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Old 10-17-2012, 05:33 PM   #15
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Mark,

You've gotten some good advice here so far.

It depends on your available cash, your skills, quickness of learning, and your ability to sort out all the info on the Forum about problems to look for.

Having remodeled two houses, I didn't want to do a trailer too. And I knew much more about houses than I did about trailers (about trailers, zero knowledge). We considered a recent model, but didn't know much about those. And when we looked at new ones, the aluminitis takes over anyway.

So we bought a new one in late '07 believing a "premium" trailer would be troublefree. We were wrong. But it didn't need a shell off, a new subfloor, new appliances, etc., etc. If I were to do it again, I'd look for a model 5 to 10 years old in great shape at a good price, but in '07, I didn't feel I knew enough to do that. And that trailer I would have looked for if I were smarter, would be the same one a bunch of other people are also looking for. So it would have taken a while to find one and then quickly pounce on it. And maybe someone had died or couldn't use the trailer anymore, so it sat for several years, maybe leaking. Something to watch for also.

You will have to search the Forum for exact dates of problem trailers, but here's a few generalities:

Some, mostly longer (over 25') trailer from the early '00's, have had front end separation. You can tell if it has been repaired by "elephant ears"—pieces of aluminum resembling ears riveted to the front on each side. The repair should also have been done on the inside with steel angle braces, but may not have.

Beatrice year trailers were cheapened. They were pretty much the '70's, but I don't remember the exact years. I believe those are the ones most likely to have rear end separation.

In the past 10+ years a lot of cost cutting has resulted in crappy parts being used. They get replaced by some people with better parts, but maybe not. A lot of stuff was fixed by warranty and since then, I have been doing it.

Over the last generation the aluminum used has been thinner and thinner. It scratches easily and dents easily.

The clear coat on trailers from the '80's and '90's may be pealing off.

Corrosion has been reported frequently in at least the past decade and shows up first on door hinges, taillights and along the beltline. It is more frequent near the ocean and in states where they use a lot of road salt. It appears to be on the surface (maybe that will be different in another 20 years), but isn't pretty.

Lots of trailers have dents, some pretty big. Replacement panels are expensive, especially the long ones on the side. If you can live with dents, these trailers can be bargain, but sometimes it separates the seams leading to water damage inside.

40 year old appliances are old. Sometimes they last for many more years, but count on some of them needing replacement. RV appliances are expensive.

Older trailers used copper pipe. Copper breaks easily when frozen (with water inside, of course) and a pressure test is necessary before purchase.

Older trailers may have had repairs done by people who didn't know what they were doing. There are lots of threads about electrical repairs done badly. You may have to rip it out and start over. Plumbing is also done badly by some people.

Some trailers made in the early '00's used OSB subfloors. I think they were the smaller ones. OSB deteriorates quickly when wet; avoid OSB, even if in good shape.

Rotting subfloors from water damage are common because of poor sealing techniques at the factory. I have read of trailers a few years old with rotten sections. Test the floor thoroughly for soft spots. Sometimes there have been plumbing leaks inside, but it appears water damage comes mostly from windows and other penetrations into the body not being sealed well and/or not maintained.

That's a lot to find out with specificity. But it pays off to help you find what works best for you. There are plenty of posts from people who bought an old trailer and were overwhelmed. Then after sinking money into it, they sell it at a loss. They were blinded by aluminum and unreasonable optimism. Carefully assess what you are willing to do and what you can do.

Good luck. You can do the research and look hard for your dream and come through it happily, but learn as much as you can for a while.

Gene
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:45 PM   #16
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I think the best Airstream in the world to own is a 1976 center bath.
How about to travel and camp in?
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Old 10-17-2012, 06:01 PM   #17
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I bought a vintage trailer because it was my first RV and I didn't want to sign on for a big payment before I really know how much I'd enjoy using the thing. I looked at a couple of trailers I'm glad I didn't buy, and ended up finding an Argosy that was close to home, had been used pretty regularly by the 2nd owners who sold it to me, was more or less ready-to-camp but I knew on day 1 was not perfect.

Nearly 2 years later, I don't regret the purchase though I've spent more than half again on the trailer since then. (Axles, new tires, leak detection and eradication, rebuilding dump valves, etc. as well as the accessories and doodads anyone would "need" to go with the first trailer.)

I really enjoy the Argosy, and I plan to keep it indefinitely. I think it might be fun to have a bigger/fancier trailer as well, so someday when I run out of things to spend money on I may look for a long mid-80s trailer that's structurally sound but worn on the inside, because as a matter of personal taste I'd probably want to replace most of what's inside. I'm well aware that wouldn't be the cheapest route to go, but that would be for showy trips and the Argosy would be for state parks and boondocking. Gotta have dreams, right?
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Old 10-17-2012, 06:50 PM   #18
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I'm in the middle of a shell off, build new frame. I have learned a world of info that I would not have otherwise sought.
About 10 years ago my wife was looking for an Airstream, we were traveling hundreds of miles every weekend looking at used trailers. I thought if I didn't buy her an Airstream we were headed for divorce. We finally gave up, as all the ones we were looking at in our price range looked like major projects even to my untrained eyes.
Then in March of this year less than 50 miles from home an Airstream came up for sale. The shell looked in good shape no major dents or dings so I started haggling on price,finally paying a little more than scrap price.
When finished I will have a trailer I can tow anywhere without worry, plus the knowledge that if something goes wrong, or breaks I know how to fix it.
I've been reading on this forum of a lot of problems with later model coaches,a lot of frame problems in late models. To repair these new coaches the right way will require the same trouble I'm going through to repair my 1975 model.A 10 year old trailer can have the same structural troubles as a 40 year old.
I read a post of a couple that started out full-timing in an Airstream the frame broke with then in the southwest basically stranding them. This really got me to thinking about traveling,vacations and time constraints. With a complete rebuild I will know the condition of my trailer when finished.
Good Luck,
Jack
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Old 10-18-2012, 07:22 PM   #19
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Wow! Thanks to everyone, this has been awesome! I can't believe the amount of input.
We have looked at the 22' ccd with the stern falling off... We have seen the late model 23' sinking into the mud and full of mice...
We own a very old house, we can relate to falling in love with something that we dump time and money into that we will never get back.
I guess I'm looking for a solid frame and body. Gutting, redoing the inside and mechanicals, that's what I do for a living ( on houses) so it could be interesting...
I hope folks with any thoughts on this continue to respond... It helps a lot !!!
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Old 10-18-2012, 07:38 PM   #20
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I think a big part of this question is this: is there an era of trailer that you prefer?

If you like that 22 CCD (a troubleprone model, due to OSB floors and a weak frame design) or the 23 that was sinking in the mud, maybe vintage isn't your thing. (You just need to find a better example.) Or maybe you wouldn't care one way or another.

I originally started looking for a used Bambi on a budget for a 5-week cross-country trip and wound up with a T@B teardrop. Lovely trailer, like new, tought us we loved RVing. I then bought a rather nice vintage Argosy. It needed work which I had done professionally. I spent a lot of money on it that I didn't get back.

I was proud of the Argosy. It was unique. I met a lot of nice folk with the vintage trailer that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. But none of this got around the simple fact that I liked the newer trailers better, and wasn't going to be content until I had one. Plus vintage means frequent repairs, a problem given that any RV already requires a fair amount of fixes anyway.

Now we have one. I found a very clean 2007 trailer and worked out (most) of the remaining bugs and am making upgrades. I walk into it and smile - every time. (Unless something is leaking.) With the wonder of 20/20 hindsight, I wish we had just taken a loan and bought a slightly used Bambi or 20' Safari to start with. We'd probably still have it, or at the very least, I would have less gray hair.

So, if you want a newer trailer and don't want to spend much time fixing it up, be patient and get what you want in the first place. Or, if you find the project to be fun, go for that.

Tom
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Old 10-18-2012, 08:01 PM   #21
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We purchased a 1970 31' sovereign a few weeks ago that has the maintenance records since 1970 and the people who sold it did a great job going to every state in the union including Alaska and had just returned from Alabama. Our trailer is original but updated with new covers, new drapes and shades for the windows, carpet, and was kept inside when not in use. We were very lucky. So far we have inspected, tested, and everything is working good. It's not glassy and gleaming and to have it done at $230 dollars a linear foot I don't think we will have it done unless we do it. But so far we are hooked on it and plan to use it well.

Al
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Old 11-05-2012, 06:07 PM   #22
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Thoughts on Vintage AS

I have enjoyed this thread. I am fairly new to the AS scene, only 8 months, I have spent most of that time fixing up my used 6 year old trailer. Interestingly I discovered that the original owner bought it when it was nearly two years old. So, in effect, it has been used for a relatively short time. I did what Gene said "buy one 5-10 years old" and I am glad I did. Even at that I have had to do quite a bit of updating or maintenance work.

I do like the older models though. There are so many special models that it makes it interesting. I was afraid to get one too old as I would not know what or how to do anything. I looked at a few older models recently. One was a larger unit in a field. The rear floor was rotted out in the bathroom and it was rough. That would overwhelm me with my small bit of knowledge in such things. Oh, yesterday I was in a 34' classic triple axle at Camping xxld on consignment. Very clean asking $59K. Too big for my truck, whew.

I must say that I like those little AS units and the 22' International with the desk in the back (newer model). Though not vintage, it is unique and practical.
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Old 11-07-2012, 10:10 AM   #23
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I have enjoyed this thread. I am fairly new to the AS scene, only 8 months, I have spent most of that time fixing up my used 6 year old trailer. Interestingly I discovered that the original owner bought it when it was nearly two years old. So, in effect, it has been used for a relatively short time. I did what Gene said "buy one 5-10 years old" and I am glad I did. Even at that I have had to do quite a bit of updating or maintenance work.

I do like the older models though. There are so many special models that it makes it interesting. I was afraid to get one too old as I would not know what or how to do anything. I looked at a few older models recently. One was a larger unit in a field. The rear floor was rotted out in the bathroom and it was rough. That would overwhelm me with my small bit of knowledge in such things. Oh, yesterday I was in a 34' classic triple axle at Camping xxld on consignment. Very clean asking $59K. Too big for my truck, whew.

I must say that I like those little AS units and the 22' International with the desk in the back (newer model). Though not vintage, it is unique and practical.
Curious as to what kind of repairs you are doing to a 6 yr old Airstream.
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Old 11-07-2012, 02:16 PM   #24
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I'm showing my ignorance but- what's an OSB floor? No longer used by AS? Is it wood, cardboard? Thinking about buying a used 20' because I like rear kitchen. Did they use this flooring in 2006 thru 2010 models? Any words of caution regarding this model? Known faults or poor design?
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Old 11-07-2012, 03:18 PM   #25
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Oriented Strand Board. Up here the common name for it is "particle board". There are other names for it, but few of them can used in polite company.
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Old 11-07-2012, 03:49 PM   #26
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Oriented Strand Board. Up here the common name for it is "particle board". There are other names for it, but few of them can used in polite company.
Particle board is very different stuff. It behaves about the same way when wet, but OSB is a much less-crappy product when it's dry.
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Old 11-07-2012, 03:50 PM   #27
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OSB deteriorates quickly when it gets wet and anyplace that can get wet should not have OSB. It is cheaper than plywood and is used in dry locations. I think it isn't as strong as plywood. It can be used a sheathing for buildings, but has to be isolated and well sealed to protect it from weather. Airstream used OSB as a subfloor for a few years about a decade ago on some of the smaller trailers. It created lots of problems and the company replaced it under warranty. But some trailers may not have been fixed.

I have seen it used as an exposed ceiling, wall, countertop or floor and coated with something like a clear polyurethane to protect it. It looks rustic and not too bad in a garage or cabin. Most particleboard has very small homogeneous particles, but OSB has large fibers in a random patter with lots of glue holding it together. Particleboard has little strength and cracks easily.

End of OSB treatise.

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Old 11-07-2012, 04:01 PM   #28
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Well, let's all call it what we each individually prefer, but there is only one characteristic it has that interests Airstream owners.

When it gets wet, it dissolves like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in the rain.
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