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Old 04-30-2011, 06:02 PM   #1
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Any red flags on buying a renovation project?

Hi everyone, I am looking to buy a used Airstream to renovate and live in full time and have a million questions.

I've just spent the last couple of days whenever I've had a spare minute watching the diynetwork's series on renovating an airstream in which they pretty much replaced or repaired everything in their 27ft 1971 Overlander. I gotta say it was a great comfort see so much done in so much detail.

My question here then i guess is when I go shopping for my renovation project is there anything that I need to avoid, any signs that the job may be just too big? The internal renovations and polishing don't scare me but are there signs of big problems that a novice like me wouldn't necessarily pick up on?
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:15 PM   #2
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First off, welcome to the Forums!

Not to discourage you, but keep in mind, the DIY shows are only a couple of hours long at best! It's not quite as easy in "real life"...we have over 4,000 hours into our '56 Safari, I'm sure many other folks here have the same. None of it is hard it just takes LOTS of perseverance to actually finish a major renovation. They also rarely talk about the $$$ that's involved...of course, that varies from trailer to trailer & person to person - but you may end up spending several times the purchase price by the time you are through. To get a good idea of "How to" check out some of the major restoration threads here on the forums and this Restoration Resource website. Good luck in whatever you decide to do!

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Old 04-30-2011, 06:24 PM   #3
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It is a huge undertaking. I would avoid it like the plague.
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:27 PM   #4
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Yeah, what they said. It costs way more to renovate than to buy something that is half way useful. AND, having been a "featured designer" on an HGTV show many years ago, I can attest that they cut every corner they can to make stuff look easy and quick, which is just the opposite of the way you want to approach an Airstream renovation. That said, its cool to get it to the point you can take it out, with projects still to be done, and see what you want to change or adapt. Just go into it with your eyes open.
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:42 PM   #5
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Floor rot all around the perimeter of the floor where it meets the shell, especially at the rear end and under all openings like windows.
Rear end seperation is a common prob;em that arises from floor rot in longer rear bathroom models.
Frame rusted out, which usually can be seen from corroded and seperated belly pans.
Axle conditions, the torsion axles do wear out or become set or frozen from the trailer sitting too long.
Polishing should scare you it is a very long and labourious task. Several hundred hours are needed.
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:58 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone, I know that TV land is hugely compressed and way more simple than real life but I'm kinda prepared for that. I'm also not doing this to a deadline so if it takes a year, two or five then thats how long it takes, for me the end result justifies the journey. In the same way I'm refinishing a cast iron bathtub for my house rather than dropping $150 on a new tub, its more about the character of things than the cost of things otherwise I'd be paying a couple of hundred bucks every two weeks on a new RV than looking to buy and restore a classic, something with real personality.

Are there any pages on the site or elsewhere on the web that has pictures of the pitfalls that people mentioned?
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Old 04-30-2011, 07:06 PM   #7
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Hang around a while. You'll see the same things pop up over and over again. Chris mentioned the common ones that you'll see most frequently. Check out the repair subforums and notice the titles of the threads.
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Old 04-30-2011, 08:51 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hankyknot View Post
... In the same way I'm refinishing a cast iron bathtub for my house rather than dropping $150 on a new tub, its more about the character of things than the cost of things otherwise I'd be paying a couple of hundred bucks every two weeks on a new RV than looking to buy and restore a classic, something with real personality.
...?
You may be of the right mind to take on something like this. From my own experience, if you can get one with a sound floor, you're off to a good start. I had to replace my entire floor, which snowballed into other things. Or, maybe you want the journey of taking it apart and rebuilding it, as your own. There is something about an Airstream that hints at the open road and exploring, even if its in pieces in one's backyard, even better on the road.
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Old 04-30-2011, 09:24 PM   #9
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List all positive assumptions then re-categorize them as replacement items. I expect to have north of 14 grand in mine plus purchase price. I'm replacing everything except the tanks, shower, water pump, converter, and vanity sink. I'm rethinking the vanity sink and the water pump.
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Old 04-30-2011, 10:35 PM   #10
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I would echo everything above, except if you got the cash and time go for it. For some people it takes 4000 hours, but for some it takes 1000; it depends what you spend you time doing, how particular you are etc. I picked up a '54 Cruiser in the beginning of March and will hopefully be full-timing by end of May. It won't be "finished" but it will be liveable, hopefully. We are cutting it close.

You can check out my blog to see what we have been doing and get a good idea; but I say go for it...if you want
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Old 04-30-2011, 10:49 PM   #11
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We just got ours in January and almost immediately found we had to replace the rear floor, which had rotted due to (of all things) a missing gasket around the storage door! We worried about running gear, so had new brakes installed, bearings, and new tires.
The thing I've learned is you must like working on one almost as much as using it. And when you think you pretty much have everything right, something else will crop up. But, to us, it's all part of the fun.
We love our 1992 AS and would not trade it for a brand new SOB of any stripes.
I also think how much you have to spend has a lot to do with how handy you are. Paying to have stuff done to the AS is a losing proposition and doesn't usually turn out well, anyway.
Have fun!
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Old 04-30-2011, 11:17 PM   #12
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Reread this post

Quote:
Originally Posted by wasagachris View Post
Floor rot all around the perimeter of the floor where it meets the shell, especially at the rear end and under all openings like windows.
Rear end seperation is a common prob;em that arises from floor rot in longer rear bathroom models.
Frame rusted out, which usually can be seen from corroded and seperated belly pans.
Axle conditions, the torsion axles do wear out or become set or frozen from the trailer sitting too long.
Polishing should scare you it is a very long and labourious task. Several hundred hours are needed.
This is very true......if your floor has rot in it, it must be replaced.......the floor is an integral part of the trailers structure.....without a solid floor, well, just make sure you start here. Inside furnishings must be removed to fix the floor........we put a lot of time and money in our first trailer (1969 Overlander) only to find out the rear end had separated and the rear floor was falling apart more each time we went out and hit the pot holes on our highways......ever seen rotten plywood? not pretty. Also our axles needed to be replaced as we could see popped rivets and cabinets falling away from the walls......that said, we love our rebuilt 1968......but the project is not easy or cheap. p
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:01 AM   #13
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It costs way more to renovate than to buy something that is half way useful.

Just go into it with your eyes open.
I wanted to say that is not true. My shop takes worn out units and makes them into brand new ones. The costs are very very similar between a brand new Airstream and restored vintage Airstream. BTW, restored mean returned to original condition, not patching the floor and painting it up real cute. A restoration deals with every single part of the trailer.
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:34 AM   #14
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My question here then i guess is when I go shopping for my renovation project is there anything that I need to avoid, any signs that the job may be just too big?
"BUYER BEWARE" definition A warning that notifies a buyer that the goods he or she is buying are "as is," or subject to all defects.

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