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Old 06-25-2015, 10:20 PM   #1
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Avion vs Airstream vs Barth

So i'm buying some land!

I want to put a nice looking trailer/RV on it to live out of for a few years until I build. I plan on staying 2-3 years then using it primarily as a guesthouse/rental unit/smoke and bathtub shack after that.

I hate the common cheap **** RV's.

This shelter must be:
- visually appealing (lots of neighbors unfortunately... and i want something cool!)
- well waterproofed (do more rivets = more leaks?)
- mobile (idk where the house is going yet or where i will need to put materials and i don't want junk on my lot)
- cheapish (made comfortable sub 15k - 5k purchase price ideally)
- well insulated or able to be - good windows and thick walls(relatively mild winters but average temps are 0-32 f)
- well built frame (i mean these things are pretty old and iron rusts)
- simple (to maintain, fix, mod, etc)
- low exterior matinance

Oh, and my car can only tow 1500 lbs so i guess I'm gonna need a tow vehicle or to rent a u-haul.

I like:
- the older style... rivets, rounded, etc.
- natural light (but big single pane windows are a scary thought)
- outdoor hidden storage for lp tanks

I dislike:
- those awnings :/ the tracks are kinda nasty

Don't really care about:
- interior quality (would prefer to gut it to make it open and cleaner)
- vintage appeal (i dig that baby blue paint though... is that through the entire roof)
- tarnish/oxidation (is it necessary to polish it? can i do this myself?)

Usure about:
- size (won't move much and will be full time. smaller is cuter imo but less rentable.)
- water tanks (seem like overkill and will freeze. i'd prefer a diy composting toilet and maybe shower water tank or discrete drain)
- should i gut it, seal any potential leaks, insulate, and make a minimalist interior?

Soo...

There is a Barth nearby for $4,500.
pros:
- good condition outside and leak free (one piece roof?)
- hardwood cabinets
- new heater (driven by engine i believe)
- 5 solar panels
- generator
- premium so i assume its well insulated and well built
- can move it to the land with the internal motor
cons:
- sorta ugly
- motor and mechanical parts will break; especially if/when it sits. Plus it's another vehicle to register and insure which is 2k/year for my car...
... this seems like a solid, move in ready, collectable RV. But I don't want an RV; I just want a little moveable classy camp.

There are a bunch of Air streams ranging from 1955 to 1970 ranging from 5,500 to 30k. Eh condition. Solid exteriors eh interiors... some vintage stuff like the bath and cabinets but not a lot. there is one totally original. There is one for 4,400 gutted and insulated with cellulose and with "2,200 in treaded metal flooring" (ewwww). Cellulose + leaks sounds scary; should i just do my own thing?
pros:
- prettest
- windows look nicer then avalon
concerns:
- poor build quality?
- does more rivets mean more leaks (i love the '55 look)
- are the windows double paned; can i replace the gaskets and get them re-gassed? I assume the '55 won't be double paned; would it be crazy to swap the windows or install secondary interior windows? :/ I love the look of the '55 but theres the windows and the tail lights and some screws are rusty... :/
- i've heard the frames are sorta cruddy
- floors are rotted in most - is it as simple as putting down new plywood?
- i want to insulate... i can get cheap PUR (Poly Iso) insulation. Any advice on air barriers? How thick are these walls? How wide are these things?
- am i going to kill the value if i paint inside and/or gut it? I kinda dig the '55's interior but would prefer some modern luxuries like heat, solar electric, queen mattress, insulation, light wood, double paned windows, etc.

There is a Avion Ultra for 5,500 in nicer condition (imo the interior is ugly). Will this be built better or a better buy? Will it be worse? I kinda want to gut whatever i get but i may not have the money so it would be cool to be able to get by in the mean time.

Questions:
- best approach to insulate?
- is the Kimberly stove the perfect solution it's made out to be? Will my mr. buddy heater kill me if run inside? Lots of cheap/free wood... Would i be better off with a $500 LP instant water heater? Any thoughts on radiant heat if i do a reno? I suppose i will need to cut the shell to put these in? :/ The poor AL!
- do composting toilets work well enough?
- am i stupid to dump gray water?
- Avalon vs AS
- how are barths? Is that a better move
- is a rooftop solar film a solid idea?
- is it crazy to gut a decentish Airstream?
- how much work am i looking at if i just want shelter not necessarily road worthyness right now
- can someone decode the differences between ages and models? Should i go newer or is it ok to go older?
- whats a fair price/good deal?
- anyone know the legality of living full time in an RV on your land? I can use my parents address as my legal address. It's a .4 acre lot in a sorta campy community near a lake. community water nearby. no septic (yet)
- Is it advisable to lift this onto blocks for the next few years for the sake of the tires/axel and underbody
- how hard is insulating and fixing the floor. I will have ~ a month until it gets chilly. 2-3 until heavy snow. I'd love to be able to shower in the winder once i have a water and/or septic but i can always shower at work. or maybe insulate my water lmao.
- I may get an army tent... should i park under it?
- can/should i remove the old furnace?
- how cheap should i be able to get one of these. I'm flat broke atm and saving so the cheaper there better.
- how wide is the interior? Thinking about putting a nice fiberglass tub in the back below the window - it's 6 ft and i can get it for $50.
- do more rivets = more leaks? Will need need to replace rivets?
- i assume my 1,500 lb tow capacity won't cut it... will it cut it to get it to the land (60 miles)? I don't have a hitch but i want one for dump runs. Any recommendations on a tow vehicle/truck down the road and plow with? Want something i can register as an antique (30+ years old i think) and prefer diesel i suppose. There are some sweet 5 ton army trucks for <5k with <5k miles around here. Guessing the milage is bad though.
- any words of wisdom for the reno? in general? things to look out for? things to build in? etc...

Thanks in advance guys and gals!
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Old 06-26-2015, 01:05 AM   #2
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You asked way too many questions to answer adequately and most replies would require brand knowledge beyond Airstream. Your concerns are worth resolving but it will take skillful Google queries to find prior responses on the many topics you listed. That may be the best way to approach all the answers you seek.

There are folks who have gone the composting toilet route and are happy with their choice, I wouldn't know. Airstreams aren't really good below freezing but it can be done with skirts and lots of propane. It certainly isn't economical for more than a few days.

If you aren't pulling the rig and subjecting it to road stresses, rivets hold up very well. Leaks can be chased down and sealed.
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Old 06-26-2015, 08:18 AM   #3
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Whats a Barth? Never heard of them.

You're in NH. It gets cold in the winter. Airtreams are essentially tin cans and you will feel the cold or you will be pumping so much heat (energy) in it will make your head spin. You will also have issue with the water freezing or the waste freezing, probably both.

You want cheap but well equipped. That combination doesnt exist.
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Old 06-26-2015, 11:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjwalmsley View Post
- cheapish (made comfortable sub 15k - 5k purchase price ideally)
Heh.

Quote:
- well insulated or able to be - good windows and thick walls(relatively mild winters but average temps are 0-32 f)
Heh.

Quote:
There is a Barth nearby for $4,500.
A lesser known brand. Key questions involve age and condition. With any motorhome the cost of chassis maintenance can be considerable.

Quote:
There are a bunch of Air streams ranging from 1955 to 1970 ranging from 5,500 to 30k. Eh condition. Solid exteriors eh interiors... some vintage stuff like the bath and cabinets but not a lot. there is one totally original. There is one for 4,400 gutted and insulated with cellulose and with "2,200 in treaded metal flooring" (ewwww). Cellulose + leaks sounds scary; should i just do my own thing?
No RV is suitable for extended winter use in a cold climate (day temps below 10 F or night temps below 30 F). Condensation is a huge problem, no easy way to solve it

Rebuilding a gutted trailer takes most people a year and $20,000. What's your budget in terms of time and money?

Quote:
- does more rivets mean more leaks (i love the '55 look)
No.

Quote:
- are the windows double paned; can i replace the gaskets and get them re-gassed? I assume the '55 won't be double paned; would it be crazy to swap the windows or install secondary interior windows? :/ I love the look of the '55 but theres the windows and the tail lights and some screws are rusty... :/
Search the threads. In general most people with double pane windows "fix" them by removing the interior pane

Quote:
- i've heard the frames are sorta cruddy
- floors are rotted in most - is it as simple as putting down new plywood?
- i want to insulate... i can get cheap PUR (Poly Iso) insulation. Any advice on air barriers? How thick are these walls? How wide are these things?
Huge project. In general the walls are less than 2" thick, and heat conduction through the alumunim ribs is a problem.

Quote:
- am i going to kill the value if i paint inside and/or gut it? I kinda dig the '55's interior but would prefer some modern luxuries like heat, solar electric, queen mattress, insulation, light wood, double paned windows, etc.
In most cases the early-mid 70s trailers do not have a sought after interior making these ideal for projects like that. 50s/60s trailers in good condition would have collector value that would be lost with modficiations.


Quote:
There is a Avion Ultra for 5,500 in nicer condition (imo the interior is ugly). Will this be built better or a better buy? Will it be worse? I kinda want to gut whatever i get but i may not have the money so it would be cool to be able to get by in the mean time.
Depends what year. I have an Avion. I have an Airstream. Both are nice. For any given year they are more the same than different. For most years, Avion has a deeper frame and a more durable (but less compact) axle assembly.

Quote:

Questions:
- best approach to insulate?
Lost cause, live somewhere else in the winter

Quote:
Will my mr. buddy heater kill me if run inside?
Maybe. Only a dozen or so families a year die in RVs of co poisoning. I don't know what brand heaters/generators/whatever kill them most often.

Quote:
Any thoughts on radiant heat if i do a reno?
Don't. There isn't enough surface area to get the btus you need. There's one guy on the forums who ignored my advice and did it anyway. I guess it worked great in outside temps down to around 60 degrees.

Quote:
- do composting toilets work well enough?
There is the rare success story. In general they take up too much space for an RV.

Quote:
- am i stupid to dump gray water?
Check your local laws.

Quote:
- how much work am i looking at if i just want shelter not necessarily road worthyness right now
On a trailer, the running gear is minimal work. Most of the work and $$$ is the shelter aspect of it.

Quote:
- can someone decode the differences between ages and models? Should i go newer or is it ok to go older?
Late 1960s and earlier = of collector interest $$$

1970s = ideal platform for gutting and customizing, provided any frame separation problems are fixed

1980s/1990s = better preserved examples can be found that are in ready to camp condition, others are fixers, others could be gutted

- whats a fair price/good deal?

Depends on condition more than anything. Prices have gone up above $5000 for basket case Airstreams with an intact and complete shell, other (aluminum shell) brands somewhat less, ready to camp usually $10,000 and up. That said there are deals to be had.

Quote:
- anyone know the legality of living full time in an RV on your land? I can use my parents address as my legal address. It's a .4 acre lot in a sorta campy community near a lake. community water nearby. no septic (yet)
Laws vary widely from one locality to the next.

Quote:
- Is it advisable to lift this onto blocks for the next few years for the sake of the tires/axel and underbody
No.

Quote:
- how hard is insulating and fixing the floor. I will have ~ a month until it gets chilly. 2-3 until heavy snow. I'd love to be able to shower in the winder once i have a water and/or septic but i can always shower at work. or maybe insulate my water lmao.
You're in over your head.

Quote:
- I may get an army tent... should i park under it?
- can/should i remove the old furnace?
- how cheap should i be able to get one of these. I'm flat broke atm and saving so the cheaper there better.
Suggest you figure something else out. An apartment nearby would be cheaper.

Quote:
- how wide is the interior? Thinking about putting a nice fiberglass tub in the back below the window - it's 6 ft and i can get it for $50.
It varies depending on year. The walls are not vertical or straight, so narrower at the floor, wider at the beltline.

Quote:
- do more rivets = more leaks? Will need need to replace rivets?
No. You will have to replace rivets only if they are damaged (by vibration, e.g.) or if you drill them out to remove a panel.

Quote:
- i assume my 1,500 lb tow capacity won't cut it... will it cut it to get it to the land (60 miles)?
No. Find a friend with a truck, or rent a uhaul.

Quote:
I don't have a hitch but i want one for dump runs. Any recommendations on a tow vehicle/truck down the road and plow with?
Plow snow? You need a 3/4 ton pickup for that, if you're serious about it. They make smaller/lighter plows but they aren't for places like New Hampshire where it actually snows.


Quote:
Want something i can register as an antique (30+ years old i think) and prefer diesel i suppose. There are some sweet 5 ton army trucks for <5k with <5k miles around here. Guessing the milage is bad though.
- any words of wisdom for the reno? in general? things to look out for? things to build in? etc...
Diesel pickups were not common 30+ years ago. Repair costs on a capable truck that old are high. I average $3000 a year on my 1997 Chev 3/4 ton, it's gas, and I do my own work on it. I am presently facing a front axle overhaul and some fuel injection work and am thinking of selling as a result.


Thanks in advance guys and gals![/QUOTE]

Good luck
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Old 06-26-2015, 11:55 AM   #5
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Good Luck, how abour take that money and build a tiny house, a simple one.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:22 PM   #6
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I "second" the tiny house idea. Many folks in this type of situation build or purchase a tiny house that sits on a trailer chassis so you can move it around, avoid building permits, etc.
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Old 06-26-2015, 05:29 PM   #7
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Thanks guys! Great to know i wouldn't be destroying something collectable and that radiant floors are a bad idea.

It sounds like this is a bit of a crazy idea and If I do it I should expect to do a lot of insulating. But is kinda floating. I have 1k a month to spend/save. Apartments are 900 so if I can spend less then 10k it will be worth it even if i piss through some wood heating it. I figure If i get one for 3-4k, spend 1-2k insulating (secondary double pane craigslist windows and poly iso), 1-2k on solar, and $200 on a woodstove I'd be somewhat set.

Saving up to put up a small house (24*34 story and a half). Perhaps your right about the tiny house idea. I considered that but figured this may be a good place to start. There is a '62 shell an hr from me for 1,200... maybe I could use that as a starting point. There is that super insulated Airsteam about 4 hrs away but idk if they used a vapor barrier. That may be a good spot to start as it's 4,500 and watertight/clean. I'd just have to add heat and solar electricity.

My plan for insulation would be to offset the interior frame by 2 inches and use poly-iso which would give me r-24 and prevent thermal bridging. Or maybe just do 2" for r-11. and stick on foam where the aluminum touches. That with a woodstove and backup propane if temps drop to low for cheap heat.

Sounds like the Avion and Airstream are apples to apples. As for the Barth it's a tank and in good shape. There out of state though.
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Old 06-26-2015, 05:31 PM   #8
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Thanks guys! Great to know i wouldn't be destroying something collectable and that radiant floors are a bad idea.

It sounds like this is a bit of a crazy idea and If I do it I should expect to do a lot of insulating. But is kinda floating. I have 1k a month to spend/save. Apartments are 900 so if I can spend less then 10k it will be worth it even if i piss through some wood heating it. I figure If i get one for 3-4k, spend 1-2k insulating (secondary double pane craigslist windows and poly iso), 1-2k on solar, and $200 on a woodstove I'd be somewhat set.

Saving up to put up a small house (24*34 story and a half). Perhaps your right about the tiny house idea. I considered that but figured this may be a good place to start. There is a '62 shell an hr from me for 1,200... maybe I could use that as a starting point. There is that super insulated Airsteam about 4 hrs away but idk if they used a vapor barrier. That may be a good spot to start as it's 4,500 and watertight/clean. I'd just have to add heat and solar electricity.

My plan for insulation would be to offset the interior frame by 2 inches and use poly-iso which would give me r-24 and prevent thermal bridging. Or maybe just do 2" for r-11. and stick on foam where the aluminum touches. That with a woodstove and backup propane if temps drop to low for cheap heat.

Sounds like the Avion and Airstream are apples to apples. As for the Barth it's a tank and in good shape just sounds like its going mechanically. Guess the owners are out of state for a while.
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Old 06-26-2015, 08:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjwalmsley View Post
Thanks guys! Great to know i wouldn't be destroying something collectable and that radiant floors are a bad idea.

It sounds like this is a bit of a crazy idea and If I do it I should expect to do a lot of insulating. But is kinda floating. I have 1k a month to spend/save. Apartments are 900 so if I can spend less then 10k it will be worth it even if i piss through some wood heating it. I figure If i get one for 3-4k, spend 1-2k insulating (secondary double pane craigslist windows and poly iso), 1-2k on solar, and $200 on a woodstove I'd be somewhat set.

Saving up to put up a small house (24*34 story and a half). Perhaps your right about the tiny house idea. I considered that but figured this may be a good place to start. There is a '62 shell an hr from me for 1,200... maybe I could use that as a starting point. There is that super insulated Airsteam about 4 hrs away but idk if they used a vapor barrier. That may be a good spot to start as it's 4,500 and watertight/clean. I'd just have to add heat and solar electricity.

My plan for insulation would be to offset the interior frame by 2 inches and use poly-iso which would give me r-24 and prevent thermal bridging. Or maybe just do 2" for r-11. and stick on foam where the aluminum touches. That with a woodstove and backup propane if temps drop to low for cheap heat.

Sounds like the Avion and Airstream are apples to apples. As for the Barth it's a tank and in good shape just sounds like its going mechanically. Guess the owners are out of state for a while.

Not sure if you were paying attention to the responses, but from what I read, they are all saying the same thing I did, that using one of these trailers as a winter home in a cold climate is a generally bad idea. Unless you want to build a shell around it and heat that, you will find it gets cold and will stay cold no matter how much propane you burn. The whole shell is less than 2" thick on average and the aluminum skins transmit heat and cold like nobodys business.

The tiny house idea sounds like it might be your best bet. Build the walls with 2x6 or 2x8, insulate the crap out of it and put a woodstove in as well as one of those little propane water heaters. You may be able to put one together for a few thousand depending on where you source your lumber and other parts. Its basically a small cabin and people have been doing them for years.
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Old 06-27-2015, 01:21 PM   #10
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In the early years the Avions were advertized as "better than an Airstream" & that remained so until they were sold to Fleetwood (IIRC), from then on they're pretty much the same. You don't say what year the Avion FS near you is, but 1955 - early-70's-ish they were a bit better as noted below. The later "more modern looking redesign ones under new ownership were pretty much downgraded to just be the same (Avion's truck camper shells & an RV remained under Cayo ownership & hi quality fyi).

As for the early 50-60-70s Avions: as someone noted above, Avions were better & more sturdily built than AS, with deeper/stronger framing members & axles. This was born out in our search for a vintage trailer covering AS & the other vintage kin "silver twinkies" family, as well as by a couple of pro restorers who have worked on both & helped us in our search.

Their main advice was that a cheap trailer can end up costing you way more in getting it right, than just getting a good one for a better price - & in our case, one which someone had already fixed all the problems & done the restoration on their dime, enjoyed it for a few years themselves, then are selling it off to move onto something else. He said that a $2-5000 trailer can easily cost $20-50k to get right, versus paying $10-20k for a finished one - which is what we did.

Moreover, the Avions were also generally roomier with better head height inside - which also results in a bit more space in upper cabinets for more storage, due to them being a tad wider, taller & having more of a breadloaf shape, than the lower sausage shape of the older AS's. You'll see that the newer AS's in the 1980's on are now mostly of this shape for those reasons, & the 80`'s Avions look about the same (there are still some narrow body AS out there).

Without knowing what year the Avion you mention is, I cannot say what the interior is, nor what can be done.

As for your 1500 lb. rated tow vehicle - use it for a Harbor Freight or Northern Tool cheapie utility trailer to haul 1500 total weait trailer + load of materials for your building project - & that won't be much, so a pick-up may be in your future.

Otherwise for towing the AS/Avion/etc. trailer out to your site & parking it, & maybe moving it around another time - I'd suggest that you just go down to the closest Enterprise Commercial Rental & rent for a day, weekend or week one of their 1/2 or 3/4 ton trucks equipped with a 7-blade electrical connector & a 2" receiver (or 2.5" but then you'll need an adapter sleeve to 2" for the auto parts store) to pull the trailer you pick, but pick 1/2 or 3/4 ton by their tow rating vs. the trailer weight (they tend not to have many 1/2 ton, so may not be an issue).

There may be other rental companies near you which offer pickups with the 7-pin & 2"/2.5" receiver, but not U-Haul, which uses surge brakes on their rented trailers & only have 4-pin connectors, which lack the other 3 connectors needed to control the trailer brakes.

Most or many states require brakes on trailers over a certain weight - in CA it's 1500 lbs., & other states may vary a bit. So yoou really need to get up to speed on the towing side of things for your plan, read up, maybe take a class at a nearby Camping World or AAA or ?? to get more familiar with all the laws, procedures, rating, etc.

Good Luck & be Safe!
Tom
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Old 06-27-2015, 01:31 PM   #11
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I agree that a more capable tow vehicle is in order.

I would not rule out an 80's Avion. They were still built well: solidly-built frame (no/very little frame flex), sprayed foam insulation between the inner and outer skin, layered floor (plywood/insulation/plywood), awesome interiors, etc.
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Old 06-27-2015, 07:02 PM   #12
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Decide where the house is going to go and build the guest cabin first, live in that while you build the main house.
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Old 06-27-2015, 07:15 PM   #13
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Our first RV was a 24', 1977 Barth motor home.

We called it a giant breadbox on wheels. Had a blast with it with the grandkids, very roomy, and......the roof never leaked.

We met a man in TN, I believe, who lived in a cabin made from one of those storage sheds his first year on his land. He added another as a guest house, complete with screened in deck, and another as a bath house.

He used a small wood stove, really roughed it that first year but his set up was beautiful and very unique.

I'm with Royce, on the small house while you save to build a bigger one......and you could probably use a solidly built storage shed. I have an 8'x12', I think, in my back yard, from Home Depot, and it is very, very solidly built, and on a steel frame.

Others have used Pod type storage units. I think there would be less aggravation with something like that than a used, older RV, and you could get into one for probably just a few thousand dollars.

Good luck, and keep us posted.


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Old 06-27-2015, 07:31 PM   #14
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Buy an 8 x 20 used shipping container. They are almost bomb-proof, cheap and oh so versatile. You can go modular and add more as necessary.

Google shipping container houses and be prepared to get blown away by what you see.


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