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Old 07-14-2009, 05:50 PM   #1
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Help for a Greenhorn ... Older or newer

First off, I am new to this forum, and quite frankly, forums in general. I will also admit that I didn't read the "terms of use" agreement word-for-word. In other words- please forgive my ignorance should this post break any rules, or rub anyone the wrong way. If not, flame away. I have a hunch that my "online" skin is pretty thick.

I was bitten by the Airstream bug as a teenager watching "The Right Stuff". As if watching Air Force pilots wasn't cool enough, them riding to the lauch pad in an AS (I guess the abbreviation is better etiquette?) put me over the top. But as a backpacker, I quietly scorned people and all their hardware. Then I had kids............The rest is history. This is all just so you know where I am coming from. "Consider the source", as they say. Also keep in mind that my camper experience is in a newer rig (stick and tin) with all of the modern conveniences.

One trip out in the new camper and I was hooked. 2nd trip out, I wanted an AS. This was 5 years ago, and I still can't decide which AS to pursue. This is where I need your help......

Based on my disposable income, the number of months you can actually camp in Montana, and my current amount of available free time to work on a project, I need something rather camp-ready. The restoration will have to come in time. With that said, all of my searching seems to turn up two types of AS: Older (early sixties) all original, or newer (mid 70's). Case in point- As we speak, I can buy a 1961 Overlander that is all original and near perfect for about 5k, or I can buy a '78 Tradewind for about the same. Obviously, older is cooler, but...........

Assuming everything works in both, and no repairs are necessary, what am I going to be surprised by in the '61 until I get around to tearing it apart? I can assume it will need tires, axles and brakes (from what I have read), and I am going to go from 40 gallons of combined waste water storage to a black tank the size of a shot glass. What other surprises? Or am I just better off snapping up the next '77+ plus I see?

I realize that I am going to get biased opinions posting this in the '58-63 Overlander Forum, but I know that going in.

I would also like to make one other comment, if I can be so bold as a new member-

Although I am rather new to posting, I have literally read thousand of pages of forums. I have spent the better part of a year glued to this forum, and I have yet to come across a thread that has degerated into a derogitory flame-fest. For that, you should all be very proud.


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Old 07-14-2009, 06:52 PM   #2
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First, welcome to the forum. We're glad you have chimed in.

Now for my did ask, didn't you? You have stated you don't have a lot of time to do a restoration, so if I were inexperienced as you are, and I wanted an Airstream, I would go for the newest one I could afford.

All trailers will need maintenance, and the thing is, if you go all the way back 40 to 50 years old, they will need much more work, no matter how good they look, or how good of condition they appear to be in. Additionally, lots of parts are becoming difficult to come by for trailers that old. Then there's just the fact that you want to be able to use it, not be restoring it all of your free time.

Good luck with whatever you choose to do.
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Old 07-14-2009, 07:07 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by SteveH View Post
I would go for the newest one I could afford. .
Me tinks the same, the newest... but not new.

A late model used would be my choice if I was starting over.

Good Luck
“I’ve always thought that over planning was just a firewall against not being sure of what you really want to do.”

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Old 07-14-2009, 07:21 PM   #4
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Welcome to the Forums! We share a common background, though I still backpack ... only now its with my kids - and now they do all the heavy toting!

But yes, yours is THE Airstream dilemma, as I see it. Though lately there seems to be a better way, which is buy a reasonably new one that won't require a bunch of maintenance and isn't the price of a new one. If you look long and hard (took me nearly two years!) on the Forums, on Craigslist, on eBay - but beware of scams! - you likely can find a reasonably new one ... say 5-8 years old, in good shape, for half to one third the price of new. Maybe better. But you have to be prepared to jump RIGHT NOW when that one comes along.

And there's always maintenance. Bearings to repack, brakes to adjust or reshoe, valves that leak, etc.

So, if I were you, I'd do a couple of things. First, get to a nearby rally quick ... check the rally listings - there must be one within a few hundred miles of you. The folks there will LOVE to show you their coaches (really!) and you'll soon get an idea of the differences in sizes, models, interiors, layouts, etc. And pass the word to all those folks that you're seriously looking, and here's a card with your phone number, etc. Then if you can, go to a dealer and look at new and at the prices and interior fit and finish, etc. And spend a while lying on the bed. And sitting on the can. And move about the interior. This'll give you an idea about the spaces and how much you need.

Then just haunt the ads and move fast when something like what you want comes up. I saw mine come up here on the Forums and called the day after it was posted. They'd already had ten calls and there had been dozens of views on the Forums listing. I got there the day after that, haggled a bit and bought it right then and there. (There were two interested persons coming the next day to look, and I doubt it would have lasted even one more day.)

The one good thing in your favor: the economy has some folks selling that otherwise wouldn't. And maybe at more reasonable prices than usually.

Good luck, and hope to see you down the road! And I wouldn't worry too much about flamers. Most folks here are very nice and helpful people. And some of them know a LOT about this Airstream life!
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Old 07-15-2009, 02:20 AM   #5
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Welcome to the forum, Wuttevr. It certainly sounds like you already have a fair bit of knowledge about the subject at hand.

I heartily second AirsDream's point of "sit in the most trailers you can", because it does seem that many people change their minds about what they want as time goes on.

My wife and I started out looking at 19-footers and then decided that for sure The One For Us would be a 25' unit. But then we had another epiphany and realized that for us, the best balance would be what we wound up with, a 31' unit. I think we might have even gone to a 34' TT, but that might have implied a tow vehicle that we wouldn't have enjoyed when we weren't trailering.

Personally, I would say that the trailer's age thing is closely tied to what you have budgeted. Older is generally lighter, too, so this can be an important issue with regards to the TV you will need. While I love my TT, I do find myself drooling over the new ones at the shows, but then I start seeing stars when I read the price tags.

It's amazing, though, what you will wind up spending to renovate a vintage TT. I'll throw out a number: I feel that $10,000 is easy to blow through for most of the 25+ year old ones. Things wear out of course, and there are so many "things" in a TT that you will be amazed.

But I firmly believe that nothing beats bringing your home with you when you travel. With fuel prices going where they appear to be, it's possible that we are perhaps the last generation of people that will be able to enjoy this lifestyle. So we owe it to ourselves to enjoy it while it still can be done!

Mazel tov! Jump in, the water is fine!
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
...John Wayne...........................
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Old 07-15-2009, 08:32 AM   #6
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Hi Wuttevr,, welcome to the Forums from a Montana lady Airstreamer,,, have lots of info for you,, so,, pm me if you like,,, i am not mechanical enough to get involved with Vintage,, much as i love them,, but chose the ones that suited my needs. take your time,,, looking is so enjoyable,,, Happy Trails,, donna in Hamilton, Mt
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Old 07-15-2009, 08:59 AM   #7
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And remember that what you THINK you like today is likely to change over time. We started looking for a 19' and moved very quickly to a 23'. We even went to the dealership to purchase the 23' but thought we'd better take one more look at the 25' and then a serious "sleep on it" overnight. The next day we purchased the 25' and have never thought we made the wrong choice. Look at lots of them - go where they congregate whenever you can - talk with owners and visit as many AS as you possibly can. That helped us a lot.

Read as much as you can and haunt these FORUMS as they are loaded with info. Last year was our first year for 'streamin and we had many, many, many questions. Last weekend, when we returned from the weekend trip, a brand new owner was also returning - it had been his and his wife's first weekend trailering. They had questions and we were the only folks present to help them. After answering their questions, we laughed as we thought we were the experience in this picture. And, after one year. That's what one year of 'streamin will do for you. Good luck - you've got a GREAT period ahead of you. We're still enjoying every single minute 'streamin and are looking forward to our next trip. Happy travels!!

I'd suggest as above - get the newest you can find and afford. As owners try to get rid of them, make low offers. It can surprise you what some might take. Owners can always say NO - all you need is one of them to say YES.
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Old 07-22-2009, 10:18 AM   #8
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Thanks, all!

Thanks, all. I appreciate the well-thought out opinions.

For the record, repairs don’t bother me. All campers require them. I think the newer ones probably require more since they are so shabbily built. My late model Ja--- is a perfect example. I was more curious about other things that might surprise me about an older camper in general. Case in point: the lack of a grey tank. That never would have occurred to me in a million years, and I would have been shocked upon discovering it. “Uh, oh!” “Um, Honey! Yeahhhhhhh. You know how you like to shower everyday, and give the kids baths every night? Well, this old box of bolts I twisted your arm into trading our nice, new camper for won’t allow that. And you need to tinkie in the trees, wash our dishes in a bucket, and are only allowed one #2 per day. Ok?” Discovering that I need a new fridge is a different kind of shock (sticker), albeit expected in a 45+ year old camper.

The painful reality is that waiting to find the exact model/year that I want (decided on a ’70 Overlander – old enough to have real wood but new enough not have those goofy water heater/furnace covers), that is in decent condition at a reasonable price, isn’t too realistic based on geography. Candidates within 500 miles of me don’t come up very often. Speaking of which, anyone living in Minnesota who is so bored that they would jump at the chance to go look at one for me? Ha, ha. So I think I am going to have to become more flexible, and widen my search to size/layout/condition, and not worry so much about year. When one comes up, I know just where to turn for lots of facts and opinions on that particular model and year.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time chime in and give this wet-behind-the-ears new-guy some sound advice. I assure you that none of it fell on deaf ears, or blind eyes, as it were.

Best all,
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Old 07-22-2009, 12:02 PM   #9
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Welcome Wuttevr

Yes there is people that will go and look for you!!! Poke around here some more and you will find threads about "inspectors" I am sure that some one could help you out.

Good luck, and welcome again
Have a great day!

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Old 07-22-2009, 12:46 PM   #10
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I would like to respectfully suggest that you buy the newest you can afford. DON'T BUY anything you CAN'T reach out and touch. In other words NO Craigs List or Ebay if ya cant drive to inspect them. If you have to buy far away GET one of our qualified inspectors or a dealer that has no interest to inspect for you. Remember "IF IT SEEM'S TO GOOD TO BE TRUE" its probably a scam.
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May your roads be straight and smooth and may you always have a tailwind!
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Old 07-22-2009, 12:54 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Wuttevr View Post
The painful reality is that waiting to find the exact model/year that I want (decided on a ’70 Overlander – old enough to have real wood but new enough not have those goofy water heater/furnace covers), that is in decent condition at a reasonable price, isn’t too realistic based on geography. Candidates within 500 miles of me don’t come up very often.
The funny thing is, during our recent road trip out West, I swear I saw more vintage Airstreams sitting in back yards out there than there are here.

Keep in mind that you can travel to get one, and it's amazing what comes up in a year. (My problem was that it took a long time to decide what I wanted - and in that time, I missed 2-3 trailers near me.) You can also try posting on the 70 Overlander forum that you want one and see what happens. I wanted a Caravelle at one point, and still get emails from the post I put on that forum.

It's not a quick process...

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Old 07-25-2009, 05:03 PM   #12
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Struck by lightning

Originally Posted by Wuttevr View Post

The painful reality is that waiting to find the exact model/year that I want (decided on a ’70 Overlander – old enough to have real wood but new enough not have those goofy water heater/furnace covers), that is in decent condition at a reasonable price, isn’t too realistic based on geography.
Not even 24 hours after posting that, I found this. I have lots of questions for whomever is willing, so I guess I'll start a thread in the appropriate place.
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Old 07-25-2009, 06:44 PM   #13
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Hey all Airdaddy here. I am old school.

Many years I have admired the Airstream. Frankly I have chosen to renew an older one. I like things my way comfort zone that is. Over the years traveling due to my job my idea was to buy a new one and pull around the country selling and running my leads. I spent 7 years weekly in Hampton's or Comfort Suites. After I was laid off 18 months ago and still no job in sight, time as given me the opportunity to renew a vintage. Did not know the word or anything about the Air Forums and Airstream popularity until I bought it and pulled the 31 footer out of the wood in Arkansas a little over a month ago. Now I am cleaning and updating. I would rather invest the money and time in a 25 year or older then buy any new one. Well thats my Idea hope it is helpful.

Danny Wingard
Wichita, Kansas
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Old 07-25-2009, 06:58 PM   #14
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Wattevr, Welcome to the forum! I cannot add much that has not already been said. I really like my Tradewind but one of my next modifications is going to be to add a grey tank. I as well used to tromp around with a backpack. One thing you will notice is the A/S will greatly increase the 'window' for camping. Assuming you do not mind dragging the thing around in a little snow (it doesnt snow in Montana does it?).

I looked for well over a year and a half before I found my trailer, well I did not really find it. Friends of mine in Washington State found it for me. I was the 'day late' on buying their '85 when they upgraded to a larger trailer. A friend of theirs was going to sell the trailer I purchased. Ironically they had found it for them 12 years earlier. Small world indeed.

You do indeed live in a lovely area, I was up your way the end of June, and really did not want to come back!

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Old 07-27-2009, 06:57 PM   #15
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I find the $10,000 figure to be good.

And I recommend starting right away on axles, brakes, shocks, tires, exterior lamps (led) to get best/safest towing out of the way. My Silver Streak needed nothing like what a comparable vintage A/S would, but $5m disappeared on cosmetics and another $5m on "reliability/safety" right away.

Next trailer will start with those things: new electrical connection cord to TV, for instance; new safety chains (that meet FMCSA spec); axle alignment; hub-tire balance; etc, etc, that most of us only get around to later.

My wife wanted the carpet out, pronto, and it took awhile to decide on flooring, etc. The stuff above only needs research and some application. Plus, if it's 25 or more years old, who wants it? I was very happy to get rid of the hot-running electrical converter!

We bought inexpensive rugs to live on as we full-timed during all of this. (and the subfloor needed plenty of TLC prior to cork flooring)

Good luck
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Old 07-27-2009, 08:21 PM   #16
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Good day to you Wattevr and thanx! In less than 24 hours of starting my "membership" here at Airstream Forums, these posts have answered numerous questions that I have had. Just slightly north of you in Calgary, our supply of used A/S units are poor. I do a lot of spotting for anything old and newer forsale in my area. I've been watching for 4 years now. Nothing that suits my fancy have I seen here I can tell you.
Thank you Mikethefixit for your comments on traveling to inspect. I have my eye on two in California and one in Oregon. I just can't justify traveling that far unless I really, really like what I see in these classifieds. I got to stop and think first.
I am going to continue to watch up here.
Lastly, I fell "hook, line and sinker" in June 2005 on a 19 foot Bambi posted on eB(*)y. I lost a $3300.00 deposit. It was a total scam! It was nobody's fault but my own as I never followed the eB(*)y rules, got caught up in a deal "too good to be true" and never listened to my loved ones as I rushed to get buy my first Airstream. Lest I forget!

Take care,
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