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Old 10-16-2012, 06:11 PM   #1
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Maybe we should go vintage?

Hope I've got this in the right place....
We have been looking at late model airstreams.... Beginning to think we should be looking at vintage. I'm looking for some general guidelines, in rigs that are 20' to 25'. which years and models should we avoid? We are contractors, not worried about taking on gutting and redoing a trailer as we want. But am not interested in doing a major redo on a trailer with a lousy frame or other issues that we wouldn't recognize.

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Old 10-16-2012, 06:24 PM   #2
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1975 31' Sovereign
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Vernon , Texas
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We bought vintage. Looked at newer or new but did not want any payments. In our area, being a dry climate we got lucky. The previous owners cared for and spent a lot of money on ours before we "stole it" for cash.
Will be looking forward to responses on your thread. Good luck on your hunt!

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Old 10-17-2012, 10:13 AM   #3
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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I took the leap and went vintage after searching for a trailer for almost 2 years. I've been restoring my trailer for over a year now, and have only recently turned the corner from tear down and repair mode to rebuild mode.

As mentioned above, the trailer I found was the result of a 2 year search, and I was specifically looking for a trailer that would not require a full refurb, just relatively superficial fix ups (new floor covering, fabrics, etc.). My expectations, of course were unrealistic, and I ended up with a 40 year old trailer with all the problems you would expect of a 40 year old car, ie., rotting floor, disintegrating frame, etc.. I have been having a good time working on the trailer, it has become my full-time hobby and obsession, but there are some things I would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight.

So here are my words of advice for someone considering going vintage:

1) Don't drive/fly too far to look at a vintage trailer. If you have invested a day of driving, you are very unlikely to go home empty handed, and will buy something that will require more work than you really want.

2) Be realistic in your expectations. Any vintage trailer in "as found" condition will require a lot of work and expense. You are really just buying the shell--most of the balance will get thrown out in the process of your refurb.

3) Its not an investment. You will spend thousands of dollars to do a complete refurb of a trailer. You will never be able to sell it for what you have in it, even if you don't include your labor. You may not even be able to insure it for what you think it is worth. I just saw a thread the other day entitled something like "how our $2000 trailer ended up costing us $30,000."

4) In terms of initial price paid, only pay a premium for things the pervious owner did that will save you time/effort/expense. I see 70's trailers advertised all the time in "original" condition as if 40 year old shag carpet and sticky tambour doors are worth a premium. A half polished trailer is worth much less than one with a solid floor, frame and new axle. Also, don't be lured in by a super cheap price. If they seller only wants $500 for it, there is probably a reason.

5) Get educated. There are several "buyer's checklists" on the Forums that will help you inspect a trailer you consider buying. There are also folks who will volunteer to act as your inspector. Get the old episodes of the "Vintage Airstream Podcast" (The VAP). There was lots of good information in the early episodes about what to expect when buying vintage.

6) There are plenty of trailers out there that someone gutted, and then lost their enthusiasm and are now selling. If you are planning on gutting anyway, this can save you work, plus it is easier to inspect with everything out. If the floor is completely sound, then your chances of not having a rotten frame are much better.

7) The drier the climate your trailer comes from the better. The fact that my trailer lived its life on the Florida panhandle probably contributed greatly to the amount of rust I found inside the bellypan.

I bought a 70's era trailer because they are a little wider than the 60's, and feel roomier, and lighter (more/bigger windows) inside. I also like the look of the body, with its more rounded shape. I didn't want a museum piece, just a trailer that I could make my own. The 70's (and later) body style is prone to the dreaded "rear end separation," which is something I had to repair as well. Airstream stopped using 2024 T3 Alclad aluminum in the shells at the beginning of the 70's, so if you have your heart set on having mirror polished aircraft aluminum in your trailer, then older is better. One thing you might very well want for practical purposes is a grey water tank. Airstream didn't start installing them in all their trailers until 1974. You can retrofit most trailers with a grey tank--its just more time and money.

Newer models have their short comings as well, OSB floors that disintegrate, softer aluminum, cheaper materials, and heavier towing weights. I looked at a 2002 while on my search and was stunned to see wood grain shelf-paper type stick-on veneer on the particle board cabinetry that was peeling off. I was mentally adding up all the repairs I would need to make as soon as I stepped inside the door.

I hope this helps, and doesn't just serve to discourage. This may be an oddball comparison, but as it is October, I will go ahead. Having a vintage Airstream is like making your Halloween costume from scratch. It's going to take more work, and probably cost more than the plastic outfit that someone buys at the costume shop, but you'll have it for ever, it'll be absolutely unique, and you'll be the life of the party.

Good luck!
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:31 AM   #4
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Biloxi , Mississippi
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I have a vintage Airstream and IF I could afford to pay cash for a new Airstream I would in a heartbeat. I would like to go a bit bigger, 22 foot or so. I find that I am getting a bit tired of banging my body parts into something sharp every time I turn around or bend over, the lack of storage space and also the lack of a fixed bed that I don't have to make up and put away after each use. Plus I really like the layouts and features of the new trailers.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:44 AM   #5
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1978 31' Sovereign
Tampa , Florida
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I bought vintage (78) and wouldn't have it any other way. I ripped out the furniture/cabinetry, building my own along the way, and have only around $7k invested in it total.

I agree with Belegedhel in that you can save yourself a TON of time and money by finding the RIGHT trailer to start with. Axles and rear separation were two things I didn't want to deal with so I made sure the trailer I bought already had new axles and the rear end was solid.
I wish I'd found one with single pane windows but two out of three isn't bad.

The trailer is getting regular use now and I'm absolutely loving it. I wouldn't give a second thought to buying another one or more, and I see, now, how people become collectors of these babies along the way.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:45 AM   #6
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Airstream stopped using 2024 T3 Alclad aluminum in the shells at the beginning of the 70's,
I thought it was the beginning of the eighties. Well, just learning about vintage myself.

From what I gather from reading, the mid 60's seem to be good years, especially if you are handy. They have wood cabinets and other things that are not plastic. They are clad too.
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Old 10-17-2012, 12:13 PM   #7
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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Some forum members put together a "history of aluminum in Airstream," which is posted somewhere here in the forums. When I came across it, I was stunned to see that my '73 was made of 6061 T6. I called the mothership just to confirm, and sure enough, the early 70's are made of 6061 T6. The material continues to change in the later 70's, 80's and 90's. One thing I do notice is that I just don't see 70's and earlier era trailers tha show dimples due to hail, whereas I do see more recent models with that golf-ball appearance.

Not a heartbreaker, but a revelation nonetheless. Also good to know, as it kept me from buying a bunch of 2024 T3 as patches and new panels.

Having thought on this topic a little more, I would offer one more point for consideration: Do you want a trailer that you primarily work on (ie., a major project), or one that you primarily camp in? I really wanted one that I would camp in more than work on, and hence, all the lessons learned above. With benefit of the knowledge above, I would have paid double or triple the initial price to have avoided the shell-off (though it makes for good conversation). Had I known that a shell-off was practically inevitable if buying a trailer that hadn't already had been worked on, that lives on the Gulf Coast, I think I would have bought one of the first trailers I looked at (3 years ago), and by now, I would be finished with all the work and hitting the road.

I know there are plenty of "as-found" trailers out there that people camp in on a weekly basis, but I think I exhausted all of my good charma just to tow my trailer home 600 miles without any major incident (especially after dropping the belly pan and seeing all the rusted through frame members). Since I've set foot to the slippery slope, I am convinced that one day I will have a better-than-new trailer that I can take personal pride in, but that day is still depressingly months away.
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Old 10-17-2012, 12:29 PM   #8
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I'd encourage you to look at "Semi-Vintage" instead of Full Monte Restoration projects from the 50's through 70's.. The Beatrice years were tough on the brand, and frame sag, less durable interiors, wood failures in sub floors, etc are relatively common unless someone else has done all the hard work to rebuild..

The Mid-80's to early 90's are often in much better condition, and not much more expensive.. Real wood in cabinetry (mostly..), beefier frame rails and outriggers, better windows, etc.. You can find good 25' models for less than $16-18K, and 21's are less, though they are kind of cramped, as poster above noted.. Classic 25's with rear queen or twin are often sold within days of listing here in classifieds, so if you find one in good shape, be prepared to move in a hurry.. If you're not familiar, Airstream made everything 6" wider and heavier starting with 1995 model years ("The Widebodies..") and they also have less rounded shells, with more upper storage spaces.. The mid-90's Safari's are good value, though also some interior cabinetry issues if abused, and the Excella/Classics have interior upholstery/linings that might be problems if smokers lived there, or they were abused..

Best advice is to get really clear on what floor plan and decades you want, and what condition you can tolerate, and then watch diligently and be ready to pounce when one pops up...

p.s. We love our '88, though we expected and did have to go through and replace all fabric (couch, bedspreads, curtains, carpet, mini-blinds, panels, etc) and replace failed control board in fridge, thermocouple on water heater, etc.. New axles are coming next year...

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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Old 10-17-2012, 01:17 PM   #9
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1974 31' Sovereign
Ottawa , ON
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Wasn't the plant (Jackson Center) selling a '60s model that had been re-done in new insides? That sure sounds appealing...
If it's to be, it's up to me.
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Old 10-17-2012, 02:50 PM   #10
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1995 34' Excella
Dalton , Georgia
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Maybe we should go vintage.

Yes, I seen the 60's model listed on ebay I think. Vintage outside and modernized on the inside,not sure what it went for or if it did sell. It looked really good,but I am trying to find vintage all the way. I like older things.
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Old 10-17-2012, 02:55 PM   #11
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1974 31' Sovereign
Ottawa , ON
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Here it is. I forgot; it's for sale on our own Classifieds! It's p-r-e-t-t-y...

1966 Airstream
If it's to be, it's up to me.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:11 PM   #12
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I think the best Airstream in the world to own is a 1976 center bath.
Click on the link to see a picture of the Sioux River falls near my home.
Eastern South Dakota is very pretty with hills, rivers, and trees.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:14 PM   #13
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1965 22' Safari
Vassar , Michigan
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We went Vintage!

For us the only way to go was vintage. We loved the process of restoring/updating our 65 Safari. Others are correct when they say we may not get our investment back if we sold it. We're not concerned with that as it's priceless to us. Every where we go people are attracted to it and want to take a tour. If your not afraid of the work then go for it. You can make it a personal statement or you can restore it to original. To me there is something about the earlier models that are narrower and more rounded. Do a search on Vintage Airstreams and check out the pics. Some are simply incredible.
Best of luck.

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Old 10-17-2012, 03:46 PM   #14
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1973 27' Overlander
1972 29' Ambassador
St. Paul , Minnesota
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If'n I had it to do over I would be merrily making payments on a nicer used trailer ie: a 6, 8 or 10 year old model and then beholden to it until it *is* vintage... with constant updates along the way... but most importantly get one you can use sooner than later!


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