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Old 12-09-2010, 09:11 PM   #21
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1977 31' Excella 500
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I'm a believer in the old saying "they don't make them like they used to." The 70's Airstreams were the best built RV of the day. I have yet to fine a single nail or staple inside my trailer, which has all of its original formica and tambour. Granted I find the occassional loose screw here and there but from a practical perspective, laminate/formica wears like iron compared to wooden surfaces....and it cleans wonderfully. The faux woodgrain color is a little dark for today's style but aside from that, if it has not been abused, it will last forever. There is a reason why so many old Airstreams are still out there compared to 70's box trailers which likely rusted/rotted and disintegrated long ago. I know from experience about how quickly a box trailer deteriorates. We had a '71 Ideal, bought it new and by '75 the exterior was rusting so bad and the interior drawers and cabinets were coming apart. Never had that with the Airstream.
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Old 12-09-2010, 09:21 PM   #22
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I have heard several Airstream owners, who have been Airstream owners for many years, say that care must be taken when buying an Airstream that was built during the years in which Beatrice Foods owned Airstream. They said that the frames are lighter and some of the workmanship not up to par.
I just found this history which somewhat confirms those thoughts. Beatrice Foods acquired Airstream sometime in the 70s, not sure when, and, according to this article, sold it to Thor in 1980.

Airstream History.com, Silver Wheels
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Old 12-09-2010, 11:07 PM   #23
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For what it's worth, I found production artifacts (solid rivets, pop rivet shanks, screws, aluminum waste) in our Silver Streak while removing the interior and interior skins. Most cutouts for vents, windows and electrical outlets were also hacked. Fit and finish of the interior components was very good though, and the overall construction of the trailer is excellent.

I figure building trailers was just a job for most of the factory workers. Cleanup in soon to be hidden and inaccessible areas was not a priority.
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Old 12-09-2010, 11:13 PM   #24
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The I-S is the one advantage Airstream had over Silver Streak or Streamline (but not Avion) in re build quality. No leaks, no cheap materials, absolutely no frame-related problems (not to mention insulation). I like them all, but I'd be a lot more careful in buying an A/S.
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Old 12-10-2010, 12:52 AM   #25
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I found bits of c-channel, material removed by hole saws, gum wrappers, wiring bits, holes cut into interior skins hidden by cabinets in order to get to faulty wiring, and other minor construction trash that someone must have assumed no one would ever see.

Still, I think the original work is great, and it's fun to think about another forty-plus years of travel and the next person's renovations. Vintage Airstream is a beautiful thing.
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Old 12-10-2010, 09:12 AM   #26
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Beatrice Foods acquired Airstream in December of 1967 according to one site and in July 1969 according to another.
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Old 12-10-2010, 10:06 AM   #27
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Assembly debris isn't a reflection of the quality of construction. I've worked on Mercedes with debris, and on Kias that were completely debris-free.

I think with Airstream, many would agree that the design is average, the materials selected are usually superior, but there are eras and models that could have benefitted from better/more materials (70s frames and 00s frames and floors come to mind).

Also, I think it's fair to say that Airstream is a little slow with their "hindsight" sometimes, continuing to incorporate poor choices long after they're shown to be... poor choices!
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Old 12-10-2010, 01:39 PM   #28
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Quality vs Price

You would think that after all of the rotted floor problems that are inherent in old and new AS's. They would have come up with a solution by now. I read on a daily basis here about floor problems in new (less than 5 years old) trailers. Granted, my trailer is 36 years old and in relatively good shape. I am glad I didn't pay any more for it than I did and if the day comes to look at something newer. I would certainly look at other brands along with looking at AS. There is a lot of new stuff out there made with modern materials that I would consider. In my opinion all of the new travel trailers are way over priced for what you get, especially AS. The resale value drops like a rock the first 10 years. So if you buy new or newer you should plan on keeping it for a long, long time.
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Old 12-10-2010, 02:29 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TG Twinkie View Post
You would think that after all of the rotted floor problems that are inherent in old and new AS's. They would have come up with a solution by now. I read on a daily basis here about floor problems in new (less than 5 years old) trailers. Granted, my trailer is 36 years old and in relatively good shape. I am glad I didn't pay any more for it than I did and if the day comes to look at something newer. I would certainly look at other brands along with looking at AS. There is a lot of new stuff out there made with modern materials that I would consider. In my opinion all of the new travel trailers are way over priced for what you get, especially AS. The resale value drops like a rock the first 10 years. So if you buy new or newer you should plan on keeping it for a long, long time.
They actually tried making composite floors back in the mid 70's, there are quite a few Argosies with them.

I think what frustrates me is they had the chance for product improvement but chose to rest on their reputation. A sizeable number of people buy an Airstream because it is an American Icon, they think for the price they are paying they are getting a premium product, etc. And quite often those are the people that are disappointed. Based on what I have seen and heard on the newer trailers I would be hard pressed to spend that kind of money, when I can gut and rebuild an older one for half the cost.

The overall design is excellent, the choice of materials is hit or miss, the execution of many things leaves a lot to be desired.

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