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WineStream 02-20-2009 09:52 PM

Virtual Inspection - Please give your input
We did look for people to inspect this trailer and there are none in our area, so we could use your help.

This is a 1971 Sovereign International that is for sale in our area. Asking price is $5000. Please tell us, if you can, should we offer less or is this a good value for the price? We checked the floor and it appears to be solid. We also checked around the door and windows and there appears to be no leaks or floor rot. It's a rear bath, but my husband jumped on the rear bumper and all appears solid.

Any input would be appreciated, thanks!

AIRSTREAM pictures by atobols - Photobucket

azflycaster 02-20-2009 10:05 PM

There are many things to consider when determining a fair price for a trailer. Read this document, determine the condition based on the criteria stated in the document and then see what is a fair amount.

I come from the school that says sellers always ask more then they really want. If you offer less they can say yes, no or counter offer.

Inland RV Center, In 02-20-2009 11:25 PM


Originally Posted by atobols (Post 669237)
We did look for people to inspect this trailer and there are none in our area, so we could use your help.

This is a 1971 Sovereign International that is for sale in our area. Asking price is $5000. Please tell us, if you can, should we offer less or is this a good value for the price? We checked the floor and it appears to be solid. We also checked around the door and windows and there appears to be no leaks or floor rot. It's a rear bath, but my husband jumped on the rear bumper and all appears solid.

Any input would be appreciated, thanks!

AIRSTREAM pictures by atobols - Photobucket

Check all the window and door gaskets. That will give you some idea of proper PM.

Also, check out the axles. They appear to be history. From 1974 and back, therubber rods were incorrect.

Dura Torque Axle


Foiled Again 02-20-2009 11:36 PM

Hi Again!
You've got Aluminitis for sure.

Don't see any red flags. The tanks are the nice worthington Aluminum ones which can be shined up beautifully - however they may need OPD valves. Worth converting them IMHO. Do check the "wing windows" - the side windows in the front - if they've been broken and replaced with plexiglass or lexan - you need to know that the OEM glass is unavailable. (IMHO a Lexan replacement is fine, but some people are fussy.)

Advice, CONSIDER LAYOUT first and last.

The rear bath has one advantage - a "bathtub". I fulltime and every once and a while I'd like a soak, even a tiny one. The rear bath has one disadvantage for a family. Everyone who takes a potty break goes past the center twins to get to the john. The center bath layout means that there is a tiny illusion of privacy between sleeping on the couch/dinette and the bedroom - the bath separates them. Now in truth you turn on the bath fan or everyone knows whether you're doing #1 or #2. You can't shower without everyone in either end of the trailer hearing you. (I've heard that Benedril or a tablespoon of wine for the kids work wonders if you and hubby want to get frisky.:innocent:) In the rear bath you and the kids are sharing the same sleeping area. Some people like the rear bath, others hate it. Just advising you to consider layout and condition as the two biggies.

Oh, BTW - in a unit that old the axles are done for. Read numerous threads about replacing!


Kevin245 02-21-2009 12:49 AM

Dittto to the previous posts...Very good lines of thought. The big issues are often undetectable without know where to look, and having all those interior pictures won't necessarily reveal the bad things.

The pictures seem to reveal a largely stock uniit that looks to be in good shape. That being said, he next area I would focus on would be the "Bones"...The exterior condition, tail sag (Great that you already are aware of this!!!), are the windows original, and since this appears to be a northern climate AS, I'd check around underneath to see if any major corrosion isses are evident.

Then I would check the comfort systems...Water, HVAC, Appliances, Electrical, etc. Check the floor for soft spots around the entrance door, behind the gaucho, under the beds (around the wheel wells), and in the bathroom .

If things look good and you find yourself willing to make the move...Put your left foot...Put you left foot...Do the hokey...Oops. I mean negotiate the price you're willing to pay, write the check and pull your new baby home. Just remember that she'll be part of the family and will require your undivided attention from time to time too. This will invlove both money and effort, but for most of us here, it's a labor of love kind of thing.

Best of Luck....And keep us in the loop,


Frank's Trailer Works 02-21-2009 05:22 AM

There are four Toddlevilles, and they all appear to be in small town USA with exception of the one in Mass. Are you sure there is no one to inspect in your area?

WineStream 02-21-2009 06:52 AM

Glad we asked...the axle issue is new to us. We checked the tail sag, did the door and couch floor inspections, but the axle thing is new.

But this makes me stop and think... I come from a world where torsion axles are considered the mecca of trailering axles. This world being that of flatbed and enclosed car hauling. Most of us (myself included) have leaf spring axles and just dream of having torsion axles installed someday. The torsion axles are pretty much considered indestructible.

I read Andy's article and I read: "Along with the advantage of being proven over time, and subject to tough quality standards, an improvement was made in the rods beginning with Airstream 1974 models. Research and age showed that the original rubber composition in the rods, could on occasion, lose its resiliency. This would allow the trailer to settle to a lower ground clearance and ball height." This says to me that it was already a good and proven design and occasionally the axles were found to be bad after time and usage. However, I'm getting the impression from what I read that I can basically 100% expect to replace the axles. Not that I am against this (I'm capable and willing), but I don't like to just go into things because it's the "likely" scenario rather than really checking things and making the right decision. That being said, when I looked at the underside of the trailer yesterday, I took note of the torsion axles, but didn't really note the arm position. I saw torsion axles and just checked it off my mental list as a non-issue based upon my own experiences with trailers in general.

Another point to consider...we have the option of a 1977 Sovereign coming up at a local auction (which we've discussed in a different thread here). Would the axle issue be enough of a sticking point that we should hold off until we see the '77 inside & out? This '71 just seems to be in real good shape, has a good and known history, is close, and is at the lower end of the value scale (based on average condition). The '77 is a center bath w/ vista windows and the '71 is a rear bath w/o vistas...but seems the rear bath works better for us since the center beds are more condusive to bunk-building. Argh! I have a headache...

Happycampers 02-21-2009 06:58 AM

Hello.. Relax... Go with what your gut feels... If you are not up for a know the answer... How soon do you want to be able to use it??? Redos take time and lots of money... ask us we know.... purchase price $1500 and now $27,000 invested and hundreds of hours BUT we have what we want... Costalotta start to finish is the thread... :D

utee94 02-21-2009 07:27 AM

This one actually APPEARS to be in pretty good condition-- I take it this is NOT the one that sat unused for 25 years?

Any idea if the appliances work? Electricity? LPG? Freshwater system? Waste tank? Not sure what year this one is (on edit, just re-read, this one is a 1971), somewhere in the early-to-mid-70s, but Airstream did not begin including gray tanks as standard until 1974 I think? Something to keep in mind. Gray tanks can be added, it's just another project. Lots of folks live without them and just use the blueboy rolling totes. (Sine this one is a '71, it most likely does not have a gray tank, unless a previous owner added one after-market. The 1977 most likely WILL have a gray tank unless it has been ampered with. Don't know if that matters or not to you).

Seems to me more than "occasionally" that the axles need replacement. I'd just count it as a given for any Airstream pre-1975 and include it in your cost estimate. If it turns out they DON'T need to be replaced, that's a bonus. If you're handy it's a project you can do yourself, especially if you buy the direct bolt-in replacements... from Andy! ;)

If the floors really are solid, there doesn't seem to be any rear-end separation, there don't appear to be any leaks, all the systems work, and she's immediately camp-ready, then personally I think $5K is a good price. Sort of right in the middle of RJ's "Fair" condition price range.

I will add that one way to try to estimate how well a trailer has been taken care of is to evaluate its condition versus originality. I believe that "unmoletsed" trailers have generally been better cared-for over the years. Trailers that have been repainted multiple times, or with numerous previous owner "fixes" to plumbing or numerous previous owner "additions" to the furniture that don't lookk professionally done-- these are usually indicators that the trailer is a hack job, and I would stay away from those at all costs.

Anyway, as noted above, sellers usually ask more than they're willing to take, so you could most likely offer lower and save some money for the projects.

Good luck!


azflycaster 02-21-2009 07:52 AM

As stated, axles should be part of your budget on any vintage unit. I would not make the fact that one has vista view windows and one does not part of my decision making process. Vista views are OK, but they have issues. They are prone to leak and many have a film between the two glasses and look very bad, like mine. The center bath is more desirable to many, but if the rear bath works better for you that is what is important. Our 75 has the rear bath as do most trailers from the 70's and we like it.

DEITZ645 02-21-2009 07:55 AM

All good advice above from people who know what they are talking about. I am not a vintage guru, but I think I would take this one over the one that has been sitting immobile in the weeds. Again it all depends on do you want a project or do you want to go camping this spring? This one looks like with a little cleaning and mild work you would have a camp ready Airstream.

You mention the vista view windows are lacking in this one, but present in the one sitting in the weeds. While they are nice there are a lot of threads here where the film between the panes starts to fall off or there is gunk growing between them. It sounds like a major job to get them looking good again if something goes wrong with them. Plus they are just another hole in the skin for a leak to develop.

Exercise all those tambour doors. That is another area that takes a lot of effort to fix / repair / replace.

I am not sure if the L.P. tanks are Worthington aluminum tanks. My Worthingtons only have one horizontal seam. The ones in the pictures look like they may be the steel tanks because they definitely have two horizontal seams and the one on the right looks to have a vertical seam.

But from what I saw in the pictures you prived this looks like a very serviceable unit and worth making an offer lower than the asking price and see what they say.

Good luck.

azflycaster 02-21-2009 08:12 AM

I agree about the seams on the tanks. My old 30# steel tanks had two welds and my new 30# aluminum tanks have one. Not a big issue, you can always upgrade later for only $300. :lol:

WineStream 02-21-2009 08:17 AM

Just a bit more information about this one.

This trailer has had 2 owners. The first owners bought it new and owned it up until 2 years ago. The current owner is the son of the original owners. He said that the trailer wasn't used much by the late 90's and was stored in the barn until he bought it. He has had it plugged in and used it only in his back yard. The current owner says that everything they have used works. That would be air, heat, stove, lights, fridge. All keys are accounted for and the original manuals are also there. The current owners don't seem to know much about the trailer, it was a party shack out in the back yard.

53flyingcloud 02-21-2009 08:23 AM

I agree with all of the above comments and, the evaluations given are extremely positive~You should read up on the early 70's and, the issues with the rear bath besides just the ergonomics of living with it, as Paula so expertly pointed out.. Creature comfort is hugely important. Can you live with the layout? Shut the door and, play act like you're camping..spend an hour in there..TURN everyone lose.. try it and, see how you interact as a family inside..
The axles are a big deal, cost and time wise. The tires will need to be replaced if they haven't been in the last 5 yrs..The wheel bearing should be repacked, if for no other reason than to give you a baseline...Then, every yr or 10,000 miles. Check the water heater and, water lines for water leaks or ruptured tank~! The floor around the toilet looks suspsion to me..See if you can poke the floor with an ice pick~ is it soft? pull back the carpet..YUCK..will need to be replaced anyway, if you buy this..
This is but just a small list..I could go on and on..
The bottom line, if it were me..I would offer $1500 to $2000 less..Just based on the axles and tires replacement cost alone..

DEITZ645 02-21-2009 08:47 AM

Don't forget to exercise the awnings. Make sure they work and the material isn't about to disintegrate. Plug in a tow vehicle and make sure the running / brake / turn signal lights work.

Since it has been a "party shack" it will probably need batteries.

Take a look at the copper plumbing and look for bulges, breaks, and patches.

Something else I though of is if you are going to be towing you are going to want to invest in a rock guard for those precious front windows.

Take a look at this thread for a purchase inspection checklist...

Don't get caught up in the moment. Be sure to take into consideration what it will cost to make all the repairs and deduct it from your offer and explain to the owner why you are making the lowered offer.

Don't get disgruntled if you don't get this one. There are a lot of Airstream out there and another one will be along shortly.

Distantdrummer 02-21-2009 10:11 AM

Buy or get off the Pot
Buy the damn thing.
Heck it'll be good for the economy. And it will make all of us with similar trailers think there is hope for that value range when we decide to part with ours.;)
A bit odd that the owner claims no knowledge of the trailer's past since his parents owned it..
Doesn't every owner of anything for sale embellish the facts?

I think it will still be available after the auction look. So I would wait til I saw the other. I sure hope you still go look at and get the result of the auction if for no other reason, so you can report to those of us who have involved ourselves with those threads.:)
You seem from what I have read on all your threads in somewhat of a rush to camp. The '77 is IMHO at least a year (likely longer) away from that usage barring a real stroke of good luck.
The 70's (1969-1980 inclusive) era is my fav of the Airstreams, however the '74 and up are the prime of these. Grey tanks, better axle rubber, and less plastic after 76 or 77 in the cabinets. (i.e. at least partial goodbye tambour issues). Small but gradual improvements most every year.

It is my experience that there are two types of people, those that are very private in their bathroom comfort and those that could not care less about same.
The 31' rear bath offers the most privacy that you will find in any trailer Airstream has ever made. Maybe in any trailer of any brand ever made.
After eating some of that pot-luck rally fare or "dump (everyone's together*) chili"
You'll want all the bathroom privacy you can find.:(

*Probably a Colorado thing ;)
where everyone makes their version of homemade or canned chili and it is all dumped together into one pot before serving to the brave. Ugh.

WineStream 02-21-2009 11:05 AM

As always...good info from all. Thanks again.

The Tambour doors (or accordian doors as my unexperienced wife and I refer to them as) in the '71 are about 50%. Some work perfectly, some move about 2 inches and that's it. We really dislike them, so likely I would be invoking my woodworking skills and making open-up doors with strong spring hinges for any 100% not working Tambour doors.

The '71 seems to be in very original condition (can't find anything to-date that isn't OEM). I'm sure the '77 is original considering that it's been sitting for the alst 25 years of it's 32 year life.

How big of an issue is the gray water tank, really. This is another issue that I have not considered because I really don't care if my "black" and "gray" water end up together...not like I'm drinking either one. I guess the two tanks would give some additional capacity but honestly I can't envision being more than 2-3 days without being able to hook up at a campground or at least to reach a dump station at a camper-friendly travel stop or rest area. I really think that the 21 gallon black tank should be sufficient. Am I wrong in basically discounting that the '77 would have the addition of a gray water tank?

utee94 02-21-2009 11:35 AM

The gray water (kitchen sink drain, bathroom sink drain, shower drain) are most likely NOT plumbed into the 1971's black tank. They will be designed to run out onto the ground (which was largely permissible in 1971 but is not allowed at most campgrounds these days), or you can run that drain outlet into a portable tank (often blue in color and therefore referred to as a "blueboy") that sits underneath your trailer. Many people do this and are just fine with it. That portable blueboy tank usually has wheels and is generally hauled over to the dump station whenever it fills.

Some people change the plumbing and route their gray water into the black tank. But that wil fill your black tank pretty quickly, and dumping the black tank requires moving the trailer and not just a portable tote.

You can also always add a gray tank, there are many ways to do that documented on this Forum, and some of those methods don't even require gaining access to the bottom of the trailer frame, but rather they use above-floor tanks and sump pumps to move the water around.

Good luck!

DEITZ645 02-21-2009 11:38 AM

In the case of the '71 there will be no gray water tank, as you have found, and the gray water on the '71 does not go into the black water tank. The gray water outlet is on the downstream side of the black water tank valve. In years gone by the gray water was allowed to simply fall to the ground to evaporate or soak into the ground. Some people leave the cap on the outlet with the black tank valve open and let the gray water "back up" into the black tank.

In the '71 you would either have to have a blue waste water tote to gather your gray water or have a hook up to sewer to let it drain.

You would be surprised how quickly the gray water tanks ,on trailers that have them, fill up.

adonh 02-21-2009 12:28 PM

My previous Airstream was a 1969 27 foot rear bath. Great trailer, sorry I let it go in my younger years (40's). I never had a problem not having a gray tank. As mentioned in another post the gray drains downstream of the black tank. But as I remember the black tank had a shut=off valve that connected prior to the gray inlet to the main drain. So while camping with sewer hookups I closed the black drain valve and left the main drain open. The gray water simply ran in out into the main sewer line. Now if you boon dock, you may need a blue boy.

Good looking trailer and rare to find one like this in original condition. This means that any changes or upgrades can be done by you. With the help of the Airstream knowledge base here on the forum you can make sure it done right. That is important, nothing worse than trying to go back and fix something that a PO did that was done wrong.

For sure do go look at the 77 model up for auction if for no other reason than to end the thread and bring all of us up to date.

On the question of axles, yes you need to replace them as your 1st project. Do as I say not as I did. I waited for a few years making myself believe that they were still OK on my 1976 Sovereign. Popped rivets, rough ride and cabinets pulling out from the wall finally convinced me that they were bad. This is a project that you can do yourself in one day. It took me 2 hours to drop and install the new Henschen axles. Order them loaded with the new brake assembly and then all you will need to do is re-connect the wiring that ran to the old brakes then put on new tires and shocks. With your running gear up to spec you you can start on any other projects that need attention and enjoy you Airstream knowing that it will be safe to tow. Have fun you will enjoy seeing this old Airstrem come back to life.

1976 31' Sovereign

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