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Old 06-13-2024, 07:51 PM   #1
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1986 25' Sovereign
Bayville , New York
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Road Worthy/ Worth the Project?

I have recently been given the opportunity to use my grandparents 1986 25í sovereign which I would love to do but am worried about the safety of the floor and frame. It has been outside for its entire life and hasnít seen the road in 5 years. I believe the belly pan also fell off of the trailer when it was being driven 5 years ago which seems concerning. Obviously the tires, bearings, etc would be replaced but is the frame something I can inspect myself or do I need to bring someone to come check it out for me? I did notice some rust on the part of the frame connecting to the hitch which worried me but maybe thatís more common than structural frame rust under the trailer considering itís completely exposed. Also, does anyone know if this year/model airstream is one that is more prone to any frame or floor issues than other models?

This seems like a great opportunity for a long road trip across the US considering the AS in its current state comes at no cost, but is this something thatís worth it to quickly make safe for the road or am I going to find myself pouring way more money money than I should into it? My initial thought was to get the frame inspected and see if it can be salvaged without a shell off repair, but if the frame is too far gone to scrap the idea. Any input is appreciated!
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Old 06-13-2024, 10:20 PM   #2
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RE: Road Worthy/Worth the Project?

Greetings Streamnoob! Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstreams!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Streamnoob View Post
I have recently been given the opportunity to use my grandparents 1986 25í sovereign which I would love to do but am worried about the safety of the floor and frame. It has been outside for its entire life and hasnít seen the road in 5 years.
The fact that the trailer has been stored outdoors its entire life should not be an immediate red flag nor the fact that it hasn't been on the road for five years. Both my 1964 Airstream Overlander Land Yacht International and my 1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre have had outdoor storage their entire lives with most of that time being on either concrete, blacktop or gravel pads. The five years of inactivity can result in a few possible problems, but then again it shouldn't be a terribly significant factor. I just brought my Airstream and Argosy out of over five years of inactive storage, and the biggest factor was replacing window treatments that didn't withstand laundering.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Streamnoob View Post
I believe the belly pan also fell off of the trailer when it was being driven 5 years ago which seems concerning.
Loosing the belly pan while underway can happen rather easily as I found out from personal experience. A row of rivets failed and allowed the belly pan to droop down which allowed it to catch the wind under the trailer which in turn ripped the cover from most of the other rivets leaving me no alternative than to pull what remained of the belly pan off. Should you find that the belly pan is actually missing, it may actually be good news in some ways as it means that the frame has been well ventilated in its absence, and you will be able to see most if not all of the frame members. Surace rust is to be expected, but rust so severe that it is causing flaking or holes in the frame components is reason for concern. It also means that the insulation that was above the belly pan may also have fallen away leaving you easier access to the subfloor to assess its condition.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Streamnoob View Post
Obviously the tires, bearings, etc would be replaced but is the frame something I can inspect myself or do I need to bring someone to come check it out for me? I did notice some rust on the part of the frame connecting to the hitch which worried me but maybe thatís more common than structural frame rust under the trailer considering itís completely exposed.
You are correct, after that length of inactivity, you would want to replace the tires. In addition to cleaning, inspecting, and repacking the bearings, you would need to be prepared to replace the brakes as well. Should the brakes need replacement, the least expensive approach it typically to purchase fully loaded backing plates from a trailer supply parts source or even some automotive supply stores. Something else to bear in mind is that the original DuraTorque Torsion Axles are beyond their expected useful life, and if original will need to be high on your priority list for replacement. Surface rust shouldn't be of great concern, but should be processed and coated with a rust encapsulating/preventative paint product at your first opportunity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Streamnoob View Post
Also, does anyone know if this year/model airstream is one that is more prone to any frame or floor issues than other models?
The mid-1980s Airstreams were not particularly noted for any particular structural issues particularly in the 25-foot and under models. As with any Airstream, it is necessary to check carefully along the interior perimeter for signs of water infiltration particularly under windows and near any access hatches. A sharp pointed awl can be helpful to probe suspect areas to determine if the subfloor is soft. Small areas of rot are not necessarily reasons to condemn a trailer as there are a number of means of addressing small areas that do not require hugely invasive solutions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Streamnoob View Post
This seems like a great opportunity for a long road trip across the US considering the AS in its current state comes at no cost, but is this something thatís worth it to quickly make safe for the road or am I going to find myself pouring way more money money than I should into it? My initial thought was to get the frame inspected and see if it can be salvaged without a shell off repair, but if the frame is too far gone to scrap the idea. Any input is appreciated!
A big part of the answer to your question may be to assess the current status of the Airstream in question. Check the homepage of this sight, and look to the right hand margin and you will find a section that mentions volunteer inspectors. Within that section is a document Trailer Inspection Checklist that is a good place to start to asses the viability of a project. You might even consider contacting one of the volunteer inspectors near the trailer to assist you with the evaluation.

These links may help with information as well:

1986 Sovereign 25-Foot Brochure Page -- Airstream website.

1986 Airstream Travel Trailer Specifications, Page 1 -- Airstream website.

1986 Airstream Travel Trailer Specifications, Page 2 -- Airstream website.

1986 Airstream Travel Trailers Optional Equipment -- Airstream website.

1985 Airstream Owner's Manual -- Airstream website.

I included a link to the 1985 Owner's Manual as that is the closest year available on the Airstream website at the current time.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 06-13-2024, 10:42 PM   #3
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1986 25' Sovereign
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Kevin,

I had heard only good things about the community that exists on this forum, yet I am still in awe from the time and thought put into your thoroughly helpful response.

Thank you for the insights, this gives me confidence that if I do take on the project I’ll be able to tackle any issue I face!

Jon
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Old 06-14-2024, 07:54 AM   #4
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I'll never rebuild an Airstream or get an old one back on the road, but I'm in awe of anyone who attempts to and the vintage trailers themselves. It's fascinating to me at least. If you do go ahead, please post your results or start a build thread.
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Old 06-14-2024, 09:18 AM   #5
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Just saying welcome to the forums, neighbor!. I too am in awe. Love when these things get passed down and restored. Best of luck to you!
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Old 06-14-2024, 11:47 AM   #6
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1986 25' Sovereign
Huntsville , Alabama
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Stream noob, we've got a 1986 25' that has been outside it's entire life. Still all original except the hotwater heater and the axles. I replaced them a couple of years ago myself. The cost was a little over $2k. Saves the trouble of brakes and bearings. So check it out and go.
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Old 06-15-2024, 06:41 AM   #7
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Overlander64 hit almost everything and did it more effectively than I could. One thing that I would add is a shakedown cruise. Plan a short one or two night trip to somewhere nearby. You will learn a lot about everything from your towing setup to the state of the systems and appliances.
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Old 06-17-2024, 05:12 PM   #8
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If possible, do the shakedown cruise where it is located now. That won't cost you anything, and you can see what works and what doesn't. If lots of things will need repair or replacing you can add that to the budget for replacing tires, axles, batteries, etc.


Sometimes even free things can be too expensive. Other times, they can be great bargains. You won't know which it is until you start looking.
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