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Old 03-05-2004, 06:21 PM   #1
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Black water on a '61 Safari

I'm a Newbie so be gentle. . .

I am going to look at a 1961 Safari twin tomorrow. The seller is admittedly ignorant of systems, etc. of the trailer.

Did this model have a black water holding tank? How large?

The seller advises that the furnace does nto work. Is that a big deal to fix?

Finally, can you refer me to a source for a AC for the unit that would look okay and cool that size trailer?

He is asking $6,500 for the trilaer and it is supposedly in good orginal shape. Good deal?

Any other items/issues to beware of with this model?

Thanks in advance for your wisdom.

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Old 03-05-2004, 07:00 PM   #2
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First welcome to the best A/S forum out there. I'm relatively new to A/S myself, I'm sure other will respond with better answers, but there is my 2 cents.

Black water tank: If the toilet is raised up on a platform about 6" to 8" then it has a black water tank. Back then the tank was above the floor.

Furnace: It would depend on whats wrong with it to decide if it would be worth repairing. Good news, no electronic parts for a 61 furnace. Worse case could easily be replaced. Approx cost $500 to $600 depending on BTU's

A/C: There are several good brands available Coleman, Dometic to name two. They both make a low profile that looks good on a A/S's

Price: Can't help you there, depends on overall condition. Check out this to help with price:

What else to look for: Very important is check out the condition of the floor. This is the hardest area to repair. There are lots of posts about floors, you can do a search to read them. Use a small blade screwdriver and go around the very edges of the floor. Especially check the bathroom area. Also check over all the major appliances to help determine price. If they all need to be replaced to make the unit reliable and useable you could end up investing $2500 to upgrade them.

Good luck, hope I didn't scare you. We bought a vintage unit and are thrilled with it. We decided to replace most of the appliances so that we could enjoy the Airstream experience without the hassles of stubborn appliances.

Hope this helps


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Old 03-05-2004, 07:16 PM   #3
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2004 30' Classic
Pattison , Texas
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We have a '66 Safari that was in good condition exterior. The interior was in poor condition. I believe we paid about $3,500.00 for this 22 foot unit. If the condition of the camper is good, I would not be offended by the price you stated. ebay has airstream campers listed that go for a wide range of prices. It may help you value this camper by taking a look at the current listings and see what best matches your trailer.

The black water on ours has a drain on the back. I intend to remove this and modernize the plumbing.

Pay close attention to the skin of the trailer and also the floor.

Good luck,

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Old 03-05-2004, 09:44 PM   #4
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1959 22' Caravanner
Atlanta , Georgia
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Looking at Vintage Airstream the toilet is located in the same place as our 59 Airstream. It should be a 6 gallon Black water. The tank is a pass though design. With the drain cap off and drain open if you hit the flus on the toilet you will be able to look right through the tank and see the ground below (unless there is a Elbow added on the drain from underneath.

My 59 Caravaner and that year Safari share basic platform. Some problems to watch for:

ROT around the toilet. Not a good way to look for it but doing things like bouncing on the bumper and seeing if the frame rail drops away from the body is a good start. The frame runs right under the toilet and if the floor has rotted out the fram will be free to drop if you load it on the corner.
Try to shine a light up around the drain on the bottom. Chances are they have knocked the drain off and there has been a access pannel installed when they corrected it. Might actually be able to drop that panel and check the floor there.

Check carfully under every window for rot in the floor. I am finding that the sealent used back then was sort of a plumbers putty. It has failed due to age. The gutters hide gaps at the top of the front and rear window that form a funnel. The water then drains through the wall down to the floor. I have had a simular problem with a side window as well.

Check as best you can under the reefer.

Check around the door and look up through the step. The frame tends to rust in that area.

Water tank is against the front wall. You guessed it, check for rot. Either set up you can pull up the seat cushions and should be able to check the floor around the tank.

61 should still be a solid axle set up like our 59. Check the springs and see what shape the bushings and spring eye bolts are in. The bushings on my coach are gone and it has caused wear on the bolt. Nopt really a difficult repair but f left un checked it could lead to the suspension failing.

Where are you located? There might be a Forum member right around the corner that would be willing to go with you that knows what problems to watch for and can give you an idea on what it would take to fix some problems.
1959 22' Caravanner
1988 R20 454 Suburban.
Atlanta, GA
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Old 03-06-2004, 03:47 AM   #5
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Thanks for your input so far!

Would it be possible/practical for me to add an aftermarket tank unter the bathroom? I really want a "self-contained" unit that would allow me at least a couple of days of flushes and maybe a couple of quick showers.
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Old 03-06-2004, 10:16 AM   #6
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Many modifications can be made to older coaches.

However, the key is "SAFETY."

A 61 trailer had a furnace made by International Oil Burner Company. It's main problem is that it explodes because the burner falls apart in time, because of rust. DO NOT USE IT, OR ATTEMPT TO USE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Adding tanks is OK, provided that the weight and balance of the trailer is not disturbed. To do so, is asking for severe towing problems.

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Old 03-06-2004, 01:27 PM   #7
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Blackwater on a '61 Safari

Greetings Marlboro!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstreams!

Did this model have a black water holding tank? How large?
The early 1960s coaches typically had a blackwater tank mounted on top of the floor such that the toilet appears to be sitting on a platform. These tanks typically held between 6 and 12 gallons with the norm seeming to be something close to 8 gallons. By '64 many of the coaches had blackwater tanks mounted below the floor - - but by the 1970s it seems there was a switch to above floor tanks again.

The seller advises that the furnace does nto work. Is that a big deal to fix?
My experience says that Inland Andy's advice is right-on. A forty-plus year-old furnace is beyond its useful life expectation. The furnaces have been tops on my list for appliance replacements on both of my coaches - - if you ever experience a furnace heat-exchanger failure and live to tell about it, you never want to tempt fate again (the heat exchanger in my 40-year-old Lennox furnace failed in 1999 - - soot flowing from the registers sent out the alarm to shut off the furnace (I don't expect to be that lucky again). Plan on about $500 to have the furnace professionally replaced (probably about $150 less if you do the work yourself).

Finally, can you refer me to a source for a AC for the unit that would look okay and cool that size trailer?
My notes indicate that 1961 was the firrst year that Airstreams were pre-wired for Air Conditioning from the factory. It would still be a few years before the internal drain would be a part of that pre-wire process. If the coach that you are looking at already has air conditioning, replacing an existing unit isn't a particularly difficult problem. If the coach does not currently have an air conditioner, however, the installation isn't as straight-forward as it is with Brand-X coaches. Airstream did not use existing roof vents to place its air conditioners, rather the opening for the Air Conditioner was cut based upon measurements from the first rib at the front of the coach - - this is the only place in the coach where the necessary supports for the air conditioner will be found (as well as the wiring). The existence of the pre-wire for air conditioning can be identified by an extra, unused circuit breaker or fuse in the service panel. Air conditioner brand/model choice is limited only if you want to maintain and internal condesate drain to avoid the problems of having condesate running down the sides of the coach - - these condesate drain pans must be purchased from an authorized Airstream dealer or service center; and these pans are available only for certain brands and models of air conditioners.

I have Coleman air conditioners on both my Airstream Overlander and Argosy Minuet; and neither air conditioner has the condesate drain pan. What surprises me, is that the coach where I experience problems related to condesate draining down the sides of the coach isn't the Airstream - - it's the Argosy. On the Airstream if I keep the Plasticoat well Walbernized, I haven't even had problems with water spotting from the condesate. On the Argosy despite all controls that I have tried, I still get rust streaking from the belt-line moldings down. If you don't mind taking the chance with condesate draining down the sides, your choice of air conditioner model and manufacturer is wide-open. My Overlander has a 13,000 BTU model while the Minuet has an 11,000 BTU model.

He is asking $6,500 for the trilaer and it is supposedly in good orginal shape. Good deal?
Check the link in Whistler's post. The price is on the high end of average for my area, but may not be in your region. The key will be in condition - - especially where the structural integrity of the floor is concerned as well as the functionality of the major appliances (refrigerator, range/oven, water heater, etc.). Skin condition is also importants - - tears, creases, and dents are expensive to repair - - about the only remedy is panel replacement and panel replacement quickly gets very expensive.

Good luck with your decision!

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 03-07-2004, 05:54 PM   #8
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Well, I bought it. . . $5,500.

Great exterior, no dents at all. Floors solid, maybe a patch near door but well done. Old tiles still under commercial carpet.

Interior is okay with original finish on walls, original pink stove/oven, pink toilet and shower pan. Even came with an old(original?) toaster which is chrome and pink!

Belly pan looks good. No LP tanks, needs gaskets around running lights. Needs seals aroudn windows and one is plexiglass. New tires, including spare. I will blast and paint tongue and bumper.

My intentions are to add a larger holding tank and AC.

The furnace is gas and appears to be later. I will get info and post later for your opinions.

Anyway, it will be a new adventure and I will need you guy's help!
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Old 03-07-2004, 10:45 PM   #9
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Welcome to Airstreaming. Now first order of business..... get photos posted. Of course I guess we can wait until you get it home.

Here's to years of enjoyment! (noise from top popping of beer inserted here)


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