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Old 05-29-2017, 06:07 PM   #1
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Looking to buy a '71 31' Sovereign, need help

Hi all, I am new to the forum and wanting to make the plunge into being an AS owner. I am looking at a 31' Sovereign that is about 3.5 hours from me. Enclosed are some of the pictures. This is what I know to be wrong with it:
The A/C, Furnace, and the hot water heater all need to be replaced.
The is a window to the right and above the door which needs replaced.
There is a dent in the right rear corner.
The tires all hold air, but I would want to borrow/buy a known good set to tow it home.
The current owner would put a 7 blade plug on it for me since there is no electrical plug at all.
There is a panel which needs replaced on the side, an AS panel is included with the sale


Reading on the forum, which is a fantastic resource, I am learning, I may as well be prepared to buy new axles. My concern is getting it home to do the work. Could anyone tell me what type of axles are on a 71 Sovereign, what type of brakes, electric or hydraulic?

I've read here that standing and bouncing on the rear bumper will give me an idea of some problems with the structural rigidity of the AS, if there are any.

Any help or suggestions are more than welcome.
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Old 05-29-2017, 06:34 PM   #2
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1971 25' Tradewind
1993 34' Excella
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Looks pretty good from the photos.

If the axles are original they are Henshen Duts Torque. They are a specialized axle. Dexter is a common replacement. There are a bunch of specs you will need to order, unless...... If you order from Inland RV in Corona Ca. they can look up the specs by your VIN. There are cheaper alternatives but you have to know what you are doing.

If you take it easy, no reason why you can't tow her home. You're getting new tires anyway so tow to a good tire shop and get a new set.

Check with the owner if the umbilical/ 7way wiring has been upgraded. If it has not your brakes, stop lights, brake lights, turn signals will not sync with your tow vehicle.

You could also have her flat bedded $$$.

Bouncing on the bumper may give you an idea if there is any rear end separation between the frame and the body.
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Old 05-29-2017, 07:02 PM   #3
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Thank you Lumatic.

If I do decide to purchase, I will tow it home. There is a tire shop 30 miles from where she sets right now. I figure if the tires are holding air, I can make it to the shop.

I will not be able to purchase it until near the end of June, the owners are now out of town for the month. I figure it will give me time to do more research, on the known issues, and hopefully be able to be a more informed buyer.

I would like to use it this year as much as possible with minimal work, and then go at it hard over the winter. I want to go to Yellowstone next summer.

If the umbilical cord has not been upgraded, I should get by with buying/borrowing a set of towing lights, is this a good idea, or should I make sure the AS wiring is good?

Do you know what type of brakes the AS should have? If they are shot, should the brakes on my tow vehicle (09 Silverado 2500 HD) be able to handle her? I will not be in the mountains.

Inland RV seems to be the place to go for axles. Are there any lube points, I could grease prior to towing, for a little peace of mind?
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Old 05-29-2017, 07:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tridaddy View Post
Thank you Lumatic.

If I do decide to purchase, I will tow it home. There is a tire shop 30 miles from where she sets right now. I figure if the tires are holding air, I can make it to the shop.

I will not be able to purchase it until near the end of June, the owners are now out of town for the month. I figure it will give me time to do more research, on the known issues, and hopefully be able to be a more informed buyer.

I would like to use it this year as much as possible with minimal work, and then go at it hard over the winter. I want to go to Yellowstone next summer.

If the umbilical cord has not been upgraded, I should get by with buying/borrowing a set of towing lights, is this a good idea, or should I make sure the AS wiring is good?

Do you know what type of brakes the AS should have? If they are shot, should the brakes on my tow vehicle (09 Silverado 2500 HD) be able to handle her? I will not be in the mountains.

Inland RV seems to be the place to go for axles. Are there any lube points, I could grease prior to towing, for a little peace of mind?
Axles would be a priority before a long trip. Yes, you could use tow lights, but you won't have marker lights or brakes. The brakes are Kelsey Hayes. Take her slow and your TV brakes should handle it but you will have 4500 pounds pushing you at stops and down hills. When you get tires have the wheel bearings greased. You can also check out the brakes at the same time.
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Old 05-29-2017, 07:25 PM   #5
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If the tiires are not severely dry rotted it will be ok to tow like it is if the bearings are good. I would stay off the interstates and stop often to check tires and hubs. If the wheels rotate free they are probably ok. If you take it for a spin and hubs start getting hot then you need to worry. You don't need to replace the axles to tow it home. Looks like someone has done something with the inner skin. It does not look original with the wood slats. Remember these old ones don't have a gray water tank. Shell looks pretty good. You might end up gutting and starting over. Not many are usable at this age.

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Old 05-30-2017, 03:19 PM   #6
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Your 1971 soverign.

I have a 1970 27' overlander. Was this trailer in freezing weather? How do y ou know the axles need to be replaced? I bought my trailer after it was in storage, outside in michigan for 13 years. I brought it home, hooked it up to electric. The refrigerator worked, the Ac worked. I hooked it up to propane & the water heater worked. Big problem with squirrels & mice nests inside everything.

I had to replaace (fix) the fresh water tank. the friggin criters had chewed a hole in it. I took it out & cleaned it up & fixed it with Marine Tex Epoxy.
I have taken it to Florida from Michigan 4 times, plus other shorter trips on the same axles. Go to Dexter web site, there is a schematic which shows you if your axles are sagging.

Yes I bought 5 new tires. Adjusted the brakes etc. plus many other things. I still have the trailer & it's road ready.
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Old 05-30-2017, 03:51 PM   #7
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Brings back memories for me. I brought our trailer from Clovis New Mexico to Colorado Springs. My trip was a lot further than you will be going. Mine had sat unused for at least 30 years but it has been owned by my family since new and it had at least been attended to in terms of periodic washes and waxes. Before I towed it I made sure it was safe to tow - hitch integrity with a visual inspection, frame and tongue not bent or broken, break away connected (hoped it actually worked - turned out it was frozen in place and probably would not have worked, has been replaced with new), brakes worked (use the in-car brake controller to check), and lights work. Do a visual when you pull it the first few yards to make sure no wheel wobble (axles & bearings). I made a habit of pulling over every hour or so to check the heat on the tires to make sure there were no seized bearing issues. Mine has only one axle and the axle is fine.

Then I made two lists - safety for living in including convenience items like hot water, refrigerator, furnace & AC, stove & oven working, lights, etc., and the second list cosmetic items. Ended up replacing pretty much everything except the stove/oven and refrigerator. New battery, new converter, changed out copper to PEC for water, new water pump, new AC (not trivial since we replaced the old Armstrong unit with a new style requiring major cutting), new furnace, water heater, black tank valve - and I know I am forgetting a few things. I replaced the bearings and the brakes were in great shape. Costmetic items are being worked on as we go and that list is not long. It was all worth the time and money! Mine is a 1969 Safari 23’ and looks very similar to the one you are looking at - good luck and be ready to probably replace key components. Happy travels ...
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Old 05-30-2017, 04:44 PM   #8
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Welcome from across town in Arvada, As others have said here, air up the tires, replace if necessary and tow it home gently. I towed my (much shorter) Globetrotter home from Aurora with clamp on tow lights and no brakes with no problems.
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Old 05-30-2017, 09:43 PM   #9
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Thank you for all the advice, I am really excited to see the AS in person. Honestly I do not know if the axles need replaced, reading the forums, I'm seeing people say after 20 years they usually need replaced. I guess I'm planning for the worst and hoping for the best. It has sat since 2009, I'm hoping things are not froze up on it. @perryg114 you're saying that 71 sovereign does not have a gray water tank? Do I have to always have a connection to use the bathroom and sinks?
@rem3006 I'll look at the Web site, thanks for the tip.
@kdickson are you still in the Springs? Thanks for the pointers.
@aerowood I am in Aurora near Buckley AFB. Thanks for the encouragement.
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Old 05-30-2017, 10:03 PM   #10
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1971 31' Sovereign
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We restored our 1971 Sovereign 31' last year and absolutely love it. To give you a point of reference, we paid $4000 for our trailer. It needed lots of work, but all of the pieces were there. We did not have to purchase any expensive Airstream hardware. We spent less than $5000 on the restoration and have a really comfortable and fully functional trailer. The photo with my wife and doggies was taken this afternoon at Midway Park on Lake Waco, TX.

The interior photo you posted shows the end cap is missing. This could present a challenge.

The trailer will have a smoother ride with new axles, but the old axles are not going to fall apart or self destruct. The brakes are electric and are fairly easy and inexpensive to replace.

Here's a link to a short video of our project. https://youtu.be/1KmDtBS2p2w
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Old 05-31-2017, 12:03 AM   #11
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Hi.
Your truck should handle the tow just fine. A couple things I'd consider:
- with no stone guard over the front windows, you might consider some temporary protection for the tow home, card board is much cheaper than curved glass.
- stop at the closest rv park with a dump and make sure the black tank is empty (as well as the fresh water tank), this will be a great time to discover the plumbing leaks. No biggie, because you'll want to replace the copper with PEX anyway.
- I see what looks to be a funky patch on the roof above the front street side wing window... I'd ask about that, it almost certainly leaks and maybe is why the front interior end cap is what it is.
- factor new axles into the deal, not for the tow home, but as part of the onion your getting (many layers, many tears)
- hopefully you can get this for a very good price ($3000?) to make it a no brainer, you will have more work than you think.

I'm not trying to sound negative, just realistic. The coach looks like it could be great and restoring these things is a rewarding experience for the right people. The patch in the front and the missing end cap would be enough for me to consider keeping my search going...

Good luck!
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Old 05-31-2017, 08:40 AM   #12
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@TxDave, those are great pics, I'll check out the video after work. It is nice to see pictures, they inspire me. To you and Iansk, what is an end cap? Can you explain or better yet post a picture?
If I decide to purchase the AS, I will defiantly take some cardboard and duct tape with me. Do they sell stone guards for the entire front end including the round corner windows?

Is it easy to get to the plumbing and wiring?

Appreciate all the input.
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Old 05-31-2017, 09:22 AM   #13
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All very good advice here! If I may add a few points...

About the tires... I had 3 blow out on me this winter, two on one trip! They looked fine, but when they want to go, they go big time! So be sure to have spares before a long trip. Don't cheap out and just get any old tire, be sure that they're rated for the trailer. As to what you should buy, well, that can make for hours of delightful reading here on the Forums!

It's difficult to tell from the pics, but they don't look horrible. A good way to check the axles is to look underneath at the arms going from the axles to the wheels. They should be level, or even better, on a downward angle. Upward angle means the good stuff inside is gone, and they need to be replaced in the near future. Not an easy job, but when I did mine (with two strong helpers), and whined about it on the Forums, a 70+ year old guy said he did it by himself with minimal tools!

As to the graywater tank, you can use everything without having one. It all goes into the blackwater tank, so you have to be careful about water use.

When you go to check out the trailer, make sure that your nose is in good order. Mold can be a problem, along with the generations of vermin that have had happy lives inside the trailer.

Are you planning on gutting it, and redoing everything? If so, don't overpay by getting a trailer that has an interior in perfect condition. If this is in the $3K-$5K range, you're getting a decent deal. There's a gutted '73 Sovereign near me right now for $3700, and it looks nice. When I was shopping for mine, I had two sell out from under me, so I think that I overpayed for too nice a trailer.

But when the Airstream bug bites, sometimes irrational choices are made!
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Old 05-31-2017, 09:30 AM   #14
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The endcap of which we speak...

...are the molded/formed/curved plastic pieces on either end of the interior above the fore and aft windows...Normally. In your pictures, it appears that the front endcap has been replaced with some sort of substitute. Some people have opted to do this with great success either by choice or because theirs were damaged. In your case, it looks like the trailer suffered some damage to the exterior (funky patch) that may have led to the interior endcap replacement.
Total conjecture on my part, but if it were me, that would be the line of reasoning I would follow until proven otherwise.

Hopefully this helps,
Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns...
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Old 05-31-2017, 09:37 AM   #15
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Are you gutting the interior ? from that one pic, this doesn't look "original" if that's what you were looking for.#1 with any used AS is the flooring, they made them with wood!! some vintages even had a nasty particle board type flooring i think. The 70's had solid wood but look very closely around the perimeter of the floor. You MUST thoroughly see the entire area to inspect for rotted wood, particularly back & front. My '72 doesn't have a grey tank btw, AS figured it was ok to let shower water run outside back then! And conquer with everyone elses opinion... don't over pay for the trailer, there's always another gem sitting somewhere ... Mine was $6.5k with a 100% intact & original interior and very little water damage to flooring. I've spent a small fortune since though From looking at those pics, I might be inclined to skip this one and wait for one that's more "intact" ... or not pay more than $3k-$4. I'd like to know what happened at the front end for that strange looking modification?
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Old 05-31-2017, 09:46 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by TxDave View Post
We restored our 1971 Sovereign 31' last year and absolutely love it. To give you a point of reference, we paid $4000 for our trailer. It needed lots of work, but all of the pieces were there. We did not have to purchase any expensive Airstream hardware. We spent less than $5000 on the restoration and have a really comfortable and fully functional trailer. The photo with my wife and doggies was taken this afternoon at Midway Park on Lake Waco, TX.

The interior photo you posted shows the end cap is missing. This could present a challenge.

The trailer will have a smoother ride with new axles, but the old axles are not going to fall apart or self destruct. The brakes are electric and are fairly easy and inexpensive to replace.

Here's a link to a short video of our project. https://youtu.be/1KmDtBS2p2w
great video, did you have to fix the vista windows? mine are awful and what about the furnace ? mine is shot .... & advised way too old to consider a repair even. thx
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Old 05-31-2017, 11:08 AM   #17
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1971 31' Sovereign
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I'm in the thick of rebuilding mine now and I got mine for cheap knowing it had a lot of work in its future. Don't get too enamored by the desire to own one, keep in mind its estimated end value, so when you buy it and add up the known issues make sure it isn't grossly lopsided in a bad way, if it ends up being cheaper than expected that would be great.

the '71 models do not have grey tanks, it is my understanding that they dumped right out onto the ground, which is frowned upon now. I'll be facing the same challenge of adding one at some point.

Some common problems, I'm looking at in my future.

Axles are right around $500/each without brakes and not including shipping.
Furnace $500
Water heater, roughly $400
Awnings and windows covers are going to be my biggest single purchase, I have an estimate from Zip-Dee for roughly $2400... maybe next year.

My wheels and tires are OK, but eventually I want to upgrade to 16" and add an axle lift, estimate another $1200.

On the flip side, with NONE of these additional upgrades, I am going to use mine as a metal tent this summer and camp at established RV areas with power, water, and other amenities.

lots of luck.
-ron
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Old 05-31-2017, 06:29 PM   #18
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Everyone,
Thank you so much for all the great advice and encouragement. I appreciate all the great advice. The owners are asking $4500. Knowing what the problems are, I already know I am going to, like phlegm, use it as a metal tent for the rest of the year, if I purchase it. I know the interior is not original, but to what degree I don't know.
I have been looking at the cost of items as forum members are pointing them out. Most of the items, I would feel comfortable replacing repairing myself.
The priority of what I would want to do:
1. Ensure the tires are good
2. All the lights are working, to get me home with it.
3. The axles are ok (useable)
4. replace the window above and forward of the door.
5. Clean it and use it for the year.
6. Go from there....
Are there resources which show the different interior configurations, if there are any?
Is there design software which has the interior dimensions of the AS?
I read that a cleco holds aluminum panels together, what do you use to fasten them in place then?
If the end caps are not original, can I get end cpas to replace mine?

I hope this AS works out for me.
I am reading that the wheels on the different AS are generic for bolt hole patter of 6 lug on 5.5 is this true? Are they 15", 16", 17"? If they are generic, I may try to borrow wheels and tires to take with me as insurance. Is this a good idea?

If I am unable to borrow wheels/tires, I would not want to just put any tire on the wheels. So what tire would be the ideal tire for the AS?


Todd
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Old 05-31-2017, 06:38 PM   #19
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TxDave that is a great video. Love the music!
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Old 05-31-2017, 07:10 PM   #20
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1971 31' Sovereign
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The archives show the original floor plans
Mine was a rear bath twin bunk.
https://www.airstream.com/service/document-archive/

I'll be remodeling mine into a rear bedroom side bath
I've been looking at current models for a general idea.
But remember the newer models are wider.
If you find software I'd be interested in playing with it.
Mostly I planned on "winging it"
Right now mine is a completely hollow tube, I'll start putting in things I think that I need and go from there. Some sort of Feng Shui I guess.

Changing the current endcap is really a personal preference.
Since I am changing my whole floor plan, originality doesn't mean as much to me as it might to somebody else.

Id recommend "living with it" for a while as you peruse other builds and see how you feel about it. I've seen a few aluminum replacements that I like better than my original fiberglass unit.

Wheels are the same wheel bolt pattern as chev and Toyota, even a few of the newer nissans use the same. Sadly I don't know the wheel offset. As for tires there is mention in here about a particular Michelin model that people like.

I'm "off hours" and replying by phone or else I'd look up the specs and tire model.
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