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Old 10-18-2012, 01:55 PM   #1
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My heart's in the '60s but my head's in the '70s

Hi folks!

I've done as much searching and reading as I possibly can but am narrowing down what I want for my first Airstream and would really appreciate some advice on a few particular issues...

I am trying to decide between a 60's vs. 70's model, and how important it is for me to have a rear bedroom and gray tank. And maybe other things that I may not have considered between the two decades.

With either decade, my target is a unit of 25 to 27 feet -- and no more than 31 feet. I am just in love with the solid wood and look of the 60's trailers but I feel like 70's trailer with a rear bedroom and gray tank might be more practical.

My intent is to use the trailer for longer periods, maybe even full time if it works out and I work my way up to the lifestyle and find that I am enjoying it. For the most part, I would be using the trailer alone -- or, well, my companion would be Princess Kitty, my poodle. I do computer work and would be doing that from inside the trailer quite a bit. In that regard, and considering I may use the trailer for long periods, I'm leaving myself open to decent 29 and 31 foot trailers that come along.

The main issue with layout is that I am VERY TALL (6'8"), so I've been thinking that a rear queen layout would be most ideal in this regard as I would have plenty of room to be diagonal and hang off the bed if needed. But on the other hand, it seems like the rear bath units might be more comfortable when using the facilities and showering. I've also read a lot on the forums about the middle-twins not being bad for tall people. But it just seems like a queen is the clear cut choice for the most space?

So, a rear bedroom unit basically would move me to a 70's trailer, correct? And on the gray tank, I did some forum searches one day that led me to believe that retrofitting a 60's unit wasn't practical. But then last night I found threads with people talking about it not being a big deal, many talking about tanks from Vintage Trailer Supply.

Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks in advance. My heart is in the 60's but my head is in the 70's!
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Old 10-18-2012, 03:46 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum. What you are asking is other people's opinion, and that might not be what you want to hear.

The older vintage trailers, IMHO are going to be a problem for you because of the fact that most are rear bath, and there's a reason they didn't have grey water tanks. Search "seperation" on here and do some reading....it's because of the weight, and mostly because of the rear baths and so the rear tanks.

Now, about the 70's....we had a 75 23' and traded it quickly after a 30 day trip with it. Didn't like the flimsy aluminum interior furniture. It was light weight, but flimsy.

If I were you, and again this is my "opinion", I'd skip right up to looking at 80's and 90's trailers. Again, just my opinion.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
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Old 10-18-2012, 04:05 PM   #3
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I had to make the same decision, I love the look of the 60's but the 70's are alittle more refined, what with a grey tank and some better layouts, however you could make the same arguement about a 70s vs 80's, 80s vs 90's and so on until you have to preorder next year's model to get what you want.

For us it came down to availability. We found our '77 Safari not far from home, it was within our budget and we were happy with the condition. The 60's trailers I saw were either too far away, too expensive, or needed too much work.

If you plan to do any significant work to the interrior to make it your own it doesn't really matter what you start with. I may gut our interrior and build new cabinets and furniture one day, but right now we're enjoying our trailer and traveling alot.

I suggest you look at what's actually available to you, you may just fall in love with a trailer and have you decision made for you!
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Old 10-18-2012, 04:06 PM   #4
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The reason older Airstreams didn't have gray tanks has absolutely zero to do with weight or rear separation. It's just that gray tanks weren't mandated until '74 and prior to that you could often allow gray water to run out on the ground or into a hole.

There are some mid-bath long trailers from the '70s, but they weren't the most popular floorplans so they're not the majority of what's available on the used market. The things SteveH said about rear separation are important to consider, but since you want a mid-bath trailer, you're more likely to find one without separation problems. At least in my experience, most of the rear-bedroom '70s trailers had twins, but there are a few doubles out there. Probably no queens until you get to the '80s though.

80s trailers have some nice possibilities. Panorama windows were available on Sovereigns and standard on Excellas in the mid 80s, it seems. I like the panos, you get a more open feel, and I've seen some rear-bedroom '80s trailers that had optional panos in the bedroom, but I suspect that's rare. Some 80s trailers have OSB floors, which are fine as long as they've never been wet. A trailer that's spent most of its life in the desert SW might have a solid floor, but probably won't have any clearcoat left and the sun and heat do a number on other interior components.

The overall advice that I've read many times on here and agree with completely is to start with a trailer that's largely functional and complete. You'll spend more up front, but the way it usually works out is that it costs $6000 to bring that bargain $3000 trailer up to the level of the $7000 trailer you passed on because the price was too high.
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Old 10-18-2012, 05:06 PM   #5
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Having taken many apart and then putting them back together, I can tell you for a FACT. 1958- 1962 are THE BEST quality, MOST precisely built, and THE MOST functional of all the years. Someone will argue this, but I know this for a FACT. I also strongly feel that those units built in Ohio, are BETTER BUILT than the other factory. Once again, someone will argue this.
Now as to that 6'8" issue, You are always going to be stooping over.
The no more than 31 foot long issue; NO PROBLEM THERE, as not too many 34 footers are out there, and most owners hold on to them a long time. Your chances of coming across a 40 footer is as slim as it gets, though they do exist. Find one of those for me to buy and I will give you $1000 finders fee.
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:35 PM   #6
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Watch the Frame Depth

Beware that prior to 1985 the main frame rails were only 4" deep. That is OK for a 25-26 footer, but it's not enough for a 31 footer. Many of the mid 70's 31 footers had both sag and separation issues. Separation isn't only caused by water intrusion, it's also caused by the back end of the trailer bouncing around like a thin fiberglass fishing pole and stressing the connection between the frame and shell.

After 1985, you don't hear about sag and separation much.

So if you want a long long one, get one newer than '85. If you don't mind a 26 footer, then about any year will do.

I've often thought of buying two 31 footers (my favorite length Airstream) and combining them on a new frame to make a 40 or 42 footer...just to say I did it I'd also build some slideouts for it as well. Maybe when I retire in thirty years...

They're all great though. I'd recommend you get somebody experienced with Airstreams to help you do a pre purchase inspection. There's probably somebody on here that lives close to you or the trailer you're considering to help you. It'd definitely be worth it.

Best of luck and I hope to see you on the road!
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Old 10-19-2012, 01:05 AM   #7
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Wow! Thank you all for your responses and all the info!

The reason I'm looking at 70's over 80's units is because I hear you can't polish the 80's shells. Also, I'm not generally a fan of the interior styling on the 80's and newer units, except for the newer CCD's and such but they are definitely out of my price range. And I kind of want to steer toward the vintage end of things.

Right now, I'm closing in on 2 different 31 footers from the 70's and a 28 foot 1968 Overlander.

The 1968 Overlander looks gorgeous with great wood on the interior. It is very clean, has some retro drapes, new bamboo flooring. It has the bed on one side of the middle and dresser/closet on the other. That seems like a pretty good layout if I was to get a middle bedroom type. I don't need two beds so the storage would be nice. I just don't think it would be as efficient use of space to have to walk around the bed to get to the bathroom compared to a rear bed unit (when maximizing bed size is so important for me).

The two 31 foot 70's units are both 1977. Both seem very functional as they sit. (The 1968 overlander is also in good, functional condition.) Neither one makes my heart as warm and fuzzy as the '68 Overlander, but my head seems to think they are the way to go.

One is an Excella and it has had extensive work done on it over the last 3 to 4 years, including having the entire subfloor replaced and frame repainted and reinforced. I'm strongly leaning toward this unit even though the rear bed layout is two twins - and then I'd covert it to maximize bed space. There is just so much that has been done to this unit that it seems hard to pass up. It does have a cracked shower pan, so that would probably be the most pressing repair to make. This unit has been customized a bit and I will want to reverse some of the changes or else make further customizations to my taste/needs. So that isn't necessarily a bad thing as maybe I could take the quality up a notch over the standard 70's interior in the process. That is my main dislike of the 70's over 60's anyway.

The other 1977 31 footer is in decent, fairly unmolested shape. The shell isn't as nice, and I doubt the subfloor has been repaired or upgraded. The clearcoat is peeling and it would need a polishing in fairly short order. Again, not that big of a deal as that is something I want to do anyway. It has a moderate dent/scrape/gouge on the bottom of the front left corner, and another towards a back corner. It does have a rear queen or full size bed so that is a big plus. And the interior is nice and clean, though worn.

All three trailers are in the same price range - about $5000 to $6000.

If I had more patience, I'd probably spend more time trying to find a rear bed unit that was around 27 or 28 feet. I'm itching to get this show on the road however. I've been researching and learning about this for several months now. Honestly, I don't know if a shorter trailer would even be better though so I think that I'm just going to go for a bigger one or this 1968 Overlander.
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Old 10-19-2012, 05:14 AM   #8
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disregard what I posted above. I thought you were talking about the 60's. I didn't realize you were talking about 1968
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Old 10-19-2012, 06:07 AM   #9
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needs vs wants

some people select particular trailers because they meet their functional needs. Other people place their priorities on meeting their artistic wants to have a particular look. Most people try to have a balance and that is their particular personality and their trailers will match their personality (priority). I am more a functional type. I would go for a trailer that is big enough to full time and had the things built in that offer the best durability and functionality. I would go for the 5 inch frame after 1985 with a plywood floor and only two axles. Rear full size beds allow you to hang your feet off the end of the bed. The plastic interiors are a functional and artistic negative.
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Old 10-19-2012, 12:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwightdi View Post
I would go for the 5 inch frame after 1985 with a plywood floor and only two axles. Rear full size beds allow you to hang your feet off the end of the bed. The plastic interiors are a functional and artistic negative.
Interesting - I didn't realize they had beefed up the frames after 1985. I'll have to think more about that. Two axles is where I want to be. What are the years for the plastic interiors? I'm guessing that they got better after the 70's plastic?
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Old 10-19-2012, 12:54 PM   #11
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I was going to add that after seeing the trailers at Jackson, I liked the details of the '68-71s- the doors and hatches seem to be better sealed (two leak problem areas in my '64) and the interior design is still interesting, with cool somewhat space-age period details. Lots of interesting info too, particularly about the frame depth in the later models. I think too as they get older, so much of it is how it was taken care of and how repairs were made.

The panorama windows are awesome too.
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Old 10-19-2012, 01:03 PM   #12
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Something to think about with the rear twins, a few people have changed them to a near king size bed. The drawback to this is you have to get in from the foot of the bed also makes it hard to make the bed.
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Old 10-19-2012, 01:21 PM   #13
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Actually I just measured the back of my 1988 and it is 88" wide inside 84" long for the twin beds (minus 3" for the curtain and some more for the curve). So you might be able to take out the beds and put a queen bed across the back and add storage next to it.
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Old 10-19-2012, 02:28 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Globie64 View Post
I think too as they get older, so much of it is how it was taken care of and how repairs were made.
This is indeed something on my mind. I'm very interested in the trailer that has had a lot of work done to it and the frame repainted, reinforced along with the new subfloor. But while knowing that has been done is great, I'm a bit worried about getting into a unit where I know it had pretty bad floor rot and rust to begin with. I'm assuming that most 30+ year old trailers are going to have some of that? Or are there some good units out there that have never had those problems, like in the warmer climates? I figure it is difficult to really discern the condition of the frame though, so with most trailers I wouldn't even know?

Below are some photos of what it looked like when the current owner went in to make repairs. As you can see, he REALLY got into the subfloor and frame area for this project.

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