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Old 09-30-2003, 02:26 PM   #1
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bay city , Michigan
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Everyone Please Help put some distance into a very hard decision for us

We sold our 35' chris craft last fall to give camping a try, we purchased our 1970 31' land yacht this spring and love camping as much as we did boating, we are suckers for the vintage gear that gets people to stop by and chat. any way here is my dilema,

after reading and reading and reading on this forum i started to gain some knowledge, i now can tell that my trailer has a frame / shell seperation problem (by bouncing on the bumper) and i also have bad axles(negative angle on the torsion bars)

we paid $3,000 for this trailer(everything works like day one)
and we love the trailer(we will never own SOB) how do I decide whether this trailer is worth the 2k for axles and ?? for the frame issue, basically can everyone give me there opinion, should we sell and get a newer A/S or is it worth it to put the cost of the trailer back into repairs??

Thanks Everyone!!

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Old 09-30-2003, 02:38 PM   #2
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2004 25' Safari
. , Illinois
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Well, I'm not a vintage guy, but I will say that even if you spent $5k on repair and upgrades, it's still less expensive than a new unit.

If you like the unit and the rest of the unit is in good shape, then I'd consider it an investment (whos dividend will be the countless hours of bliss camping in it!). I have a '64 Runabout too. I spent about $3k fixing and upgrading it. To me it was a heck of a lot of fun and it came out just as I wanted it to.

If you don't have the time to do it, then you have to see what it will cost for someone else to do the work. At that point, you'll have to decide if it's worth it depending on what you can see might be needed in the unit moving forward. For example, you know you need axles and need the seperation issue addressed now, but the unit leaks, has rotting floors and is the shell is damaged too, at that point if you can't do it yourself, it becomes more costly to fix than to replace (with either another used one in better shape or a new one).

My gut says fix it. But then again, I wasn't up for another rebuild or overhaul of anything, so this time I went new..I also paid a ton more that getting a pre-owned unit and fixing it up, but you make choices...


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Old 09-30-2003, 02:56 PM   #3
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1956 22' Safari
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I agree...

If you like the trailer and it works for you, fix it. In the long run you'll be ahead ~ especially if you like the attention a vintage trailer attracts. We know of several folks who have repaired their separation/sag problems and never regretted it.

Also, if you go to sell it now knowing it has these issues, you are obligated to tell the prospective buyers which will effect your selling may not get the $3000 back out of it.

Just think, if you bought it for $3000 and put $5000 or so into it, it'll be "perfect" for another 30 years at a cost of $8000. On the otherhand, you could spend 4 times (or more!) that amount for a new one and always be lusting after a vintage one!

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Old 09-30-2003, 04:42 PM   #4
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We went from a 46' Chris Craft to what we thought was a 1971 A/S 31" International (once retired the slip fees were a killer).

We paid $5,000 and later found out we had a 1969 A/S with the seperation problem. Frame was OK but we had the factory reinforcement put on anyway. Those items we had repaired by an A/S dealer. Now find we have bad axles, most of the stuff inside is OK, fridge door has a swelling problem but works OK on gas. I replaced counter top's, repaired lot's of small items and installed new carpet. I did all the interior work myself. Will do the axles next spring.

The big ticket items...
Axles..fridge...AC....frame bent...seperation..awning..will run around $7,000 (our AC is OK ). If you need it "all" you will still be ahead. For $10,000 You will have a camper that will last a lifetime.You can't do that with a $20K new SOB!!

I think when completly upgraded we will have around $12,000 in ours and that includes a new awning, axles, fridg, frame fix, fantastic fans and seperation fix, just about all the big ticket items. Absolutely no regrets.
Would I do it again. Yes but not pay $5K knowing what I know now but I would go for $3K.

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Old 09-30-2003, 04:43 PM   #5
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If ya got the energy and the money to fix your AS I say do it. Heck, we went out and got a new one and then spent about five grand redoing it so Tinsel Loaf is the way we want it. I did'nt have the energy to restore a vintage unit but enought to upgrade a new unit. I always look twice at a vintage unit when I see one. I say fix it, it's worth it.
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Old 09-30-2003, 05:43 PM   #6
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I vote "Fix It" too....

I doubt you could touch a newer one for twice what you'd have into your repaired vintage.

To help Firefighter "crunch the numbers," can anyone ballpark the cost of a rear-end separation repair?? $1,000? $2,000? $5,000???
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Old 09-30-2003, 07:53 PM   #7
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1959 22' Caravanner
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It's a labor of love. Our unit has been in my wifes family since 1980. We inheritted it when my Father in-law passed in Feb.

Today I took the body off the frame to replace the floor. We are up to $1k JUST for materials. We are doing all the work so no labor. If all goes as planned the body will be back on the fram Sunday. Then we can start refinishing the interrior. All the RV appliances are missing and it's been converted into a park model. We plan to convert it back but upgrade it to current standards. I imagine we will have $5-6k in it before it's all over for just parts and appliances. Several hundred hours of labor.

Probably never break even on it but we will enjoy it and hopefully it will be in good condition when it gets passed down to one of our girls.

Here is a picture from about 6pm today.
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1988 R20 454 Suburban.
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Old 09-30-2003, 09:23 PM   #8
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I cant say about the cost of the rear end seperation but my 76 had a broken frame, and im remodeling the interior to boot. I suspect by the time im finished I will have somewhere including the inital cost of the purchase of $5500 or better invested, but everything worked when I got her.
1976 Soveriegn 31'
F250 Turbo 7.3L Diesel
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Old 09-30-2003, 10:07 PM   #9
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Thanks to everyone for the feedback

please keep the information coming. i believe that being informed helps everyone make the right decision the first time.

to any one who performed there own rear end seperation do you have any good instructions ( with pictures) on what it took to do it. from the reading that i have done the axles seem pretty easy just have to spend the $ to get them.
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Old 10-03-2003, 07:14 PM   #10
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1990 32' Excella
jonesboro , Arkansas
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Wink Rear frame seperation

First Axles - there are a lot of RV salvage yarde out there. I know for a fact Co-Law in joplin missourri has at least 20 streams and most have axle assy's. I don't know the cost but probably a lot cheaper than new,and some of the unit's ther are ony 1-4 years old. You could probably have them shipped with brake assy too.
They also have awnings , I bought a full set off of a 2001 for 800.00
The rear floor sag is a job you could do yourself. I have done it to 2 31'. It does take time and a few tools . One of the things you might want to get is a tech repair manual . They have step by step directions for removing and repairing everything in the trailor. If you want I can give you instructions on how to pull the rear floor and replace it. You replace the rear frame bolts during this process and cure the sag.
The internet sit for colaw is
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Old 10-03-2003, 09:08 PM   #11
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As a dedicated cheapskate, and one who is building a brand new, 1985 Sovereign 25' one piece at a time from Colaw's, I have to say I would be very hesitant about buying axles from a salvage dealer. They simply have no way to tell if there is any life left in what they have or not. Of course, if you COULD find a late model, with the appropriately rated axles, and if the price was right, that would be different (or would it? Are they the same length now as in the 70's?). As far as Colaw is concerned, they have two real late models - one 16' Bambi, and a 34' Classic. The axles are gone from the 34', and the Bambi only has one. There is a pre-wide body 199? something or another.

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Old 10-04-2003, 06:02 AM   #12
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Seperation issue

Joel, you pull the rear flooring to fix the seperation i like the way this sounds, does this mean that you do not have to cut holes into the shell above the back bumper?

if you can please give me more info, also where do you purchase the repair manual that you spoke about,

Thanks Alot.
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Old 10-04-2003, 08:27 AM   #13
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1990 32' Excella
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cUTTING HOLES IN THE REAR BODY WOULD NOT FIX THE PROBLEM. What causes the rear floor sag is the floor gets wet and rots around the edges. This causes the floor ,frame,and body to flex and move and rusts the bolts ,sometimes completely in half.You need to pull your carpet up in the rear to determine where the first seam in the floor is. You can also tell where the rot stops.
Here is where if you are really lucky and the stars are all in the right place and you hold your mouth right, your trailor will prove to be the exception to the rule and you find out that you only have loose frame bolts and not rotted floor. If this is the case you need to remove enough interior furnishings to allow you to drill out the rivets and roll the inside skin up far enough to replace the bolts. to give added support to the bolts and keep the head from pulling thru the interior channel which is very thin. you need to get a piece of 1/4" steel and grind it to fit in the channel at least 2" either side of the bolt.
Now if the floor is rotten and it is only a small spot you might patch the area by cutting out the rotted area and putting in a wood patch. In most cases you will need to replace the entire rear section.To do this you need to pull all furnishings past the seam and high enough to roll the sides up to get to all the small bolts that hold the body to the floor. Than you go out side and pull the bottom trim piece off to access the rivets that hold the bannanawrap on . Drill these out and let the wrap hang down out of the way.I used a sawsall to cut the ends of the bolts off instead of trying to get all the old nuts off. Once all plumbing wiring and other stuff is clear you need to pull the rear bumper.
Now the body and frame are loose from each other.To slide the floor section out you need to pull the frame down in the rear.To do this I had 2 pieces of steel adout 100 lbs each and chained them to the rear frame rails[with the steel sitting on the ground].
Then you have some one go around and gently lower the front of the trailor till the frame and body seperate enough to pull the old piece out. Raise the front back up and support the rear frame till you are ready to put the new piece back in.
Cut your new piece and slide it back in. Put it all back together and caulk around the trim with vulkem . Keep it caulked !!!!

To get the rivets out use a 3/16 bit to drill just the heads off of the small ones and a 1/8 bit to dill the rest out. Use a 1/4 to drill the heads off of the large rivets and a 3/16 to drill out the rest.

When you go to drill all you small holes in the edges of your new floor section Get a right angle attachment for your drill and drill your new holes by finding the holes in the interior channel and drilling down thru the floor.

Sounds like a lot but took me about 3 days of work to do the first one and 2 on the second.

As for the book I think inland rv might have them or know where you can get them. I will copy the pages from my book that you need and scan them in and e-mail them to you. But it wil be monday before I can get to a copier. My e-mail is send me yours and i wiil get the pages to you.
Good luck and any questions just ask
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Old 10-20-2003, 07:07 PM   #14
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1969 29' Ambassador
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Great Info

Joel, thanks for all of the info. I recently purchased a '69 29' ambassador. I see some indication of rippling in the side panels in front and behind the axles. If you happen to have any pictures of your efforts, or of the book that you referenced, I'd be gratefull for any help. I'm hoping to avoid dropping the pan or doing the 'elephant ear' solution as I've read others speak of.

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