RV News RVBusiness 2021 Top 10 RVs of the Year, plus 56 additional debuts and must-see units → ×

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 10-06-2013, 03:56 PM   #1
New Member
1972 31' Excella 500
East Lansing , Michigan
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 4
Do you recognize this make/model?

Hi! We could use some urgent advice! We're interested in buying our first Airstream, which is, we believe, a 1972 31′ Airstream Excella 500 Land Yacht, and there are other people interested. The owner isn't sure what it is; it was abandoned on a lot he purchased in New York state. He's offering to sell it to us for $1,000. He says it needs new tires, electrical, plumbing and AC. The floor is solid and the skin doesn't leak. I was in it and took the photos at this link: Airstream trailer - a set on Flickr

If you could help answer any of these, my wife and I would be very grateful!

- Is it the trailer we think it is?

- None of the two plates on it seems to contain a VIN number (see attached photos) . Am I wrong? It's not registered, but we will almost certainly need to get a plate to tow it. Could we just register it here in Michigan or must we do NY also? The owner suggests loading it onto a flatbed truck! Yikes!

- We will have to go fetch it and bring it all the way back to Michigan. We've never pulled a trailer, but know we will have to at least change the tires. Are there brakes or other things to consider?

- Is this trailer worth the trouble of renovating? We don't have a lot of funds, but are willing to take as long as needed. We basically want to park it in a campground by a lake as a summer place.

Thanks so much!!
Karl Gude
Attached Thumbnails
Click image for larger version

Name:	IMG953339.jpg
Views:	123
Size:	306.6 KB
ID:	197195   Click image for larger version

Name:	IMG_3338.jpg
Views:	108
Size:	279.8 KB
ID:	197196  

karlgude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 04:54 PM   #2
Rivet Monster
wahoonc's Avatar

1975 31' Sovereign
1980 31' Excella II
Sprung Leak , North Carolina
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 7,173
Images: 40
Looks about like a 1972 to me, the VIN is on the riveted on plate, IIRC it should also be stamped on the front A frame somewhere. According to the Double Secret VIN Decoder it is actually a 1973, based on the manufacture date it could have been titled as either a 1972 or 1973. It looks more like and International rather than an Excella 500. Basic difference is in the trim level and somethings were optional versus standard.

Not a bad price, yes you will need tags of some sort to tow it, no clue how to apply for a title in NY or MI.

Is it worth renovating? That would be up to you, depending on what you want to do and how much you want to spend. I can promise you will put more into it than you would ever likely get out of it if you chose to sell it after renovation.

Also that model most likely does not have a gray water tank, not an issue if you plan to park it.

You will also need to repack the wheel bearings and possibly replace the brakes along with the tires prior to towing. Flat bedding it might not be a bad idea.

....so many Airstreams....so little time...
Why are we in this basket...and where are we going
wahoonc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 06:02 PM   #3
Rivet Master
RM66caravel's Avatar
1966 17' Caravel
Newport , North Carolina
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 1,287
The manufacture date is 10/72 which makes it a legal 1973 as by law fy not cy which bothers some cuz if it is made in 72 should it not be a 72? Answer is no because the model year is not official until fiscal year begins.
Gotta get busy! Have a great day! Now where did I put those revits?
RM66caravel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 06:03 PM   #4
Rivet Master
RM66caravel's Avatar
1966 17' Caravel
Newport , North Carolina
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 1,287
Just a quick note new model year cars are started in June but the model is not released until Oct 1st.
Gotta get busy! Have a great day! Now where did I put those revits?
RM66caravel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 06:08 PM   #5
Rivet Master
1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,591
For $1000 it looks pretty good to me. The VIN number is the bottom number under where it says "Land Yacht".

Yes, you will spend money on it, after all it is 40 years old. But the photos make it look like an OK investment. The aluminum propane tanks are worth about $200 alone, even with old valves. I bet with new tires you could tow it home easily, assuming you have a decent tow vehicle.

New York state didn't have titles on vehicles until sometime in the late 60's or ealry 70's as I recall. I know the '67 AS I bought there did not have one. So, you may be able to title it now with a bill of sale, but who knows until you check with a DMV in both New York and your home state.

It is an interesting find, but plan on at least $6000 in repairs, renovations, replacement things and upgrades to make it useable. Maybe a bit less if you are just going to park it and never tow it again.
idroba is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 08:40 PM   #6
Rivet Master
1977 Argosy 24
Currently Looking...
Milltown , Wisconsin
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,080
1 or I for international, 31 foot is the length, B is center bath, 3 is for 1973, J is made in Jackson Ohio then sequential serial number. Which all of this is the vin number.
ventport is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 08:52 PM   #7
New Member
1972 31' Excella 500
East Lansing , Michigan
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 4
Thanks, it's like reading hieroglyphics!
karlgude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 09:00 PM   #8
New Member
1972 31' Excella 500
East Lansing , Michigan
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 4
Thanks you so much everyone! This is very helpful! Putting it onto a flatbed trailer turns out to be prohibitively expensive, considering it would be traveling 1,000 miles. I think what we'll need to do is find a mechanic out in CT somehow and have them come pick it up from the seller and replace the tires and brakes and grease the bearings for us. I wonder if I should replace the rims, too. I read elsewhere that axles may need replacing, but I'm hoping they won't snap on the way here!

I'm a bit nervous about towing something this size. How does one spend a night in a hotel with such a beast in back??

$6,000 (over time!) is still a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a new trailer!
karlgude is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 09:11 PM   #9
Sbb's Avatar
2017 25' Flying Cloud
Denville , New Jersey
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 1,029
Images: 2
Call George in NY stAte he is by the CT border in Carmel.
2006 Bambi CCD ("EireStream!!")
2010 Funfinder
2005 T@B
2001 Teardrop, Mountain Hardware Tent
For some perfection takes a little longer...
Sbb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 09:18 PM   #10
Rivet Master
andreasduess's Avatar
1984 34' International
Toronto , Ontario
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,496
Images: 5
Blog Entries: 1
Originally Posted by karlgude View Post
The floor is solid and the skin doesn't leak.
I would be very surprised if these two statements would hold up to further scrutiny.

Which isn't to say you shouldn't buy it, but be prepared for a total restoration job. Looking at your images, some parts of the floor do look water damaged. The model you're looking at was also prone to rear end separation. If you stand on the back bumper and move your weight about, you can often see it.

If you're handy and not scared of taking this project on, then by all means. But, if you add up the cost of fixing this trailer up and just want something nice to put on your lake property, then there's probably cheaper alternatives out there.

One last thing to keep in mind that many campgrounds don't allow trailers that are older than 10 years for seasonal stays, sometimes not even for transient visits. Now, with an Airstream it's easy to make a "mistake" and give them a later year of manufacture when asked, especially if it has been restored and looks great, but you might run into this issue.
andreasduess is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 09:32 PM   #11
Rivet Master
1988 25' Excella
1987 32' Excella
Knoxville , Tennessee
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 3,803
Blog Entries: 1
You will need a title.

Looks to me like the axles are shot on that trailer. There is a rubber stop that limits the travel so the trailer will ride on the stops and all the springing you will have will come from the tires. Should not be a problem but it will be a rough ride for the trailer. I think the problem with putting it on a flatbed is that will bounce and beat it up worse than if you tow it.

Youi at least need to check the trailer brakes and grease the bearings. I bought a trailer that had not moved in 18 years. It was in FL and there are a lot of trailer services there. I found a truck tire shop with a mobile service truck and they came and got the wheels and installed new tires and checked and greased the trailer bearings on site. Of course you can do that if you have the time.

You will need a charged and working battery in the trailer and you need to see that the brakes and the breakway switch are working. Ditto brake and turn lights. I had to change the 9 pin plug on the trailer (a 87 Excella) for a 7 pin that would fit the truck

You need for the trailer tongue jack to be working in order to hitch it up and for the coupler to be in decent condition.
Bill M. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 09:37 PM   #12
Rivet Puller
SeeMore's Avatar
2003 28' Safari S/O
Atlanta Burbs , Georgia
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 1,629
Images: 3
You can pickup a moisture meter at either Home Depot or Lowe's for somewhere around $20-50 dollars (depending on features) and check the perimeter flooring and in hidden areas to verify shell integrity. Do the aforementioned bumper separation check and, between the two, you'll learn fairly quickly whether further interest is warranted.
SeeMore is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 09:49 PM   #13
Rivet Master
1977 31' Sovereign
1963 26' Overlander
1989 34' Excella
Johnsburg , Illinois
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,943
The biggest problem you have is the lack of a title and way to clear it. With no title, the DMV will assume you or someone else stole it. NY is particularly rigid about these things.
dwightdi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 09:59 PM   #14
Rivet Master
DanB's Avatar
1970 23' Safari
2005 30' Classic
1986 31' Sovereign
Lorain , Ohio
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,642
Images: 9
First off, the skin leaks and you have floor damage. I can see that from the photos. I can also see that the axles are shot, and the bumper looks off square which indicated it's either been hit or is sagging.

Assuming your going to be parked makes thing a little easier to begin with. I moved into my 1971 safari from a tent. Not much worked, but I felt like a king! Fix things as you can find time and money.

Speaking of money: Extreme ballpark to get this safe:

Tires, brakes - $1,000
Battery - $100
Temporary lights - $100
Brake Controller - $100

Looks like a fun project, a fair deal at $1k if the AC and fridge work.

My suggestion, come to Urban Air in Eaton Rapids next weekend. Meet 100 of your soon to be closest friends. See some really cool trailers and then decide to put more skin in the game to live the Airstream way of life. You won't regret it for a minute.
Proud Member of the Wally Byam Airstream Club #24260


The “Ohio Airstreamer -- Informal forum for weekend camping” thread.
DanB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 10:01 PM   #15
DKB_SATX's Avatar

2017 26' Flying Cloud
Alamo Heights , Texas
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 7,754
Images: 1
Blog Entries: 7
The center-bath plan is a nice bonus, too (indicated by the "B" in the VIN, it seems to be a rear-double/center bath plan.) Is it a sideways folding double (gaucho) or a fixed double bed?
— David

Zero Gravitas — 2017 Flying Cloud 26U | WBCCI# 15566

He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire. — Sir Winston Churchill
DKB_SATX is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 10:07 PM   #16
4 Rivet Member
Jim Lee's Avatar
1978 31' Sovereign
1984 31' Excella
Springfield , Missouri
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 325
Images: 125
I would think if you went to searchtempest dot com and did a search on airstream you could find a reasonable trailer much closer to Michigan than New York.

Figure it would cost you a thousand or more to go get it and bring it back, plus the paperwork troubles.....

Even look at the classifieds on this forum.

Take a deep breath and slow down!

Everything I read in your message says "SLOW DOWN" -- I just looked at the pictures... If this trailer was a couple of hundred miles from your house, I'd say go for it... but 900 miles? loaded on a flatbed truck? It'd cost you a couple grand or more to get it delivered.

search tempest is a nationwide craigslist search engine. AIRSTREAM Air Stream 1972 29' Land Yacht Ambassador Twin
Airstream 1971 25 ft Land Yacht
Jim Lee is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 10:15 PM   #17
3 Rivet Member
panheaddale's Avatar
1964 26' Overlander
1968 30' Sovereign
Vintage Kin Owner
somewhere , Tennessee
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 211
This looks like a double post of the same question
panheaddale is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 10:16 PM   #18
Rivet Master
Globie64's Avatar
1964 19' Globetrotter
South Kingstown , Rhode Island
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,394
Images: 18
Blog Entries: 3
I see water stains on the bathroom floor, but where else can you see damage? Not questioning you Dan, I'm curious. I would look around the perimeter, under the bed and get into the cabinets to see if the floor is solid at the walls. The dent in the end panel is a bummer. The oven will be impossible to fix if it's not working, there are no parts for those things anymore.. used ones are iffy. Otherwise, from the pics I'd go look at it. I think axles are a given on any vintage trailer, mine was 800 bucks for a single installed by someone else. If it's been neglected, they're a big project, rewarding if you're persistent and patient, and resourceful.
Wherever you go, there you are
Globie64 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 10:32 PM   #19
Rivet Master
DanB's Avatar
1970 23' Safari
2005 30' Classic
1986 31' Sovereign
Lorain , Ohio
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,642
Images: 9
The exterior view of the back show extreme attempts at repair. I can almost guarantee this was an attempt to stop leaking. (and not a very good attempt).

The gap in the bumper truck is letting the snow and rain flow in the back. I'll bet the wood in there is not good.

Speaking of wood, there is discoloration at the toilet, probably due to a bad seal. The sink area has discoloration as well as the TV stand area.

Please note that I would not run away due to any of this! I can be fixed with some work. Actually, if you fix the leaks, the damage MAY not be bad yet. My worse fear would be under the back C channel at the rear.
Proud Member of the Wally Byam Airstream Club #24260


The “Ohio Airstreamer -- Informal forum for weekend camping” thread.
DanB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 11:02 PM   #20
Rivet Master
John&Vicki's Avatar
1990 25' Excella
Sisters , Oregon
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 1,161
Images: 4
I'm a newbie to Airstreams but very experienced in the restoration of vintage Porsches - and there appear to be many similarities. In any event, my point of view is from restoring 40-55 year old Porsches.

My experience with Porsches is that if you're going to do a full restoration you're better off paying as little as possible for the project car. You're going to redo everything anyway, so there's no sense paying up for a pig with lipstick - what we call a tweener.

This trailer has one thing going for it in my opinion - it's in pretty lousy condition and so it's cheap to acquire. Since you will need to do a full restoration, there's not a lot of difference between paying $1,000 or getting it for free. A thousand bucks is probably 5% or less of your eventual total cost, so acquisition cost is a minor issue. So I wouldn't care about a PPI, I would just assume it needed *everything* (as folks way more knowledgeable about Airstreams than I will ever be have said here, you can assume it leaks, has leaked for a while, and needs a new sub-floor and probably frame work).

The main things I would be worried about are possible transportation costs and the title issue. You will need to get it out of NY State and things could get complicated if you get stopped with no title or, I assume, registration.

And be sure you know what's involved in a full restoration of one of these. There are some great threads here where consummate craftsman discuss the process in detail. Here's one of my favorites:


I'd love a project like that if I had ample funds, ample time, a good setup for working on the trailer - and ample skills.

John Audette
Air Cooled Porsche Specialist -

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled. ~ Robert Frost
John&Vicki is offline   Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by


This website is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Airstream, Inc. or any of its affiliates. Airstream is a registered trademark of Airstream Inc. All rights reserved. Airstream trademark used under license to Social Knowledge LLC.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 12:04 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.