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Old 03-26-2014, 02:12 PM   #1
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Pan America... Why? Why not?

I know the Pan America was a passing thing for Airstream, that there were very few actually built (19?) and that a big percentage (maybe half??) of those were consumed by businesses for rolling showrooms for trade shows or similar. Not sure if any were shipped abroad or not. Honestly, I'm really limited on some facts about the PA and will be the first to admit it.













With all that being said, I still wanted one. I've had aluminitus since the early 80's and been a motorcycle nut considerably longer. I figured a Pan America would be a nice addition to merge both of my addictions together. I had zero interest in any SOB toy haulers...it was the Pan America or nothing for me. I ran down every practical lead (and some not so practical) I could find on a Pan America. Some turned out to be eBay scams, some were priced at MSRP or above some 4-5 years later or modified so much from OEM that it wouldn't be functional in the capacity it was originally intended for. Considering the limited number of these trailers, I figured that the Pan America would just be something that I wanted but had little hope of ever actually finding one available.

I put the word on a buddy who wheels and deals in a lot of travel trailers and motorhomes that I had been looking for one. Low and behold, about 1-1/2 years later, he calls saying that he had found one at what I considered a reasonable price. It was not a perfect example but only needed some minor TLC. As a perpetual gearhead, that worked for me and therefore, I agreed to buy it...sight unseen. Since he was the "wheeler dealer", I told him to see about moving my Classic 30 in order to make room for the Pan America. The Classic was sold in about two days time. Excluding my labor for upgrades, I broke even on the Classic and was completely satisfied with that...especially knowing the PA was on it's way.

My intent for this thread is for those that are Pan America curious such as I was. That and it is just a little more history/trivia for the iconic trailers that we are intrigued by on up to being obsessed with. Maybe, also, I'm just plain old excited about it and my vision I have for it.

I had the trailer delivered by a hot shot service for two reasons...1) my work schedule was tight but I wanted it ASAP, if not sooner to insure it didn't get away ...and 2) I didn't want to tow it without my WD hitch nor did I want to rig up the hitch on "foreign soil". The hot shot driver (in a 1-ton truck) was to pick up the Classic anyway so all that worked out just fine.

Upon receipt of the trailer and although I have looked at every picture I could find on the net, I was impressed with its size...it's a big boy, for sure. I like the long clean lines of the exterior which only has limited trim. The general condition of the trailer was good but as with many second-hand trailers, there were some small things that had be neglected (which boggles my mind considering the price new). The exterior is in good shape and displays less corrosion (aluminum worms) than many newer trailers. From the appearance of the trailer, it doesn't look like it got used much and spent most of it's life just sitting. It supposedly came with six "new" tires. Upon closer examination, the tires do look new in every respect and still have all the molding "nipples" on them but the manufacturing date on all the tires is late 2008 (on a 2009 trailer) and therefore, will be replaced. Another indicator of limited use. The stabilizer jacks are all in good shape except the "pads" are unusually rusty compared to the balance of the jack...as you would expect from a trailer just sitting and suspect the pads were on dirt or someplace that stayed damp. The garage area looked relatively new without too many hints of use.

Upon doing my "systems check", the fridge (which still looks brand new), worked fine on shore power and LP. The hot water heater worked fine on LP but not at all on shore power...found a tarnished connection on the thermostat which solved the issue. A/C with heat pump worked and looks good. The furnace seemed to be burning a little rich and since testing, blew it out with a focused blast of air...after the soot settled down, it appears to be burning clean. Much to my amazement, all the tank monitors (black, gray, fresh, battery and 2x LP tanks) work and appear to be relatively accurate. The two 53 watt solar panels appear to be doing there thing and the DPO did put new batteries in the trailer. I loaded all the tanks with water to check for tank or valve leaks as I had just done a valve & hatch job on the Classic, all checked out fine much to my relief. When I tried the 12v water pump, it was noisy. Under closer scrutiny, there appeared to be movement between the fluid end of the pump and the motor. The screws that hold the fluid end to the motor were all still tight. After a few minutes of running the noisy little fellow, a water leak appeared at the pump. After ponder for a few minutes, I remembered that I had a new pump on the shelf leftover from another non-trailer project. As luck would have it, it was an identical match in every detail and therefore, just elected to swap the pumps. I ended up cleaning some mineral deposits out of the faucet aerators and all was well in the water department.




The loading ramp does not appear to have seen much use and was a little "sticky" coming and going but not horrible. The ramp slides on plastic "glides" (3/4" x 3/4" plastic stock) going into the storage position that is mounted to a metal frame. I think Airstream selected the wrong type of plastic for the application as it appears to be buckling between attachment points every 10"-12"...it's usable now but will be a easy fix when the time comes to work on the smaller details. The latch on the LP tank surround is rusty and will be replaced. There is a ding on the bottom of the road-side SS rock guard up front...not a big deal and it appears to be the same guard as what is on my Signature. Nothing major but will be on my long list of upgrades/improvements. I'm not interested in restoring the trailer to it showroom condition but would like to make it as presentable as possible while still practical to use it for what it was intended.

After doing the basic checks on the trailer, I rigged up my ProPride hitch on the trailer. The Class V stinger from PP was a vast improvement and is a robust piece of equipment. It took adjusting the stinger twice as I didn't know how much squat to expect when the load was transferred to the truck. My first guestimate was low and subsequently had to raise it one hole to provide the trailer with the right attitude when towing. I will make a trip to the scales to confirm.

2.5" x 2.5" stinger for the receiver end.


The "upright" on the stinger is 2.5" x 2". Note the rusty stabilizer jack pad.


With the hitch tweaked to the best of my ability without scales, it was time for a tow. I have a loop I take when testing the tow of a trailer that includes about 12 miles of two-lane highway, about 18 miles of 35-40 mph winding, narrow back roads and about 20 miles of rolling interstate. On roll out, it was obviously heavy...considerably heavier than the 31' Classic or 28' Signature. Once up and rolling, it felt good and towed well. On the rolling hills of the two-lane highway, I could feel the weight climbing the hills but the Duramaxed Silverado didn't seem to mind. Negotiating the narrow back roads and meeting on-coming traffic, it really didn't feel any different than it's little brothers. Instead of head back south (toward home) on the interstate, I headed north for about 20 miles before heading south. Between 65-70 mph, I actually believe it pulled easier or tracked better than the shorter trailers. During my +/- 40 miles of interstate towing, several 18-wheelers blew by me and I felt very little, if any, influence from them. It was windy here all day yesterday as a front was blowing in and the cross winds on the interstate didn't seem to have any bearing on the trailer, either. Quite pleased and surprised, to some degree on how it towed. Not sure of the difference but am guessing it is a result of more trailer brakes but I had to tone down my brake controller (Chevy OEM) as compared to towing my other two trailers. With the perceived better stopping power of the trailer, the big disc brakes on the truck, as well as, an exhaust brake, stopping is a non-issue or at the very least, no more an issue than the smaller, lighter trailers. In short, taking off from a dead stop is where the increased weight and size is more apparent. The heavy tongue weight on the 2500HD had virtually no effect on the truck's steering even on road irregularities or bridge seams. Although I know it is, from the driver's seat, you can't tell the difference, again, from the shorter trailers. After I got up to speed on the interstate, I reset my "average MPGs"...and got 13.6 mpg with constant elevation changes...slightly less than towing my Classic but not by much. A small price to pay to have my toys with me. I suspect if I hitched it up to my Suburban 2500, I'd get 4-5 mpg and work the transmission to death.

After the towing process, I repositioned the Pan America on my "Airstream Docking Station" to where I would have access to the business end of the trailer at any time. For effect, I stuck a bike in the trailer just...just...just because I could. Can't see hauling two this size, but fortunately, I have plenty of other bikes to choose from.

About the trailer in general, the living end of the trailer doesn't have as much convenient storage that we've grown to know and love about our standard AS trailers. There are a few nice "gimmicks" with this trailer but I can't see full-timing in this trailer unless you converted the garage into a den. I am quite pleased with the trailer for my purposes but, admittedly, I wouldn't have been quite as pleased if I'd paid MSRP for it as Airstream's pricing has exceeded their quality or owner's wow factor. The "nothingness" of the back was very expensive when new. Others may have a different opinion but to me, the Pan America makes for a great second trailer. For serious travel without the need for "toys", the Signature fits the bill much better in that case. Two moderate size motorcycles, two men and one woman (assuming she is half of a couple) can operate comfortably out of this trailer...anymore than that and it would get cramped pretty quick on both ends. With the isolation of the door going to the garage and the partition divider before the bathroom/bedroom area, the A/C has a smaller area to cool during the hottest part of the day giving the impression of more BTUs. However, this trailer wasn't really designed to do a lot of lounging around in. I think the philosophy here was eat, sleep and go play.







Enough room to walk all the way around it and its a fairly long bike.


If your are still reading at this point, I think its safe to say that you are a bit curious, too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by moosetags View Post
I really like seeing your pictures and hearing about it. You might consider starting a Pan America thread here on the Forums to chronicle your adventures in the Behemoth.
At the suggestion of Moosetags above, I believe I will take him up on his suggestion. So if you see this thread popping back up, you'll know in advance if you want to avoid it or not. Moosetags labeled it as the Behemoth. Every story needs a main character and the main character needs a name. Therefore, from this day forward, I will refer to it as "The Hindenburg". It seems appropriate considering I plan to have a closed-loop auxiliary fuel cell in the garage.

Not actually the Hindenburg...but I liked the image and this one doesn't have swastikas on it.


Z
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Old 03-26-2014, 02:21 PM   #2
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Very nice, I had a quick look the other day and saw a nice one listing at $39K seems like an insanely good deal to lovers of long Airstreams.
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Old 03-26-2014, 02:26 PM   #3
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Nice write up and great pictures.
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Old 03-28-2014, 11:13 AM   #4
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Thanks, guys.

On the Pan America, I guess it is obvious that I am stoked about it...and I'm not fighting the feeling either. I have dreams at night about modifying it (I like modifying stuff) I modified my Wing...cat is out of the bag. and using it...and that doesn't happen too often for me...the right toys at the right time keep you young...that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I do plan to get it in the best reasonable shape I can and then, use the hell out of it. I hope I use up brake linings by the bushels and go through wheel bearings and tires like croton oil through a widow woman. I don't see this one back on the market until my kids are dividing up my estate. I'm also working on the ideal pair (or pairs) of motorcycles to go with it. Whether it be good, bad or ugly, I'm going to post my mis-adventures of the Pan America.

1968 & 1969 Triumph Bonnevilles...nothing like a tidy shop. I make no time for cleaning when neck deep into a project or projects.




...or a pair of newer Triumphs.





I, also, have a pair of those Suzuki Katana's...(1982...first crotch rocket).




The possibilities for excitement are unlimited. "One of these days" is now. I ordered two motorcycle front wheel chocks and some aluminum material for mods for the Pan America garage yesterday...I'm getting on with this rat killing. If I don't have fun, it's my own fault.

Z
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Old 03-28-2014, 11:52 AM   #5
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I actually considered buying a Panamerica. I didn't realize they were so rare.
My conclusion (and it's the same for all toy haulers) is that the living area isn't big enough.
But you have 2 trailers...
One for you and your motorcycle, and one for you and your family...
Some weekend I would like to camp at Paul B. Johnson and come to your Airstream trailer/motorcycle "museum".
I see a bunch of Triumphs, a Norton, and a Suzuki.
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Old 03-28-2014, 11:55 AM   #6
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Can you replace the stabilizer pad only?
I noticed today on my trailer the little acorn nuts holding the rear awning support arms are all prematurely rusted.
I have noticed rusty bolts on my Harley's exhaust system. Maybe extreme heat helps them to rust faster?
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Old 03-28-2014, 12:16 PM   #7
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Hey Zack - nice to meet you here too - did not know you own an airstream !
Tom (ST1100 in motocampers)
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Old 03-28-2014, 02:06 PM   #8
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yeah man!

Pan America's rock! I'd love to have one! I like toy haulers. If you're going to have a trailer and bring your bike, that's the price you pay, unless you stick it in the back of the truck.

A cat camped beside me at Bar Harbor last summer. I had my 34 footer...he had a Fusion 40' + 5er toy hauler there. His trailer had about eight times the internal room of mine. But it was a sweet rig. He didn't have it with him at the time, but he said he would often bring his HOG and his 4-seat ATV thing...like a Polaris or something. Anyway, it really was a good setup. I'm not too much of a Silver Snob to admit it. His trailer had three axles with 17" wheels. (I have three axles with 15" wheels). He had a hot rodded Ford Super Duty (his plate frame said "NOS" on it....). He said his hot rod diesel was making about 800hp and over 1000 ft-lbs of torque. My stock Cummins was a little over 300hp and 555 ft-lbs.

But anyway, I like the idea of toy haulers. And the Pan America is the best of both worlds. I would love to bring my V-Rod with me on vacation. His Fusion was setup so that when you backed the toys out, two queen beds dropped down from the ceiling and turned the toy bay into the kids' wonderland/bedroom. It's a good setup.

OK, I'm rambling. But I would take an Airstream PanAmerica in a heartbeat.

You go, dude!
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Old 03-28-2014, 02:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m.hony View Post
I see a bunch of Triumphs, a Norton, and a Suzuki.
But not a classic BSA in the lot.

Is it true that BSA stood for "b**tard stalled again?



Have much fun! Paula
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Old 03-28-2014, 07:48 PM   #10
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I noticed that the Pan America has the classic aluminum step. How cool is that? I think the only trailers that have those steps now are Classic Limiteds.
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Old 03-28-2014, 08:30 PM   #11
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I was impressed with whole mud flap hitch setup, but even with all that it seems the little cotter pin is a pretty important part. . Amazing. PA nice rig.
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Old 03-28-2014, 09:27 PM   #12
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Yep. The Rock Tamers and ProPride are bad to the bone.
One of these days, when I grow up...
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Old 03-28-2014, 11:45 PM   #13
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Awesome writeup on the trailer, and I sure did like to see all those bikes lined up.

Didn't know about the Panamera when we bought our 28 FC, and it might have made me think different. But the trailer was for 2 boys plus the missus, so we'd have to mod it out pretty well to enable 4 to enjoy.

This would be the ideal trailer for me in about 10 years when they're all out of the house and I can pop my bikes in the mini garage and head out for some dirt or twisty roads. Till then, they'll have to fit in the pickup bed or stay home.

Thanks for posting.
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Old 03-29-2014, 01:06 AM   #14
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BSA = British Small Arms in Birmingham, UK. Our flat is about five miles from where the factory was.

Now there is not a trace of that British history to be seen in that area.
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