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Old 10-14-2009, 10:57 PM   #1
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Buying OLD trailer, wondering about axle, frame, and brakes

I'm trying to find an old 23' - 25' vintage airstream, but am then gutting it, so looking for a cheap'o, probably one that has been sitting on someones property for a while. I am totally new to airstreams and don't know much about cars either. I'll be getting the trailer off craigslist, so i'll be dealing with private party and feel like i should know what i'm doing (as much as possible anyways) so i don't buy a trailer that needs $$$ worth of work done on it.
What are some good things to look at that are indicators about whether the axle, frame, and brakes are in good or bad shape?
Any info is much appreciated.

Thanks,
Simon
Nomad's Kitchen
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:03 AM   #2
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First thing go jump on back bumper real hard! If you separates then run! The frame is bad!!! Axles seem to be a big topic also. First thing go straight to tire shop also.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:15 AM   #3
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You've come to the right place.

Hello Simon, And welcome to the AS Forum,
Your posting reminds me of our situation. My wife and I bought a '58 Flying Cloud last January on a whim. We knew absolutely nothing about Airstreams or RV'ing in general, but were bored and thought it might be fun to fix up "one of those old trailers that looks like a toaster". Sure enough we found one on Craig's list a couple hours drive away. Seller said it was road ready & safe to tow. It was not, but we got it home on a "wing & a prayer." He also said it needed about 10 hours of work. We've been working on this project nearly every day since then and spent over $5K and I think I'm about half-way done with what they call here a " full Monty".
I think the biggest issue with older trailers is leaks and the resulting rot, especially in the floor. If the floor is rotten - and it often is in several places - you pretty much have to gut it. As I soon found out. Some people even take off the entire outer shell.
At any rate, your time wil be well spent reading the threads on this forum. You'll find a wealth of information on every aspect of "Airstreamin'"
As for the running gear, now that I know better, I would say error on the side of caution. Some people show up to retrieve their vintage trailers with replacement wheels and tires. You might be OK with no brakes on a smaller, lighter trailer and a short trip. Plan on replacing all the running gear eventually including the axel and/or having the leaf springs rebuilt.
Good luck with your search and learn all you can and perhaps unlike the wife and I, you'll know what you're getting into.
OBTW We're "hooked"; she's not for sale.
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:53 AM   #4
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First thing go jump on back bumper real hard! If you separates then run!
good to know...i'll be sure to bring my running shoes!


"Old Nuke" -
thanks for the insight, i hope i don't make the same...mistake. i'll be gutting it anyways, but i need the 'bones' to be strong and reliable.
And i never thought of bringing my own tires, but that could be very smart.

thanks for the info,
keep it coming...
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Old 10-15-2009, 02:17 AM   #5
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Nomad, you REALLY need to do a few days' reading of the gazillion threads here on the forum. This is complicated information and, believe me, it's ALL been covered before. It's always nice to get new people into our Airstream world -- and welcome! --but you won't glean enough info from the random responses you might get here on this thread, since you are at the very beginning of yer search.

I recommend taking a look at the "full monty" threads on gutting, dismantling & rebuilding an Airstream before you go any further.
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Old 10-15-2009, 03:00 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by NomadKitchen View Post
I'm trying to find an old 23' - 25' vintage airstream,

I am totally new to airstreams and don't know much about cars either...
hello simon

i agree read, read, read.

then 'splain more about the plans, budget and so on...

an old 23-25 is not a great choice for your plans as so far expressed.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f44/...rea-54178.html

in terms of the issues noted in the TITLE here, axles and brakes will most certainly need replaced on old trayla...

the frame may need reinforcing or rust treatment or welding of outriggers.

OLD traylas don't have holding tanks much less the SIZE u will need.

same with the electrical service and lighting and gas needs of a FULL SERVICE diner...

then there is the weight.

i doubt u really have any idea what a diner'stream will weigh,

kitchen gear is generally heavy as are the counters, fridges, stoves and so on...

but IF it is any thing close to 10,000 lbs (your figure) that's a problem.

the old 23-25s were made to carry 3000-4000 TOPS.

so simple frame reinforcements are NOT gonna double or triple that figure.

not to mention they are NARROWER than modern units and much of the hardware (doors/window) are expensive to find and replace.

again without more info, advise is vague, but imo a 70s unit is the OLDEST to consider...

and 28-31 feet in size. 2 axles are really needed and they'd need to be HIGHer rated than the originals.

then there is the tow vehicle.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f463...lbs-57486.html

90s diesels trucks are fine for towing and MIGHT make the 10k need.

but they are HARD to drive in urban zones and still require maintenance.

IF you managed to keep the trailer modest in size a 250/350 VAN would be a better towing choice.

MORE space for kitchen gear, generators, extra food and so on...

a few folks have made wiener mobiles and snow cone huts and even "toasters" from streams...

so food service is doable.

but many many more have vaguely imagined this without working out the details or realizing the COSTS 4 such a thing...

so read more, draft a better plan and post it here.

u might get an occasional useful answer or idea in the replies.

cheers
2air'

my last notion is KEEP IT ALL IN ONEN THREAD.

the idea, the project, the trayla, the rehaber, the tv are ALL related.

it will read better as ONE LONG STORY and it will be easier for those who MIGHT help to follow.
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Old 10-15-2009, 03:21 AM   #7
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An addendum:

In re-reading your initial post, you are tilting at windmills. There is NO WAY that you will find a "cheapo" Airstream that doesn't need "$$$ work done to it."

Honestly...
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Old 10-15-2009, 05:51 AM   #8
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this will help you out

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Old 10-15-2009, 07:06 AM   #9
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This reply is not meant to dash your hopes or plans in any way, it's just information...

Any old airstream with "good bones" ain't going to be "cheapo"

Here is why: If it's in great original shape, it isn't cheap, and probably shouldn't actually be gutted for some other project.

If it's been sitting in some field, it isn't going to have good bones. In fact it may have no bones.

If it was sitting in some field, and someone already repaired it's bones, they have spent either a lot of time or money, and are done with the hard part, so they are not going to give it up, at least not for cheap. It's all down hill for them at that point.

Do you intend to use this in the Berkley area? or the Bay area? Those are both areas with A) a lot of rules about such things, and B) a lot of areas where a mobile kitchen won't fit well, because of narrow winding streets.

I think you are looking to have someone else do the work on the trailer for you? Just so you know, it will not be cheap to have done. Most on here, rehabbing AS's are the types who can/will/have done this before or are willing to learn as they go.. It's in no way cost effective to pay someone to work on your old trailer or car.

Good Luck.
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Old 10-15-2009, 07:38 AM   #10
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Not Sure of Your Direction But...

Airstreams are designed as travel trailers. If your intent is to build out an empty shell for another application, then you need to be aware of the design and structural limitiations of an Airstream, and the geometries of towing.

Significant changes in weight and the distribution of weight can create significant issues if not thought out and planned for. I'm all for something new and different, just suggesting you continue seeking advice if you feel that you are in uncharted waters so to speak.

Some trailers have lead abused, or neglected lives, and are better off salvaged for other purposes. I applaud you for looking at a derelict units rather than attempting to take a usable, or restorable unit out of service.

Regards and Welcome,

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Old 10-15-2009, 08:47 AM   #11
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I found my '68 on Craig's List. I got lucky. Mine was sitting in front of the house for over 18 years, full of storage junk in cardboard boxes. Owner of the investment house that was rented needed to clean out the area - zoning issues for him. Trees and bushes had grown up all around. The AS had sat so long that "my baby" was up to dirt to the frame. She had no title and a couple of plastic windows and I paid $1,200. I made a deal with the seller - paid 1/2 now and remainder when I got the title from the state. A lot of work later I sent in $275 to Broadway Title in Alabama and title showed up in less than 10 days. So about 7 months later the seller got the rest of his money. You don't hear a story like that - honest nice man. Over the months we have become friends. Seller delivered As to me and my dirty, long hours began. I had helpers to do the heavy work (removal of old appliances, etc., floor repairs, cleaning of all the dodo from former tenants (birds, rats, racoons etc.) and then bug bombs every week for a long time. I have not added up the receipts to date - I know it's over $13,000. The reason for this long conversation - go for it. Just be aware that it's a lot of work and will be a big cost - especially for you. You may want to pay more money up front for a AS that has had the undercarriage already done and then you need only to redo the interior. What every you decide, go for it! Keep us informed.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:24 PM   #12
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The frame is heavier, stronger and there is more of it on the competition: Avion, Silver Streak and Streamline. Less likelihood of leaks as well. Only A/S used the floor as a structural element (semi-monococque design), on the others the walls and roof are connected to, but not supported by the flooring. (This is a simplification). The suspension on non-A/S trailers is either simpler & stronger (leaf), or more rugged (Avion, depending on year). These can sit for years in place and not ruin the axles as which happens with A/S. Etc.

Approximately pre-1966 is non-anodized aluminum, afterwards is bulletproof anodized.

A/S is cool, to a point. If H-D is the practical reason for buying an aluminum trailer, then the competition is the better choice. Not to mention they are cheaper to buy, fix and maintain. Streamline had the distinction all-aluminum cabinetry. (And option some years was a built-in hydraulic leveling system at all four corners. You cannot jack up an A/S the same way).

See the Vintage Kin sub-forum, and do some comparison shopping.

site mash : : combined classified and auction listings

"Commercial kitchens" have been made from all brands as I recall. Maybe an owner can be found and quizzed. The electrical and plumbing will be $$ to meet code requirements, I would imagine. 1972 or later for dual holding tanks.

I second the idea of a van to be the hauler. Short rear body overhang (past rear axle) for best handling/maneuverability.

No matter the brand, this site will furnish the most info for all "travel trailer" compatible issues you may have.

Good luck.
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:04 PM   #13
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Wow!
well that was a lot of info.
Just to clarify, this thread was to ask, when i am in front of a potential AS, what are good things to look at that are indicators about the structural soundness of the frame, shell, and possibly axle.

The bigger picture - My plans are to take an airstream, gut it, refurbish it as a commercial kitchen. I have done blueprints of the interior (23'-25' is perfect), i know all the weights of my appliances, and cost of everything in an extremely accurate budget. (a tow vehicle with a 10k capacity is what i want, my total weight will only be in the range of 7k-8k.) In terms of the axle, i know that i'll be needing a double 5k. In '69 23' had double axle option with 2.6k each. So i was thinking i can put the single axle 5k in place of double axle, creating 10k. I may be totally wrong, that it's not possible.
In terms of cost, i'm hoping for a trailer that is under $5k. My concern is if i buy a $3k A/S and then still have to do all the work i would've for a $1k i would be...bummed.
And one more thought - i won't be doing any of the real work myself, so far i'm thinking Inland RV. They seem really knowledgeable and helpful. I'd have them do the axle work, cut out a service window, repair any structural issues, and cut the hole for the hood. Possibly do electric and plumbing.
Yes this is a big job...a "Full Monty". I'm in it for the long haul (so to speak). Thanks for all the advice and concern.
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:15 PM   #14
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And one more thought - i won't be doing any of the real work myself, so far i'm thinking Inland RV. They seem really knowledgeable and helpful.
If you already know about Inland RV I would suggest you get up with Andy R. at Inland if you have not already done so. He's a very knowledgable and willing contributor to the forums.

Regards,
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