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Old 11-14-2003, 12:33 PM   #1
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Question Need your help!What models/years airstream should be our first?

Hi everyone! I've been lurking and reading lots of posts and I was hoping you could help me and my husband figure out what we're looking for. We want to buy our first airstream between now and spring (hopefully we'll find one by then). We had our first baby in June and we want him to get out to see the world a little next summer. :-)

Any suggestions on what models/years to look for or avoid? What do we look for when we go see one? (We don't have a lot of skill or money for big repairs- so we need something that's usable-- cosmetic work is ok.)

We're looking in the under $10000 range.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Also- if anyone is anywhere near eastern PA and has one to sell, please let us know.


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Old 11-14-2003, 12:38 PM   #2
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What vehicle will you be towing with? This can limit your choices quite a bit as many Airstreams are quite heavy although they tow well with the proper tow vehicle.


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Old 11-14-2003, 12:51 PM   #3
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oops! we have a Ford F-150 Lariat for towing. :-)
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Old 11-14-2003, 01:03 PM   #4
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Do you know what the truck's tow rating is?

If not, start by determining what the rear axle ratio in your F-150 is. If the rear end is a 3:08 your truck may not tow very well. I seem to recall many of these trucks could only tow around 2,000 lbs.

Trailer Life is a good resource for looking up vehicle tow ratings.

Even with a beefy rear end and strong V-8 motor, half ton pickups like yours and mine probably are better off towing trailers that are under 5,000 lbs so this means many Airstreams that are 26' and longer could be too much for the vehicle.

This is just to get you started. Towing capability can become very detailed for the novice.

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Old 11-14-2003, 01:11 PM   #5
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you know, i just happen to know the axle ratio is 3.55. I THINK that when I spoke to someone at Ford when we first bought the truck that they said it could tow around 7000 pounds-- but it's a hazy memory for me as I was thinking about getting a baby in the spring, not a trailer. This towing weight stuff IS complicated, isn't it. Ahh, well...we're learning! Thanks for giving me a place to start...I think we definitely want something under 30 feet anyway. It's just the 3 of us and a hairy dog.

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Old 11-14-2003, 01:30 PM   #6
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I have a 3:55 in my Dodge pickup. So we don't rehash stuff already covered here check out this thread:


and then browse:


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Old 11-14-2003, 01:59 PM   #7
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I'm starting to understand...

Thanks Scott- you've really helped me so much already.

So.. we have a 4.6 liter (am I in trouble here?) with GCWR of 11,500. the manual says max trailer weight of 6600 lbs. Do I need more info, or do I just look for something under the trailer weight? I guess that means I should be looking for a trailer in the 5000-6000 lb range?

does that mean I'm looking at a 22'? or can we go a little bigger?

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Old 11-14-2003, 02:33 PM   #8
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The 22-25 foot Airsteams will fall into the category you are looking for. Don't foget that you have to include all of your and little Jack's stuff when you are figuring weights Believe me I know how the little guy's stuff adds up . FWIW I wouldn't recomend this to someone who has never towed before, but I do tow my 31' with a F-150 equipped like yours. BUT! I only tow on flat land and for fairly short distances. It handles just fine but you really do notice the hills. You will also need to research weight distributing hitches and brake controllers.

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Old 11-14-2003, 02:41 PM   #9
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Look to the vintage trailers

Liz, looks like with your budget you'll be checking into the vintage Airstreams. You can pick up many 1960s, 1970s, and even a few 1980s models under $10k.

Since you are adverse to a lot of fix-up work (and I don't blame you!) I'd consider the seller as much as the trailer. People who use their trailers regularly are more likely to have maintained them. WBCCI members are good risks, IMHO. eBay sellers are a mixed bag. And online brokers often take no responsibility for trailers they list.

Avoid the sellers with trailers that have sat for years who claim they are "ready to go camping!" See the thread "Why why why" on this forum for more info.

Also see "So you want to buy a trailer that is 3 states away" for a list of people who can help you evaluate used trailers.

To find trailers, check (classifieds), and this board's "for sale" area. There are many online sources as well which have been documented in other threads on this forum. And an under-appreciated source for leads is the newsletters (or newsletter editors) of WBCCI units. They often know who is selling a real gem before anyone else.

-- RL
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Old 11-14-2003, 02:58 PM   #10
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Just like me, Airtreams have grown heavier with the passing years. So while you could easily pull a 25' from the 60's, a late model wide body 25' Classic would be a real strain. I have a Sovereign 25' from 1985, and suggest that it would be at the upper end of you pulling capacity, if not over.

A $10,000 budget should get you a very nice unit. Unfortunately, the 25' and under market is always limited. I suggest you use the archives of these forums to educate yourself and then be prepared to travel some distance to find what you want.

There are no particular years that are more or less desirable. There are known issues with every model year and the choice is more a matter of what you want and what you can deal with.

There are no factory grey water tanks on units prior to the early 70's, but the well known blue tote tanks can work just fine. No black water going way back. All coaches prior to the early 90's have suspect plumbing - either due to the passing years, or the use of polybutylene (snap, crackle, and pop!) in the late 70's to eary 90's. Rear end droop and seperation (not the same thing) is a concern of post-grey tank 70's units, and ALL coaches that have had carriers of any kind attached to the bumper or rear end. The disintegration of tambour with the passing years has been dealt with on the forums at length. There was an unfortunate period in the 60's involving aluminum wiring. Any coach can have sagging axles, but replacements are available. Peeling clearcoat has been covered here as well. Of course, the most likely problems are that of appliances that don't work.

Note that this is mostly what CAN cause problems, not what will. Good, well maintained, usable coaches can be had with manufacturing dates going back to the 50s! Start with what you can pull, and then research those model years.

Good luck,

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Old 11-16-2003, 12:29 PM   #11
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Smile thanks!

I want to sincerely thank everyone who responded. Your expertise really helps!! It looks like something under 25 feet from the 60's- 70's.

And Mark- thanks for all of the stuff to look out for!

Now we just have to find it... I know it's out there!

;-) Liz
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Old 11-16-2003, 04:27 PM   #12
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Thumbs up

I previously owned a 1981 Excella II, 31 ft., center twin, rear bath and the gross on that unit was 7100 lbs.

We pulled it easily and got 11 mpg using a 1999 Chevrolet Z-71, 5.3 V8, and a 3.73 axle.

We now tow a 1988 Excella 1000, 32 ft. rear twin, center bath, with the same truck. Gross is 8300 lb on this trailer but we can't tell any difference in performance.

The combination weighs 12, 860 lbs., with the weight distribution between the front and rear truck axles being only 60 lbs. different (this is fully laden with full fuel, 14 tank of fresh water and empty holding tanks, two people and 1 small dog).

A 1/2 ton will do the job if you want it to!
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Old 11-19-2003, 07:12 PM   #13
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Wowsers. I guess that my '93 Chevey Caprice will not be up to the job of pulling a A/S. That is ok, if the one I'm looking at comes home, it will be a couple of years till it will move again anyway.....
Tedd Ill
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Old 11-19-2003, 07:38 PM   #14
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My wife and I have a 31ft Sovereign that we bought this summer. I cost 4500 and have done about 800 in repairs. I pull it with a 2003 Ford F-150 with tow package. The AS weights about 6200 lbs. We have been out about 5 times and have had no problems pulling it. Our last trip was to Big South Fork, TN, which has 13 degree two lane road leading into it. We took it with ease. The AS has plenty of room and all the comforts you want. The rear bath models (like ours) have a problem with tail droop but ours was already repaired. If they are not it can cost a good bit.

Good luck and shop around.

Ron & Vicki

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