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Old 12-22-2010, 07:54 AM   #1
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LaBelle , Florida
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Airstream Comparison

We are looking to purchase a 2011 AS Flying Cloud 23FB and I am seeking information on quality of the new units as compared to ones built before Thor bought the company out. Please give me the good, the bad and the ugly
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Old 12-22-2010, 08:33 AM   #2
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Based on my 3 Airstreams, I would say that the quality has improved over the years, but they are still hand built trailers and each one has its own little quirks.
John W. Irwin
2018 Interstate GT, "Sabre-Dog V"
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Old 12-22-2010, 08:45 AM   #3
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Thor bought Airstream back in 1980 - 31 years before they built the trailer you're considering. Unless you're willing to buy the alternative - a vintage pre-Thor trailer and spend a lot of time and/or money restoring it to like-new condition - the answer to your question probably doesn't have much relevance to your current purchase decision.

But to answer the question, there were changes made in the mid-80s that were debatable: a move to OSB floors, a different grade of aluminum skin, and less frame structure/more windows. This manifested itself in floors that were even more susceptible to rot, the inability to get a mirror-like shine, and cracked skin and front end seperation in longer units.

Again though, those changes don't mean much if you're buying a 23FB, because they have plywood floors (like all new Airstreams now do) and it's short enough that the structural problems are unlikely to show up. There are plenty of complaints about filaform corrosion and fit and finish issues in newer trailers, particularly for the price. But to be honest, my pre-Thor trailer had some lapses in workmanship too...

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Old 12-22-2010, 08:57 AM   #4
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2015 25' FB Flying Cloud
2012 23' FB Flying Cloud
2005 25' Safari
Santa Rosa Beach , Florida
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

First off, welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

As to your questions, we have a 2005 Safari 25FB, named Lucy. We have spent almost 800 nights in Lucy, and have towed her 70,000 miles. Lucy has held up very well under heavy use.

I agree with John. If anything, the newer units are better than the older ones.

Additionally, Thor has owned Airstream since 1980. Pre-Thor units would be over 30 years old. I think that Airstreams are better today than they were in the 70's.

SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
WBCCI #3628 -- AIR #14872 -- TAC #FL-7
2015 FC 25' FB (Lucy) with HAHA
2020 Silverado 2500 (Vivian)
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:41 AM   #5
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South of the river , Minnesota
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Welcome to the forums. I hope you enjoy the purchasing process and whatever trailer you decide to buy.

I have had my trailer since April. There are many things that I consider "poor quality" about it. Some of them, like the TV mount, were just bad design, and easily corrected. Others, like the air conditioner, were due to supplier quality problems that Airstream/Thor, given their relatively small volume, cannot be, realistically, expected to resolve. Others, like missing screws and wires that aren't plugged in, were a result of the build process. Most of the problems that are important to me are being resolved over time either through warranty work or my own modifications.

Based on what I've seen, other RV brands are no better, and in many cases are far worse.

I don't believe that older trailers were, on the whole, when new, any better than new trailers are now. There were specific problems with particular trailers in particular eras with the earlier trailers having their own set of problems due to the limitations of materials and electrical components of the day.

My standards are high and I expect everything to work flawlessly. And I spend enough time in my trailer to notice things with my beachcomber's eye and engineer's mind. Many people here on the forums are the same way. More casual purchasers would never notice that the color from the lights isn't all the same shade of white etc.

There are many, many threads on quality here, and they're worth reading.
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:17 AM   #6
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For the price of these new units. I expect them to be almost perfect. I think if they were built in Japan or Korea. Where pride in workmanship is still practiced; you would see a big difference. The cars and trucks built in those countries are still superior to the U.S. made units: although, lately we are seeing significant improvements in the U.S. products.
You would think after some 70 years of building the same product; 99.9% of the same old problems would have vanished long ago.
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Old 12-22-2010, 12:39 PM   #7
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We are very happy with our (recently) new Airstream. Talking with other many RV owners, ours is at the top of the heap in terms of reliability. As for older Airstreams, they are like older cars, heavier built, but boy, are you in for some work and expense to get it in shape.

The secret is good maintenance. Plan on resealing all exterior sealed joints every few years, and always keep an eye on them. Leaks are common in all RV's and do the most damage. Keep good tires on it, winterize when needed, keep it clean, and store it under cover if at all possible. The sun is rough on the aluminum finish, rubber and plastic, sealants, and overheats the interior.

On a side note, take a second look at the 23 FB. A comfy bed and bath, but the living space is tiny. Our only regret with our 20 is that the only seating is the dinette. The 23 comes in two other configurations that provide seating options.

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Old 12-22-2010, 01:15 PM   #8
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If you cruise the Forum you will find many complaints about poor workmanship, corrosion and poor design in recent years. These are all based on personal experience of owners, but you will also find owners saying their units are fine.

Whether this discrepancy is caused by some units being built on Friday afternoon, or some workers are bad at their jobs and worked on some trailers and not others, or different expectations amongst owners is not easily resolved.

You can search starting on the Forums page, go to Airstream Trailer Forums, and then you'll see subforums for all possible models—once you click on one of them, you'll find threads about specific models' problems and some about quality. There is also a very lengthy corrosion thread (use search function) which takes eons to read through. Some things, despite years of complaints, never seem to change because, in my opinion, the company is very insular and unable to change.

Before Thor, Airstream was owned by Beatrice Foods in the '70's and it appears quality suffered through cost cutting and ownership by a company that knew nothing about travel trailers. Before Beatrice is the Wally Byam era and it appears high quality. Since Thor took over, quality started improving, but it appears cost cutting has been back for quite a while.

Our experience is that we bought new so we wouldn't have problems. We were wrong. We have had numerous problems based on low quality parts, poor workmanship and poor design. We also had problems with the dealer. By taking the trailer 1,400 miles to the company shop, most things were fixed well under warranty; we gave up on the dealer quickly.

If we were to do it again, we'd look for a fairly recent model gently used and let that owner eat the depreciation. And I'd consider other brands, some of which are better made. But reasons to buy an Airstream are they tow easily and are an American design icon. The coolness factor is important. Many RV's look like their interiors were designed in 1955, but not all. Some are better insulated and have better floor plans. It is said they don't last and Airstreams do. I think that is conventional wisdom—some other brands are well made, some are not. Some Airstreams have had serious structural issues, but because of the high prices for them, it is always worth fixing them—some people have had success getting these issues fixed past warranty on Airstream's nickel, others have not. That depends how and who you approach at Airstream.

If you buy an older unit, you will probably have to fix a lot of things, or pay the owner for his work. Just like a used car, there will be age related problems and the older, the more problems. But a new one, even it built midweek by the best workers, will eventually have problems. That is true of RV's in general—they are not built as well as cars. It helps to be mechanically proficient and have a lot of tools.

As for a specific model, go to dealers and examine the models carefully. Try out the bed, see how the toilet fits you, see if the cushions are comfortable, take your time. A fair number of people find the unit they bought is too small and trading up can be quite expensive.

Do lots of research. The Forum is full of information though you have to be careful analyzing it. This is a major purchase and you have to think it through carefully.

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Old 12-22-2010, 02:02 PM   #9
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I have a 2008 19' Bambi SE, aside from a few popped rivits, a screw or two coming out, I have had no problems at all with the unit. My only big complaint is the mattress that came with it, very poor quility. I ordered a custom made memory foam mattress, When I layed down on it I did not want to get back up. Much Much better. I full time in the unit, and have made 4 trips out to Big Bend, several trips to New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The unit has held up very well consindering the roads we have been down. I might consider upgrading to the 23' for more storage room and the double axle, but the 23FB although having the nice big queen bed seems smaller in the living area then my 19'. I would probably go for the 23' flying cloud and put my new custom mattress in it.
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Old 12-22-2010, 03:07 PM   #10
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New Quality

RWay, We purchased a new 2011 23 Int this summer. Newbies, we don't have a lot of experience compared to other folks here. Still, we have had only very minor issues to date. Couldn't be happier with the trailer, the dealer (Wood Travel in Grand Rapids, Mich.) or the folks at Airstream that coached us through the selection and manufacturing process. Our experience was that Airstream is, in fact, listening to the people on this forum and is serious about addressing their concerns. We haven't regretted our purchase for one minute and are looking forward to many miles of grins and giggles.
I will second C177tx on the mattress, though. Some people like hard mattresses. We couldn't deal with the stock one and immediately ran out to get a memory foam topper for it. I would suggest to Airstream that they partner with a premium manufacturer of mattresses and bedding (pillows were pretty basic, too). In all fairness, trying to make everybody happy when it comes to bedding is probably impossible. Still, if a custom cut memory foam mattress that fit our corner bed had been available as an option, we would have sprung for it.
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Old 12-22-2010, 04:31 PM   #11
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It seems most folks don;t like the stock mattress. We happen to love a firm mattress and wouldn't change it a bit. These things are really a matter of preference and can be easily changed or improved to suit the owners.
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Old 12-23-2010, 08:49 AM   #12
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Agreed on the mattress. When I was younger I could sleep on the ground, but not anymore. We also bought a memory foam topper right away.

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Old 12-23-2010, 04:59 PM   #13
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I have recieved several PM requesting the mattress company I used, It is one that I found mentioned in previous post here.

so I will post my reply to them here as well.

I ordered mine through Rocky Mountain Mattress

As I said in my original post, I am a full timmer, purchased my Bambi new, so the mattress that came with my AS was new as well. After sleeping on it every night for about a year it started to break down and have a valley in the middle, this was causing discomfort. I purchased a 2.5 inch memory foam topper from costco and cut to fit it myself. This improved but the valley in the undermattress still caused discomfort. I broke down and just ordered a new custom made mattress from Rocky Mountain after reading some reviews on this web site from past postings. I considered cutting a full size memory mattress myself but I am glad I spent the extra few dollars and had Rocky Mountain customs make me a mattress. I comes with a custom fit mattress coolmax cover, just like a factory mattress. If I had purchased the memory foam and cut it to size, I would have had to sew up a mattress cover myself and I have trouble sewing on a button. I went to a local mattress factory store here in Austin and they wanted a thousand dollars just to customize a full size memory foam mattress meaning $$$$$. I believe that the guy just did not want the business. I contacted Andrew with Rocky Mountain and they only charged me 60 dollars for the custom cutting and sewing of the cover plus free shipping and no sales tax. Not a bad deal. It took several weeks only because I made a templete of the orignal mattress using construction paper and mailed it to him. Contact him because if you do need a custom templete he will explain the how's and why's.

Andrews contact information

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Old 12-23-2010, 05:44 PM   #14
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Olathe , Kansas
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We have a Bambi CCD and have a foam mattress and love it! We bought standard (600 tc) bedding and use the garter straps and haven't had a problem.
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Old 12-23-2010, 06:06 PM   #15
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I have owned a 70's Excella, an 80's Excella, a 90's Excello, and a 00's Safari. IMHO the wide body trailers after mid 90's have been manufactured with better quality. I think they are easier to maintain and repair, and the technology is much improved. Just my opinion!
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Old 12-23-2010, 07:26 PM   #16
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I'll second the recommendation of Rocky Mountain Mattress. You will find a picture of my custom twin mattress installation and a photo of the wife and myself on their website. Their quality is first rate and their service is excellent.
John W. Irwin
2018 Interstate GT, "Sabre-Dog V"
WBCCI #9632
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