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Old 10-12-2018, 03:22 PM   #1
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1979 30' Argosy
Beaufort , South Carolina
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At what point does scraping a vintage Airstream outweigh restoring it?

We recently purchased a 1979 Argosy for next to nothing and knew that it would cost a lot of money to restore. We do not have the space or tools to do the frame off portion of the restoration so we took it to a shop to see what it would cost to take shell off of the frame, repair the frame, put down new subfloor and return it to us. This was quoted at $44,000 which is way more than I was expecting. Is this price abnormally high? I donít have photos on me now, but I will say the frame is in rough shape. Most outriggers will need to be replaced and it may need a whole new frame. I have a couple of questions for the community:

1) Does anyone know of a company that sales frames made for old model Airstreams/Argosys?

2) How would you determine if this should be scraped/parted out? I would hate to see that happen, but canít do the frame work with out current situation and will not pay that high for it to be restored?

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Old 10-12-2018, 04:14 PM   #2
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I would just consider "kicking the can down the road" and let someone else make that decision. I can not imagine that "parting one out" is an easy task either and will require years of time and storage space. Getting out of it at a loss might be the best option available and the cheapest outcome overall.

And no, I doubt if the estimate is grossly too high. There is probably no way to tell without details of what they are going to do. Just painting an Argosy is pretty expensive. And the bidder has to have some "cushion" in there for the areas he gets stuck in.

Until you work on one of these trailers it is hard to understand how time consuming every detail of it really is.

I think the people who do restorations work very hard for their money both in terms of hours and in terms of risk of loosing money on the job.

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Old 10-12-2018, 04:33 PM   #3

2003 25' Classic
Zanadude Nebula , Milky Way
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Welcome Aboard!! 👍

Consider...taking inventory & photo's.
Sell everything worth anything here with the classified section. While there ck out all the gently used options @ 45k.

Sweet Streams & Good Luck

"We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don't know."
W. H. Auden

ďWe were young and knew we are old and everyone else knows everything.Ē

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Old 10-12-2018, 04:39 PM   #4
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2017 30' Classic
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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For a "have somebody else do the work" rebuild, the price does not sound crazy. A pro knows what the real costs are and passes them along to you. Yes, he makes money as well. I don't see any of these guys living the high life.

If you want to get it done cheap, do all the work yourself for free. Do in in a giant facility you happen to have (also free). Do it with tools that you happen to already own (so again free). Also since this is a hobby, all the time spent learning how to use those tools well is also free. One would assume that the insurance, taxes, and upkeep on all of that stuff gets paid for by Uncle Al since it never seems to factor in either .....

A lot of the cost of any rebuild is dependent on just what shape the MH or trailer is in. The next component is "how well do you want it done?". It is not at all uncommon to buy an older AS for *way* less than it will cost to restore. There are a few rare versions out there. Most of the rest will go very cheap once they get to the "cannot be safely moved without work" state.

Airstreams are hardly unique in terms of restoration. There are a lot of things out there that cost way more to restore than the starting cost of the item being restored. Vintage boats and airplanes quickly get into this category. Many vintage cars fall in as well. People restore all this stuff mainly because it's cool rather than because it makes economic sense.

One example of this sort of "it's really cheap" thinking - the parts to rebuild an engine are generally quite cheap. Getting a full rebuild for less than 10X the price of the parts - good luck. You see a lot of people talking about parts cost when justifying rebuilding. You don't just see it used when talking about Airstreams .....

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Old 10-12-2018, 05:10 PM   #5
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Be ever so thankful that will loose very little on this deal by just selling it.

Is $44,000.00 way too higher price....maybe, maybe not. The price maybe reflects the fact that they wouldn't be able to fix the frame, but end up replacing the entire frame, add new subfloor and new banana wrap....all after spending hours dissassembling the interior, interior walls, removing the body, building a new frame, replacing the subfloor, and then replacing the body and interior walls; after installing new electrical and insulation.

How many hours labour......I'd estimate at least 320 hours (8 weeks, one person) @ $100.00 per hour = $32,000.00, just for labour, let alone materials and taxes. If the shop hasn't done work like this before, it will add to the bill.

This is why so many Airstreams are sold "gutted, ready for your dream interior"

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Old 10-13-2018, 08:32 AM   #6
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Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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There are a lot of people who toss out time estimates on rebuilds. The real answer is always going to have to wait until the job is done. Does it take 300 hours, 500 hours or 800 hours? You can guess, but you will only know once it's over.

If you multiply any of those numbers by $70 to $140 an hour, you get some pretty big costs. If you believe that that range is out of wack, try hiring a skilled (not a newbie) plumber, electrician, or HVAC guy on an hourly basis. The individual doesn't get paid that much, there are overheads. The same overheads apply to "free labor" .... how they get paid is very much a "that depends" sort of thing.

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Old 10-13-2018, 08:58 AM   #7
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Seems a little high for frame repair and subfloor replacement. Maybe get a second opinion from the AS factory?

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Old 10-13-2018, 11:55 AM   #8
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Houston , Texas
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Yours is a familiar tale. We buy a vintage Airstream because the price was affordable, and we think we could do some cheap superfical fixes and be on the road. You scratch the surface of the rennovation and realize you are in over your head.

Yes, professionals will charge a lot for a shell-off. $40k seems high--question is, what seems reasonable to you? $20k?. No, nobody makes an "off the shelf" replacement frame. If you need to replace the whole frame, then it is a custom job.

If you want out of this project, don't scrap it, don't part it out (the parts are essentially worthless anyway (except for maybe the panoramic windows up front). Gather up all of the pieces, put it back together enough that it can be towed down the road, and put it up for sale--take a loss if need be. There are plenty of gutted trailers offered for sale by folks just like you.

good luck!
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Old 10-13-2018, 12:12 PM   #9
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Was driving through Hatch, NM in September, and saw this poor sad Airstream parked in some RV business with a piano apparently dropped on the roof. Many observers would say this is doomed to be scrapped, but there are those who see a rebuild candidate. You just need to find that guy and sell him your Argosy as-is.

good luck!
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Old 10-13-2018, 12:44 PM   #10
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I think Bill M gave you the most practical and low cost advice.... kick the job down the road to a true hobbiest who has the time, tools and shop needed to rebuild it.
Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 10-13-2018, 02:21 PM   #11
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1979 30' Argosy
Beaufort , South Carolina
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Thanks for the advice everyone. I thought $20K would be reasonable to have a frame repaired and new subfloor put in. Guess I was way off, live and learn.
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Old 10-13-2018, 03:04 PM   #12
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Knowing when to give it up.

It is a very valid question and one many many many on here who are into the vintage restoration have asked themselves at one point or another. Myself included.

The key to getting ahead on these ole gals is to pick one that is in fairly good shape to begin with. The frame is the key aspect - a few outriggers and a bit of surface rust is quite doable. But a rust through frame triples the work. The frames are usually fairly reasonable but it is the labour in preparing the shell off.

Labour is the issue in the restoration - always has been - it simply takes 100's of hours. Those who do it in less time usually have the heated garage and bags of time on their hands, or a 2-3 year down the road to a finished product.

The days of finding a sweet ole gal at a reasonable price is long gone. In 2004 I found a 1969 GT 20' single axle. Took the time to import her. $4K US purchase, and we put in about 2K of new parts and materials, and 100's of hours to restore the original wood interior. We were lucky - only a few spots of wood rot, and surface rust on the frame - as she was mostly stored indoors. 4 years later she was sold for $15KCND

Next was a 19' GT - in real rough shape inside but the shell and frame were fantastic. Paid less, but put in more $$'s and time for new parts, polishing, and reconstruction labour. Not sure if the Ex ever did get her all back together - but all the parts were purchased. That sweet thing could easily go on the market for $18K plus. And a nice profit would have been made.

So that is where you have to ask yourself - when finished will you be making your money back - at least break even - if not - and not being usable then it is simply a boat anchor to which will cause you nothing but stress and headaches.

I currently made the decision on a little European Caravan. a 10ft and a 15ft. The larger is the better of the two and I had already started the gut and resealing job and she is now ready for the rebuild inside. The little one would have been real cute however doing the numbers and looking at the hours (time available) and the money outlay for parts and materials, I would be lucky to break even.

I then priced out both the savings (for replacement windows on the larger one if I ever broke a window) and the re-sale of some other good parts, recycled metal and fixing up the frame and selling it, she would net over $3K.

It is hard to say goodbye to the oldies - but the way I look at it - sometimes one caravan has to sacrificed to help some other vintage units get back on the road.

It is also A LOT of work to tear down and part out an airstream. My Ex and I did that to a 2000 Excella. In the long run it was well worth it - but still a lot of work. We paid $2500.00 at a wrecker. At the time we purchased a 26 Overlander and the two were going to be combined - parts from the newer one to replace the interior of the older one. It did not work out as we had hoped. She was parted out and the grand total to include the sale of the frame netted close to 6K. Resold the 26 ft at 3K profit - so you see we only ever made a couple of K each time - with the exception of the first one that was in the best condition.

At a meer $15 per hour labour rate that equates to 200 hours - I guarantee you that you will be spending triple and quadruple that....bump that price up to RV Restoration rates 75 - 134.00 You would be better off buying one that has been restored or even a newer used one.

Good luck with your decision......
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Old 10-21-2018, 10:20 AM   #13
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1973 Argosy 26
Bloomington , Indiana
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The consensus is right. Kick it down the road. If you want to travel, get one that's ready to travel. The number of shells out there-- projects gone wrong-- exceeds the number of trailers ready to go. If you want to make artwork, pay the $44K. If you want to travel, start crawling Craigslist for a runner, not a queen. Our Argosy 26'er gets pulled or yanked to lots of great places. So far, we have $6K in it, and it's safe, moderately ugly (original paint), and 100% of those paying $30-120 grand love it. One loses sight of the fact that these are for going down the road, not admiring for their aesthetic value. Properly maintained (ours was), they last for a long time. Then they should be recycled for their aluminum and steel scrap value. They're a tool, not a museum piece.
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Old 10-21-2018, 11:28 AM   #14
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1977 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
Nashville , Tennessee
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"At what point does scraping a vintage Airstream outweigh restoring it?"

When the trashed out Airstream/Argosy trailer is 24 feet or longer in length!


Remember "Drive Fast, Turn Heads, Break Hearts"
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