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Old 08-02-2017, 03:07 PM   #1
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Features, techonology, etc between somewhat older and newer trailers?

Greetings,

This is my first ever post, so please let me know if I am breaking any rules. I am sure I am going to make too long a post...sorry about that.

We are at least a year or two out from purchasing an Airstream. We have read the rental advice here from several posts and are going to try that out a few times (probably the first time with a cheaper non AS trailer) to understand the trailer experience. Yes...we are true newbies.

I am already a bit obsessed with all things AS and have been lurking for a while. I have a broad question regarding purchasing older units versus newer. For the purposes of this discussion, I would say older is late 1970s or early 1980s up to 1990s. So, not truly vintage. For newer, I mean since, say, 2010-12.

My question is how much of a feature, technology deficit is there between those time periods? I see great looking trailers from the 1980s and 1990s which have been renovated on some level (this obviously varies quite a bit).

So, as an example, if we buy a 1985-1995 30' trailer or a 2012 30' trailer, what are big differences as far as function that I will need to upgrade from the older trailer? And are there some issues I simply won't be able to address? Or, with trailers as recent as the 1980s are the main differences style and some modern extras?

Examples of things I am thinking about are the following:

Electrical (plugs, ability to supply power, wiring)
Plumbing (tanks, piping)
Hitch, breaks, etc
Fans, AC
Other?

For example, could I just plug in a new AC unit or add an extra one to the back of the old trailer, or because it is 30 years old would this require new wiring, inverter, batteries, etc?

Or, typically (if it has been maintained) can one head out on the road with the plumbing, tanks, toilet, shower of a trailer from this period, or are the systems on the newer trailers so clearly superior that an upgrade would be in order?

I hope this question isn't too vague. But basically, if the cosmetic issues with the trailer have been addressed (or are easy to fix) how tough is it to make a 30 year old trailer technologically similar to a 5 year old trailer?

Thank you for any advice.
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Old 08-02-2017, 03:46 PM   #2
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I guess to some extent, it depends on your point of view with respect to electronic gadgets etc!

New trailers now come with a lot more gadgetry - things like power awnings power steps, TV's that lift by motors etc.

Great when they work but a source of frustration when they don't. Personally I would rather not have those things - there is enough to co wrong and cause headaches with the basic appliances, but of course each to his/her own!

Major appliances, fridges, AC units, hot water heaters, furnaces, are all common items used on most all RVs and easily replaced.


If you are buying an older unit, quite likely some already may have been replaced - but of not, it is something that you may anticipate having to do and so should factor that into your purchase negotiations!



One thing we have found with older RV's - even only a few years old - is corrosion in electrical connectors causing malfunction. Usually something you can resolve yourself but can be frustrating every time you flip a switch hoping things are going to work! All part of the RV hobby I suppose is the way to look at it - I usually carry a fairly comprehensive tool kit and so far have never had to resort to calling in the Mobile RV repair folks!


I would think that a greater consideration in buying an older unit would be pre-existing corrosion and floor rot due to past - or on going water leaks (rain water mostly but could also be plumbing related.) This can cause a lot of expensive damage.

If unaware of signs to look for, you could be unwittingly buying a major problem.

If not familiar with what to look for, it may be advisable to contact one of the people of this forum who offer inspection assistance if someone is near the trailer you are considering.

Hope this helps in some way.
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Old 08-02-2017, 04:00 PM   #3
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Hi

A late 70's AS is now getting near 40 years old. That's a long time. I still had hair back then It is a rare "well cared for" trailer that will make it through 40 years in perfect condition. It *does* happen. It's just not likely. 70's decor is still stuck in the 70's. Wear and tear happen even with careful owners.

The 90's is a lot more recent. The 90's trailer to the left of me "is a piece of crap". That's a direct quote from the owner as he beats away on it. He's happier with his 70's trailers. The 90's trailer to the right of me is "a pretty nice trailer". The owners seem to be happy with it and haven't has a lot of issues. What you do or don't get varies a lot. The one to the right lived it's life outdoors, the clear coat shows it. The one to the left must have been stored under cover at least part of the time.

The appliances and gizmos on a 20+ year old trailer are ... 20+ years old. Your home appliances and gizmos don't usually make it to 20 years. On a trailer that has been used, it's unlikely that they are in perfect shape. They may still work. I would not count on a 1970's AC to *keep* working if it works now. Even on a brand new trailer, there is no guarantee that everything will be working now, let alone in 2 or 3 years. It's simply a matter of playing the odds. They get heavier and heavier against you as the years go by.

Water into the plywood floor is a risk on any AS. Frame rusting is another one. People have 5 year old trailers with floor rot. It's rare, but it does happen. Drive the trailer on salted roads or park by the sea a lot ... you may get frame rust. You might make it 60 years and have no crazy issues. Again it's all playing the odds.

Tires and batteries have a 5 to 10 year life. Sealant has a 2 to 4 year life. Gaskets rarely stay un-cracked after 10 years. Some things should have been replaced multiple times on a trailer from 2001. Some trailers go into storage and are sold 10 years later un-touched. That's a bit more to replace, but not really a lot. In some ways the trailer that has been depreciating in a garage for 10 or 20 years is the ideal one to buy. It hasn't been cared for, but it also hasn't been abused.

A more practical question might be - what do I get for my money? If at X years old, you would expect to pay $20K and at Y years old you see one for $10K, that's a $10K savings right there. Say it will cost you $30K to $70K to fix up the one that's Y years old. That's a $40K range. You only *know* what it cost after you are done. Even on a "money" basis, there are no real guarantees. The ambiguity, even on a "good" trailer may be larger than the spread based on age.

This is something you do because you want to do it. It's a hobby, not a job. You will save money. Your time will go into the project. There are all sorts of unknowns (and thus risks). If you like to tinker and "customize" it's a terrific thing to do. If the idea of having the kitchen redone gives you the shakes ... this is not for you.

There are LOTS of threads here about which models seem to have this problem vs that problem. There aren't a lot of statistics to validate things against. Accept that limitation. You also will not find an enormous number of good condition trailers to buy in a one or two year period. As you find one, dig into the threads here and see what others have experienced on that specific model and year. It's easier to do that than to become complete expert on every model in every year.

Bob
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:37 AM   #4
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Great information...thank you...a little follow up...

Wingeezer:

A few thoughts/questions based upon your comments:

Based upon the other post, let's say we are talking mid-1980s or later trailer for the discussion...

I have come to a similar conclusion about the powered elements seen on higher end recent trailers. A lot of extra money with more than can break. Any community conclusions on how often those go had (bed, awnings, etc)? Also, when they go bad, can they still be used manually, particularly the awnings?

As for replacing major appliances, do you find that they are easy to plug right in and use in most cases, or is does wiring/power box, etc often have to be upgraded? If they hadn't already, I would plan on most appliances being upgraded. Though it sounds like many older stoves work great?

We would absolutely try and hire someone on the board to do an inspection before any purchase. Do you feel that the issues you raise (electrical connections, floor rot, leaking trailer) would be items easily caught by an experience AS inspector

Thanks again...very helpful.
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Old 08-03-2017, 10:04 AM   #5
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Lots of good info...thank you...

Bob,

A few questions/comments based upon your comments:

So, your comments make me think that our search could be limited a bit...maybe mid-1980s or later TTs unless it seems as if it has been completely renovated and specifically lists updates and fixes. And both your post and the one above confirm my idea that a third party inspection is a must if we want to make an offer. Someone claims it's a great TT, but it has been heavily used...in a good way...but has the wear and tear which doesn't show up in online photos.

For appliances, I would echo my question to Wingeezer...if I decide to replace fridge, AC, add a second AC, replace roof fan, add second roof fan, etc, is it likely that there is a major trailer electrical overhaul needed? Or can I maybe just get an inverter and upgrade the batteries? Is 1980s wiring likely to hold up? I bet 1990s wiring would be fine?

Along these lines, am I right in assuming that switching all the lights to LED would noticeably reduce the electrical load?

If we are planning/assuming we would upgrade appliances, then it sounds like we can have a 2012 experience in a 1990 trailer at a certain cost? A cost that is much less than the 2012 trailer? Another reason I ask, is that we both like some of the window arrangements on earlier trailers and also are tempted by the three axle trailers...though I would need some practice to haul those.

We aren't looking for the cheapest out there, and would happily spend thousands extra to avoid big fixes in the short term. We just don't want our first trailer purchase to be $75-100k in case we use it for a couple of years and decide it's not a good fit.

We are moderately handy (several house renovations where we did some of the easy to moderately difficult parts) so I get and embrace the hobby idea. However, if a trailer required work on the frame, replacing the entire subflooring, complete rewiring, etc, then that would be more than we want to sign up for. I'm not that handy and we aren't going to retire for at least 16 years. I think the goal would be to get a TT in good shape where we could maybe take it to a good shop and have a few upgrades/fixes and then be able to use it for a decade or so with all of the expected maintenance (batteries, tires) but hopefully no major surprises.

Your advice on models, years sounds good...don't obsess about a narrow type or year. I think we would be pretty open to any larger trailer over a wide date range. The condition is more important, and the interior space. Though, I mention above that some models have better window layouts than others (we love the small windows along the roofline) and we also like the concept of the stable triple axle. Though some folks feel the triple axle TTs are just too much. No one answer...which is I guess what you are saying?

Thanks again.
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Old 08-03-2017, 01:16 PM   #6
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New or old

I had a 2000 30' Classic, a 2013 30' Classic and no I have a 2016 FC 26 U. The difference is great. My 26 U has 2 air conditioners also. But camping with it is so much nicer. It is a lot of money and I would not put my self in a hole to buy one, but Oh do we love it.
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Old 08-03-2017, 01:22 PM   #7
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Welcome!

I purchased a 1995 and really am gutting it and not going back with so many things. I don't need 14 switches for everything and power locks on all my storage doors. Used manual locks my whole life and never had a problem.

I suggest you consider how much you want to spend on maintenance and then measure each trailer by the number of things that can break and go wrong. The more money you have to spend (or time if you do the work yourself), the more creature comforts you can probably afford to have.

I like dead simple, mechanical solutions that are easy to diagnose and fix so I can get back to my napping asap. Good luck on the hunt!
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Old 08-03-2017, 02:21 PM   #8
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Mine is a 73 with almost no factory technology. My couch is manual, my bunks are manual, I have to manually light my water heater and refrigerator. None of the manual systems bother me in the least. Read a post with in the last week of a new trailer that took a lightning strike that killed the firefly operating system. The owners were fairly desperate looking for help as they couldn't even lower the bed to the sleep position.
It is my belief that the higher the tech load gets the more chance you have for failure/problems.
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Old 08-03-2017, 03:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey Dowd View Post
Wingeezer:

A few thoughts/questions based upon your comments:

Based upon the other post, let's say we are talking mid-1980s or later trailer for the discussion...

I have come to a similar conclusion about the powered elements seen on higher end recent trailers. A lot of extra money with more than can break. Any community conclusions on how often those go had (bed, awnings, etc)? Also, when they go bad, can they still be used manually, particularly the awnings?

As for replacing major appliances, do you find that they are easy to plug right in and use in most cases, or is does wiring/power box, etc often have to be upgraded? If they hadn't already, I would plan on most appliances being upgraded. Though it sounds like many older stoves work great?

We would absolutely try and hire someone on the board to do an inspection before any purchase. Do you feel that the issues you raise (electrical connections, floor rot, leaking trailer) would be items easily caught by an experience AS inspector

Thanks again...very helpful.

Hi Harvey,

In my view I would not expect to see any difficulty in hooking a major new appliance to existing services in a post 1980 trailer - not to say of course that there could not be exceptions.

We have had three used trailers - albeit not as old compared to current models as you are contemplating, so I cannot comment from experience in that regard - just my views.

I have experienced quite a lot of niggling issues with electrical connections that become corroded and cause problems, but problems of this sort more often than not are just a mild annoyance - but of course can stop an appliance from working. If you are half ways handy with a multimeter and few simple tools you will almst certainly resolve this sort of thing just by unplugging/ replugging connectors etc along with a bit of corrosion cleaning at times.

I think in my case this problem gets exacerbated because we don't use our trailer too much - and as well, it gets a good dose of salty highway water splashed around when we head south in the winter.

Also - not at all to say that I am perfect in work I do, but at times I have found that work done by previous owners has often caused be grief - for example brake magnet wiring that is exposed under the trailer just twisted together and joined with a wire nut or a bit of electrical tape

I used to handle that situation by cleaning and soldering the wires and using shrink tube insulation. More recently I am cleaning the wires andthen joining them with weatherproof butt connectors (crimped using the proper ratchet type crimping tool, then heated so that the glue inside melts and the insuation shrinks tight on the wire to give a water tight connecion.

I have had electric tongue jacks on two trailers fail just due to bad grounds - again an easy fix.

I'm not sure that an inspector would easily find these sort of electrical issues - but then I don't think they are that serious to buy or not buy a trailer - If you get the owner to demonstrate operation of the appliances, I don't think reasonably you can do much more - but just expect that one or more could well fail sooner than you might wish and anticipate it. If an appliance is not working at the time you buy the trailer, it should serve as a good bargaining point.

IMHO having someone check the integrity of the trailer is a far more important issue - if not done properly - and if the seller is less than scrupulous, you could wind up buying a real rot box. Very costly to repair properly

Of course some sellers could unwittingly be passing off a trailer in really bad shape - either way, you loose!

All RV's leak, certainly Airstreams are no exception. It is really important to keep all the sealing intact, check regularly for leaks, and fix them SAP.

Amazingly, Airstreams still use wooden floors - thanks to gravity, that is wear leaking water winds up to do its damage - often unseen as it can come in at the roof and leak down between the inner and outer walls. Leaks can also follow strange paths within the walls and reach the floor some distance away from the origin.

An inexpensive moisture detector is a good investment to probe suspect areas of the floor. Looking for stains and especially putting your weight down and feeling for spongy areas of the floor is something anyone can do as a minimum.

In certain years - around the area you may be looking at, AS switched from plywood to the random oriented fibre stuff - its suffers very badly when wet and eventually just turns to mush.

Depending on year and model AS returned to Plywood - not marine grade, but I believe some form of water-damage resistant plywood that would take repeated wetting to get in really bad shape.

Our current trailer is a 2005 and it uses plywood.

Finally - expect to quite possibly need all new tires on a trailer you may buy.

Current wisdom is that you should replace tires at about 5-6 years age. Beyond that, chance of blowouts can increase considerably and if you are unlucky, a blowout on an Airstream can cause thousands of $ in panel replacement as the blown tire flails around in the wheel well.

If you are not aware, tires have a date code on the sidewall.

The format is wwyy (Weekweek/Year year), so for example 1309 would be the thirteenth week of 2009.

Again, could be a bargaining point when negotiating a purchase price!


Hope all this is not discouraging! Mostly stuff I didn't really know or think of when I was buying!

All the best ....... Brian.
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Old 08-03-2017, 04:46 PM   #10
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Old 08-06-2017, 09:34 AM   #11
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For me anything can be build/engineered to be better than it was as it left the factory. I for one would want 50A electrical service above all. If this meant buying an older unit an restoring/renovating it to be 50A service capable I sure would take that step. To go with a newer model year that already has 50A may be more productive than undertaking a resto/reno. Appliances haven't really changed that much have they. The AS could be older with all original appliances that will have no problems functioning. Newer appliances will not be that much different in function.

Newer AS units have the ducted AC which has been said to be MUCH better for noise and overall cooling. The older units have been said to be quite noisy for some people.

I think anyone with the right drive could easily make an older AS into quite a gizmodded unit. Just depends on what you want.
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:24 AM   #12
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Lots of good points...certainly helped clarify thinking...

I agree with various comments, that few powered/automatic options means few things to break. I would certainly just rather lift my bed up or fold up a couch rather than pay extra and have the power mechanism break later.

It also sounds like if I assume X amount for immediate upgrade requirements I will be on the right track. For instance, 1-2 appliance failures in the first year with an older trailer. Also needing to take a day and seal seams. Also some new tires/breaks fairly soon. Or I find someone who has done all the upgrades, but I will pay more even for an older model.

The inspection idea seems like a must...particularly for leak/rot/structural issues. Would you all agree that if the trailer is dry/stable with a solid frame and breaks, I can get anything else fixed or do it myself later?

Brian...not completely discouraging, but it does sound like I might want to avoid when the flooring was essentially particle board. Regarding your tire advice, do you agree with the upgrade to 16" Michelins which so many do? Maybe something to plan for when the tires need replacing?

Does anyone have a firm set of dates on when AS wasn't using plywood for flooring?

Heavy Assault: Do you know when AS moved to 50 amp service in trailers? It looks like they moved to ducted AC only a few years ago...is that right?

Thanks to all: I think it is good I got on these forums early as I have a lot to learn before making a purchase.

Cheers.
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Old 08-07-2017, 01:28 PM   #13
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I'd choose a wide body.

20-years is old enough. Budget that all appliances, floor and seat covers need replacement. Probably window treatment. Conversion to LED inside and out. Keep to factory standard on cosmetics as it's high. This is where most screw up on value.

Axles, tires, wheels. Anti-lock disc brake right to do at this time.

Go ahead and get a Pro Pride hitch ahead of time.

You don't need to do it all at once, but items concerned with roadgoing have precedence. Some items may have years left in them. Just don't focus on interior at first.

Propane system is close second to water in importance. Electric is least important.

Understand safety issues, and what is necessary versus what is desired.

In this case: put a new roof on the house (tires, axle, brake, light) and "paint the exterior" first (body blemishes, new window seals, leak detection, etc).

The interior of the house needs the plumber out of the way (water and propane; go through entire systems. NOT piecemeal).

Appliances are next (safe operation).

The rest is as you like it.

Cleaning exterior and interior on a "clean" trailer will wear you out. I've done it several times. My trailer is anodized so it's different, but getting exterior right is a huge reward.

As to interior. Clean every single surface no matter how well hidden). Three-bucket method). Every single interior surface. I'll guarantee no ones ever done it.

This will familiarize you with your unit in ways no other approach can.

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Old 08-07-2017, 01:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey Dowd View Post
Brian...not completely discouraging, but it does sound like I might want to avoid when the flooring was essentially particle board. Regarding your tire advice, do you agree with the upgrade to 16" Michelins which so many do? Maybe something to plan for when the tires need replacing?
Cheers.


Harvey,

I switched to the 16" Michelins mainly just base on reports I read on this forum fro people whose opinions I respected - plus the fact that AS had started supplying them as standard on their top of the line traiers.

So far afrer three or four years use I have been completely satisfied. N. issues whatsoever and they never seem to lose air - previous tires I used often needed topping up. As well, They seem to be showing almost no signs of wear in comparison to 15" ST tires I had used.

In fact my last set of ST tires wore quickly and unevenly making me wonder if I had an alignment problem - no such signs on the Michelins. N idea why the difference.
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Old 08-08-2017, 08:15 AM   #15
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Hi

If the trailer has / came with one AC on the roof, it's got 30A shore power. If it's got two AC's on the roof it's got 50A shore power. Given that this is Airstream and they love to do it every way possible, there probably are exceptions to that rule ...

Bob
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Old 08-13-2017, 04:40 PM   #16
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Forgot to mention two things:

One, start to travel to see trailers in person. Use the new or used delivery checklists to familiarize yourself with "how" to look at the trailer. Take a ladder (telescoping) and an old bath towel to use to lean on trailer to view roof. Take large and small flashlights. A moisture meter. Ask if you can pull up carpet at a corner or near door (around bathroom too).

Second, also consider vintage kin brands Avion and Silver Streak. Better built in smaller quantities. Will pay far less for comparable condition and will take less money to renovate.

Study period sales brochures. An unmolested original interior is a good sign.

Be willing to travel. It won't take many viewings before the next series of classified advertisement photos make more sense to you.

There are more trailers from Georgia westward, and west of the Mississippi in general.

If I replaced my current 1990, I wouldn't hesitate to buy from the mid-1970s forward.

It's all about condition. Appliances aren't part of that, IMO.
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Old 08-14-2017, 08:39 AM   #17
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Definitely need to see some trailers.

Slowmover:

Yes...it's time for me to actually see some trailers up close and in detail, particularly some used ones. I have seen that rec about moisture meters before...seems like a must with leaks being almost inevitable. Actually, leaks sound like the most worrisome issue if we end up owning one of these trailers.

I have found the AS online archives for checking out stats on older models.

And, yes, I am already largely ignoring the status of the appliances, except for a second AC on the larger trailers since that would be a big retrofit if it isn't already installed. I almost laugh on some listings when sellers say with pride that the fridge or AC unit is original on a 30 year old trailer. That just tells me I'll be replacing it very soon.

Hadn't thought of the travel ladder for checking out the roof.

Also had not thought about Avion or Silver Streak at all...will check those out. Do they show up on AS Classifieds?


Thank you for the tips.
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Old 08-14-2017, 01:51 PM   #18
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Follow up re Avion, Silver Streak

Slowmover:

I have searched and found some Avion and Silver Streak trailers, including a couple that look pretty good.

Looks like both companies are out of business. So, other than doing them oneself, what would be an option for repairs or upgrades for one of those trailers? A general RV dealership which has a good garage?

AS is definitely pricey, but there is also such a good support network, sources for materials and supplies, as well as places for service.

Thanks.
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Old 08-14-2017, 04:42 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey Dowd View Post
Slowmover:

Yes...it's time for me to actually see some trailers up close and in detail, particularly some used ones. I have seen that rec about moisture meters before...seems like a must with leaks being almost inevitable. Actually, leaks sound like the most worrisome issue if we end up owning one of these trailers.

I have found the AS online archives for checking out stats on older models.

And, yes, I am already largely ignoring the status of the appliances, except for a second AC on the larger trailers since that would be a big retrofit if it isn't already installed. I almost laugh on some listings when sellers say with pride that the fridge or AC unit is original on a 30 year old trailer. That just tells me I'll be replacing it very soon.

Hadn't thought of the travel ladder for checking out the roof.

Also had not thought about Avion or Silver Streak at all...will check those out. Do they show up on AS Classifieds?


Thank you for the tips.
Original appliances means TT hasn't been used much. EXCELLENT sign if consistent with rest of trailer.

Where to find: RVTrader, national Craigslist search engines, and just wandering around 'net.

See www.tompatterson.com site, Silver Streak faceborg page, view RVs . Com, etc.

Avion, see DR Gradeless site (and Avion forum elsewhere).

PM "Avionstream" if he hasn't sold his 30'
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Old 08-14-2017, 05:00 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harvey Dowd View Post
Slowmover:

I have searched and found some Avion and Silver Streak trailers, including a couple that look pretty good.

Looks like both companies are out of business. So, other than doing them oneself, what would be an option for repairs or upgrades for one of those trailers? A general RV dealership which has a good garage?

AS is definitely pricey, but there is also such a good support network, sources for materials and supplies, as well as places for service.

Thanks.
The interior hard surfaces or cabinetry is unlikely to need anything but a cleaning. Appliances are the same. Much of the small hardware is the same (never throw away ANYTHING, though). Electrical, water and propane systems not significantly different.

Unless there is damage, these two brands don't leak. Toilet might, but that's about it.

Plenty for DIY tender loving care.

See Becky S recent restoration on a 32S Avion.

Body repairs would be more difficult. It's a chance I'm comfortable with.

Federal law mandated grey tanks added in 1973. I use that as cutoff.

Silver Streak had one owner 1949-1987. New owner thru 1995. I have one if the newer, and in my sig is link to a 1983 32' the ex and I redid.

Avion had several owners from 1959 to 1990. Hard to beat the 1977-1987 era.

Streamline a company that branched off from SS early on. Production ended in 1974. I'd be pleased to have one.

These brands much easier to work on than AS. Have met several RV techs who refuse to work on those.

With all the aluminum trailers some good service can be found.

But if you're at all handy much can be done by you. There are some partial restoration threads on SS & Avion, and much AS stuff applies (except, happily, some serious problems).

Have a start over on Tin Can Tourists and enjoy the many brands. Some good writeups of these.

.
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