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Old 05-12-2019, 10:25 PM   #1
New Member
Amarillo , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 4
Looking at a 1978 Sovereign PROJECT

My wife and I went on a 1.5 hour drive to look at this Airstream trailer today. The add stated 1988 and we had no idea the model or length. It turns out to be a 1978 31ft Sovereign. Somebody removed all the appliances, cabinetry so its basically a shell. I wish they had saved everything but they didn't. A few questions I have are;

1. Is this a center bathroom model? I see black drain piping on both sides and we have no idea what work might have been started after the demo work began?

2. The underside looks intact but I don't know how to evaluate its condition?

3. Is this part of the oven/stove or water heater?

4. Trailer doesn't have a title but we've done the bonded title for a 1955 Jewel trailer that was just completed. The title will be my bargaining tool.
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:31 PM   #2
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Amarillo , Texas
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More pics!
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:50 AM   #3
3 Rivet Member
1980 24' Caravelle
vallejo , California
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 222
welcome yo the forums! it looks like a mid-bath model( check out vent-pipe location). pic# 3 is your furnace. your belly looks goo, but looks can be decieveing. if the price is right for you go for it. my 80 caravelle was a shell- some floor rot but the frame was in good shape. don't let emotion over-rule good judgement. good luck. kurt
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Old 05-13-2019, 08:40 AM   #4
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,835
Definitely a project. Years of work to do on this one.

If you think you need something to bargain with, I would point out that all the missing cabinetry is a major PITA, as you will have to build everything from scratch without even the benefit of a template. Or, just the fact that it is being sold as an empty shell tells me that it is an aborted project that someone (the seller?) lost their mojo and now just want the corpse out of their driveway.

Regarding the questions you had in the first post, it isn't easy to evaluate the undeside without looking inside the belly-pan, so unless there are sections of it hanging down that you can look up into, there won't be much to see there. That being said, this genre of trailer is susceptible to "rear-end separation." You should look for rotten subfloor in the rear of the trailer, and step up on the rear bumper and bounce on it a little, and if you see the bumper/frame moving indepandent of the shell, then you know you have separation.

The box in your third picture looks like the furnace.

Do they not have a title because Grampa died and nobody knew where to look for it, or because they don't really own it in the first place? You may get some surprises in the titling process--I think I would insist that they title it before the sale.

Trailers this size, age, and condition may not be plentiful in the Amarillo area, but they are not rare, nor are they particularly sought after. Even if you can get this trailer dirt cheap, you need to ask youself "is this Mr. Right, or just Mr. Right-now?"

good luck!
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:34 AM   #5
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1972 31' Sovereign
Lexington , Minnesota
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 3,765
Center baths are a little rarer in the '70's than rear baths. That baby needs some serious love. It's doable, but all in how much time you want to spend rehabbing. I'd hope the price is very low (like $1000 or lower).
My hubby built our cabinetry in our trailer, trailer curvature takes some practice. I learned how to mark compound curves when doing ours.
Good luck, and good bargaining!

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Old 05-13-2019, 10:49 AM   #6
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1976 31' Excella 500
Chappell Hill , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 455
Images: 1
That's definitely a BIG project. IF you want to pay someone to rebuild the interior then plan on spending much more than a complete used AS would cost by multiple $xx,xxx. If you want to do it your self then you need to be fully capable of sorting out the 12v and 120v electrical, plumbing, cabinetry, flooring, sheet metal, welding, etc.
If it were me I'd walk away just because of the title issue. I've done the bonded title thing but I knew who had it and the history behind it so it went through fine.
BUT...we recently recovered a trailer stolen from us years ago because someone tried to register it with a bonded title and the sheriffs contacted us to see if we had reported it back then and if we wanted it back. Whoever had it lost the trailer and what they paid for it.
Travel trailers are a highly stolen item, especially Airstreams. You can stash them at hunting/fishing leases years without prying eyes questioning anything.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:48 PM   #7
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1977 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
1973 21' Globetrotter
1975 26' Argosy 26
Vista , California
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 587
Run! Unless they are giving it to you.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:17 PM   #8
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1978 31' Sovereign
New Smyrna Beach , Florida
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 376

Is this the AS for you? I have a 78 Sovereign that required a shell off rebuild. While the body was in better condition than the one your looking at, my frame was toast, along with worn out axles. You can easily have 10,000 to $15,000 in one of these before you even begin to do the inside. If your going to do a thorough overhaul, you could easily spend $20,000 to $30,000 on a mid-level redo.

Look for "78 Sovereign Frame Off" and follow along. Check your potential AS carefully especially the frame, condition of the windows, and the interior parts. AS used a lot of plastic in the interior cabinetry. Mine was so brittle from the heat that very few were salvageable. As others have suggested, if you have soft floors in the back, you probably have a rotten frame below.

Good luck.
Keeping Faith
My Project thread
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Old 05-14-2019, 08:01 PM   #9
1 Rivet Member
1985 31' Excella
Lindrith , New Mexico
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 13
Images: 2
What was the excuse for gutting it? I really wouldn t take that on unless they are paying you to haul it or you just want to make it a big bedroom. Thats a huge project. Remember nothing is square or plump in an Airstream. Including the floor.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:41 AM   #10
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Amarillo , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 4
Thank you for the responses. We've looked at newer 5th wheel trailers and the looming question is how long is this going to last(build quality). If I'm going to shell out 30K for a trailer I'd like it to be around for a long time. So do I have one restored(I'm not doing the work) or look for one that's complete and still hope the underside isn't rotted out etc.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:42 AM   #11
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,835
If you buy a 40 yr old trailer with the intention to have it professionally rebuilt, then expect to pay about as much as a new trailer costs--well over the $30k you mention.

If you imagine buying one and rebuilding it yourself, realize you will potentially spend years working on it, as many of us have. Do you want to spend your time camping or rebuilding a trailer?

My best advice for you is to look for a trailer that has already been rennovated. There are plenty of folks here who take on a project, camp in the trailer for a few years, and then decide they want something bigger or smaller, or a dfferent genre, and they sell what they have. Or look at more recent models--something from the 90's or 2000's. Either way, you should be able to find something fully functional for well under the $30k you mention.

Any used trailer, regardless of age, can have rotting floors if they have not been maintained/used regularly. Similarly not all rennovations are created equally. You will find many horror stories on these forums where someone has bought a supposedly fully rennovated trailer, only to find fresh flooring installed over a rotten subfloor and other sloppy short-cuts that look good on the surface.

Good luck!
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