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Old 06-12-2015, 10:07 PM   #1
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starstruck08's Avatar
1976 25' Tradewind
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 77
I can't stop thinking about this gutted Overlander

I might be crazy, but I'm seriously considering buying a gutted Airstream.

1968 Overlander - South Carolina


I need someone to either talk me out of it or show me success/horror stories from similar purchases. The frame looks nice, so as long as it's not a frame-off restoration I can deal with everything else, it just is QUITE a lot that will need replacing. I've already budgeted the major stuff out and I could theoretically afford it with what I've saved up as long as I talk them down a bit on the price.

Just... I'd almost rather get a gutted one and KNOW what I'm getting on the underside than buy one that has all the original parts and then find out that the frame is rotted, or none of the parts work, etc. It also FEELS like a smaller commitment because of the smaller price tag, even though I know it'll cost the same as or more than one that's already started once I replace all the major parts.

But the idea of designing it from the ground up is SO tempting oh my god.

I blame the THIS beautiful rehab job for giving me the rehab bug. It's so cute ijustwannasnuggleit.

ACTUALLY, what would be really helpful would be suggestions of a REALISTIC budget when it comes to fixing this thing up. All the bits and pieces and interior decorating stuff. I tend to use a lot of reclaimed and recycled things, so I'll be pinching pennies everywhere I can. I already know that JUST replacing major stuff like the important appliances, the electric jack, the propane tanks, adding sway bars, etc is going to cost upwards of $2k.

But like, how much is it to install PEX plumbing? Electrical? What about the tanks if they're missing? The LP lines? Countertops? Tankless water heater?

I'm so out of my league it's not even funny. I definitely want a challenge, and I love the pricetag. Just to get the ESSENTIALS done requires about $4-$5, plus ??? to get it actually camp-worthy. I know it'll be more time and effort, but I kind of like that. I kind of want it to be my own.

And if I dump $5-$6 on one that's intact and it turns out to be a junk heap, I'm out a lot more money on initial purchase AND I have to do all the work of gutting it before I can do anything with it. At least with this one I can see the frame and the structure before I buy, and I can rust-proof the frame and install my own subfloor and design my own layout. No nasty surprises when everything is exposed, right?
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Old 06-12-2015, 10:10 PM   #2
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1976 25' Tradewind
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 77
In my excitement, I forgot to say that I'm not stupid. I will be THOROUGHLY inspecting this thing before I make any decisions, and with any luck I'll have my Airplane engineer cousin with me when I look at it, due to it's location. If the rusting is bad enough to need welding or frame off, I'm out. I can't handle that.

But I'm just delusional enough to believe I can handle the rest. Is it anywhere near realistic to think I could have it done in a year while working a part time job? Anybody?
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Old 06-12-2015, 10:16 PM   #3
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1995 25' Excella
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Maybe if it were free. I would guess your $6k budget will be about half of what it really takes.

I recently bid on a 1968 Ambassador at a local auction that had a complete makeover. New axles, new air, new appliances, custom cabinets, new awning....the works. It appeared ready to go. It sold for $11500.
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Old 06-12-2015, 10:48 PM   #4
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2004
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I agree, it would probably take $12K to get it road worthy. You're going to need new axles (get them loaded with brakes, etc.), new water lines, propane lines, and electrical system... almost sure to need new converter, fuse block. Just getting it to "rolling tent with bathroom" is going to require plumbing, water heater, water pump, white gray and black water tanks, water lines and sewer lines... and of course all of the bath & kitchen fixtures.

I started following this forum in about 2006 - and prices to do a restoration/renovation have only gone up. The big expenses aren't "furniture" they are plumbing, electrical, propane systems and appliances.

The GREAT side of doing an almost full monte restoration is that you become a really well qualified RV tech in the process - and nothing scares you because you can almost always fix it yourself. (Now I put in a new water pump and it nearly killed me - age is not your friend. Getting the work done, not that bad... getting back up afterwards... like breakfast cereal - snap, crackle, pop!)

Really read a few restoration threads - and understand you might be camping in it in 2017, not earlier - before you take up the crusade. Lots of people who do this have a "now camper" and a "project". If your goal is to camp this year look hard at your budget.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 06-12-2015, 11:52 PM   #5
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,591
$12k to $16k and a huge amount of work, years worth. Do you want to hone your skills, learn new words and variations on "f...." or do you want to go camping?

It is hard to believe how much money you can put into a project like that shell, and how much time.

Just so you know.....
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Old 06-13-2015, 12:41 AM   #6
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1962 19' Globetrotter
1963 19' Globetrotter
1961 19' Globetrotter
Wheat Ridge , Colorado
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 624
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FYI: the trailer you are looking at in the state and condition it is is worth about $4,000.00 or less in todays market price. It will take at least $20,000 to get to the trailer you have listed as your dream trailer. It will also take over a year to do and hours of sweat and tears.

Do you have the drive?

Do you have the tools?

Do you have the place to do the work?
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
WBCCI # 1962
Instagram #Vinstream
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Old 06-13-2015, 11:18 AM   #7
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1975 27' Overlander
LaVale , Maryland
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 57
We bought Shiny Beast for $3200 a year ago and the interior was complete since then we've replaced the plumbing, rear floor in bathroom, axles, curtains, re upholstered the beds and fixed lots of little problems and we already have $12,000+ in it but we are now camping in it on South Carolina today. The gutted trailer looks like $20,000+ and many man hours of serious labour.
Britbat & the Shiny Beast
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Old 06-13-2015, 11:23 AM   #8
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1964 26' Overlander
Crestview Hills , Kentucky
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 4
We found a '64 Overlander that we are gutting right now. Next step is take it to Colin Hyde to do a body off restoration, pre wire and plumbing rough in. Then I'll do the finish work myself. We're planning on at least $20k and 2 years but will have an AS that will last another 50 years and bring priceless pleasure to us and our family. DO IT
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Old 06-13-2015, 12:29 PM   #9
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1968 17' Caravel
Battle Ground , Washington
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 12,181
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I would say needing welding done on the frame is not a deal breaker. You can hire someone to come out and do that work, that is what we did on our trailer. And it looks like the frame is all exposed so easy to check out.

I think it looks like a fun project. But I agree with what others are saying - we had $6k into ours with a new axle, new appliances, and a new floor. I didn't even have to touch the electrical or plumbing and put the original furniture right back in it. And it's only 1/3rd the size! You might need to expand your budget a bit.

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Old 06-13-2015, 12:42 PM   #10
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1973 27' Overlander
Portland , Texas
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 7
Go For It

I redid a 73 overlander, actually still a work in progress, but love it. I can do all the work myself including welding, but like someone said do what you can and hire the rest, The first year might be an aluminum tent with bathroom, but that is a big deal compared to walking up or down the hill to public restroom at 3 am. Keep track of cost, go slow, read a lot, and enjoy. Use the current state of trailer to negotiate. Not many people will be interested in that big a project. Like you said, you could spend more and still have a redo on your hands in a short time. In fairness, I am biased, I am the proverbial do it yourself guy. When you do it, you know what you have,
Good luck!
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Old 06-13-2015, 01:37 PM   #11
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2013 31' Classic
billings , Montana
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Looks like a lever- rite, leave it rite where you found it....
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Old 06-13-2015, 02:02 PM   #12
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1971 31' Sovereign
1972 31' Sovereign
1983 31' Airstream310
Soddy Daisy , Tennessee
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 629
68 Overlander

If your willing to spend the time and some elbow grease you can have a nice Airstream. I bought a 72 31' Sovereign that I had to set the body back on the frame to bring it home. I have spent about 3,000.00 for axles, vents, 3/4" flooring with epoxy, and appliances etc: to get it dried in and now starting on wiring then the interior. Already painted the top to help with cooling and resealed the windows. Just shop around for deals. You will have enough people on this site to help you with almost anything. Minno, Aerowood, and others have helped me tremendously. Go for it if it is what you want. Everybody thought I was nuts but now they like my 72.
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Old 06-13-2015, 02:27 PM   #13
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1973 27' Overlander
Catfish Corners , Georgia
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 5,652
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Originally Posted by idroba View Post
$12k to $16k and a huge amount of work, years worth. Do you want to hone your skills, learn new words and variations on "f...." or do you want to go camping?

It is hard to believe how much money you can put into a project like that shell, and how much time.

Just so you know.....
It's almost like you were looking over my shoulder while I was doing my Full Monte.

I would say $12-$16k is a good ballpark figure for this job, however, there's a lot of howevers.......

Some of the windows are missing. The windows on the '68 are somewhat unique and impossible to find. But, you can make some out of Plexiglass. Holes on the skin?? WHat does that mean?? Looks like a big crease above the streetside wheel well, as well.

You will need (pretty much) access to a woodshop to build the interior.

Lastly, the interior walls and floor need to be back in place before you try to haul that thing to South Florida. Others will debate that point, BTW.

If it were me, I would pass on this one. There are plenty of Vintage units out there that will be an easier restoration than this one.

Just my 2 cents.


Air No. 6427
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Old 06-19-2015, 08:35 PM   #14
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1976 25' Tradewind
Tallahassee , Florida
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 77
Thanks for all the advice! I ended up not going to see it. With the brakes busted and one bad wheel and six windows missing AND the floor pulled up, I wouldn't have been able to tow it home even if I liked the condition of it.

This experience has told me that I don't mind a gutted trailer, but it definitely has to be intact with windows, whether they're original or plexiglass. I can take my time replacing a plexiglass window, but a missing window is a bit harder to deal with.
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Old 06-19-2015, 11:20 PM   #15
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1974 Argosy 20
2014 20' Flying Cloud
Kooskia , Idaho
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,591
A very wise decision. You will find another which is more suited to your needs I am sure.
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:25 AM   #16
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1973 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 776
A quote from another board: There is nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes. Bottom line is that if you really want to get into an Airstream or a Mercedes for that matter, you are better off spending more up front and find one in decent condition than taking on a basket case. You will spend less and have way fewer headaches down the road.

Ongoing adventures at:
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