition? Anything particular to this age/model that should be checked?
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Old 09-19-2006, 10:49 AM   #2
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Hello wannaroam -- and welcome to the Forums! I wanted to post back to your thread for no other reason than my father grew up in Clarion. I haven't been back to the area for about 20 years though I have many fond memories of roaming with cousins while growing up.

One of the basics is this Price vs. Condition webpage. At the top also note the link to photo archives!

Unless actively maintained you could bet on multiple areas for restoration and repair. You would be well rewarded in the end. It could take a significant investment of time and you will ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" Therefore I would recommend starting on an Airstream size and layout that truly fits your desires. If this is it, I say go for it! Sweat equity and dollars invested in restoration could double the purchase price (or more).

You'll see deterioration of window gaskets on any unit this old. Has this Sovereign been stored outside or inside? If stored outside you might want to open all storage, gaucho (couch), and underbed areas to see as much of the plywood perimeter as possible -- chances for leakage and floor damage can be high on a unit this age. Just imagine any other brand at half that age -- it'd be ready for the junkyard.

Vintage Airstream maintenance can turn off some RV or Airstream dealers. Talking with other RV owners in my area, I have found a few smaller local RV repair shops that realize the basic systems are all about the same. An owner can do a lot if they are inclined that way. You will need to have new OPD-compliant LP tanks and -- about $70 a tank at Camping World. CW is a fair starting place to check on other prices too. The most expensive replacement item would be if the refrigerator doesn't work. Air conditioners this age can be problematic -- don't use a 15 amp adapter on the power cord to try it out -- take it to a campground and use a 30A plug-in or you'll risk the compressor. Original Suburban furnaces of this era were a problem -- getting new is relatively inexpensive and good peace of mind! (some members very good in appliance repair have re-used the old furnace after proper modification). Hot water heaters? My better half started looking at curtains & upholstery -- best put that off until you've worked through a lot of the more basic assessments. Just stand back and look at the shell -- if you see a thing of beauty I hope it will carry you through all adventures.

The search function here is a good starting point. This is a self-help community and I'd encourage you to keep asking questions. Every viewer here has had their knowledge advanced. Let us know if you jumped at the Sovereign opportunity -- and come back often. Happy trails!
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Old 09-19-2006, 05:08 PM   #3
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Arrow thank you

Bob

Thank you for the great reply. I have done a lot of reading including the 'price versus condition' which was excellent. I really wanted a vintage one, as it makes me think of my parent's airstream. I don't know what year theirs was; but they bought it way back in about '66 or so. It had the Hollywood style bed with just a small commode/sink and no shower, and wood interior.

Also, I am an antique dealer; so clearly love old stuff.

This unit has been actively used at a campground (not on the road), not stored. The owner just bought a new unit and is therefor selling it. I was happily surprised when I saw it; the outside is very clean, and so is the inside. I am told that virtually everything is original and working, with the exception of the toilet which was just replaced. Also the furnace which may work, but the owner never used.

There was no air conditioner (unless it was taken out at some point) but they had a fairly new window air conditioner included with the unit. It seemed to me that the asking price which is below the low figure for 'average condition' seems pretty good.

My husband and I are going tomorrow to take a better look at it and see if we think we should jump or not. He is very handy: welding, repair and refinish furniture, a bit of electric/plumbing. But I don't want to bog him down in a major repair job either.

I have my fingers crossed!

Ann
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Old 09-19-2006, 05:18 PM   #4
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Have you ever heard of this place? http://www.pennwood.org/

A new furnace is relatively inexpensive -- I use mine more often than the A/C. Roadworthy A/C replacement should be possible. Prewiring should remain in the roof and the entry for A/C is the same as for a roof vent or fan. Airstreams that have sat for years tend to have problems with axles. Rubber rods inside the axle take a set. That can be a fairly expensive replacement. Multiple axle threads of all sorts are on the Forums -- but this topic is particularly difficult to get to the bottom of at times! I guess ask questions if you get there...

Best wishes!
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Old 09-19-2006, 08:13 PM   #5
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Hi Ann -- A unit that has been maintained as a campground unit may or may not have the original 2-way (110 volt or propane) or 3-way (110v, propane & 12 volt) fridge. This is a very costly replacement! If you see a functioning 2-way fridge, count your lucky stars and be ready to bargain. If they've substituted a 110v-only dorm type fridge I think you would be doing them a favor, so bid accordingly.

Take a flashlight!
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Old 09-19-2006, 08:33 PM   #6
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Thanks again Bob. When we go again I will check that too and I plan on taking my camera and shoot pictures as well.

I read my husband the axle and rubber rod info (which he understood perfectly) and he will check that and try to determine if the axle tortion arms still have the correct angle.
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