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Old 06-11-2009, 05:09 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1952 21' Flying Cloud
New Orleans , Louisiana
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 12
Images: 5
How does cutting a vent for a hot water heater affect value?

Hello all,

We recently purchased a 1952 Flying Cloud. We're having lots of work done to the systems right now, and one of the things we might have to have to replace is the hot water heater. The trailer currently has an electric hot water heater that seems to be original. If we replace with a gas hot water heater, we'll have to cut through the street side of the trailer to add a vent.

My question is this, should we update to propane and deface the skin of the trailer, or stay electric and limit our ability to boondock? I'm leaning towards being more self-sufficient and updating with gas, but my wife is a purist and wants to keep the trailer as original as possible. Does anyone know if adding a vent will decrease the value or collectibility of the trailer?

Everything on this trailer seems to be original. Nice original interior paint, fixtures, appliances, etc. Even the propane tanks are date stamped to the early 1950's, although the shop working on the trailer says we should replace the tanks.

The only questionable item is the front gaucho/couch. It's a single couch on the street side that folds out like a traditional hideaway bed. It fits perfectly in the front of the trailer, but I can't find a floor plan that shows a single gaucho with a stand alone table layout, but I'm rambling now. I'm really looking for opinions as to "keeping original" vs. "updating to be more functional"


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Old 06-11-2009, 06:20 PM   #2
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1957 22' Caravanner
Port Hadlock , Washington
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 864
I've had thoughts along the same lines on my '57, Tony. She was totally original, 110 volt hot water and refrigerator, compressed air water system, and no black tank. I'm going to try to keep the spirit of the original: keeping the Princess stove, hiding a modern fridge behind the original Marvel door, reusing the cabinets, and probably using a window air conditioner hiding in a cabinet so I don't have to mess up the roof line.

Wally improved his trailers all the time, though, so I'm going to make my renovation be part of me. Boondocking will be important for me too, so I'll definitely be cutting the outside metal to accommodate propane hot water and refrigeration. I'm strongly considering replacing some of my inside aluminum with baltic birch and some of the rest will be polished instead of the original Zolatone. Still going to clearly be a '57 Caravanner, though, whatever I do.

I think it's more important for those of us with really old trailers than newer ones to retain that original look, but I don't see why we can't make make some mods to suit the way we'll be using them today.

Most important thing, I think, is to get them back on the road and back in use camping.

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Old 06-11-2009, 07:01 PM   #3
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I didn't find any '52 FC's with water heater vents showing when I looked at them on It may be that they did not use propane WH's that early, I don't know.
It is a dilemma, trying to make a decision like that. You will probably hear some strong opinions here regarding keeping the rig original. I personally would keep it original. That is a 57 year old Airstream you have there, and every year it will become more and more of a collectors item. As other old Airstreams rot to pieces in hunting camps and back yards yours will become more rare also. If it hasn't already been sacrificed to the whims of previous owners you have a real gem on your hands.
I would vote for a bone-stock restoration if possible. Make it look like it just rolled off the line in '52. This will maximize your return if you ever sell it.
If you must put in a propane WH maybe it could be floor-vented, rather than wall-vented. I don't know if that's possible, but it would keep the skin mostly intact. You would need to exhaust out the roof. Again, I don't know if that's a possibility or not. I know that some of the old furnace heaters had a floor intake and roof exhaust. That's what made me think of it.

IMHO too many of these really old rigs are being lost to the remodeling gods. My '64 Safari was badly water damaged on the inside, so I couldn't really keep it all original. The stove and furnace and all of the cabinets were shot. But I really like the fact that the outside was and is very intact. It will remain that way, even with some changes being made on the inside.
To each, his own.
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Old 06-13-2009, 08:28 PM   #4
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1952 21' Flying Cloud
New Orleans , Louisiana
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 12
Images: 5
thanks for the thoughts. Looks like we're going to try and go as original as possible.

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Old 06-15-2009, 12:55 PM   #5
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Don't be suprised if you re-visit this same question many times as you go through the process. There are lots of areas that you may have to compromise cost or availability versus authenticity. If you run into things you don't know what to do about, post your questions or dillemas, with pictures if possible. There's lots of help available here.
Good luck,
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heater, restoration, vent

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