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Old 01-11-2015, 07:51 PM   #1
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Honolulu , Hawaii
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Complete Overhaul

I am very new to the Airstream world but love the trailers and have a vision that I am trying to turn into a reality!

Currently I am located in Honolulu, HI but am relocating to California's Bay Area while I search for the perfect Airstream to purchase, remodel and then take on the road.

My vision is to purchase a late model (70's or newer, 28' or longer) airstream sometime in late May early June and remodel it over the next 2-3 months. The end goal being to use it for the next year my girl friend and I take it along the Cali coast promoting and selling her new bikini line. During the same time, I will be competing in various surf contests and want to build the Airstream to be like our own beach cottage.

I am proficient in carpentry, drywall, flooring, electrical (some), pluming (less), and cabinetry.

I want to hear from others what their thoughts on about taking on a project like this and some of their experiences. I have been looking online for material and books about remodeling Airstreams but have not found exactly what I was looking for... Is most the work custom that needs to be done to modernize late models? Do later models need to have their electrical and pluming redone?
There was a bunch of posts about leaks and fixing rotten flooring... are exterior leaks a big issue?
Lastly, how easy/hard is it to get OEM (or after market) parts?

Thank you for your help and am very excited to get to work on this dream!

Steve H.

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Old 01-11-2015, 07:57 PM   #2
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

Welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us. Good luck in your quest.

SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
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2005 Suburban 2500 Quadrasteer (Olivia) & 2011 Silverado 3500 (Fred) with Outfitter Truck Camper (Ethel)
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Old 01-11-2015, 08:22 PM   #3
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I can only offer that my redo of a trailer took two and a half years, but I guess that I am slow.

A professional restorer could probably do a trailer in a few months.

Good luck on your effort
David & Diana
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Old 01-11-2015, 09:25 PM   #4
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2004 28' Safari S/O
Marietta , Georgia
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Aloha, this site has most of the information you'll need to tackle the dream. Use 'search' to mine the many threads for insights. It will take plenty ahonui but it is all there. Hopefully, you are skilled at using google advance search - it really helps. Try using "" space followed by the terms and it will work easier than the forum's search tab.

Three months might be doable if the trailer is in fairly good condition but you will need a place to work, a variety of tools, and an end vision. It is not that complicated except for power if you are very handy.

Floor damage/rot is the hardest to tackle. Make that a priority to detect when looking at units and it will lessen your to-do list. Cabinetry is straight forward, just scribe the shell end. If you don't change the layout the plumbing issues will be minimal unless it froze. Mechanicals are all replaceable if beyond repair (parts can be found at Inland RV or check the various advertisements on the forum). Leaks occur around windows, lights, and seams then the water runs between the inner and outer shell to the floor perimeter.

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Old 01-12-2015, 09:46 AM   #5
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Houston , Texas
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Welcome to the Forums!

I am not aware of any step by step "how to" guide for rennovating Airstreams, but there are many threads here on the forums that describe members' rennovations from start to finish. There is also a thread that lists many of these "full monty" restorations at the following:

Another resource is the Vintage Airstream Podcast (the VAP). The early episodes discussed a lot of the finding, evaluating, repairing, restoring type of topics. You can buy all the old episodes and listen to them as you commute, etc., to passively absorb Airstream info.

Just manage your expections: buying a 40 year old trailer is much like buying a 40 year old car that has been left parked in a field somewhere. You are going to have to do a lot of work on it to make it safe/functional, let alone "nice." If you need to have the trailer on the road in a matter of a few months, and it needs to look like a live-in show room, then your best bet may be to buy a trailer that has already had the heavy-lifting done, and only needs superficial redecorating. Yes, there will be a higher up-front cost, but full rennovations end up being time consuming and expensive anyway.

good luck!
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Old 01-14-2015, 12:15 PM   #6
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1978 28' Ambassador
Pacifica , California
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Haha anything is possible with money and time! But be sure that all trailers of that vintage leak. It is just a fact of life. I understand the dream (I had that same exact dream) but trailers have a lot more than meets the eye. The information you find on these forums is invaluable, I would advise browsing all boards to realize the scope of work of a trailer, unless you're able to afford one that has been previously babied up Sounds like a great way to promote the brand!
Keep on truckin!
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:09 PM   #7
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Another suggestion is that "shop" manuals are available for trailers from the 1970's and newer. They aren't exactly a step-by-step rennovation guide, but they do go into a lot of detail about how to fix pretty much everything that needs to be fixed, short of a complete shell-off.

good luck!
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Old 01-14-2015, 02:25 PM   #8
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Realistic Timeline

Having "been there and done that" I would suggest that 2 to 3 years for a complete overhaul is more realistic than 2 to 3 months.

What ever you decide, make sure that the running gear, frame, and everything on the bottom side of the trailer is completed prior to even thinking about starting in the interior.

Go through the '78 Sovereign thread in my signature line for a true timeline of an amateur/therapeutic rebuild.

"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

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Old 01-14-2015, 03:49 PM   #9
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1983 31' Airstream310
Hillsburgh , Ontario
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Welcome to the insanity

2-3 month renovation is very doable on the proviso that you're doing nothing else but working on the trailer in those months. The trailer frame and floor MUST be in great condition because a gutting, frame rebuild and subfloor will chew through most of 2-3 months just by itself.

That you have your design and materials specced out and bought BEFORE the reno, as the lead time on my new vinyl for my walls, which was made in Japan was 6 weeks.

All cabinet components like face frames, doors, drawer fronts and drawers have been built and painted with fitting the side gables being the only thing left to do.

Pex A plumbing is very easy and will only take a day to do but final fitting of taps and leak checking will take another day.

Working on an Airstream is like nothing you have ever done before. As a very qualified skilled cabinetmaker myself with again a host of other talents I possess, I was still shocked at how long it took to renovate mine. My rule for Airstream reno's is take how long you think it's going to take to do anything and multiply that figure by a factor of five.

PS Although you possess a number of skills, you won't be working with drywall (too heavy and will mold). The construction technics you will have to use will also have to change to maintain lightness. Weight will become your mantra as add too much in the wrong place, and you will have a disaster on your hitch.

Per Mare, Per Terram and may all your campaigns be successful.

Its a recession when your neighbor loses his job; its a depression when you lose your own. "Harry S Truman"
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Old 01-14-2015, 06:38 PM   #10
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1989 34.5' Airstream 345
Hanalei, /Chino Valley , Hawaii / Arizona
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Aloha Kakou Filp Flop, welcome to the forum. You are getting a lot of good advice from the members above. Kind of a reality check. Better done now than in the middle of a restoration.
As a long time Island guy let me share with you that it's great having RV here on the mainland to live in and cruise the endless roads and varied destinations on offer over here.
One wake up for me has been the cost to get into nice parks on the west coast.
In most of the country $25/$45 seems the norm for a space with at least partial hookups. On the coast it's more like $50 / $85 per night. Also a lot of the parks on the west coast have size limits of 25 feet or even smaller.

Also I'd like to suggest that you widen your search to include some other brands of classic aluminum skinned trailers that may fit the bill for your needs. Avion, Silver Streak make really nice rigs that don't have quite the cult following that help to drive up the prices of Airstream units
"Enough of the bummers, you are on to a good idea if approached realisticly.
Think of trips down into Baja for fun surf get aways.

I was just over to Santa Cruz area and saw a lot of small motorhomes parked near good spots with boards on top. They seemed the go to vehicle as they would fit in parking spots and didn't require special parking. Just a thought for you.

Good luck in your adventures.

Aloha Richard
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Old 01-20-2015, 06:55 PM   #11
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Honolulu , Hawaii
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Thank you!

Mahalo for all the great advice! It is a lot to take in and I have been reading many of the treads about problems people have encountered. Very stoked to dive in and get started.

Tevake - Good point about the cost and size limit on the coastal spots.. I just checked the parks and rec site and noticed a few of the ones I was planning on do not allow over 30 feet.. Thinking a 28 might be the one for me after reading this.

Really appreciate everyone taking the time to reply, it is a huge help!

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