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Old 09-13-2012, 05:49 PM   #1
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Chapel Hill , North Carolina
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Suggestion on what to look for in an Airstream purchase

So I've never owned an Airstream, but I have had several campers and RVs and have plenty of towing and RV experience.

I currently have a 2011 Itasca Navion 24J Class C motorhome. That's the Mercedes Sprinter 3500 chassis, and it's rated to two 5000 pounds. I've gone from NC to Colorado and back with an enclosed trailer that was about 3,000 pounds total, and while it did slow on the big grades, it was still faster than most semi trucks on those, and it was completely fine otherwise, so I consider it adequate for that kind of load (assuming the trailer has working brakes).

What I'd *really* like to have is about a 22' Airstream that I can customize on the inside, and by "customize" I mean I'm willing to build out the ENTIRE inside from scratch if necessary, including tanks and such. I really just want a full bathroom, four bunks, and empty space in the front. No galley, no dining space, no chairs, no real storage to speak of. My plan is to setup the empty space so that I can tie down two small motorcycles in there (yes, I realize I may have to do some work to the door to fit them through, and will have to be able to lift and move them around once inside...but think dirtbikes and young people here). The purpose? A trailer that can handle a decent volume of "stuff" to take with us on a trip, and then a place to sleep four more people and let kids "hang out" when we get there. Our family of four can go places in the RV by itself, but with this we'd have more room to spread out *and* they could take a friend or two.

I've checked out the weight chart of the different models here:

airstreamguy.com - ** Airstream Lengths, Weights and Tongue Weight

And I think a 22' model with most of the interior gone and being smart about what I build back could get me what I'm after. That said, from my research it looks like there are a LOT of random differences between the models that span the large time period that would work for me. So I'm curious if anyone has any recommendations on what to look for. I think I'm fine with a single axle trailer, but I know that means making sure and put very high quality tires on it and keeping an eye on them (as well as having a spare!). There's a '59 for sale in the classifieds right now that needs a ton of work, but I want to know if it's okay to go that far back or if there's some reason that the 50's models would need a new axle to be safe and a 70's model would be much better or something like that.

Any recommendations here? I'm definitely looking for something under $3k, even if it is one of those "I gutted it to restore it, but never did anything else" kind of projects.


--Donnie
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:10 PM   #2
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There was an Airstream on eBay a little while ago. It had a clam shell rear. Check it out.
AIRSTREAM NO RESERVE 1962 OVERLANDER CUSTOM VINTAGE CLASSIC NO RESERVE in RVs & Campers | eBay Motors
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:21 PM   #3
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Airstreams in the '50s had leaf springs and might not need replacing. Rubber axles came about in the 60's and have a limited life. I would think you could get a pretty good shell and running gear for $3K. I would figure you would put in (at a minimum) another $5K to finish it out. For $8K you could buy a much newer model that is ready to run.
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:26 PM   #4
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Yeah, doing something like that is certainly possible to whatever I buy, but might be overkill and would definitely add weight. And likely would leak. *shrug*

If it's not possible to "wiggle" the handlebars of what I want through the door then I'll probably just do a very small opposing door that will get me the opening that I need. But I'll worry about *that* once I get one.

For more details, I'm really hoping to recess some D-rings in the floor for tie-down points and then just have a bare floor when traveling. Once unloaded, I'd just unroll out a piece of carpet with a banded edge on that part of the floor. For "chairs" we'd just have a few bean-bags stuffed in the bunks. Would probably put a combo TV/bluray player in somehow. I wouldn't bother with a genset since I wouldn't need one most of the time, and if I knew I was going to need one then I can take a portable that I already own. Could still throw a dorm fridge and small microwave in there if I *wanted* to cook, and we always have folding camp chairs around, too.

I'd have working AC and just carry a ceramic space heater for the few times I'd ever need heat, which would just *never* be anywhere that I didn't have a place to plug-in, so no need for the typical RV gas furnace or any of the ducting. I'd do some modern 12V LED lighting and put a battery and solar panel to keep it topped off (and associated wiring so the tow vehicle would charge when in motion, too). And a 12V pump and probably a tiny 110V hot water heater. I think pretty much all of the equipment like that will fit under one bunk along with a 35g or so fresh water tank.


--Donnie
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwightdi View Post
Airstreams in the '50s had leaf springs and might not need replacing. Rubber axles came about in the 60's and have a limited life. I would think you could get a pretty good shell and running gear for $3K. I would figure you would put in (at a minimum) another $5K to finish it out. For $8K you could buy a much newer model that is ready to run.
Dang, my previous reply doesn't make sense because we were both typing at the same time and I didn't quote the second poster. *sigh* My bad.

Anyway, I get what you're saying, but I haven't seen many "ready to run" $8k units that were decent. Most seem to be more like $12k. And honestly, I'd feel bad ripping most of the interior *out* of even an $8k model to do what I want with it. Plus if I did that I'd want to limit myself to buying a four bunk model...while out there, those seem a little more rare, too. If I don't do that, then I'm ripping out a lot and installing a lot and I'm back to where I think I should have started with a $3k unit.

So I guess the question is are brake parts and bearings and all that still available for those early axles? I'm not above just putting new springs and a new axle on whatever I get, if I got it at the right price for that kind of work. But if everything I could need for the earlier axles is easily available and they hold up well, then obviously just going with an earlier model would be fine.


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