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Old 10-30-2017, 10:50 AM   #1
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Need help assessing a restoration project in Toronto, CA

Hi Everyone,

I am a first time who wants to purchase a vintage trailer for a full renovation. I have never done this before so from what I understand I am now just looking for a solid frame to work from. I found the following (1975 Sovereign 31) trailer and wanted to see if the community thinks its worth the 5K the seller is asking and if it is a good starting point for a full reno for a first timer. I would be looking to gut the whole thing and keeping the shell.

Thank you!!!
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Old 10-30-2017, 12:44 PM   #2
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Welcome to the Forums.

Well, it sounds like you have roughly the right expectations, which is, when you buy a vintage trailer, you are essentially just buying the shell, because most of the rest of it will have to be repaired or replaced.

Now, if you are ready to do a shell-off, and replace the rotting subfloor, I would say don't spend a bunch of time looking for a solid frame, because by the time you have rotten holes in your floor, you will have disinterating frame as well. Just go into the project with the expectation that you will have some repairs to do on the frame as well.

It looks like the current owner has done some superficial cabinetry work on the inside, but left a rotten subfloor underneath. Based on how much tire if visible under the wheel well, maybe they have put new axles under it as well (you need to ask). Heck, if it is riding on new axles, that is $2000 you won't have to spend during your renovation.

As far as value, it is worth what the market will bear. Try looking on Craigslist, and ebay to see what people are paying for trailers this size and vintage these days. Personally, I would say that if you fully intend to tear it completely down and then rebuild, you may as well buy one that is a "field-find" with no work done on it for ~$2k.

Good luck!
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Old 10-30-2017, 01:15 PM   #3
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Check out this unit very thoroughly. The mid 70s were a time when major changes were made to the structure. Frame off is a major undertaking.
Is the shell, windows, door, etc. worth 5K to you as is?
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Old 10-30-2017, 02:58 PM   #4
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Thank you for your comments.

I am NOT ready to do a shell off renovation - I was under the impression that I can keep the shell intact but still be able to do a full interior gut. The windows, doors & axis seem to be in good condition (from what the owner is telling me) and have been serviced over the years. There is a stablizer hitch included.

The wet spot is from one of the seals being shot in the window and water coming into the trailer. The owner has told me that the rust is surface level. The interior shell is also in good condition.

My goal is to find a trailer with a good exterior shell, while being able to replace the interior and some parts of subfloor if needed. I would also like to take the trailer off the grid - including solar panels, water tanks etc. I am VERY into the back bedroom layout at this trailer has.
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Old 10-30-2017, 03:31 PM   #5
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From the pictures shown, this is what I see.

I see a great shell with little or pratically no dings or dents.
I see an interior that looks like it was well taken care of. The tambour doors are intact with no splitting and your gables look to be in great shape.
Is it worth $5,000? In a heart beat, yes.

So, what to do next.

The biggest problem we have with people wanting to do full restorations, is that 90 - 95% of them fail and end up as "For sale!, Gutted Airstream trailer; all the hard work done; ready for your dream interior! The reason they fail is, they tore it all apart and don't have the skills or knowledge to put it all back together.

This is what I would do, and did to my Airstream 310 turbo diesel.......

Very, very carefully, taking pictures and labelling things along the way, take apart as little of the interior as you can to gain access to the subfloor. I want you to keep everything, even if you know you'll be replacing it down the road. The reason being is that keeping everything gives you dimensions, methods of building and templates.

Yes, I replace cabinets with new faceframe cabinets, with undermounted drawer slides, counter tops with new solid core laminate counters on marine mahogany plywood, (insanely light) but I kept the original gables as replacing them would have been crazy. I recovered all of my interior gables with a 3M Di-Noc vinyl weave over the old dark walnut vinyl. It saved me time, money and trust me I couldn't have built my gables any lighter.

You'll see the 3M Di-noc Weave in this link and see what a difference it makes.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f311...s-97332-3.html

As for subfloor material....I highly recommend Coosa board. Yes it is expensive, but it's easy to work with, will not rot or mildew, doesn't absorb water, strong and most importantly 40 - 45% lighter than plywood.

You can do what I did by using plywood in an area where water won't be a problem, or just do the entire floor with Coosa as I did in the front of my 310.

http://www.coosacomposites.com

Good luck
Tony
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Old 10-30-2017, 04:05 PM   #6
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Trust me, it is going to take a lot of work. I spent the good part of two years on mine (still not totally done as I have the outside) and I'm a highly skilled cabinetmaker to boot.

If you decide it much too much of a project for you, let me know, I'll buy it as I live in the area and it would make a great wedding present for my daughter.

Cheers
Tony

PS The biggest problem I see is that they parked it on soil with grass....the very worst thing for steel parts is to be parked over grass.

PPS Buying this would just be the down payment, look to spend double, if not triple that before you're done. If you start paying labour, triple that again. I know someone that spent well over six figures on a 20' Argosy motorhome. He could have bought a Ferrari 512 Berlinetta for what he spent on his reno. Parts are not cheap and neither is labour.
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Old 10-31-2017, 08:51 AM   #7
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Thank you for your comments - this is very helpful.

I am fairly certain that this trailer is what I am looking for so I am going to post some additional photographs to get your opinions.

Question - would I need to tear out the current cabinets etc. in the interior to get down to the water system (inlet to outlet) which has never been checked? As well as all the electrical. Or can it be worked around by replacing certain portions of the subfloor?

I am looking to take the trailer off the grid - installing solar and external septic.

Any other tips would be greatly appreciated as I will need to travel about 6 hours to see the trailer & potentially purchase on the spot.

Thank you!
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Old 10-31-2017, 11:22 AM   #8
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I purchased mine just from photos etc as I wanted to do a full reno and wasn't overly concerned about the interior condition (it was decent). It was about 7 hrs away from me....Mine had new fridge and furnace from the last owner. I Paid more than what you are looking at.
Im estimating that Ive spent about 600hrs on renovation (shell on) ... I added grey tanks.... new black tank ....new axle/hubs tires...new foam and upholstery ... new sinks ..taps ...flooring ...cabinets ....replaced the back half of the floor which allowed for tank installation as well...upgraded plumbing and electrical. Ive since replaced the hot water tank and added an AC.... the only original appliance is the stove which I did replaced some valves on.
I would count on spending $10,000can easy if not more depending on what you want to do .
I think the price is reasonable for the shell I see .... keep in mind that a 31ft will sell for less than a shorter model as there is less demand. I saw one last year in my area for $5000 and it was really beat!! ....It was also a 31 of about that age.
When I replaced the flooring I used marine grade plywood ...and redid the sheet metal at the back wall joint which is the main water egress problem in the older trailers.... mine had about 8-12" of rot along the back and a few minor spots in other locations. In my opinion the old original floor did pretty good for being 46years old when I did it.
If you are doing most everything yourself I think you could have a "new" rig for about 15- $20,000can including purchase price. Thats a pretty reasonable price for a 31ft.
You could probably sell it and make 2-$3 hr for your labour plus your costs ...LOL
Good Luck.

Good luck
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Old 10-31-2017, 08:21 PM   #9
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Just remember, what you see in water damge is only the tip of the iceberg. As I found in my experience in areas bigger than the noticable damage, the top 1/16th of an inch of the plywood is okay but the rest is rotted down below, so count on far more damage than you can see.

Most of the electrical runs through the walls; very little is with-in the trailer interior shell.

As for plumbing, all water lines run inside the trailer through gables and cabinets, not below the subfloor, except for the shore hook-up. The only plumbing below the subfloor would be the ABS drains leading to tanks.

As for the dents.....those ones won't buff out. If you wish to replace a panel, now's the time to do it so you can take off exterior skins and buck rivet the panel in place........the panels are very expensive, and this work is definitely not for a novice.

Not sure how much to replace the missing hatch.

As far as off grid is concerned, good luck; the process is very very expensive; components are prone to failures and most people are not happy with the results. You would have to watch every electron you use as solar alone generates very little energy in comparison to how much you can use. Don't even think of running a microwave, kettle, hair dryer or anything like that. A microwave run through an inverter can deplete your coach battery faster than it took for me to write this post.

Cheers
Tony
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Old 10-31-2017, 08:51 PM   #10
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Greetings, price seems about average. I spent 6,000 and another 3500 so far. Had some floor rot, but not to bad. Frame had just light rust: sanded,prime and paint. 1.5 years in and it is useable.
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Old 10-31-2017, 09:01 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Isuzusweet View Post
Just remember, what you see in water damge is only the tip of the iceberg. As I found in my experience in areas bigger than the noticable damage, the top 1/16th of an inch of the plywood is okay but the rest is rotted down below, so count on far more damage than you can see.

Most of the electrical runs through the walls; very little is with-in the trailer interior shell.

As for plumbing, all water lines run inside the trailer through gables and cabinets, not below the subfloor, except for the shore hook-up. The only plumbing below the subfloor would be the ABS drains leading to tanks.

As for the dents.....those ones won't buff out. If you wish to replace a panel, now's the time to do it so you can take off exterior skins and buck rivet the panel in place........the panels are very expensive, and this work is definitely not for a novice.

Not sure how much to replace the missing hatch.

As far as off grid is concerned, good luck; the process is very very expensive; components are prone to failures and most people are not happy with the results. You would have to watch every electron you use as solar alone generates very little energy in comparison to how much you can use. Don't even think of running a microwave, kettle, hair dryer or anything like that. A microwave run through an inverter can deplete your coach battery faster than it took for me to write this post.

Cheers
Tony
LOL , do people really think they can run a microwave & hair-dryer when off -grid with solar ?
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Old 10-31-2017, 09:12 PM   #12
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someone told me once, if you can't afford a new BMW, you can't afford a used one either .. not sure that's entirely true, but definitely resonates with me. My '72 31' baby cost $6k, it's stunning and worth the price of entry, units in the 80's just aren't "collectible" imo, and hard to think they ever will be. For me, camping in an Airstream is stylish beyond words ... 60's through 70's Sovereign land yachts are way easier to find that shorter ones, keep looking if you have any doubts about the frame & flooring. I can't imagine the nightmare of a frame off remodel, (unless you have those contractor skills & endless time). There's a real beauty for sale on Airstream Hunters on FB right now, 29' but looks amazing. If you want to do things right, nice beds, gaucho, florring, on-demand water heater, axles etc etc etc , it'll end up being $20k ...
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Old 10-31-2017, 10:19 PM   #13
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$5000 in Canada you would be ************ if you didn't realize its s great deal.......

Lol seriously if the shell is good buy it, frame can be cleaned up easy if you're willing to go full resto. O e comment please do t ditch original windows or your a ******^^^^ lol good luck
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Old 11-01-2017, 04:39 AM   #14
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Previous posts on cost of refurbish are dead on. I might add, that purchasing the right tools is also necessary and expensive. Not to scare you from this purchase but to enlighten.
A finished project is definitely rewarding.

The Facebook group "Airstream Hunters" is helpful on costs.
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Old 11-01-2017, 08:11 PM   #15
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I think that's a pretty good entry price, its got a floor plan you like..using propane for most of your energy needs, you can do off grid fairly easily. How handy are you and, do you want to be?
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Old 11-01-2017, 11:55 PM   #16
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hello olgie, concerning solar, you can spend as much as 20,000 or as little as 500 to700 dollars.i remote 380 watts of solar panels into 200 amps of agm batts. with the popularity of folding panels, you can set up a system as simple or as complex as you want. good luck. kurt
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Old 11-02-2017, 08:10 AM   #17
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LOL , do people really think they can run a microwave & hair-dryer when off -grid with solar ?
I have a few posts of people stating that their inverter use would be a hair dryer in the morning, microwave a couple of things and keeping all the electronics up to charge......that's all.
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Old 11-04-2017, 11:43 AM   #18
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I'd take an ice pick/scratch awl to the area around the floor to test for hidden rot. Jump up and down on the bumper to check for frame separation, the usual stuff outlined in the sticky for inspections.

I guess that if you want it for an off-grid situation, you don't to have to be as picky as someone who is on the road all the time. Unless you mean "boondocking"? If it's for a semi-permanent hunting lodge sort of deal, you could snag a funkier trailer for cheap that others have passed up.

$5K seems steep to me- here in S. Florida, you could probably find one with a complete interior, ready to camp, nice exterior for just a bit more. There are lots of the big ones available for cheap, it's the little ones that are so expensive.

There's a minuscule chance that you could pop out those dents, but aluminum takes a crease much easier than steel, so it's not like a car. A corner panel is close to $500, and won't match the rest of the metal. Difficult to install, too.
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Old 11-04-2017, 12:39 PM   #19
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I have to agree with Suzy. I think you can find a better one with at least a better shell. That is going to run into big buck replacing panels. Think about how much you are going to put into one versus just putting that money into a ready to camp trailer. The guy doing the restoration never comes out smelling like a rose. It is the guy that buys it from him who gets a deal.

Perry
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