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Old 09-29-2008, 11:42 AM   #1
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1977 31' Excella 500
Emmett , Michigan
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Discoveries on New '77 Excella

Well, I have been gradually going through everything with my "new to me" a977 Excella. I am beginning to think that I overpaid! Here is a list of the major projects needed:

1. New Tires ( bought 4 new carlisles this weekend)
2. New axles (probably okay for another year or two)
3. New Awning Material (stiching is all deteriorated)
4. Clear coat failure on top half.
5. Center Bathroom floor rot from a toilet supply valve leak.
6. Rear end (twin bed) floor rot
7. Small floor rot under left arm of gaucho
7. Electrical fuse box replacement (ordered parts, will repair this first)

Besides this it is a very nice unit. Has some nice customizations, lots of good working cabinetry and all working original appliances including small washer/dryer unit. All tambour doors and plastic totes intact. The trailer appears to be pretty well taken care of in general.


I am planning on tackling the major fixes over the winter months. Including the floor rot. Is it possible to fix the floors without lifting the body? Rather than gutting the whole trailer, I was thinking of doing it in two stages. Rear section, then Front section.

Any advice?

Nate
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:51 PM   #2
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I didn't blink buying new axles; I tell myself mechanically it's a new trailer out there.

Dropping the belly skins wanting to find out what is what usually is the first step - You may have space limitations, so some intimate personal time flat on ones backside with nose rubbing on skins and frame may work but a healthy distance away with a lifted trailer makes it bearable.

Yes - people have pulled whole sections of flooring up w/o lifting the trailer (removing belly skins) but it's more complicated than just that - there are bolts one needs access too under the outside wraps, a real possibility you will find missing metal where the moisture met iron and won - etc..

Remember there is pink fluffy (hopefully fluffy) insulation under there - better to dispose of it down and out than have to collect it and haul it though trailer.
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Old 09-29-2008, 06:09 PM   #3
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It's all in the name of maintenance

Sounds like regular wear/deterioration issues. I have a 76 model with the same issues, plus a few more. I figure that I have a 32 year old trailer and I plan to spend a fair amount of $$$ and effort fixing her up and making her my, (oops, sorry Honey) I mean "our" own.

As a matter of fact I just ordered new awning material today. While I wait for it to come in I'm rebuillding the old Carefree of Colorado hardware.

Welcome to the fix-it club.

Kevin
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Old 09-29-2008, 06:49 PM   #4
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I agree the problems you describe are commonplace in trailers of that vintage that have not been regularly maintained. I agree completely with Kevin and the Wabbiteer. No way to tell if you paid too much unless you tell us how much you paid.
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Old 09-29-2008, 07:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nd48463 View Post
Well, I have been gradually going through everything with my "new to me" a977 Excella. I am beginning to think that I overpaid! Here is a list of the major projects needed:

1. New Tires ( bought 4 new carlisles this weekend)
2. New axles (probably okay for another year or two)
3. New Awning Material (stiching is all deteriorated)
4. Clear coat failure on top half.
5. Center Bathroom floor rot from a toilet supply valve leak.
6. Rear end (twin bed) floor rot
7. Small floor rot under left arm of gaucho
7. Electrical fuse box replacement (ordered parts, will repair this first)

Besides this it is a very nice unit. Has some nice customizations, lots of good working cabinetry and all working original appliances including small washer/dryer unit. All tambour doors and plastic totes intact. The trailer appears to be pretty well taken care of in general.


I am planning on tackling the major fixes over the winter months. Including the floor rot. Is it possible to fix the floors without lifting the body? Rather than gutting the whole trailer, I was thinking of doing it in two stages. Rear section, then Front section.

Any advice?

Nate
Is your Airstream equipped with electric or disc brakes?

Most of the 77 Excella's had disc brakes.

Also, the clearcoat is only good for 5 to 6 years.

What you see is where it has totally crystalized, and simply fell off.

All the clearcoat on your trailer has been dead for almost 25 years.

Andy

Andy
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Old 09-30-2008, 09:57 AM   #6
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I Paid $5000 for it. I knew it had some issues and am not too concerned about it. Just a bit nervous. I am quite mechanical (mechanical engineer by trade) and should have no problems fixing the old gal up.
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Old 09-30-2008, 01:14 PM   #7
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It's my impression Excellas fetch a bit more than the other standard Airstream lines. As long as those above are the only major problems you probably did OK. No bargain but OK. The difference in the haggle price and what you paid will only be fractional when you start pumping the bucks in to restore her. The main thing is you like her. It's kind of like marriage.
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Old 10-07-2008, 11:27 PM   #8
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I appreciate the comments above and would like to chime in here. I have owned and restored a 1971 Land Yacht. It was a rear bath that had been parked for many years on blocks. I replaced most of the interior and actually built the front lounge unit to pull out to a bed with the side storage unit like the original. The only problems was not being able to find the original laminate. There was seperation in the rear that needed repair professionally. I paid $2500 in the early 90's and spent about $5,000 total (did not replace axles). All the appliance worked well and restored electrical to 12 volt after the previous owner had it wired for 120volt. It worked perfect for several cross country trips (Florida to California) and many other local trips.

I recently bought a 1973 31' all original Excella that was previously owned by the Dally Byum club in Tennessee (Bill Daugherty) and planned and founded the AS camp in Tellico Plains. If has sat for a number of years and needs work. I paid $5,000 for this unit that included the original aluminum wheels, Zip Dees on all windows, the original microwave etc. There were some major issues that need repair.
1. new axles and tires were placed
2. new refrigerator as couldn't find anyone to repair to original - problem
it now requires 12 volt to operate the board even if cooling with gas
3. plumbing has several cracked pipes that need repair and faucets will
need replacing
4. several small areas in the floor need repair
5. replaced all of the weather stripping on doors and windows including
access doors
6. had entry lock mechanism fabricated by a maching shop so I could
keep the original ($50) and well worth it
7. roof vent covers have plastic center for light access and will have to
be addressed
8. much of the tambour needs replacing - I have done this before and it is
a big job if done properly
9. need to check the entire plumbing system i.e. holding tanks for further
cracks/leaks
10. generally work on the other cosmetic details to make it a jewel i.e.
replace the speakers for better quality sound (yes, it had the original
8 track with a tape of Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner that I listen
to while working on the unit, new covering and curtains, generally
clean and polish

I think you get the idea. The unit is very solid but has the expected problems for a trailer of this age. I did pull it from Florida to Tennessee on the new axles and tires with the prodigy controller and averaged 13.6 mpg at 70 MPH. I am hoping to complete this project with approximately $10,000 - $12,000 invested. At that cost, I will have a beautifully restored vintage Airstream that should be ready to travel anywhere. I truly love these trailers and the memories they make. They are something owners can be proud of while on the road.

I feel that the price you paid is a bargain when looking at the prices of the new units that just don't attract me. I am able to do most of the work saving money while knowing that it is being done right. I am also hoping to incorporate a solar unit to make it somewhat independent from the grid.

A good, clean unit using quality materials functioning as it should with a few modern upgrades (solar, dish/cable, sound system) with the quality of the Excella would surely be worth the cost at resale. I love the silly touches like the doorbell and only dreamed about awnings on all the windows in my first Airstream. Most of all, I will never forget the life memories made with my younger children travelling cross country. I can't wait to do this again with my second family - boys ages 8 and 10 years.

You now have a piece of Americana. Get it in the shape you want and I'll see you on the road. You got a good deal

Joe
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Old 10-08-2008, 07:48 AM   #9
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Thanks Joe! Makes me feel good about my new purchase! I have big plans for the trailer. The only problem is the endless possibilities! Looking at all of the pictures posted on here really makes you broaden your horizons. I have worked the past two weeks to get it road worthy and we are taking on a her maiden voyage for a quick local weekend. Let the memories begin! We have been family campers for the past five years. We purchased a 2004 Keystone brand new and liked it, but the quality and craftmanship is terrible on the new trailers! To think my new Aurstream is 31 years old and the interior is in better shape than my 2004! I don't think I will ever be able to turn back from owning an Airstream.

Nate
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Old 10-08-2008, 10:08 AM   #10
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Nate,
Your in the same boat (trailer) I was in last year. I had bad floors, axles etc..... I did a lot of work over the past year and have enjoyed the project. Yeah - much more money than I ever dreamed but if I ever sell this trailer the next buyer can be rest assured that everything was fixed right!
The toughest part of the the new axles is the price - the job was pretty easy.
The floor is a different issue - You may want to remove your floor coverings to see the extent of the damage. Take note - a wet floor probably equals a rusty frame. I removed the belly pan on mine, sandblasted and painted the frame and put back in new plywood that had at least 3 or 4 coats of exterior poly with some aluminum drip edge around the outside edges, and caulked (vulkum'd the heck out of the exterior where the water seeped into the edges of the plywood from the overlapped aluminum).
I now have a good idea of the time and energy it takes to restore a trailer to good usable condition. I actually hope to someday find a center bath Overlander from the late 70's to restore but the price would have to be right. Restoration/refurbishment is not a cheap endeavor.
Good luck - in the end it will be worth the aggravation.
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Old 11-02-2008, 12:54 AM   #11
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1977 Excella Brakes!!!!

I just sold my 77 Excella to Warner Bros. Productions in Vancouver, BC. Are you aware that 77 AS's have vacuum over hydralic brakes? The brakes are hydralic but attivated by vacuum through a hose which must be attached to your tow vehicle. Of course, a vacuum line most be routed to the rear of your tow vechile. I didn't know this until after I purchased mine. Everyone I consulted said, "convert to electric because the vacuum system is not reliable". There is a conversion unit by "AccuBrake" which sells for around $700.00 plus installation. Warner Bros. wasn't concerned so they bought it as is. It will be featured in the movie, "Cats and Dogs II" Good Luck, Airstray
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Old 11-02-2008, 12:07 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nd48463 View Post
I Paid $5000 for it. I knew it had some issues and am not too concerned about it. Just a bit nervous. I am quite mechanical (mechanical engineer by trade) and should have no problems fixing the old gal up.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
It's my impression Excellas fetch a bit more than the other standard Airstream lines. As long as those above are the only major problems you probably did OK. No bargain but OK. The difference in the haggle price and what you paid will only be fractional when you start pumping the bucks in to restore her. The main thing is you like her. It's kind of like marriage.
I have owned both Sovs and Excellas of 31 foot.
IMHO 70's era Excellas may bring a small bit more than Sovereigns, but they really should not assuming relative like conditions. However to the uninformed there may be some superior "status" associated with the Excella name and badge. The mere fact it is an Excella should not increase the value much more than 250-500 dollars in my opinion.Not even that much if I am buying.

Speaking today in 2008 terms:
I would put the '74-'80 models in the $3000-$7500 dollar value dependant more on condition and eye-appeal than on which actual of those years.
To go above the 7500 range would require proof of frame (& outrigger) health, floor integrity, A/C check out, axle condition (if to be a traveler), electrical and plumbing pumps & lines, and tank & tank hanger integrity, and overall appearance freshness and fit and finish relative to age. If there is no structure failure, IMHO the bath placement (rear or midship) is not a value factor.
The '69 - '73 models would fall in a range of say $1000 - $4500 with overage of that similar to above. Remember that starting with the '74 models grey tank and axle rubber improvement* were initiated.

*some say this rubber improvement started midyear of '74 model and others say started with '75 models.
Also remember that the '74 Excella was included in the '75 Airstream Service Manual, which indicates that it is probably an early release '75 model in actuality.

I consider the '70's era to include 1969 thru 1980 (inclusive). I know there are differing opinions on this. I'd like to hear yours.

Anyway I find 5000 for a 77 Excella to be perfectly within the ordinary.
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Old 11-02-2008, 05:13 PM   #13
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Lightbulb Axle Rubbers

If I may add to my above thinking on the axle rubber improvement. I am guessing that Airstream stocked as few axles as they could get away with during a production cycle. After all Henschen was just down the street (or at least nearby). So good purchasing practice would be to let Henschen inventory and stock the axles, thus incurring no expense onto Airstream until the latest date.
I also will guess that Henschen did not market axles with regards to a model year market. So perhaps we can deduct that the rubber improvement was instigated as soon as it was determined to be an improvement. But the act of removing old style rubbers from the axle shafts was such a difficult and time consuming task that I seriously doubt Henschen went back and converted those in the inventory warehouse.
Therefore can not we assume that not every '74 and a half or '75 Airstream was fitted with axles that contained the new rubbers. Perhaps even some '76's or later might have the old. Not a happy thought, but just my guess at common sense axle marketing.
I guess all this axle talk belongs on some other thread, sorta.
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Old 11-02-2008, 06:39 PM   #14
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Bought a 1976 Sovereign last October and paid around $4,000.00 for it. It's not the Excella, but was owned and well loved by an elderly gentlemen who made many improvements to it. Everything worked with the exception of the frig. That's been replaced and the Sovereign is now being used while we build our home down at the lake. We love the room in this big ole trailer and we're having so much fun with it. I think you made a good buy. I haven't changed out the axels because we don't really pull it much and the coach seems to be sitting up on the wheels for right now. If we decide to take it on the road when we retire, we'll visit the axel question again. Otherwise, this is a grand addition to the family. May you have as much enjoyment from yours as we have from ours so far. Pictures are of our hook-up in Michigan to pull him home and then sitting in the side yard the morning after our trip straight thru from Michigan to Oklahoma.
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