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Old 05-04-2014, 01:05 PM   #1
New Member
1971 31' Sovereign
Pawtucket , Rhode Island
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 1
Should I buy this? 1971

Hey Airstreamers! I'm new here and so excited this community exists!

I'm a young woman with little experience renovating and even less budget but huge enthusiasm and willingness to learn and try.

I'm moving to Colorado and found a 71 Sovereign for sale for $4000. My in-law, a mechanic, checked it out and said the structure is sound, the exterior is pristine after buffing, and the inside is pretty dirty and grimy but intact. No water damage. Electrical is solid. All windows unbroken. A few window seals might need replaced. The axels look good. The hubs are new. The tires have tread.

Do you think this is a good deal for the price? If I fix it up to my standards of swankness will it be able to resale?
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Old 05-04-2014, 02:20 PM   #2
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1973 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 776
Hi Jenny

Not to cast dispersions on your mechanic in-law, but unless they are very familiar with airstreams, take the clean bill of health with some trepidation. Axles can look great, but if they are original, on that trailer they are shot. Rubber doesnt last that long. Read through some of the recent posts by folks that have bought good looking 70's vintage trailers and found serious frame damage while the upper structure looked fine.

Here are a couple of recent ones:



A 4k trailer is pretty cheap, even for a sovereign which isnt the most desirable model (most folks want the shorter trailers) and if you dont have at least another 4g's to put into it to fix and renovate, then you may be in for some unpleasant surprises.

Lots of gal's on this board do renovation work themselves, everybody has to start somewhere, but having some background doing home or auto repairs would be a big help. Unless you have a real good source of income, paying somebody else to do the work gets very expensive very fast. Sorry I can't be more positive, but I think you may want to take some time and think it over a bit more and get somebody who is familiar with these trailers to have a look at it. There are folks on the board that will do an inspection for you if the trailer is in their vicinity.

Ongoing adventures at:
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Old 05-04-2014, 02:57 PM   #3
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,591
Bob's answer above is excellent advice. However even volunteer inspectors have differing areas of knowledge and views of degree of difficulty of repairs so there are no guarantees as to what you are getting.

$4000 is not a lot of money these days, but you probably need to think of at least another $4000 to $6000 for what it really needs to bring it back and make it really usable.

Do you have a tow vehicle which will pull something that size?

Just be sure you know what you are getting into. We here love enthusiasm but hate to see it turn into frustrations.
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Old 05-04-2014, 03:21 PM   #4
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1971 25' Tradewind
1993 34' Excella
Currently Looking...
Estancia , New Mexico
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 7,587
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I agree with the above replies but would add the following:
-A 40 year old tire with little use will still have tread but is unsafe. A tire that is more than 5 years old should be replaced (although I fudge at 7). Regardless of how a tire looks on the outside they deteriorate from the inside out.
-Expect to replace some or all of the appliances and equipment (furnace, fridge, hot water heater, AC, converter, batteries and water pump) unless the owner can document they have been replaced recently.
-Has the plumbing been checked for leaks
- Expect unexpected surprises
-And finally, don't expect to make money on resale. You will be lucky to break even.
Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine.
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Old 05-04-2014, 03:38 PM   #5
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1956 22' Safari
Vintage Kin Owner
Conifer/Evergreen , Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 12,332
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First off, welcome to AirForums!
Secondly, welcome to Colorado...almost!
Thirdly, the previously posted advice is sound.

Originally Posted by jennyroamer View Post
I'm moving to Colorado and found a 71 Sovereign for sale for $4000.
Are you planning on full-timing in your Airstream or just using it for trips? If full-timing, a couple other things you will need to seriously consider...
1) If you are living in it as you do the remodel "swankification" that could be a real challenge. Even a Sovereign is small when you are trying to do both at the same time in a confined space. Not to mention the dirtiness of it all - vintage Airstream projects are very dirty...

2) Airstreams really are only three season trailers - neither extreme heat or cold are comfortable. Depending where in Colorado you intend on living, you will get cold in the winter and the cost of propane to keep your trailer warm will be pretty high. You may want to read some posts on here about winter living to get the flavor.

3) In 1971 Airstreams did not have gray tanks - so you will need permanent hook-ups wherever you decide to park...or deal with a blue boy daily.
If you are only looking at it as a "camping trailer", you'll be fine - there are plenty of us folks who tough it out for a weekend in the winter at altitude (i.e. New Years Eve in Estes Park)...just because we can. But a weekend adventure is one thing, we always have the option of staying (or going) home if miserable. But if it IS your home and you don't have the flexibility to "fly south for the winter" you may really want to re-consider this at altitude. If you are moving to SW CO, that could also be do-able.

Originally Posted by jennyroamer View Post
The tires have tread.
Regardless of whether the tires have tread, most would suggest new ones if they are older than 4 or 5 years old (you can decipher the "born on date" on the tires). The tires tend to "age out" before "wear out"...the rubber hardens and cracks and you would just be asking for trouble on a cross country trip...

Originally Posted by jennyroamer View Post
Do you think this is a good deal for the price? If I fix it up to my standards of swankness will it be able to resale?
Everybodies level of swankiness is different - as you "customize" your Airstream, the market of folks who have the same taste as you may go down. You are best off to decorate with "changeable things" like curtains, pillows, linens than "permanent things" like paint, cabinets, etc.

You may also want to check out this "Price vs Condition" guide to help you truly assess the price & cost of repairs...&/or post some pics to let people help you figure out what you are getting into.

Regardless, good luck fulfilling your Airstream Dream!

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Old 05-04-2014, 04:23 PM   #6
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1972 31' Sovereign
1975 31' Excella 500
Currently Looking...
Benton , Arkansas
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Should I buy this?

I say if the seller can demonstrate that the appliances and systems are working,...... Well, you will have to deal with the axles being shot, and it is almost certain that there will be at least some floor rot at the back and under the front windows.

I can't say for sure, but if the trailer has spent its life in Colorado, I doubt that the frame is rusted out.

If it can't be demonstrated that the plumbing works and doesn't leak, you can pretty much count on the pipes having been frozen and broken (lots of time and money to fix).

That said, if the systems work, and you will be living in the trailer while is is stationary, the floor rot and the axle situation could be overlooked for some time.

Sovereigns don't get a lot of love from the in crowd here, but to state the obvious, the fact is there is more room in these than the smaller trailers . Call me a rebel, but I like em.

4K plus lot rent is a cheap place to live. For that kind of "rent" you could update systems as they fail and still enjoy cheap housing.
The fact that I am opinionated does not presuppose that I am wrong......

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Old 05-04-2014, 05:29 PM   #7
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1976 25' Tradewind
, Florida
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 353
Lol just don't walk into a shell off without knowing it.... That first discussion link was about our family's current fun times
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