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Old 02-05-2012, 08:27 PM   #1
2 Rivet Member
1971 31' Sovereign
Watson , Louisiana
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 42
Restoring 1971 Sovereign

Hello All,

This forum seems to be really friendly and full of helpful advice. Sorry to start a new thread but there are so many for each restoration I wanted to give some info on my AS and what my plans are to see if I am making any major mistakes and to allow other AS owners in the same situation to follow the progress of this restoration. I hope it is in the right place as many different aspects are covered in this thread. I have really enjoyed reading over the last several days Top's posts on his restoration of Abby and Marzboy's project as well.

Mine is a 1971 Sovereign that I acquired as a freebie in rough shape. I own a cabinet shop and was approached couple of months ago by an owner of a Scamp camper about doing cabinets in his 16' Scamp for full time living utilizing every CUBIC inch of space. I gave him a price and he went on his way. He called me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would do his cabinet work in exchange for the AS. After talking with a few people I decided I could do the exchange. He got all the paperwork straight and I took delivery of the AS yesterday. He is still doing some work on the Scamp so I have not taken delivery or started on it but will complete it before I get too much into the AS. To sweeten the deal the AS came with a brand new, never run Carrier rooftop A/C unit.

After reading the forums it seems I need some “Separation H” as this AS has the dreaded rear separation problem. It is not really sagging but has rotted flooring and the hose storage is held up by a strap on the road side. This AS has no awnings, no LP water heater (replaced with a small 110v house unit), no refrigerator and is missing the twin bed mattresses in the back. My wife was opposed to this project and calls it the silver turd. She does not think it will be completed. I am sure it will. I like the challenge.

Now for my plans. I will get it back into useable shape. I am just not sure if I will keep it or sell it for a profit. Because of the amount of work required and the way it must be done, I believe a full gutting will be required which I did today. I don’t see how other restorers remove cabinetry and reinstall it without destroying it. In my opinion this AS has a lot more storage and much less sleeping accommodations than similar sized campers. Because of this I will be working on planning a new layout utilizing the available space for more living and less storage. The original layout seemed to be more suited for living in the AS than camping trips. I will post layout diagrams here for some feedback from other forum members and experience owners/restorer. Because of cost concerns and my personal preferences this will be a “City” camper only so I will forgo the LP refrigerator, 12v battery, LP water heater, water pump, fresh water tank, etc. I plan to install new cabinetry of course with high strength and low weight being the top priorities. I am going with regular cabinet doors instead of the original Tambor doors. I would like to remove the problematic rear bumper storage box and use either PVC pipe or square steel found on most campers for the sewer hose storage so I don’t have to worry about the water problem anymore. I would also like to use either the old water heater or refrigerator access for jack wrench and electrical cord storage. I would need to acquire an access door to use the water heater space for this purpose. I am hoping with necessary repairs made, new layout and updated interior look will convince my wife and I to keep the AS and become regular campers.

Because of my plans I will have a lot of Tambor doors and hardware and the plastic storage pans available to anyone that wants them. I feel they have some value to many and are hard to come by so I saved them.

One issue I have touched on in another thread was the center oval shaped vent cover was missing and replaced with a cypress door panel by a PO. This was split and leaking so I temporarily used a piece of Lexan to cover the opening and keep the rain out. I like the natural light coming through so if no one thinks it is a major no no I think I will keep the Lexan for a cover using brackets to secure it with a gasket applied to the aluminum frame so it will be water tight. If this works I may do the same for the square vents in the front and back of the AS.

I welcome input, opinions and advice from all of you wonderful contributors and will post progress with pictures on this thread.

Thanks in advance,
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:47 PM   #2
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Folsom , California
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Congrats on your new project! Looks like it's in pretty good shape..
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:53 PM   #3
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1971 27' Overlander
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Awesome...good luck and congrats!

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Old 02-07-2012, 09:48 PM   #4
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1971 31' Sovereign
Watson , Louisiana
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 42
A little worried

I thought it was in decent shape but I keep finding more and more that needs to be done. Like most it starts off just fixing and ends up being "The Full Monty". I am some what relieved that my examination of the frame revealed not as much damage as I expected from viewing the posts from others with the same problem as I have. I was expecting to possibly have to do a full frame replacement. Andy at Inland RV has indicated my axles are shot and need replacement. It will likely be on the bottom of the list because of the cost.
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Old 02-07-2012, 10:19 PM   #5
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Is your bathroom at the rear or is it a center bath? If a rear twin model with rounded corners on mattresses you may be able to pick up two used interspring matresses and strip them to the springs and take them to a local mattress mfg/shop to have new padding & have them recovered. Is the rear end sag due to water damage to floor and frame or is the frame broken/weakened by rust aft of the axles? Axles are really only a major concern if you are towing. If parked for a time you can wait on them or order them one at a time as funds are available. Good luck... Happy Trails, Ed
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Old 02-08-2012, 12:27 AM   #6
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1971 31' Sovereign
Watson , Louisiana
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 42
Originally Posted by BIGED52 View Post
Is your bathroom at the rear or is it a center bath? If a rear twin model with rounded corners on mattresses you may be able to pick up two used interspring matresses and strip them to the springs and take them to a local mattress mfg/shop to have new padding & have them recovered. Is the rear end sag due to water damage to floor and frame or is the frame broken/weakened by rust aft of the axles? Axles are really only a major concern if you are towing. If parked for a time you can wait on them or order them one at a time as funds are available. Good luck... Happy Trails, Ed
It is a rear bath twin model but I am drastically changing the floor plan to suit my needs since I am completely gutting the interior. I may be learning how to sew.

I don't really have rear end sag I don't think. Looking at the frame this evening revealed not as much damage as I thought. I will check the frame for straightness front to back soon to set my concerns at ease or make me worry more. Which ever is the case.

I don't plan to do any rough road towing but there always is the occasional pot hole.
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:46 AM   #7
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1972 27' Overlander
Longmont , Colorado
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Sounds like an interesting project. If you decide to sell it (whether for profit or not) I think you'll be limiting the interest in it by eliminating the 12V, the LP, the fresh water tank, the water pump, etc. Your coach, your call, best of luck with it.
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Old 02-12-2012, 11:47 AM   #8
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Morrill , Nebraska
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You will need a battery in it for towing. It is a legal requirement. Unless you have plans for different lighting a converter will also be in order. Not sure what furnace you have, it may need 12 volts as well. If you are just going to park it some where and not tow it, I would not replace the axles.
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Old 02-12-2012, 09:12 PM   #9
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1971 31' Sovereign
Watson , Louisiana
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 42

To clarify, I don't intend to repair the camper to the extent of having it set up for dry camping. Many of these systems are broken and I don't intend to repair right now as they are not important to me or required for my type of camping. I would rather work on getting the camper physically sound, work on getting it back to useable shape and begin using it and enjoying it. If I use this camper I WILL NOT be dry camping ever. I don't find that sort of thing fun. I just don't want to spend the money on these expensive systems and never use them. For example, why buy a 4 wheel drive vehicle if you are never going off road? I don't plan to park it and leave it. I plan to use it. To go camping. In a campground. This is what suits me and what appeals to me. I just don't see the need to spend almost $1000 on a refrigerator that runs on propane when I only intend to camp where there is electricity and the small 110v refrigerator I currently have will work just fine. The same for the water heater. A PO replaced the broken yet expensive propane water heater with an electric one. Again for my needs it will work fine. I agree the camper may not be as valuable missing some of the systems in place to be able to go dry camping but say for example I spend the money and fully restore the systems. The difference in value between a fully functional camper with all systems intact and one that is only lacking certain features that would only prevent fully self sufficient dry camping is not greater than or equal to the money spent on getting these systems working. I just find it hard to believe that out of all the campers going on camping trips the percentage spent dry camping is all that high. If I decided to sell the camper I seriously doubt there would be no buyers at all for a camper that is priced right, recently refurbished and beautiful but only lacking everything needed to go dry camping.

I am not getting rid of the LP gas system. I would only use the propane for cooking. I don't feel safe using it for other purposes because of the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. I don't want to wake up dead you know. I would not use the current furnace for heat because of it's age even if it may be in perfect working condition. I would rather use a radiant LP heater with an up to date ODS (oxygen depletion sensor) for heat if I decide to go camping when it is cold.

I am not getting rid of the 12 volt system. The converter (univolt) is there and does still work.

I am considering converting the fresh water tank to a gray water tank in the future since this model does not have one. The gray tank may be necessary since some campgrounds don't have a sewer connection.

I understand the need for a battery to activate the electric brakes in a break away scenario. I will put that on the list because it is a safety item.

I hope to join the camping community before long.

Thank you everyone for your concern, advice and input.
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Old 02-12-2012, 10:30 PM   #10
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Menlo Park , California
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When I first read your suggestion to commit to campgrounds with hookups, I was skeptical, I'll admit.

But you know yourself best. You plan not to camp in more remote places, like Yosemite or other National Parks. You know you won't need the systems you're omitting. If you'll have the trailer a while, it makes sense not to put in a system now that a) will cost you money with no benefit and b) will be old, unmaintained, untested and dated when the time comes to sell. You can knock off, from a comparable but equipped trailer value, the cost the new owner would have to put into the trailer to make it standard, because that's money you've never spent on the camper anyway. You don't need to get that money back out of the camper, since it never went in.

In your circumstance, it makes sense.
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Old 02-12-2012, 11:52 PM   #11
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1971 31' Sovereign
Watson , Louisiana
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 42
Thank you.

Thank you Webspinner. If I do decide to sell, I can integrate the required systems then where they will be new to the new owner or just discount the sale price.

I would not travel long distances with any camper. Our favorite destination, the Great Smoky Mountains is covered by a part ownership in a cabin. Camping will be limited to a tri-state area. 3-5 day trips. I just can't justify the cost of fuel, vehicle, the chore of driving, chances of break downs or accidents over flying and renting a car. I guess I am not really a true camper at heart. At least not yet. Most of my family are avid campers with full blown rigs. The cost and work involved just never appealed to me. I prefer to relax and not stress over anything. The only reason I was even remotely interested is the reaction people have when I say I am restoring an Airstream and the cost of the camper (free). Their reaction was that I had something special.

I have to admit I am enjoying the restoration process and it's challenges. I would like to relax someday soon and enjoy the fruits of my labor but alas I would miss working on it and would likely do another. I have already spotted a few likely subjects I have never noticed before. Now I have been educated by this forum in what to look for. I would like to continue to put that knowledge to use. Especially if it could be profitable.
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Old 02-13-2012, 12:42 AM   #12
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1975 31' Sovereign
Denver , Colorado
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Exsys: I've been remodeling and touring with my 1975 31' International Sovereign since 2000. It's in great shape, but I wish I knew then what I know now. I'd have been much more holistic than I was. I applaud your gutting your unit and starting fresh. My opinion of the old AS design is that there is a lot of wasted space that could be fully utilized with remodeling, whatever type of utilities and appliances you choose to use. In addition, while quaint, the materials that AS used for its interiors were largely flimsy and cheap, intended to reduce weight rather than employ quality. I wouldn't worry about the added weight of your cabinetry and other appointments as long as it's within reason and balanced inside the unit. When I moved up to a Ford F250, I discovered I'd have no problem pulling an Army tank let alone any AS model.
In general, I'd say to first tackle any problems with the deck and replace all or what's necessary of the subfloor. You'll probably find that you have room in the void under the subfloor for each gray, black and clear water tanks. Never hurts to have backups. It seems to me if you're gutting the unit, you can move your rear bath to any place you desire or keep it where it is.
There's plenty of advice in Airforums about replacing floors. If you do, pull out that fiber insulation and all the mouse droppings under the deck and replace with foam board and injected foam insulation. Rewire and replumb at this time. Also check the wiring to the brakes.
I have a rear bedroom. I yanked the regular-size bed and put in twin bunks fashioned from salvaged material, creating a center aisle that gives us easy access, especially at night. Instead of a regular mattress, I cut foam mattresses to fit the rounded aft end. Not cheap, but a topnotch sleeping surface. I placed wire shelving in the center closet and upgraded the electrical wiring to better suit my needs.
Most recently, I pulled out the old sink, plumbing and galley counter and built a cabinet-style replacement that is much better built and has easy access to the plumbing, pump and circuits. I replaced the old cartridge fuses with a bayonet-style board. Get rid of the copper piping. All my plumbing now is either pex, braided hose or abs/pvc.
Except for the a/c and the range and oven, all my appliances are new or have been installed since 2000. When I have to replace my a/c, I plan to add ducting that will direct some of the cool air back to the bedroom. Last year, I paid $800 for a new water heater. Subsequently, I found a portable tankless water heater w/lpg tank online in the Sportsman's Guide (Sportsman's Guide - Discount Hunting Gear, Discount Hunting Boots, Discount Shoes, Discount Ammunition, Discount Ammo, Discount Boots, Military Surplus, Outdoor Gear at The Sportsman's Guide) for $120 to $320, depending on the model. If I'd have opened my SG catalog sooner, I'd have fitted a tankless device to my AS plumbing. These heaters ignite with flashlight batteries and draw lpg only when the water is running. The $320 model can be vented. There is no water tank and you don't run out of hot water when you're on city service.
Then there's the exterior. Best to look on this site about how to caulk seams to stop leaks, trim doors and windows, repair aluminum, etc. As far as your axles go, I'd talk to somebody where you live in person who knows what he's talking about and not depend on anything dispensed over the phone from the West Coast.
I've a motto that'll apply to your AS project: "There are no small jobs." Which is what you're going to find out with your AS. There also are expenses that are hard to foresee. I certainly didn't. Happily, you can get excellent advice and direction for online sites like this one and others. If you're like me, you'll find your AS experience a rewarding one and well worth the effort. Best of luck. Keep us posted.
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Old 02-23-2013, 08:01 AM   #13
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1971 31' Sovereign
Yakima , Washington
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Good luck ! Keep us posted!!!

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