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Old 02-10-2021, 03:04 PM   #1
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How Much Life Left?

I know that it will vary by trailer and how well it was maintained, but in general how much usable life do you think is left in a 1988 to 1997 Excella? Iíve seen a few of them that I really liked but Iím a little leery that at that age it is getting close to the total renovation point. So for those of you who own that vintage trailer, what do you think? Iím not worried about having to replace appliances, or make cosmetic upgrades, Iím worried about framing flooring issues.
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Old 02-10-2021, 03:36 PM   #2
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Age by itself is not enough to hazzard a guess on the condition or useable life left in a trailer.

What you could really use instead is a close look by an experienced owner or inspector. On this forum is a link to those who for a nominal fee are willing to inspect a trailer, but even then, they may not be able to see everything, such as frame corrosion in certain areas.

But despite all of that, AS trailers are quite robust and with enough TLC can be brought back from near death to show-stopping head turners, depending on how much you want to invest in a refurbishment.

The most likely areas needing attention in older trailers are the plywood floors which, chances are (but not necessarily) suffering from softness or rot or mold or a combination thereof.

There is no such thing as a "cheap" Airstream. Either you pay up front, or pay over time to get it to an acceptable condition, so you need to decide how much you want to invest in the trailer itself. Not every AS trailer has to be a polished, sparkling jaw-dropper. Likewise, there are those full-timing in a leaking, corroded shell with a residential air conditioner duct-taped to the rear window, so you need to decide what state you are comfortable with.
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Old 02-10-2021, 05:09 PM   #3
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Iíve been so all over the place...started out thinking I wanted to do a frame-off of a 70ís model, then decided that was too much effort. I keep increasing my budget but I still donít find anything I think will work. I donít like the newer ones (except the Classics and those are a bit too spendy). But the older Excellas have potential. Decisions suck.
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Old 02-17-2021, 06:56 PM   #4
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My 1960 is going strong but I had it inspected by Area 63 before I forked over the cash.

An inspection by someone who knows their stuff is critical. The trailer you want may be just fine or a nightmare waiting to unfold.

An inspection is cheap money compared to finding a big problem later.

Best to you.
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:13 PM   #5
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One concern you should consider are the axles. If they have not been replaced, you will probably need to replace them. Torsion axles have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years. Not terribly expensive, but about $2500 for two axles (not including labor of "someone" to replace them).

Cheers,
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:27 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by sterlinghick View Post
Iíve been so all over the place...started out thinking I wanted to do a frame-off of a 70ís model, then decided that was too much effort. I keep increasing my budget but I still donít find anything I think will work. I donít like the newer ones (except the Classics and those are a bit too spendy). But the older Excellas have potential. Decisions suck.
I built a teardrop trailer in 2015 and did a partial restoration (everything but a complete frame off) of a 12' Canned Ham. When I started looking around last year for the "next" project, I decided not to go with a restoration. Still plenty of upgrading to do as well as the regular maintenance. I may still get a trailer for restoration but do not regret the decision not to at this time.
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:52 PM   #7
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Thank you- I’ve found a lot of value in all of your answers. I’m sure that the right one is going to come along. Until it does, I’ll keep reading and learning.
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Old 02-17-2021, 07:55 PM   #8
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I built a teardrop trailer in 2015 and did a partial restoration (everything but a complete frame off) of a 12' Canned Ham. When I started looking around last year for the "next" project, I decided not to go with a restoration. Still plenty of upgrading to do as well as the regular maintenance. I may still get a trailer for restoration but do not regret the decision not to at this time.
I looked at a ‘69 Yellowstone a few weeks back. It’s a little large to be a canned ham, but the style is the same. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed (meaning my husband said I was nuts) and I decided to pass on it.
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Old 02-17-2021, 08:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sterlinghick View Post
I’ve been so all over the place...started out thinking I wanted to do a frame-off of a 70’s model, then decided that was too much effort. I keep increasing my budget but I still don’t find anything I think will work. I don’t like the newer ones (except the Classics and those are a bit too spendy). But the older Excellas have potential. Decisions suck.
It really depends on where it spent most time (climate) and what you want to do with it, and expect out of it..
To a lot of vintage owners, a late 90s trailer is like new.
These are really pretty basic trailers.
The running gear is most important on any trailer.Condition of exposed hitch area, will tell you a lot about frame, and what the unit has been exposed to, in general.Thats exposed to road salt/ etc, and is reflective of overall condition..
Also, due to basically a lifetime of manufacturing them ( until just very recently) W/ untreated plywood floors, a unit exposed to water leaks will be full of surprises.Every older trailer is different.
These are not heavy frames.I call them bed frames.
If pulled a lot, the whole unit takes a beating, due to basically a primitive suspension system ( no leaf springs).
You just need to realize what you can tolerate.They are cold in winter/ hot in summer due to insulation restrictions, again by design.They are a specialty trailer, but with a dedicated fan club.
It just is what it is.
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Old 02-18-2021, 12:26 AM   #10
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I have an 88 and it’s been doin fine. I don’t do a lot of traveling just to jobs and stay in it a month at a time. Probably live in it 4-6 months a year and only failures so far are just normal like ac and hot water heater both I had planned on upgrading at some point anyway.
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Old 02-18-2021, 08:42 AM   #11
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How Much Life Left?

My Ď77 needed a repair to the rearend due to a water leak, over all I would consider it maintenance, the trailer equivalent of putting a new roof in a house.

Other than that my trailer has only needed cosmetic upgrades and maintenance.

Last year our neighbours 2017 Airstream had some significant problems during a weekend of camping while my 1977 was trouble free.

We plan to keep the Ď77 forever. As long as we maintain her she should last a lifetime. My biggest concern is how fast it will degrade if I stop using her.
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Old 02-18-2021, 12:40 PM   #12
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I'll give you another point of view: I decided I wanted to have a vintage trailer, and had decided on a particular model and year range. BUT, being a newbie, I thought that the thing to have would be a trailer that was in "pretty good" shape that just needed some sprucing up, and a few months later, I would be on the open road. I literally spent 2 years hunting for "the trailer." Each one had its shortcomings (too expensive, a dent in the shell I didn't want to deal with, a crappy bathroom layout I didn't like, etc.). After two years, I finally found EXACTLY what I wanted. It was the right year range, layout, model, and price.

I called the seller up and promised him I would pay his asking price, then bought a pair of trailer tires and drove 600 miles to go pick up the trailer. After driving that far, and waiting that long, I was willing to ignore the large dent in a side panel, and the squishy subfloor (seller swore it was solid on the phone). Anyway, my superficial spruce-up ensued, which turned into a shell-off, complete with frame repairs floor replacement, several shell panel and segment replacements, etc.

My point in all of this is that if I had bought the very first trailer I looked at, I would have been able to start working on it 2 years earlier. Second point is don't drive 600 miles to "look" at a trailer. Third point is that most of these trailers that are approaching or exceeding 30 years are going to need extensive floor and frame repairs, even if everything else looks kosher. The exception would be a trailer that lived its entire life in a very dry environment under cover, or a trailer that has already had the heavy lifting (ie., floor and frame repairs) done. It used to be possible to get a fully functional, camping ready vintage (70-80s) AS for around $12-13k, but that was pre-pandemic, so I have no idea now.

Also, learn what a properly repaired floor should look like. There are plenty of sketchy sellers out there that will perform a half-fast floor repair that hides the rot, but does not address the loss of structural integrity where the wall meets the floor. Axles and appliances are basically expensive wear items.

good luck!
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Old 02-18-2021, 01:46 PM   #13
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Originally, I wanted to do a frame off. The more ads I saw where people started them and then wanted to sell the torn apart carcass, the more scared I got. Then I started looking at newer ones, but they just don’t appeal to me. Every day I check the classifieds here, Airstream Hunter, RV Trader, several dealer websites, Craigslist (in case there is a real ad amongst the scams) and Facebook Marketplace (mostly scams). It is discouraging, but sooner or later the right thing will come along.
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