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Old 08-26-2014, 10:41 AM   #1
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2012 16' Sport
Philadelphia , Pennsylvania
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 26
Argosy Motorhome Purchase & Renovation, What To Pay, What To Expect

We are considering buying an Argosy Motor home. There are many reasons why we feel a motor home is better for us than a trailer. What we are really interested in getting advice on is what to look for and what to expect in the renovation.

Before we pull the trigger, we want to have a realistic expectation as to what is involved, the cost, etc.

1. What is a fair price for an Argosy that needs to be restored? Where are the best places to find them. Seems like some folks get great deals, but I see a lot of Argosy motorhomes for sale people asking 15-20k or more.
2. What will the cost be if a brand new motor and or transmission is needed? We anticipate touring the United States and logging a lot of miles so we would rather put a new motor in it than risk driving a motorhome with over 100k miles on it.
3. What should we look for when evaluating a potential purchase? Is there a way to know if the floors are rotted, chassis is damaged, all the things that might not be obvious, etc?

Any and all advice is helpful!
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Old 08-26-2014, 11:20 AM   #2
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1978 28' Argosy 28
Victor , New York
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 408
The best place to look for a used Argosy would be in the classifies section of this site. That is where you will find the most. Ebay is another option. Also be sure to check out the Airstream Argosy Owners group on Facebook. I am a member and other members of it tend to post good deals they find when surfing craigslist or ebay.

Asking the value of a moho that needs a resto is hard to answer. It all depends on what the moho has seen in previous years as far as use. I paid $300 for mine but it had been sitting for 10+years, paritally gutted and what was left was not even original interior. It was worth way more than that but they guy just wanted it off his property. Your best bet for a good deal is going to be someone that just wants to get rid of it to make room or the person that thinks they have just an old motor home. If you do find something like that, be prepared to move quick because it wont last long. I bought mine sight unseen!

The cost of an engine/tranny is going to be based on what you want to get out of it. I would recommend getting something with overdrive and fuel injection but that will cost a lot more than just rebuilding the engine and transmission that are currently in it. Expect to get in the 8-10mpg range, if you find a secret to get more please share!

The most important things to look at when evaluating a moho are the basic 'bones'. Is the frame rusty or even rotted? How are the mechanical componants? How is the shell? Those things will be the hardest to replace. The floor is important too but expect to replace that since you are looking for something that needs a resto. If you are going to gut the moho and put your own touch on it with modern cabinetry, furniture, and appliances then you might as well replace the entire floor since you already have everything out. It's not hard with some basic carpentry skills. If your plan is to just keep it looking original but bring in some new curtains or fabric then I would try to find something with solid floors. To test for those just walk around and feel for any spots that might sag or are soft. Also look underneath and inside for any signs of water leaks.

If you find something that is hours away, check on this site and the facebook group to see if there is anyone that lives near by. Most people would be willing to drive (within reason and for some gas compensation) to check out a unit for you.

If you have any questions then just ASK! Doesn't matter how dumb or difficult it may be. There is going to be at least one other person on here that has to have come across that issue before and you will usually get a response.

Lastly, don't forget to post pictures of what you buy!!! This should really be in the forums rules somewhere. We are picture people and love to follow the progress of projects.

Happy hunting!
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Old 08-27-2014, 07:06 PM   #3
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1977 20' Argosy 20
Charleston , West Virginia
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Oooooooohhhhhh, so much to share and so little space!

First, I would say make sure you are very happy with the floor plan. You are going to invest (read as SPEND since these are not investments) lots of money and time in fixing the unit up. I have seen more than one person spend lots of time and cash on a unit only to be unhappy with the floor plan. Don't settle.

How much you spend on the purchase and the repairs depends on your personal standards and expectations. If you don't mind camping in a jalopy, you'll spend a lot less. If near-new is the expectation, you'll be separated from a fair amount of your cash! Have a long, honest talk with your camping partner about expectations!

When it comes to Argosy units, you can blow $4,000 in a blink so don't be penny wise and pound foolish. Sometimes the least expensive RV to acquire can be the MOST expensive. Look for a unit that is currently operating.

On the flip side, don't be fooled by the owner's claim that everything is perfect and there is really nothing that needs to be fixed. You'll be really irritated and disappointed. ALL of these units need repairs. The purchase price is really the down payment.

Also, I tell people to focus on the big ticket items like the engine, fridge, gen set, roof air conditioner, front windshields, side driver and passenger windows (nearly impossible to fix).

There are lots of great sources for Argosy units. Honestly, the units are fairly low priced so the sellers are too cheap to use a paid classified ad. I recommend checking the free sites and of course, my site (shameless plug).

You'll likely be replacing the tires. Even if they don't have dry rot, RV tires are usually replaced at seven years. Lots of owners just look at the tread BUT most RVs never wear out the tires.

As for what to look for, here are some items:
  1. Soft or uneven floors would not be a good sign although you can repair the flooring in some case.
  2. Check the exterior skin for warping or wrinkles that could indicate a frame issue. It's pretty rare on the Argosy units since they are 28' at the longest. My Airstream 345 twisted funny on the leveling jacks. The Argosy units are on a pretty solid Chevy P-30 chassis.
  3. Windows (particularly the front and front side)
  4. Appliances
You need to be handy. If you intend to contract all of the repairs, you can still get an Argosy but plan on spending (investing ) lots of money.

When it comes to paint, don't bother with a body shop. If I had to do it all over again, I'd get some good paint and a brush. From 10+ feet away, no one will EVER know the difference.

With that said, you may be ready to run for the door! In all honesty, the Argosy units are a good quality durable unit that you can enjoy for years. The Chevy P-30, 454, and T400 transmission combination will get you to hell and back without any cumbersome electronics. When you do the math against buying a new unit you still come out WAY ahead. You'll spend far less than the depreciation on a new unit.

Now that I may have reset your expectations, go out and find one and join our Argosy club. You'll have fun telling everyone that it really is an Airstream it just says "Argosy" on the side and it is painted!

I can't tell you how much fun it is in my 1977 Argosy 20 to zoom past late model $500,000 diesel pushers struggling to climb the mountains!

I hope that helps!
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Old 08-31-2014, 06:17 AM   #4
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1975 20' Argosy 20
Chestfield , Kent
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 2,938
Just some small comments based on my experiences so far.....

The first (in a long line) of considerations is your time-line. After we decided that we wanted a Airstream motorhome we spent approx 2 months visiting RV dealers, looking around vehicles (mainly non-Airstream) and deciding the size of motorhome we wanted. For us this was complicated as we knew this was going to be for our retirement, during and had to be suitable for use in Europe as well as US. It then took 6 months of daily searching the Classifieds on here, ViewRV, RVtrader, Ebay and nationally on Craigs list before a motorhome came up. It wasn't perfect, but I grabbed it immediately - that was 6 months ago and the same searches has not shown another of the same model for sale since.

For me this was always going to be a professional rebuild (to look like an Airstream, styled like an Airstream, but totally modern systems). The lowest price range I got quoted was $50-70K and would take nearly a year, this on a motorhome that had already had the body removed, new frame and floor.

Next consideration is shipping to where the work will be done - this has been the most painful part for me, 4 months, endless uShip auctions, forced into changing where the rebuild will be carried out three times, and a final cost that almost doubled to initial purchase cost.

Lastly the Title. The previous owner had a Title, and a copy of the Title from the owner before, but the VI number doesn't show up on the computerized registration system so my Title now classifies it as an auto-home with no engine and unable to carry passengers....and the rebuild is continuing at risk whilst that is sorted.

Lastly be prepared for everyone you meet being in two categories; they either understand why you want to do this and don't even ask about the time, effort cost; or don't and just ask about time, effort and cost and normally end up walking away shaking their heads. Unfortunately the second category is 95% of the folks we meet, expect lots of shaking of heads and walking away.

We continually question if we are doing the right thing (current projected build out working with an Airstream dealer using Airstream parts but to our design and with the features we want is 50-100K - as he tells me every time he talks to me!).....but we feel that will get me something with the style of an early Airstream and the capabilities of a modern Interstate. On this point also budget 1/3 of this money upfront, 1/3 during and 1/3 on completion so you will need to layout $20K to start work.

I just wish Airstream was still building them that way so I could drive one off the lot, Martin
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