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Old 04-10-2015, 12:09 PM   #1
Currently Looking...
forest , Mississippi
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 9
Newbie Questions - pre purchase anxiety

Hello all!

We are deep in the process of looking for an AS and doing research here.
But now I am more confused about whether or not this is the best decision. Although I am handy (and my brother is a carpenter and my dad is handy with pluming and electrical things), I am beginning to question my sanity and regretfully admitting my husband may be right

Is it totally illogical to think that we can find a 70's model that will be not have to be completely rebuilt? I am having nightmares about full monty rebuilds. I know I am not up for that. I am totally up for a bit of repair work and not at all intimidated by the looks of shabby upholstery, carpet etc as I know I can handle that, but the idea of shell-on vs shell off, replacing sub-floor, etc is freaking me out!

I guess what I am trying to say is that I wanted the camper to actually get out and camp, not sitting in the driveway for years for me to rebuild...

ok, talk me off the ledge or give me a push

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Old 04-10-2015, 12:55 PM   #2
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Chelsea , Michigan
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It is possible to find a 1970's vintage Airstream that does not need a major restoration but such units rarely come to the open market as the owners of such units usually have plenty of "friends" who are standing by to buy the unit the moment the owner wants to sell.

If you do find a unit of this vintage that you like, that appears sound to you, and that has been used recently, contact one of the experienced inspectors in your area by using the drop down menu on the right side of this Forum's main page and have them take a look at it.

Beware of so-called "barn finds" and units that have sat unused for several years. Like anything else, Airstreams deteriorate over time if not used regularly, maintained and stored properly. Many folks have excitedly purchased an older Airtream with the intention of "fixing it up" only to realize what a major undertaking that can be. You will find a lot of "half finished" restoration jobs out there. If you have the skills, time and money, buying such a unit can be a good thing as the current owner will be motivated to get rid of it and is likely to have stripped out the junk exposing the bare floor so you can better assess the condition of this most important part of the trailer.

If you really want an older "camping ready" Airstream, be realistic and prepared to pay the price.

Good luck!

Bob Martel
WBCCI# 5766
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Old 04-10-2015, 01:26 PM   #3
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Good Ol' , USA
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If you are considering an Airstream, broaden your search to an Avion. With patience, you'll easily find what you are looking for: a nice trailer at a reasonable price.

What size trailer have you been looking for?

To give you an example: I knew I wanted a 34', rear-bedroom Avion. I patiently watched Craigslist (via until a REAL DEAL showed up. Had to go 1,000 miles one-way to get it, but it's now OUR 1987 Avion 34W, and I bought it for $4,000! It needed lots of detailing (which I have done and am still doing), brakes, shocks, tires, roof sealing, misc other little stuff....... no "gutting", "shell-off", fumigating, etc. I haven't totalled all of the expense (luckily, I work CHEAP!!), but I would guess I've spent at least another $4,000 over the initial $4,000 cost, and we have a VERY nice trailer now. It's built differently than an Airstream (like a tank!!!), but still has that beautiful silver glow!!

Try this link: PaulnGina's 1987 Avion 34W - Photo Gallery

It ought to take you to some pictures of our trailer.

Deals ARE out there, but patience is the key.
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Old 04-10-2015, 01:35 PM   #4
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2012 23' FB Flying Cloud
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What you are looking for is a pretty tall order unless you are prepared to pay top dollar.

Even paying top dollar does not insure a good campable Airstream. As Bob said, if you are looking at an Airstream that has not been on the road and camped in in fifteen or twenty years, you probably don't want it.

Restoring a forty year old Airstream can easily turn into a decade long process.

SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
WBCCI #3628 -- AIR #14872 -- TAC #FL-7
2015 FC 25' FB (Lucy) with HAHA
2005 Suburban 2500 Quadrasteer (Olivia) & 2011 Silverado 3500 (Fred) with Outfitter Truck Camper (Ethel)
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Old 04-10-2015, 01:47 PM   #5
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1987 25' Sovereign
Oregon , Ohio
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My question to you if I may, what is your price range. I have heard that some of the 70s trailers were built when Beatrice Foods owned Airstream and you need to be very carful of those years. On the other hand the mid 80s to very early 90s were some of the best built. This may be hearsay, but it is what I have heard.
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Old 04-10-2015, 01:59 PM   #6
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It all depends on you, and what you want.

For some, their Airstream itself IS their hobby. To me it's a tool that I use for music festivals.

How much can you afford, and how anxious are you to get out and enjoy it.

Do you really want a cool vintage camper, AND be able to use it soon. It can be done, but it will cost a bit of money
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Old 04-10-2015, 03:55 PM   #7
Currently Looking...
forest , Mississippi
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Using the camper is the top priority. I would prefer to not finance it and that i why was thinking that an older model might be better...but newer with all things working is obviously becoming more appealing
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Old 04-10-2015, 04:20 PM   #8
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Mid 70's Airstream will be 40 years old. If you are looking for a "stock" unit they are out there, but yes they will need some serious updates, remodel and refurbishing. Ask Duke.
Don Hardman
1976 31' Sovereign
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Old 04-10-2015, 04:28 PM   #9
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2014 25' FB International
Little Rock , Arkansas
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Have you considered looking at a slightly "newer" Airstream? Late 80's? Obviously the newer the AS the more likely to find one that only needs cosmetic updates.

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Old 04-10-2015, 08:46 PM   #10
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Mobile , Alabama
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I'll second Paula's recommendation to consider an Avion. Replacing axles, soft floors and shell off restorations are extremely unlikely and rare for an Avion of any vintage. You may have to do some work on systems (ac, fridge or plumbing), seal seams and of course consider updating upholstery or inside but nothing that will keep you from camping quickly.
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Old 04-11-2015, 11:08 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by adonh View Post
Mid 70's Airstream will be 40 years old.
Holy Sheets! The 70's can't be that long ago!
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Old 04-11-2015, 11:47 AM   #12
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Currently Looking...
Beaufort , South Carolina
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WOW! You must have read my thoughts. I'm also thinking a 70s something model might be good to look for, price wise, and thinking about my pocket book. I spotted one several weeks ago that sounded like it might be a good deal. However, I asked several questions in an email message and before I got an answer, someone already bought it. It was too far from where I live to run right over and look at it. I figured, that's ok, I'll just keep looking. I like your ideas of looking at an 80s to 90s model, hoping to find one in better condition, and in need of less work. I'll have to search for an Avion and see what that looks like. I don't think I've seen them yet.
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Old 04-11-2015, 02:22 PM   #13
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1974 27' Overlander
Twisp , Washington
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 8
mid-70's Airstreams

Welcome to our forum! It's a great resource!

It looks to be like you have thought a great deal about how much work you are willing to tackle. Like others have said, sometimes people have great intentions, but haven't really considered all the work and expense that might be involved. That's why there are so many half-finished "restorations" out there!

Like you say, it will be nice if you can use your Airstream as soon as possible. Maybe camping relatively close to home would be helpful, at first, while you can get more accurate feel for its condition and what changes / fixes you want to make.

We bought a 27', 1974 Airstream Overlander back in 1995, from a dealer who took it in on trade. It was very dirty, and the water lines had been frozen and needed to be replaced. The dealer had decided there was too much labor involved and was going to junk it. So we got a sweet deal.

My husband is handy, so he had no problem replacing the water pump and lines, while I cleaned (and cleaned and cleaned!) We ended up with a cozy camper that we installed on some vacation property as our tin tent. It spent a decade up there, in hot summer sun and cold, snowy winters. Obviously, that didn't do it any good, but the Airstream worked perfectly for us up there. (Airstreams of that era were designed to be able to function well off grid, if necessary, and ours did).

Now we're ready to open a new chapter in our lives and use our Airstream for traveling. The frame was sagging a bit on both ends, when we bought it, so we decided to do a shell-off restoration now and get that dealt with. The last thing we want is to have problems on the road!

My husband is doing the work himself. He did find areas in the frame that needed attention, but it was not nearly as bad we feared. Now the frame is back in great shape, and he will lay down a new deck (the sub-flooring). He'll replace all the insulation and reassemble the Airstream.

Meanwhile, we had the original couch restored, with new foam and upholstery, and we ordered new Airstream curtains to match the originals. We'll also replace the original carpet with something that matches the original (but be of better quality).

Yes, it gets expensive. We've spent about $4k, so far, (including custom curtains and upholstery), but since my hubby is doing all the work himself, we've saved on that. And, we know the quality of the work is up to his high standards, which is important to us.

With regard to whether mid-70's Airstreams are built well (during the time Airstream was owned by Beatrice Foods), he has found that, with a few exceptions, they are. There are things he believes could have been done better on the frame, for example, but those exceptions were not problematic -- especially considering that this trailer is over 40 years old and has had a hard life.

We love the look and design of the mid-1970's Airstreams. So we have chosen to do a real restoration, rather than the gutting / remodeling that is so often called a restoration. In our opinion, the interior design of this era of Airstream was very well thought out and designed. Plus we believe that vintage Airstreams that look as original as possible will hold their value better.. That remains to be seen, of course.

Really, it's all about what you're looking for and what your camping / traveling style will be. For example, we're boondockers. We go camping to be out in Nature. We drag that poor thing over some very rough and winding dirt roads, so it's important to us that the structure be sound. And, since we'd rather watch our campfire than be inside watching TV, we don't care about such things. If it's raining, we cozy up inside with a good book or play games together. But that's not everyone's style, so I think it's helpful to consider your style and preferences.

The internet can be a great resource for getting a feel for price, based on age and condition. As I'm sure you've already discovered, there are a number of sites out there that cater to those who are buying and selling trailers and RVs beyond just craigslist and ebay.

Once you have a feel for the era, floor plan, condition and price you want to pay, I think patience will be helpful. And, in addition to your dad and brother, perhaps there are people on this forum that live near enough to you that they would be willing to help you check out a potential prospect, based on what they've learned.

One other thing: See if you can find a copy of the original Airstream price list and list of options and upgrades for the exact model you're considering. That will be a huge help as you check out your prospective purchase. You'll be able to better identify whether you're looking at a basic model or not, and whether a higher sticker price may be justified.

We only recently found the list for our year, length and model. Wow, what an eye opener! Fortunately for us, we learned that whoever originally purchased our Airstream had added almost every option and upgrade available, increasing their overall purchase price by a huge amount. ( I wish I could remember where we found that list. If I do, I will let you know.)

There were tons of options and upgrades available, and they were often expensive. We were not aware of even a fraction of them, before we saw this list. Some options were biggies, others were minor. As just one example, having two steps on the entry stairs, rather than one. Even "minor" conveniences like that can add up to a big difference in comfort and convenience.

It sounds like you have your eyes open, are doing your homework, and you don't seem impulsive, so I think you'll do fine. We went into our Airstream adventure knowing nothing, and it has worked out fine for us. Part of that was dumb luck, and part has been my husbands skill and expertise. Just remember, if what you buy doesn't turn out to be a good fit for you, you can always sell and try again. A hassle, to be sure, but your first Airstream doesn't have to be a "forever" purchase.

I hope there is something in here that you'll find helpful. Again, welcome to the forum!
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Old 04-11-2015, 03:05 PM   #14
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1955 22' Flying Cloud
1977 23' Safari
1986 34' Limited
Idaho Falls , Idaho
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 497
In 2001, we bought our first Airstream, a 1977 Safari, from an A/S dealer. We paid a fair amount, but the dealer guaranteed that all systems were go and it was ready to take out. It was in quite good shape: curtains and soft goods inside were like new, everything worked properly and we have had a great time with it.

It had belonged to an older guy who used it to go fishing, and when he passed away, the heirs didn't want it and so it wound up on the dealer's lot.

Maybe we were just lucky, but we kept our eyes open to relatively local ads, and we have been successful twice now. So wait, possess your soul in patience, watch the local ads (so you can see for yourself just how good/bad it is), and sooner or later it will turn up. And be sure to call on the ad immediately!

I know of a local single-owner 70s Overlander, with its original tow vehicle, both in mint condition, sitting in a back yard that I found by just driving around. You can find them that way, too. I'm keeping my eye on that one and contact the owner 1-2 times a year to see if he's ready to sell yet.

Just be patient, keep your eyes open, and don't settle for less than you want in the way of condition.


Richard and Vivian
Caliban The Wonder Dog: gone but not forgotten
Too many vintage A/Ss...
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