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Old 08-26-2009, 10:28 AM   #1
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1978 29' Ambassador
Oskaloosa , Iowa
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 2
New Guy & '78 Ambassador Question

Hi all. I have been a member here for a little while, but this is my first post. I got interested in Airstreams because my grandfather has a '78 Ambassdor with the International Land Yacht package that he is the original owner. He will give it to me if I want it, but there is a problem. It has been sitting for about 20 years outside, and before that, it wasn't used very much. Everything on the inside is rather good except the curtains. The outside, as you can imagine, looks rather rough, especially considering it went through a hail storm. My question is whether it is worth it to keep this trailer and restore it. I am worried about the problems of a trailer that has sat for 20 years outside through Iowa winters. I have hooked a pickup up to the lights and I can hear all the brakes hum and most of the lights work. So, I would guess the rest of the electrical system is still good. Where would I start, and what would I need to check to bring this trailer back to life?

Thank you,

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Old 08-26-2009, 11:08 AM   #2
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1976 31' Sovereign
Missouri City , Texas
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 1,231
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There are many on this forum that have taken old Airstreams that have sit abandoned for years and then brought them back to life. My 1976 Sovereign was sitting in a dirt field for probably 10 years before I got it 2000. It takes time, patience and money, but yes it can be done. First you need to get it to a place where you can work on. Start with the running gear, the axles, brakes, shocks, wheels and tires will no doubt need to be replaced. There are countless threads under the running gear section to get you started. Once these have been udated start on the electrical, propane, sewer and water system. Then proceed to the windows, floor and leaks. Have fun

Don Hardman
1976 31" Sovereign

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Old 08-26-2009, 11:17 AM   #3
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1977 27' Overlander
1973 27' Overlander
1963 19' Globetrotter
Naples , Florida
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,259
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Go for it,you got an original to start with ,which puts you way ahead of the game.My GT had sat gutted,full of junk,with a vent blown off in one of the hurricanes,for 15 years.
We don`t have the winter snow,but we do have the summer rains,and salt water.
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Old 08-26-2009, 11:27 AM   #4
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1991 34' Excella
1963 26' Overlander
Central , Mississippi
Join Date: Nov 2006
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If you want to restore it, the hail damage might be an issue. If you want to enjoy it, go for it. Our '77 is a better built trailer than the '91 we just bought.

Clean it up, get it road worthy and go camping.

On Edit - Welcome to the Forums!
Hi Ho Silver RV! Vernon, Sarah, Mac the Border Collie -
A honkin' long 34' named AlumaTherapy
and a 26' '63 Overlander, Dolly
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Old 08-26-2009, 11:35 AM   #5
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1978 31' Sovereign
Texas Airstream Harbor , Zavalla, in the Deep East Texas Piney Woods on Lake Sam Rayburn
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,435
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Welcome to the Forums!!!

The price is certainly right -

Since you're a legacy it would be a shame to let it go outside of the family.

You could always sell it later on if you lose interest - just make sure that grandpa and the rest of the family would be OK with you doing that.

Start by studying and understanding as many of the "rebuild" threads as you can stand to read.

Understand the difference between "Restore" and "Renovate"

Restore – to bring back to an earlier condition

Renovate – to make something new again by repair, redecoration or remodeling

Most of us here are "Renovators" - rebuilding, but adding equipment and options that were probably not available when the trailer was originally manufactured.

...and (as a renovator) it's not "Hail Damage" - the proper term is "Personality Dimple".

"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

WBCCI # 1113
AirForums #1737

Trailer '78 31' Sovereign

Living Large at an Airstream Park on the Largest Lake Totally Contained in Texas
Texas Airstream Harbor, Inc.
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Old 08-26-2009, 12:56 PM   #6
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1964 26' Overlander
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
Anna , Illinois
Join Date: Sep 2002
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Greetings height!

Welcome to the Forums -- and, hopefully, to the ranks of Vintage Airstream Ownership!

I concur with 87MH, it would certainly be a shame to permit a family legacy coach escape from the family. You are within a few miles of where the owner of another legacy coach is located -- he is the third generation to own and travel in his 1960 Airstream (purchased new by his grandfather).

While you may find issues from its long period of inactivity, it would seem unlikely that the repairs/refurbishiment would exceed the value of the coach. You may even find that the coach has some interesting features such as Excella Hydra-Vac Disc Brakes -- 1978 would place the coach within the time-frame when this feature was available.

By the time that any Airstream has been around long enough to reach its 25th birthday, it is quite likely to have experienced at least one hail storm. I have lost track of the number of hail storms that my Overlander has survived. For the most part, hail dimples will become much less noticeable over time -- my '64 Overlander has less than six that are evident today yet it has never been stored under roof. To me, those hail dimples are simply evidence that the coach is well-traveled.

There are two things that you would want to be aware of from the beginning. Given the long period of inactivity, you may find that the Dura-Torque axles have taken a set and will need to be replaced to insure that the coach receives a smooth ride. The second is that 1978 was during the era when some of the longer Airstreams experienced frame sag (a factory repair procedure has been documented for this repair) -- it was most common with the Sovereign but could also be found in some Ambassadors.

You are fortunate to be about two hours from an excellent Vintage-Friendly Airstream repair center (they are no longer an Airstream dealer, but have continued as an authorized Airstream Repair Facility). Ace Fogdall RV in Cedar Falls, IA (just off of US 20) has done much of the appliance replacement on my coaches as well as an axle replacement on my Minuet -- I have been totally satisfied with all of their work and only wish that they were closer to my present location.

Good luck with your investigation -- I really suspect that you would derive a great deal of joy from your grandfather's Airstream.


P.S.: My Airstream isn't truly a family legacy coach, but it was purchased new by friends of my family in 1964 and I was invited on my first camping trip when the coach was new and I was five years old.
Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 08-26-2009, 01:22 PM   #7
New Member
1978 29' Ambassador
Oskaloosa , Iowa
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 2
Thanks all for the encouragement. Since this was purchased new by my grandparents, I have all the documentation that came with the trailer, including the letter from the WBCCI, encouraging my grandparents to become a member, and a service manual, which may make things a little bit easier. It doesn't have the Excella Hydra-Vac disc brakes, which may have been neat at the time, but probably better off not having them now. It doesn't appear to be leaking anywhere from looking on the inside. One question I would have is that on many of the windows, the original caulk is coming off that orignially was between the aluminum frame and the glass. Can I just use any caulking I would use on house window to repair this. Finally, the rear sag, I don't think is a problem because the the stabilizing jacks have been down for the past 20 years (they may be a little rusty now). Thanks again, and I look forward to picking your brains in the future.
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Old 08-26-2009, 02:23 PM   #8
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San Angelo , Texas
Join Date: May 2005
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You can't just use any old caulking. Take a look at this link:

Airstream's store is a great place for understanding what product to use on what part of your coach. Then you can look at other websites to see if you can get it cheaper.

Good luck with your legacy.

1971 Sovereign International - SOLD

2004 F-350 King Ranch

AIR # 8239
EX-WBCCI # 8371
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