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Old 07-28-2009, 01:04 AM   #1
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Does it really have to be that difficult?

Ok, so I am a current vintage Canned Ham resident basically boondocking with no power/water in Alaska. My little trailer is a heap, but I don't mind because I only paid $200 for it and it paid for itself in saved rent within two weeks. (Pricey little ski town.) It has water damage, but doesn't actively leak on me, so I'm leaving well enough alone since it's just a "summer home" and is meant to save money, not be a money pit.

The point is, obviously, not about my Tin Can. It's about my next prospective Tin Can.

A 1970 Sovereign. You know, that long one, the 31-footer. Rear bath model. Came across an ad for it near my home town that I will be moving back to in the next year or so to go back to school.

This gal is probably far more literally a tin can than my current abode. It is gutted, even the floor is pulled with temporary walkways in place. All wiring exposed, et cetera. The thing is, the frame is straight and solid, the axles, while I'm sure are far from pristine, ought to get it to wherever I plan on living in it. (Recently made the trip from FL to north MS just fine.) No major dents on the exterior according to my dad who checked it out for me yesterday. All the windows are either installed and working or inside the thing. I think dear old Dad also said all the interior wall bits and pieces were there.

I think the price is right-ish. $1200. From what I've seen, this isn't the best price, but not the worse. Probably about right in the middle somewhere. And the way I figure, it seems like most of these things need to be gutted out to this stage anyway to reno right, so they saved me a lot of work.

So, here's the thing. Reading through this forum has taken me from fairly confident (Helped my parents finish houses, worked in a little bit of light reno construction for a while, fairly mechanically inclined and ridiculously determined,) to terrified.

Does it have to be so difficult? I don't even want to restore the thing to vintage glory. I want a mostly open studio apartment with a kitchen counter and a closet attached to the frame and most everything else floating.

I figure we check out the plumbing/wiring while all's off, add insulation, throw in a good marine grade plywood floor and either put a clear coat on that or pick up a bit of lino or something off Craigslist or one of my builder buddies. A little less sure about the inside skin. I like the look of the birch in my Tin Can, but never installed the stuff and not sure what it costs, anyway. Hoping that's the hardest part, along with fitting out the kitchen cabinets and closet to fit the walls.

Not too concerned about making her road ready. This will be more of a mobile home than a travel trailer. I'd even prefer standard "apartment size" appliances (range/refrigerator) if you all thought that might be ok for the rare short haul she might make throughout the rest of her life.

In my head, this stuff doesn't sound easy, but it doesn't sound nearly as forboding as some of the "Before you buy a vintage Airstream" caveats.

What's your thoughts?

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Old 07-28-2009, 05:45 AM   #2
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1976 27' Overlander
Scarborough , Ontario
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It doesn't have to be difficult.

People have different goals when it comes to renovating/restoring/getting ready for the road. Your goals aren't to make it pristine, just to make it livable and comfortable. To that end, making sure it's mechanically sound is critical. The inner skins are somewhat important to the structural integrity of the beast. I don't know what would happen if you didn't have aluminum, but there are other (earlier) trailers that had wooden inner skins (the Spartanette?) so it's not unheard of.

So I don't think there's a need to be terrified.

Kevin and Leah
Accountants who tow sans regret
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Old 07-28-2009, 08:36 AM   #3
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Are you going to continue to live in AK? One problem with Airstreams in cold weather is condensation. The insulation is only a couple of inches of fiberglass and heating may be an issue.
Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine.
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Old 07-28-2009, 08:37 AM   #4
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Placerville , California
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Congrats on your project. It will be fun if not challenging. That's life ain't it. If you think it will ever a road trailer you should consider some bulkheads for body strength. These trailers do flex and need the interior 'bracing' that bulkheads or partitions provide.
Neil and Lynn Holman
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Kirk Creek, Big Sur, Ca. coast.

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Old 07-28-2009, 09:55 AM   #5
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1972 29' Ambassador
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Missing aluminum ie: exterior skirt banana wraps would be a near deal killer, they are hard/expensive to find - the interior liners bits'n pieces you say are there is a good thing time and money wise.

Having a frame strong and straight is good, but the spars and outriggers being in good shape are just AS or more important as the detail work of obtaining and installing multiples of either will more costly then patching just the ladder frame.

Another important detail is if the door closes snugly at top and bottom and if any door or door frame damage (latch/striker pocket/hinges)

I suspect the trailer should be passed over, if someone else backed off and are giving it away then maybe; $1200 goes along way on the many project fodder trailers out there and usually the longer length they are the cheaper they go for.

I'm sure you feel pressured to get your lodging plans started but ebay and craigslist will always have old airstreams...

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Old 07-28-2009, 11:36 PM   #6
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I'm with Wabbit: for a little bit more, you could get a LOT more trailer. From your brief description of the $1200 unit, you are missing too much to be able to make it livable in a hurry.

My advice: keep looking.
If it's to be, it's up to me.
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Old 07-31-2009, 11:23 AM   #7
1972 Travelux Princess 25
Cobourg , Ontario
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It all depends on your definition of difficult. If you are used to restoring old houses Airstreams are a breeze. For one thing they are a lot smaller. Strip 5 layers of wallpaper out of a 16 room 1875 house then strip the clear off an Airstream and it's nothing.
Living in the trailer park of sense, looking out the window at a tornado of stupidity.
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Old 08-01-2009, 02:57 AM   #8
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Well, perhaps against all my best advice I went ahead and bought it. Won't actually lay eyes on her in person until October, but Im hoping to get Dad to get some photos to get me started when he drops off the check tomorrow.

Also, yeah, I was sweating it a little and still am I guess, but then I saw just about the same trailer sell for $400 more in MUCH worse condition. I figured I had to take into account the fact that it was practically in my back yard and just begging for me to take her, home, too.

It would have easily added another several hundred dollars in truck rental and gas, plus the possible repair of things I'm not too worried about. (Axles, tires. The ones she's got are good enough to get her where she's going.)

Yeah, I think when all's said and done I will have been able to get a trailer in pre-existing livable condition, but I like the chance to customize as I go along.

Got my finger's crossed I don't live to regret it, but I do find security in the fat that he had a string of people lined up behind me wanting her, if she does indeed prove to be too much.

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