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Old 07-28-2015, 06:05 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1974 Argosy 26
Twin Cities , Minnesota
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 10
Newbie looking to find and restore vintage AS

Hi all!

I recently stumbled across a blog about restoring a 70's AS. Although I've got some DIY experience (full bathroom remodels, structural fixes, etc.), I've never spent any significant time inside a trailer, let alone worked on one. And yet... I'm intrigued by the idea of fixing up an older model to live in while I'm in grad school.

I've poked around on Craigslist and the forums here, and I've looked at a couple of blogs detailing "full monty" restoration projects, but I've still got some questions. Is it doable to buy and restore an older AS for 10K or under? I'd plan on doing all the work myself and with the help of some of my handier friends. (I mentioned this off-hand to some of my maintenance tech friends, and they have already said they'd want to be part of the restoration... so that wouldn't be quite as expensive as paying an electrician to come out, for example, but factor in pizza and beer.) The goal would be to live in this full-time for a couple of years, mostly parked, but ideally with some travel time during the summers between classes. I don't need the finished result to be fancy, but I do care about functional and safe!

Is this a total pipe dream? If not, what should I be looking for? I don't think I need a ton of space. I took a look at a newer 19' AS International, and that space or a little bigger would be about right. I also like the wraparound Corning windows a lot (but it seems that they might have some issues, as well?). If I didn't need to strip everything out (because of the rot and structural issues that seem to plague so many vintage AS's), it'd be great to have a rear bed/mid bath model, but that's not a necessary preference.

Thoughts? Advice? Recommendations? Thanks!!
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Old 07-28-2015, 07:00 PM   #2
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2006 23' Safari SE
Biloxi , Mississippi
Join Date: Nov 2011
Posts: 8,278
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It may be a pipe dream but it is an achievable pipe dream. Do your time and money estimates and then at a minimum double them. Good luck.

Do you know what a learning experience is? A learning experience is one of those things that says "You know that thing that you just did? Don't do that."
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Old 07-28-2015, 08:22 PM   #3
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Mission , Texas
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 836
Newbie looking to find and restore vintage AS

We found one nearby. Before going to look at it I did a worst scene rough guess as if it needed a total rebuild. The seller claimed everything worked but could not prove it since it wasn't hooked up. As I looked, I was mentally adding. The Mrs fell in love with it, the price was not prohbitive, so we bought it.

Once home ...

The sub-floor, AC (newer), fridge (newer 3 way), water heater (newer electronic ignition gas/110VAC), furnace (electronic ignition with new blower), catalytic heater, range top, battery and charger (newer 3 stage) were all okay.

Things that needed done besides a very thorough cleaning and rodent ridding, are/were the tires and axles need replaced, plumbing was replaced (to include faucets), repair the bed and gaucho, replace a broken wing window, repair the awning mounting and replace the fabric and lots of interesting PO remedies, repairs, or neglect.

It's not showroom quality, it's functionally wonderful. When everthing is complete we will have less in it than a smaller new white box.

To winter over in it, I'd add tank heaters, put a skirt around it, heat and insulate the fresh water in hose as well as the dirty water out lines.

So yes, it can be done.
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Old 07-29-2015, 08:12 AM   #4
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,905
Making a vintage trailer safe and liveable for 10k is do-able, but it depends HEAVILY upon the condition of the trailer in the first place. All previous owners think that their floors are solid, that the appliances are all functional, and that the camper is ready to go. You get a glimpse of the real situation by going through the buyer's inspection checklist available for download on the Portal page of the Forums, but things don't really get ugly until you are pulling up the floor covering, and even then, the condition of the frame is mostly unknowable without removing the belly skin.

When you get into "full rebuild" mode, expect to spend a lot of time--a lot more than you imagined/budgeted for. I have been working on a 21' trailer for 3 years now. It is my full time hobby, ie., weekends and evenings are mostly consumed by it. I too was looking for a trailer that could be spruced up on the cheap, and even spent 2 years looking for the perfect trailer. Turns out I ended up with rotting floors and a disintegrating frame, and it quickly turned into a shell-off complete rebuild. My realistic take on the vintage world is that most of the un-refurbed trailers out there are candidates for a shell-off.

So what can you do to meet your budget and timelines? Well, you can spend a lot of time finding a trailer that is in the best condition possible (note my comment above--didn't work out for me). I was focused mostly on finding a trailer of the right size and layout, and that didn't need sheet metal work. If you are flexible on size and layout, you will have more to choose from. The bigger trailers are more plentiful and usually cheaper than the little ones. A cheap buying price usually means more rebuild time and cost.

You can stretch your budget and buy a more expensive trailer to start with, ie., get something that costs around $10k in the first place, but someone else has already fixed the floor, replaced the axles, and done the heavy lifting. These may be less plentiful than the "field finds," but worth every penny if the repairs have been done correctly, and the trailer isn't just being flipped.

Manage your expectations. Read the Full Monte threads. Buy the old episodes of The VAP (Vintage Airstream Podcast). The early episodes discuss everything about finding, fixing, and restoring vintage airstreams. There is a lot of information that you can absorb during your daily commute or workout.

good luck!
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Old 07-29-2015, 08:19 AM   #5
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Yes, lots of YouTubes available!

An example of a series that doesn't do floor, frame or axles.

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Old 07-29-2015, 10:28 AM   #6
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1963 16' Bambi
1962 22' Safari
Yreka , California
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,936
It is very doable if you don't go super fancy... as long as the original you purchase has pretty good "bones". You will likely need to upgrade some of the electrical, and for that you might need a shell off... depends on what you find and what all you want to have working! We purchased a Bambi several years ago and my husband has a long thread here on the forum of everything he did and how he did it with lots of photos and diagrams. When you have time you might scroll through it!

Good luck! Lots of places to look for a restorable/repairable Airstream! Craigslist, here on the forums, just driving around you will be surprised how many you will see parked in someone's back yard! If you are going to live in it while going to school... I might suggest a Flying Cloud size (22 ft)... it will give you a "bedroom" kitchen, living, and bath area. So you will be able to have space for a desk, school supplies, computer, etc.

Have you looked at all the floor plans that are out there?
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