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Old 06-22-2011, 07:13 PM   #1
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Thinking of purchasing an old AS instead of new...question of leak

We have always thought we would buy brand new due to the fact I don't want to restore an AS after restoring a 100 year old home. But now that I'm really looking and want one sooner then later I think I'm going to have to settle for an older one.
I have heard from someone at one time that there was a couple of years that AS made models that leaked a ton. Is there a year that I should avoid due to the fact that I'm scared to dive into a "project".
Thank-you for helping me, I can't wait to have one and be able to post my "baby" along with my avatar and stats!!!

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Old 06-22-2011, 07:27 PM   #2
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Beware the Beatrice years..

Meredith-

Welcome! There were no particular years known for lots of leaking, but the years when Airstream owned by Beatrice Foods (during 1970's) there were some cost reduction ideas implemented that led to weaker frames, rear sagging and leaks that led to sub-floor damage.. Some have been restored, some have just been re-carpeted for sale.. Be careful, and consider taking an ice pick or awl to look at any trailer and check for floor rot...

That said, used tralers fall into several categories.. Many written about here are rotten rusty projects acquired almost for free and which become multi-year adventures.. The second category are late model used trailers (3 to 6 years old more or less) that have all modern conveniences and are often in great condition, but still cost more than half the value of new ones. The third category is beautiful restored vintage, from 1950's, 60's and 70's.. New appliances, interiors, plumbing and tanks, and electrical work.. Often pricey, very cool, and come with club of enthusiastic owners.. Finally, there are semi-vintage, from mid-'80's to late 90's.. Often inexpensive (rarely more than $20K) but with fully functional kitchens, A/C, good plumbing and cabinetry (those were years of actual Oak..) and usually tired fabrics, but can be spiffed up without major mechanical work... We bought into latter category, and have been very happy. Other folks here have tasted all 4, and most feel good about choices.

The only major warning is to avoid the rusty major project unless you really have the time, money, tools and skills to get it done. There are not a lot of success stories from people who were unaware of the magnitude of effort when they started, and learned difficult lessons...
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Old 06-22-2011, 07:41 PM   #3
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Before you condemn the 70's units consider the 80's+ units with OSB flooring which falls apart once wet. There are 2007's with completely rotted out floors. At least the 70's units floors lasted 40 yrs before rotting out. Also in the 80's they did away with the front holddown plate which leads to front end seperation. Each decade has it's own issues.
The fact is that there is a basic design flaw to the rear bumper area which lends itself to leaking into the trailer unless the maintenance is kept up.
Beware of units with replacement hardwood or laminate flooring unless the seller can prove to you that the sub floor is sound. Often this type of flooring is installed to disguise the extent of the sub floor damage.
Those oak interiors are heavier as well so you may need a bigger tow vehicle to move a unit that heavy properly.
Once you find one you are interested in there are volunteer inspectors here that can help you check the condition of the trailer.
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Old 06-22-2011, 08:16 PM   #4
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Hello Meredith and welcome to the forums!
I'd say that Airstreams leak from about 1936 until 2011. Any Airstream can leak. In older Airstreams, it matters more the amount of maintenance and upkeep that has been devoted to the trailer. I have a 1972 Ambassador (Beatrice years) that I bought last November. I have since completed what I'd call a very successful repair of great magnitude. See the link below in my signature. There are many '70s models for sale because those were the years of the largest sales volume. 1972 was the year in which Airstream reached its greatest sales volume. Sales tapered off steadily until the 2000s.
Be cautious with what you buy regardless of the vintage. Ask for someone with years of experience in the Airstream game for help. Someone like Wasagachris above. There are many great people here that will be happy to help!
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Old 06-22-2011, 09:20 PM   #5
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Meredith,
Be very aware of the tremendous amount of time it takes to do a "project". If you have lots of time and some mechanical talent then by all means find an older trailer and enjoy the process. If, on the other hand, you don't have time and or the skills, buy something newer that is travel/camping ready and enjoy.
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Old 06-22-2011, 09:31 PM   #6
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Our '71 Tradewind only had a couple of places where the (real) plywood subfloor needed to be replaced, in spite of some chronic leaks and some rear end separation.

We've been able to camp in it since we replaced the axles and fixed the exterior lights. Since then it's been a gradual process of steady progress, some functional, some aesthetic. I agree with those who recommend having an idea of what you're in for before you start. Only you know what you can do and what will be fun.

This thread has some comments that you might find helpful: Vintage or new?
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