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Old 01-02-2013, 03:58 PM   #1
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1968 30' Sovereign
el paso , Texas
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Help! need pros and vets for first time appraisal and purchase

As my father would say, when your out of your abilities refer to the old guys. They have answers. This is my first airstream and I need the pros to guide me through this purchase. Long story short, I'm a veteran, divorced, child support allimomy, its to minimize. I'm retiring medically from the army and school will require a home is couple different locations for months at a time. Link to the add follows. I'm looking for questions to ask the seller, appraisal angles, and whatever is on your mind. Anything is greatly appreciated!

1968 Airstream Land Yacht

I'll take a trip to the airstream and take pictures and post those as well. If anyone could tell me what to take pictures of, this would be great.

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Old 01-02-2013, 05:37 PM   #2
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You'll definitely need new tires. It looks like a standard 115V fridge, so you'll always need to park in an RV park or otherwise have power. There is damage to the front dome on the curb side of the front window, not terrible, but something that you won't be able to clean up easily.

The inside looks entirely original. This is only good if you intended to restore it. You will find that you'll want to remove all the carpeting, at a minimum. Surprisingly, the foam is probably still usable, but a lot of people replace that as soon as they can.

Things to ask:
  1. Can it be towed with the current tires (how old--if more than 7 years, the answer is no, no matter how good they look)? Are the running lights working so you can legally tow it?
  2. Unless the brakes have been worked on in the last 10 years, you should be prepared to replace the shoes, at least. A better bet would be to replace the entire brake plate, since that will give you the modern mounting system for the magnets. Finding magnets to fit the original 1968 brake plate is basically not probable today.
  3. Battery life?
  4. Does the 12v converter work?
  5. Fresh water tank OK? How about the 12v water pump?
  6. Water heater and, in general, the propane system, including the heater and stove.
  7. Are the windows all orginal glass or have some been replaced with plexiglass?
  8. Does owner have the title?
  9. All access doors included? Is the main door latch/lock operable?
  10. Black tank and dump valve OK? Even if you intend to stay in RV parks, this part of the plumbing must be defect free.
I personally wouldn't offer more than $2,500 for an Airstream in this condition, and then only if I needed it to live in, and then only if all th answers to the above questions are good. As a project, it's really only worth about $2,000.



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Old 01-02-2013, 05:46 PM   #3
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Albuquerque , New Mexico
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Take a Pro With You

If you go to the Portal page, on the lower right-hand side, you will find a search function for Volunteer Airstream Inspectors.
Find one in El Paso or Las Cruces to go to Organ with you.
Take a comprehensive, inspection checklist.
Find out what works and what doesn't.
Figure out how much it's going to cost to make it roadworthy enough to get it from Organ to El Paso.
(New tires, wheel bearings, brakes and new battery for starters)
Know what you're getting yourself into...
(Sneak Preview: A poorly maintained, travel trailer, 44 years old, with no gray-water holding tank that is being lived in as a spare room.)
Decide how much you are willing to spend above beyond purchase price.
In addition to tires, bearings, brakes, battery, It will probably need:
-New refer ($1000.00)
- New AC ($1000.00)
- New converter ($400.00)
- New H2O heater ($700.00
And at some point, new axles ($1600.00)
All prices are for parts. RV labor is $95.00 per hour.
Good luck
Ken L
2019 Flying Cloud 27FB
2020 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab 6.2L Max Tow
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Old 01-02-2013, 05:56 PM   #4
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Does it leak?

That dent in front is taped over and it is being stored under shelter. Ask to test it with a water hose. If the owner balks or admits to a leak, walk away from the deal or take a huge chunk off the price. That's a tricky fix.
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Old 01-02-2013, 06:08 PM   #5
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Help! need pros and vets for first time appraisal and purchase

Greetings vinnybin!

Originally Posted by vinnybin View Post
As my father would say, when your out of your abilities refer to the old guys. They have answers. This is my first airstream and I need the pros to guide me through this purchase. Long story short, I'm a veteran, divorced, child support allimomy, its to minimize. I'm retiring medically from the army and school will require a home is couple different locations for months at a time. Link to the add follows. I'm looking for questions to ask the seller, appraisal angles, and whatever is on your mind. Anything is greatly appreciated!

1968 Airstream Land Yacht

I'll take a trip to the airstream and take pictures and post those as well. If anyone could tell me what to take pictures of, this would be great.

The 1966 through 1968 Aristreams had unique features that earlier and later coaches didn't share. The primary difference, and this is one that can create issues for restorers today. The original side windows are Corning Temered Glass and they do have a slight curve. For many years these windows were not available in the glass replacement market so it is common to find a coach of this era with plexiglass replacement windows. The problem with the plexiglass replacements is that they don't hold the curve well and present ongoing problems with sealing against leaks. If any of the coach's windows are plexiglass or other acrylic products you will want to check the floor very carefully under those windows for evidence of water damage. Today, restorers can purchase reproductions with Inland RV in Corona, CA being one of the suppliers (I am not certain whether these are available from all Airstream dealers/Authorized service centers, but they may be).

In the photo of the front, it appears that the curbside bottom endcap panel has dents and likely tears in the aluminum (covered by duct tape). Replacement of these formed panels is expensive from a parts and labor perspective and there can be problems with getting a leak-free repair. It is possible to make an effective repair utilzing an overlay patch, but it will be readily identifiable in that position, and will likely require ongoing attention to keep it water tight. Again, the area of the floor in the curbside front corner would be an area for intense examination to be sure that the floor isn't water damaged in that area.

The photo of the rear of the coach illustrates what appears to either be a non-stock compartment door or non-stock hinges on the one stop compartment door. This is an area that often has water damage and is even more suspicious when the door has unusual repairs. This would be another area to pay close attention to when looking for evidence of floor rot.

The coach appears to have an Armstrong Bay Breeze Air Conditioner that likely dates to the same time period as the coach. Restorers either like or hate these air conditioners. I wish that I still had mine on my Overlander it was quieter and cooled better than its modern replacement. The Armstrong can be repaired by a good home or commercial AC service persons . . . unlike modern replacements, the Armstrong is rebuildable. I didn't realize this fact in 1998 when my Armstrong failed and I was talked into replacing it with a Coleman Mach III.

The one wheel that is shown appears to be a modern, one-piece wheel, but this coach is from around the time that split-rims may have been a stock feature. If any of the rims are split-rims, you will likely find it necessary to replace the rim with a one-piece unit before most if not all of today's tires shops will put tires on the coach. With travel trailers, looks of a tire can be deceiving . . . age takes its tool far before mileage for most of us . . . a trailer tire that is more tha five years old is suspect and much more likely to blowout suddenly . . . . something that can cause thousands of dollars of damage to the skin of your Airstream.

I am interpreting from your inquiry that you are hoping to get this rig liveable as quickly as possible at the least cost possible. If this is your goal, I would suggest that you ask the owner to demonstrate each of the following to insure its proper functioning (then be prepared to deduct from your offer the cost of a replacement where necessary):
  • Refrigerator. If the refrigerator is original to the coach it is beyond its expected life. That doesn't mean that it may not be fully functional as many of these Dometics make it well beyond their expected life with a little TLC. A non-operative refrigerator can mean, at the minimum a $700 rebuilt cooling unit . . . $1,000+/- for a new replacement. In examining the photos again, I note that the refrigerator IS NOT original and appears to be a home type refrigerato . . . this would pose problems if you plan to travel with the coach as a AC refrigerator cannot effectively be operated in a trailer while underway.
  • Water Heater. If the water heater is original to the coach it is well beyond its life expectancy. Any use obtained from such a unit is a "bonus". Both of my coaches had original water heaters when I purchased them, and each required new replacement during my first year of ownership due to leaking tanks. A ballpark figure for a new water heater would be $750.
  • Air Conditioner. The original Bay Breeze may prove to be non-functional, and if that should be the case a quality rebuild/refurbish is likely to run between $250 and $600 depending upon the parts needed. If it is functional, there is no way of predicting how long it will continue before repairs are needed . . . but the nice thing is that it is repairable.
  • Water System. If the coach has spent its life in a temperate environment where freezing isn't an issue, this may not be important, but in my area it is very important. Ask that the owner demonstrate that the water system works both on city supply and the demand system utilzing the onboard water tank. This is an area that can become expensive if there is extensive freeze damage and you need to have a technician make the repairs. Should the water tank be missing, a replacement typically runs between $250 and $700 depending upon its design and where it is located in the coach. Should the demand system water pump be missing that part typically ranges between $100 and $400 depending upon brand chosen. PAR was the brand of choice when the coach was new, and if it is still presnt, it is likely rebuildable (a boat dealer is more likely to have parts as they were more common in boats than in RVs).
  • Univlot. This one item to hope has been replaced. Univolts from this time period have the reputation of being very hard on batteries . . . they are known for boiling the electrolyte and seriously shortening battery life. Should the Univolt need replacing, the cost can approach $300+/- just for a quality power converter.
  • Furnace. Should you be planning any use where the furnace will be necessary for heat, it is best to assume that it will require replacement unless the current owner has hard evidence that is was replaced within the past few years.
  • Range. Vintage ranges typically remain functional indefinitely, but that isn't always true of the oven. If you plan on utilizing the oven it is wise to ask that it be demonstrated. I haven't priced a range with oven recently in the RV sector, but suspect that the prices start around $400. I would be suspicious of the oven since there is a microwave sitting on the counter in one of the photos.
  • Waste Water Holding Tank. This coach would have been equipped with a blackwater tank below the toilet. Realistically all you can do during a typical inspection is verify that it is present. You probably won't discover until preparing for a trip whether the dump valve is functional, leaks or is frozen in position. It is comparatively rare for one of these tanks to fail unless it has been abused in some way . . . I had to replace the tank in my Overlander after I was high centered on a county road that broke off the dump valve fixture from its mounting on the tank (the tank basically shattered). I believe that the replacement tank on mine was $600+ . . . it was close to $2,000 by the time I added shipping/handling, professional installation, and a new toilet to replace the 30 year old Thetford toilet that was in the coach. A coach of this era was not factory equipped with a gray water tank.
  • Axles. This coach would have had Henschen DuraTorque axles from the factory, and if they haven't been replaced in the past five to ten years, the axles will likely need replacement to prevent damage to the coach from poor suspension performance. Replacment axle prices are heavily infuenced by distance shipped and what options are chosen. Typically new axles run from $600 to $1,000 each depending upon options (the top price including disc brake option). When the coach is sitting on a comparatively level surface, you should be able to see about an inch of tire between wheelwell edge and bead of wheel . . . less is one indicator of likely worn axle . . . an axle arm that is level with the coach's frame or pointing up is also and indicator of worn axle.
In one of the photos, I noted what appears to be a missing cabinet door on the base of the front lounge as well as one beside the refrigearator. This isn't a huge problem as it is something that a decent woodworker can reproduce, but matching the stain to the existing woodtones can be a challenge. I suspect that the kitchen area has seen some serious modifications since the refrigerator is not original and it appears that the countertops are not original and at least one cabinet appears to be missing a door.

I would suggest downloading and printing a copy of the Inspectors Checklist to take with you when you view the coach.

I am not trying to discourage you with my comments. I have been through a number of inspections of these "as found" coachs and what I have described are some of the issues that I have discovered.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:18 PM   #6
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2008 25' Safari FB SE
Grand Junction , Colorado
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The experts have spoken (actually written), but what I see is a dirty trailer on the outside and a kind of messy one inside. That is not a good sign.

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Old 01-11-2013, 09:48 AM   #7
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1997 34' Limited
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Help needed...

Read and read the suggestions offered!! We have owned two AS trailers and went to see a possible third Wednesday. We used the AirForums Checklist as a guideline, and it saved us $22K + the mucho dineros needed for repairs. Owner misrepresentation did not compound into "buyer's remorse." Thank you to all who offer their assistance along the way. =)

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