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Old 04-11-2015, 03:47 PM   #15
Rivet Master
JimGolden's Avatar
Vintage Kin Owner
1977 31' Excella 500
Berkeley Springs , West Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,600
Images: 7
What length do you want? If you're looking for a mid 70's trailer, you need to be extra careful of anything over 27' in length. They had a 4" deep frame back then. It was fine for a 20 footer, OK for a 25 footer, and barely passable for a 27 footer. But if you got a Sovereign or Excella 31 footer and the owner towed it with out of balance wheels and kept his blacksmith tools in the back, you are likely to have frame sag and body separation. (Look up SAG and SEPARATION on these forums). They changed the frame mid year 1985 to a deeper one which pretty well fixed the problem. So if you could swing it, I'd look for a 1986 or newer.

Now that being said, I think the older 31 footers were some of the best looking trailers ever made. The 28 footers looked good too, but I think the 31's had the best proportions. It is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that you could find and old, long one, with an undamaged frame and no sag or separation. If you do, that is GOLD. Fix it up to however you like. But realize that you better get your tires balanced, it wouldn't hurt to pull your brake drums off and balance those as well, keep all heavy stuff in the front while traveling, and take it EASY on bumpy roads.

The easy answer is get something 1986 or newer. Or get an older one shorter than 28'. But, you can get an old long one that is not broken, just inspect it carefully.

For Separation, have your 200lb friend get on the back bumper and bounce up and down. While he's doing that, you squat down at eye level and look at the juncture at the rear of where the body meets the frame. If you see a gap opening and closing, you have "Separation" where the body tie down rotted away from the frame. You either run away (recommended action) or negotiate the price down to about $50. For Sag, at the front of the trailer, sight down the length of it along the beltline trim. If you see it angle downward aft of the axles....she's got sag. Run away from that; unless you are willing to do a full on shell of resto with a new frame.

Summary: check the frame for Sag/Separation. Better to "walk away" from a trailer that has either/both of these. Go '86 or newer and you eliminate 95% of these two issues.

Best of luck,

- Jim
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Old 04-11-2015, 06:04 PM   #16
4 Rivet Member
Sodbust's Avatar
1972 27' Overlander
Penokee , Kansas
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 339
After seeing under the skin rot of a stick and staple wonder,, or as they called here,, SOB,,, I knew I would never be happy with another non Airstream. I had seen a add for a 72 Overlander and it started at $36.000.. I kept running into it off and on over a 3 year time span. It looked good in the add photos but knew that one had to be careful.

The start of the 4th year of seeing the same trailer between Craigslist,, and eBay the price was down to $9500.. Since the fellow lived a good days drive away I called him and asked if he might discount items and lower the price once there to see it first hand.

Body solid but axles were shot,, with cheap China tires.. A 18" hole in the bedroom wall to get to the power converter as he could not open the outside door.. By the time we discounted for the need repairs the price was down to $6500...

So the point is,, keep looking, and looking again even at the same trailer listed over and over again as it gets too the point they have to sell. We are more than happy with ours.. Mostly cleaning and updating with a gray water tank and oiling up and cleaning the furnace is all we had to do other than axles.

A good jump on the rear bumper and eye ball the sides tells you about all you need to know,, along with a screw driver or ice pick around the edges..

Good luck,, Sodbust

2012 Ram 1500 Tradesman Hemi, 4x4, 6 speed

20mpg empty, 14 mpg with 27' Overlander.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life!
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Old 04-11-2015, 07:45 PM   #17
2 Rivet Member

1975 31' Sovereign
West Liberty , Kentucky
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 43
If you are looking at a 70s model, I would look at a center bath model. The rear bath models have a larger bathroom but were more likely to have rear droop. That being said,have any prospect inspected closely. I have a 75 31 foot which I bought in '87. Over the years I have had to replace many things including refrigerator, ac, water heater, furnace,etc. I now have a unit that has been to Wisconsin, New Orleans, Blue Ridge, etc. I love my AS.The only way I would part with it would be for a 34'.
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Old 04-12-2015, 06:52 AM   #18
2 Rivet Member
2007 31' Classic
Buhl , Idaho
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 28
We sold our '79 this past winter. We had maintained it well and it was a wonderful unit. The person who bought it "wanted" to redo it so he has - but it didn't need to be redone. Yes, it had some "gliches" but nothing that was a complete redo. So - the units are out there - just look around. And, if you are the least bit handy - fixes can be minor and, if you're willing to spend the time, done in a week with only a dollar or two spent!!!

Good luck!!
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Old 04-12-2015, 12:31 PM   #19
Currently Looking...
forest , Mississippi
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 9
Everything you guys have warned about is true! Lol! We are spending the weekend viewing the local trailers. Today's gem was a 1985 25' sovereign. Older couple who claimed to be second owners, lived in one year while building their house, don't really use it, etc...
We arrive at their farm and the camper looks ok on outside, driver's side rock guard was missing, no major dents and very few dings. He gives us the once over very generally. Can answer basic questions, but nothing too specific. He and my husband start the outside once over & I immediately start digging around under the sofa & under beds.
Under the sofa the floor is soft from the broken rock guard ( and actually the window under was broken & replaced with plexiglass) and it has rusted through the black plastic area on the exterior ok. So I understand what that means. I pulled the carpet back a bit but hard to tell how bad it is at this point and how far. I can feel a bit of softness just in front of the sofa facing.
By this time he has water connected and insists on showing plumbing works. I was luckily rooting around under the beds when water started shooting out of the water heater and the plastic tubing. When I pulled the carpet up back there the floor is shot too. See photos.
At this point we have said our "thanks, but no thanks" and have walked away. So, I am willing myself to be patient and continue the search. Click image for larger version

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Old 04-12-2015, 03:19 PM   #20
Regular Guy
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1978 31' Sovereign
Hot Springs , Arkansas
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 556
I had looked at several AS's until I found "THE one". Most had been used as a DEER CAMP SPECIAL, and all were pretty rough, and not worth the asking price.
Take the extra time to find "THE one" you want.
Mine is 37 years old. It has taken a lot of research and effort to find all the missing pieces. But that is what makes it fun! I got a fold out couch and divider curtains from Indiana, original curtains (In Very Good condition) from Florida, along with a pair of obsolete vanity light covers in near perfect condition. I would not have them without the help of fellow Streamers that are passionate about their hobby and way of life.
Owning an old AS transcends having a travel trailer. Anyone can have a travel trailer. Having an old dented AS is better than a new whatever. Its a piece of living American history that has endured the test of time.

A word of humble advice. Even though you have able bodied craftsmen "at the ready" , If Hubby isn't happy, you will be puling a dead horse. I hope you can find on that you can get excited about, together. There will always be something to fix of replace. Knowing that, the "disappointments" wont be as traumatic, and working on them 'together" will be more enjoyable.

Search the Forum Classifieds and look in your area. Call out for an inspector on the forum. We all want to see you get a good deal that you both will be happy with.
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Old 04-12-2015, 04:39 PM   #21
3 Rivet Member
2014 22' FB Sport
Atlanta , Georgia
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 186
Blog Entries: 1
I'm very "handy": I work on my house, I build decks, I've built several small boats, I've started building mandolins. BUT but but ... at some point, you have to make a choice: build or travel? Rehab or camp? Prepare to start to get ready to do something down the road, or do it now?

I don't think there's a right answer. There is, IMHO, a WRONG answer, and that's to believe that rehabbing anything is going to cost you less. Oh, sure, you could by the 22Sport that I bought new for $40+++k for maybe $15k if you buy it to fix up. But what's it worth in lost time on the road, in missed camping trips, in lost family time, in hard out-of-pocket cash?

Given my ability and my experience, I thought about buying an old AS and rehabbing it. It would be a real challenge. It would be really cool. It would be macho. It would be a legacy for my children.

Then I thought a second time and wrote a check. I'm only (almost) 60, but I don't know if I have 37 years left or 37 minutes. I'd rather spend them travelling and camping. (And making more mandolins!)

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