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Old 02-18-2009, 07:09 PM   #1
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Time involvement to gut a 1977 31' Sovereign

My wife and I are researching what we could potentially be getting into by purchasing an old, long-time-not-used 1977 Airstream Sovereign at an upcoming auction. Based on the advice we've received from another part of the forum, we're bracing for the worst. So, I've got it that we're signing up for some work. No biggy, we enjoy it. But what are we looking at TIME wise? For example, when you start to remove the kitchen cabinets...are they held in place with a few screws and after laying on my back or kneeling for 5 minutes with a cordless drill in hand will I be able to scoot things toward the door? Or am I looking at cussing and swearing for 2 hours as I search for the last hidden $#&^%@$%%%!!! screw or glued joint that is preventing me from getting things moving? For the whole trailer am I looking at a day to gut it? A weekend? A month of after-work evenings plus weekends?

Veterans of the overhaul, please speak your knowledge...
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Old 02-18-2009, 07:34 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by atobols View Post
My wife and I are researching what we could potentially be getting into by purchasing an old, long-time-not-used Airstream Sovereign at an upcoming auction. Based on the advice we've received from another part of the forum, we're bracing for the worst. So, I've got it that we're signing up for some work. No biggy, we enjoy it. But what are we looking at TIME wise? For example, when you start to remove the kitchen cabinets...are they held in place with a few screws and after laying on my back or kneeling for 5 minutes with a cordless drill in hand will I be able to scoot things toward the door? Or am I looking at cussing and swearing for 2 hours as I search for the last hidden $#&^%@$%%%!!! screw or glued joint that is preventing me from getting things moving? For the whole trailer am I looking at a day to gut it? A weekend? A month of after-work evenings plus weekends?

Veterans of the overhaul, please speak your knowledge...
What year Airstream? Different years, different methods.

Depending on the year, you can get a "service manual."

That book shows how things are put together, as well as consideable service information.

Andy
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Old 02-18-2009, 07:41 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In View Post
What year Airstream? Different years, different methods.

Depending on the year, you can get a "service manual."

That book shows how things are put together, as well as consideable service information.

Andy

Sorry...forgot the year...1977. Original post now edited.
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Old 02-18-2009, 07:47 PM   #4
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I would say the biggest issue to look at is how much water has got in, if there is floor rot that needs to be repaired, if the bathroom has to be removed to replace rear plywood or repair rear end separation. If you manage to find one that you can stand on the rear bumper and not see tge seam between the frame and body get bigger, and that can be poked with a ice pic or screw driver around the perimeter inside (to check for soft spots) with mimimal issues, then you're probably looking at reasonable project, much to the same level of a home remodel of a few rooms. Just about any repair can be done, but know what you're getting into. Service Manual for a 77 would be helpful, and check the major renovations threads for trailers of that vintage to see what others have encountered.
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Old 02-18-2009, 07:52 PM   #5
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I've heard some RV technicians refuse to work on an Airstream because they are such a wire haired b*tch to work on. The appliances and accessories like water pumps and plumbing are almost impossible to get at without tearing the whole trailer apart.
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Old 02-18-2009, 07:56 PM   #6
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repairs

A 77 31 foot would take about 30 to 40 man hours to completely gut.

It could also have disc brakes.

Your safest bet, would be to get the 77 service manual, read it at least twice, and then attack the gutting.

Andy
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Old 02-18-2009, 08:04 PM   #7
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Andy knows his stuff, and I agree with his 30-40 man-hour estimate. Sometimes you WILL spend 2 hours cussing and swearing at that last hidden screw or rivet, and some things will actually go much faster than you expect.

If it's a total gut job, you can expect to spend a year or two or three on a major renovation. Everything takes longer than you expect, and from the other thread i gather you have two young children, who no doubt you want to spend time with as well.

In order to mitigate those effects, I am redoing my trailer 1/2 at a time. I bought it in August, camped in it though November, and starting Thanksgiving weekend tore into the back half. I will have it back together, rolling, and campable by April 1. Then I'll do the same thing to the front half next Winter.

Good luck!
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Old 02-18-2009, 08:19 PM   #8
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atobols, I'm not the authority but have some floor, frame and belly wrap merit badges from our old '74 Argosy. It is possible that just some of the floor repair can be done in segments only where needed. Every item in the trailer actually came through the door. So it all can be disassembled and fairly easily reassembled -- just take a lot of digital pics in the process so you can remember what you've done.

Some comments on your word 'gut' --
  • This frequently means removing and replacing interior furnishings. If that's the case be very aware of the weight you are removing. Any replacement furnishings can't weight much more than that or you'll lessen the payload capacity (personal gear, fluids, fuel) that can be used if the trailer is to be towed. It's surprising how much Airstream was able to do with some of the lightest furnishings imaginable. Use much 1/2" plywood and it'll get heavy fast.
  • Be either wary or well informed on electrical issues relating to interactions between 120 and 12 volt systems. It will be easier if you put back things the way it came apart.
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Old 02-18-2009, 08:30 PM   #9
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By "gut" I was thinking removal of all whatever is in there, which based upon the description of the camper in the auction propaganda probably is all OEM items. I would plan on putting as much original or repro-original things back in.

I'm just trying to get a handle on time. Do I have a prayer of buying this thing and if I have to remove all interior items, redo/repair the floor and put it all back or am I looking at months or years... Seems from the posts here that if it's the broken-down basket case that all say I should expect; then I ought to be looking for something in better shape. Nevertheless if I don't have a camper bought by next Thurs., then I will go to the auction just to have a look. Ya never know. I might just find that diamond in the rough that's the one in a million find.
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Old 02-18-2009, 08:50 PM   #10
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It certainly might be a diamond in the rough, you absolutely never know. I hope you don't feel like anyone is trying to discourage you, in fact quite the opposite, I love my Airstream and think everyone should own one.

I just think it's important for new potential vintage owners to be aware of all of the possibilities.

Airstreams are cool, and the majority of projects involved in renovation are no more difficult than DIY projects you find around the house. But they can become time-consuming for sure, and the costs do tend to mount. It's important to be realistic in your expectations, so that you enjoy your trailer, and don't grow to resent it.

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Old 02-19-2009, 12:54 AM   #11
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Big JOb

I'm into a 78 31 footer now> I'm highly skilled and well armed.
This baby is a terrorist expect that about everything could be
shot .............. It will take three times as much time as one could figure..
still I'm having a blast . You might just be better off paying more
money for one that is in better shape expect a fight
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Old 02-19-2009, 01:45 AM   #12
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1) I might suggest be slow at doing your "gutting". There's lots of threads here on units that were quickly gutted, then never got put back together.
Maybe work at doing what needs to be done so all the "kids" (including you) can go camping for a few years, then do the overhaul when they are off to college and have it ready for when they come back from college and want to show off what the old folks have done to their camping haven.
2) Get Andy's at Inland RV number on your cell phone, he'll give you the real advice you need on things like disk brakes and activators and stuff like that.
3) Enjoy your trailer. We're waiting to hear more about the fun you're having with it than how you got it back to better than new condition.
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Old 02-19-2009, 09:41 AM   #13
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From my reading here (and, even with a different brand of trailer), it seems reasonable that small-scale plans work well. That is, replace the floor and repair the framework, and put enough back in to camp with. Sort of.

Otherwise, it seems like three-years is a minimum for a DIY'er with an appetite for skill and tool acquisition.

I called in pro help for my replacement of the bathroom floor (and a Silver Streak isn't semi-monococque in construction; the cabinetry was like taking apart & putting together a puzzle, easy; the flooring comes right out [no shell removal]), and was glad I did. Would have taken me three days plus to do what three men did in less than a day & a half. (Not to mention I was on the road).
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Old 02-19-2009, 09:59 AM   #14
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Do you have a factory manual? if so you will find every screw and whatever else you need to know. well worth the investment. as far as time? how fast are you,and can you and your bride work well in close quarters. The time spent will be well worth it because in the end you will have a trailer you are proud of and one that has your signiture all over it. GOOD LUCK and happy gutting.
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