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Old 07-03-2004, 02:15 PM   #1
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1975 31' Sovereign
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Talking Quality of the '70s models

Ok all of you vintage owners out there How many of you during your restoration and renovations have found "issues" with the way the factory put your unit together. I realize that AS most likely could care less and that it would be hard to prove that the issue occured at the factory in a lot of instances....

Today while I was redoing my plumbing vent gaskets, I discovered that on one vent they hit a rib while putting the screw in, instead of drilling a hole thru the rib they just added some extra Vulkem, and left the screw sticking out. On yet another vent they apparently drilled the hole a little off center, then heated the black vent pipe to a modified egg shape to make it fit, then used duct tape to try and seal the gap it created. I didn't know that they even made duct tape back then
While removing interior panels I have discovered an array of rivets, aluminum scraps, short pieces of wire and the like. Amazing....just like the units they build today!

Aaron
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Old 07-03-2004, 03:48 PM   #2
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They are resting on their (what they perceive to be) great image. Quite frankly the only thing they have is the monocoque shell and frame. All else is a disappointment.
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Old 07-03-2004, 04:59 PM   #3
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While I think my 75 is as good as anyone one ever made, your right, I've seen a lot of things that one could tell were done in haste. For example, in the rear trunk are they miss-shot some rivets and there was a big gap for water to run through. I took out the rivets and put new ones in, sealed with vulcem and all was well.

The 70's were not know for quality products/workmanship - I think (hopefully) we learned from that - a lot of our products are much better now.

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Old 03-09-2006, 12:50 PM   #4
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Air Stream Quality

Hi Everyone, I Am Responding To The Comments I Have Read This Morning, I Have Written Service As An Advisor For A Rv Repair Facility For Several Years & The Average Person Would Be Blown Away By The Build/quality Issues We Run Into On A Daily Basis, We Are A Full Service Facility That Can Handle Any Issue In Regaurds To Rv,s. The Coaches & Trailers Of Today Are Mainly Constructed From 1 X 2 Or 2 X 2 Framing Members , Styrofoam, Luan(1/8" Wood Panel), Filon(1/16th" Fiberglass)etc... It Doesnt Seem To Matter If It Is A $300,000 Motorized Deisel Pusher Or A 24 Ft Travel Trailer, We See The Same Type Of "hurried" Construction Time After Time. The Point I Am Making Is I Have Recently Started Restoring A 1975 31 Ft Soverign & I Am Amazed At The Design & Build Quality Of A Unit That Was Built 31 Years Ago, No Trailer I Have Ever Seen Is Built As Good As An Airstream, Parts Are Relativly Expensive, But The Design & Idea Are Absolutely Increadible, I Love The Fact Of All Copper Plumbing Lines, The Shells Are Structuraly Solid & Superior To Anything Else On The Market, They Tow Wonderfully & They Just Have That Unexplainable Mistique Thats Got Me Hooked! Happy Streaming Everyone. Chris
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Old 03-09-2006, 01:03 PM   #5
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yes and recently an owner of a $150,000 Winnebago was checking out my 1982 AS Moto and remarked how much more solid and better constructed it seemed than his new purchase. I could have saved him a 125,000 or more....if he talked to me sooner.
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Old 03-09-2006, 01:03 PM   #6
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We found the tub glued to the vent pipe from excess glue. But that was only discovered during a repair. Knowing how old the trailer is I am impressed that she is in as good a shape as she is.
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Old 03-09-2006, 01:11 PM   #7
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I, too, am happy with the monocoque design and the general construction, but it mystifies me why AS evidently hated drawers in the 1970s and liked bins. I guess the one thing I would condem is the weak frames in the longer trailers (actually, same fram, just longer)--no excuse for that.

I did discover a "bad" just this week. I was removing an inside skin (the ceiling piece) and was drilling out a rivet at the end of the skin when sparks flew. Once I got it off I could see that the factory had put a rivet in right below the main wiring run. There were four wiring runs possible and this one was the only one that had this error, but it was a serious error. It will cost me many hours to get enough freeplay under the endcap in order to repair the damage to the wires.

Roger
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Old 03-09-2006, 01:45 PM   #8
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We love our 75

That is why we bought a vintage Airstream. We had a 10 year old pop-up and 2 years ago we started looking to up grade we went to every rv show around here and looked at every sob, each year something just kept telling us not to buy so we would camp a few more months in our pop-up. Last July we went to Disney world and camped at Ft. Wilderness on one of our golf cart rides to get ice I asked my husband to ride thru high dollar camping area and we kept looking at the Airstreams.
When we got home we started looking at the new Airstreams and decided real quick they were out of our price range. In October I found this forum, best thing I ever have done in my life. By November we had our 75 Airstream.
Sure there are always things to tinker with and fix, but to have a piece of history and it is just soooooo retro or that is what my son says.


Becky
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Old 03-09-2006, 01:50 PM   #9
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Lightbulb This thread could go on forever....

Wally sold an image..... he was a savy businessman.
What he did do better than anyone, before or since, was sell the idea of "caravanning".....

Airstreams come & go, friendships remain

Celebrate the tradition that still continues today and appreciate that...

without those "quality control" issues

This forum would probably not exist
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Old 03-09-2006, 06:48 PM   #10
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Last summer, I was removing the lower, interiour horizontal panel (tongue side) to access a 12inch long dent or seam in the exterior. I took out the insulation to hammer the seam flat and there was this pink spray type glue that held the insulation in place. Under this glue was a rough drawing of the "Zig Zag" man in permenant marker, under the glue. Up to that point I found the scrap wire, the aluminum rejects, old rusted (the stems) un-used rivets and even a cheap necklace that had to be from an installer since it was inside the wall and thought, typical construction protocol. When I saw the "zig zag" man though, I thought more about the time period (early 70's), it was a California build trailer, I thought - one of the people putting this coach together smoked pot, mybe when they were at work ??!!. It's a good trailer and despite that discovery, I marveled at the quality of things like the window latches or hinges and window /door construction when compaired to others built at the time.
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Old 03-09-2006, 07:24 PM   #11
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Having two 70's models, I think I have a different perspective. I think it was ALL ABOUT THE WEIGHT. Except for the floor, theres not a single peice of "solid" wood in either my Argosy or the Excella. All the enterior doors are hollow with the thin ply on each side. The Argosy was the less expensive model, so it has plywood swing-up doors for the overhead cabinets. The Excella was a little up-market (a little?), and it has tambour wherever they could place one, except for the strange lighted china cabinet over the roadside galley. I count eighteen tambours in the Excella.

I've seen very little sloppy construction on both trailers. On the Excella, if you pull the front side curtains back, you can see the penciled guide lines where they marked in the front speaker placement. I pulled the front "garnish" down on my front fan, and it looks like they hacked the cut in knowing that it would be covered in the end.

In the Argosy, the aft utlity closet misses the wall by at least a half-inch. The solution for them was extra-long screws.

I think that Airstream was still putting out a quality product in the 70's, but I think the focus had changed. If I recall correctly, my 1978 Sierra Classic half-ton 350 cid pickup only had 120 hp, got really lousy mileage, and did not even run well. My folks' 1970 Ford "Country Squire" wagon with its 400 cid engine would have been a much better tow vehicle in its day, but by the end of the 70s, such new cars were extinct. My '69 Wildcat hardtop had a 325 hp big block Electra engine, and it was just idling around much of the time. Went like stink and got 15 mpg, too.

This, and the Arab oil embargo, were the things that Airstream and the rest of us were facing in the 70s. As a result, this decade produced some of the lightest, most roadable big trailers Airstream ever made.

With 8-tracks, of course.

Lamar
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Old 03-09-2006, 07:27 PM   #12
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When we bought our 79 (new) we kept smelling a holding tank odor, coldn't find anything and we kept adding holding tank cleaner to mask it. Nothing helped. The dealer finally checked it out real good and found that the vent pipe from the holding tank to the roof wasn't connected to the tank. It took years and many air freshners to get the smell out of the closet that was just above the tank. The smell had saturated the walls. There were lunches and garbage stuffed in the walls of some trailers built back then
There was a story about Immigration going to the California factory and "employees" scattered. They found them in lockers and boxes hiding from Immigration.
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Old 03-09-2006, 08:07 PM   #13
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I gutted my trailer. All the cheap tambor, the dark ply, the stinky cushions and psychodelic, lime on orange fabric and shag carpet, is now in the Thurston County land fill with no regrets but...

When it comes to unique and unusual, rare and "can you believe this past inspection !" issues having to do with, what is possible, on the fringes of production oversights, Yeah those foibles exist and how !

Despite that, having an antique RV shell in the latter stages of restore, I can't imagine a better option than an Airstream Tradewind. It's simply the best....Check back in a year...
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Old 12-09-2010, 11:25 AM   #14
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Glad I'm not the only one

Thanks for addressing this issue. I have to say the quality of the interior of my 31' 1972 Sovereign is, well, cheesy. I was shocked at the lack of real wood - only Formica-like wood grain coverings on the cabinet doors and dividers. And I've noticed what you have - beneath the interior window frames, the skin is badly cut and just plain sloppy. None of which matters since all of it is coming out. And I love it just the same.
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Old 12-09-2010, 12:07 PM   #15
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My 2cents, I have had 5 Airstreams 63-22', 68 23', 78-25', 78-31', 97-34'. Each had its good and bad points. Looking back at my experience they seemed to get better each year! The 97-34' is certainly the heaviest and most comfortable! nicest cabinets and most but heavy! I liked the vinyl walls in the 78's, But thought the 31' was far superior to the 25'. Enjoyed the 68 but never had any problems where I learned more about it. The 63 is my latest project and I was greatly disappointed when I learned that only three ribs went from side to side, 9' of space had only half ribs due to door and window placement!
I wouldn't dream of walking on the 63, the 78-25' was a crawl only roof, the 78-31 was ok to move on your knees staying on the rivet lines, the 97 I have walked on and scrubbed and felt secure!
Each trailer is differant, but I believe they improved each year! I love the wide width of the 97, but wonder if it will last 40-50 years. The wider width means the trailer is built in three sections Top and two sides plus the end pieces. The only ribs are on the end pieces.
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Old 12-09-2010, 01:34 PM   #16
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How did the restoration go?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimmyJames View Post
I gutted my trailer. All the cheap tambor, the dark ply, the stinky cushions and psychodelic, lime on orange fabric and shag carpet, is now in the Thurston County land fill with no regrets but...

When it comes to unique and unusual, rare and "can you believe this past inspection !" issues having to do with, what is possible, on the fringes of production oversights, Yeah those foibles exist and how !

Despite that, having an antique RV shell in the latter stages of restore, I can't imagine a better option than an Airstream Tradewind. It's simply the best....Check back in a year...
I really like to see the pics!
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Old 12-09-2010, 01:35 PM   #17
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Photo of the "Zig Zag man"

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimmyJames View Post
Last summer, I was removing the lower, interiour horizontal panel (tongue side) to access a 12inch long dent or seam in the exterior. I took out the insulation to hammer the seam flat and there was this pink spray type glue that held the insulation in place. Under this glue was a rough drawing of the "Zig Zag" man in permenant marker, under the glue. Up to that point I found the scrap wire, the aluminum rejects, old rusted (the stems) un-used rivets and even a cheap necklace that had to be from an installer since it was inside the wall and thought, typical construction protocol. When I saw the "zig zag" man though, I thought more about the time period (early 70's), it was a California build trailer, I thought - one of the people putting this coach together smoked pot, mybe when they were at work ??!!. It's a good trailer and despite that discovery, I marveled at the quality of things like the window latches or hinges and window /door construction when compaired to others built at the time.
Do you have a photo of it? It would be neat to see!
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Old 12-09-2010, 02:03 PM   #18
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As we use to say in the 70's.......

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Originally Posted by GREENovaters View Post
Do you have a photo of it? It would be neat to see!

"Bummer man" Bummer! I too would like to see a photo of this zig-zag guy! I am just amazed that a Thread that was started in 2004 has come back to life! As you can see on my profile, I too own a 72/31'. I tried to save as much of the interior as possibly, but the bottom line is...I can't do it! Looks like I will use the pannels as templates for new hardwood/plywood pannels. I had a cab-guy quote me a price of $2,600, so I think I will be doing most of the cab-work myself.

Its been raining here in Redding now for a week.... Found another leak yesterday. Bummer man, I thought I had all the leaks fixed! I did get my interior paint completed.... well almost, today I will take out the last of the 70's cabinet in the rear of the coach. So, now I will need to prime and paint that last 2 feet of walls.

Trex "May Wally be with you"

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Old 12-09-2010, 07:15 PM   #19
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build quality ?

You all realize you're talking about 40 year old trailers , most of which are still being used . For a production item I'm amazed at the build quality. I have not found a product yet that could not be improved with hand crafted custom work.

Side note , I am fortunate to have an all original unit with the exception of a replacement furnace ,converter,brakes and tires and it has lived it's entire life outdoors .
Needless to say I'm a happy camper.
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Old 12-09-2010, 07:45 PM   #20
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No major issues with this one here. A High pressure pop off valve is due for replacement, and there is a small inch tear in the outer skin near the door lock (as if some one had tried to pry the door), but that is about it. We know the general idea is to keep the unit clean and tidy and organized. And to enjoy the polishing part of having one. It is a real solid built home...better than any house I have ever lived in that does not have wheels. I am so glad God dropped this configuration on us for support.
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