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Old 05-21-2009, 01:24 AM   #1
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1980 22' Caravelle
1975 20' Argosy 20
woking , surrey
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quality of airstream and especially chassis in 70's and 80's

Someone told me that after 67 or so the build quality of Airstreams became progressively worse. one of the things he was focusing on was the chassis of "newer" airstreams being made of thinner metal, causing it to sag and also rust trough earlier. Now I have also been told that with Thor coming in (when was that exactly?) Airstreams made a leap up, at least certainly in the frame quality.

The reason for this enquiry is that I am discussing a 25 excella II narrow body from 81, and there is not a whole lot of info to find about these baby's.

Can anyone confirm the 81 narrowbody's were build on heavier gauge steel chassis than the 70's models?

Any other comments about build quality of that year?



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Old 05-21-2009, 06:37 AM   #2
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Wow... you're sure comfortable just wading in a slinging mud aren't you!

Actually there's a lot of MIS-information floating around about the '60s and '70s Airstreams... the first thing you need to understand is that all Airstream frames sag when unsupported by the shell. They're relatively light metal, and they're not built to be a solid platform frame. The unit is a true monocoque design (like an aircraft) and derives it's structural support from the body-frame combination, unlike stick built trailers that have a solid frame upon which a flimsy house is constructed. The frame's strength therefore doesn't come from the thickness of the steel as much as it does the design and how the body is supported by the number of 'outriggers' used over the length of the trailer, and how well the frame is supported by the shell.

Now, that said, during the Beatrice years and early Thor years, the interiors of the mid to late '70s used the then-space-age 'wood-look' vinyl contact papers... in some cases over really nice finished plywood veneers! At the time it was very modern and popular; with time though..actual wood veneer interiors have proven to be more popular, and the vinyl interiors have been judged to look "cheap". It's really a matter of preference; the vinyl clad interiors have actually held up pretty well. Another "space-age" better idea was changing from solid front cabinet doors to the roll-up tambour doors. They were pretty cool looking, but not terribly durable thirty years later.

Frame separation happened on some of the longer rear-bath models mostly in the early to mid-'70s trailers after larger tanks were added without reinforcing the shell/frame design. Most of those have now been retrofitted with repairs. The design was modified by the late '70s and those problems were resolved. You can do a search here on "frame separation" or "elephant ears" and find everything you'll need to know about that as well.

By '81 Airstream was nearly out of business... their production number were VERY low in the early '80s. You'll find that the '81 trailer you're looking at will be a very rare model indeed; but past the normal issues you look for in buying a thirty-year old Airstream, if the individual trailer is sound, it should be a very nice trailer indeed.
AIR 2053 Current: 2006 Born Free 32 RQ Kodiak Chassis, & 1995 Coachmen B-van
Former Airstreams: 1953 Flying Cloud, 1957 Overlander, 1961 Bambi, 1970 Safari Special, 1978 Argosy Minuet, 1985 325 Moho, 1994 Limited 34' Two-door, 1994 B190 "B-Van"
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