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Old 06-26-2006, 09:50 AM   #1
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1977 31' Sovereign
Erie , Pennsylvania
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Almost A New Owner of a 1977 Sovereign

Hello All,
I am in the breaucratic process of purchasing a 1977 31' Sovereign from an estate. I'm hopefully going to be able to pick it up late this week and get it ready for my vacation next week...nothing like waiting until the last minute right! It needs a little cleaning, and general repair but it's in overall good condition (I think) I have a general question for anyone that happens to read this. I have an 02 HD Chevy that can drag a house (without wheels) down the road. (That was supposed to be a joke!) Anyway I am used to towing the 25' horse trailer with 4 horses down the road. The airstream is 140 miles from home, I've made the trip before with a 16' uhaul. My concern is that it is a 90% interstate drive, and I know nothing about this trailer other than what I have seen, so I'm not sure what to expect while towing it. It's significantly larger than the horse trailer, but it is about the same weight or lighter. When I was talking to the woman about purchasing this she said that there was a problem with the frame and needed repaired before it would pass inspection and that someone told her that it could be safely towed at 25mph. I thoroughly looked over this trailer and the only thing that I could find wrong with the frame is that on the back bumper where they have a bike rack attached it has rusted through, broke off and is only holding on on the left side. I figured afew bungie cords would hold this down to get it home to repair it. The rest of the visible frame in the back was solid, with moderate rust, but there were no problems. So to finally get to the question is....is there anything that I should really check out before heading home, and what can I expect for the drive? The last time the trailer was moved was a few years ago. Also, I've read that driving without the brakes hooked up is hazardous to your health. I do not know what sort of brakes this has on it, but they might not be working to get it home...is this a huge problem? I will have it fixed when I get home where resources are a plenty.
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Old 06-26-2006, 10:38 AM   #2
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We have done a few shows on traveling to get a trailer, and you should give them a listen. Why don't you just cut the bumper off, to save you the grief of wondering if it is still holding, and if you don't, I'd use ratchet straps. I'd be less worried about brakes, if it is 90% Interstate like you mention, but more about the tires. Just take it slow, and you'll be fine. Any pictures of this montrosity?

Rob
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Old 06-26-2006, 02:49 PM   #3
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This unit may have the disk brakes that are vacuum operated, if the previous owner did not change them. To pick it up and have the brakes work you would have to install a vacuum line from the manifold back to the rear bumper of the TV. Not practical as you are likely to abandon these brakes for electrics if you follow the lead of most other 77 owners. If the gound is fairly flat to the pickup place and back I would not worry. Check for dry rot on the tires. You can easily do $1000 of damage when one of them blow. New tires will be needed anyway. Go a day early, take the wheels off and have the tires renewed. Look carefully at that rear frame to make sure it has not started to droop. 77 31's are famous for that and it will cost you $2000 to fix it. Also check for bulges on the side of the trailer that is another sign you are in for big money ($2,000 + )to fix the frame.
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Old 06-26-2006, 03:43 PM   #4
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bearings

Bearings should be repacked and make sure the rubber is good
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Old 06-26-2006, 04:33 PM   #5
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Woodstock , Georgia
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I'd like to chime in as I just got a 78 Sovereign. Can I buy a "generic" brake controller like Tekonsha and use it with the electric brakes on this trailer? Do I care if I have one I I am not doing a lot of mountain ( but some) towing?
I don't yet own an equalizing hitch, other than the old bars that came with this rig, should I use these or invest in newer? I can sell the stowmaster tow bar from my moho toad to help pay for this stuff.
Lastly (for this go round), as I am used to filling the permanent mounted lp tank do I pull off the tanks and take em in to get filled or do you leave them while mounted when pulling the trailer?
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Old 06-26-2006, 04:43 PM   #6
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1993 21' Sovereign
Colfax , North Carolina
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ALANSD
I'd like to chime in as I just got a 78 Sovereign. Can I buy a "generic" brake controller like Tekonsha and use it with the electric brakes on this trailer? Do I care if I have one I am not doing a lot of mountain ( but some) towing?
I don't yet own an equalizing hitch, other than the old bars that came with this rig, should I use these or invest in newer? I can sell the stowmaster tow bar from my moho toad to help pay for this stuff.
Lastly (for this go round), as I am used to filling the permanent mounted lp tank do I pull off the tanks and take em in to get filled or do you leave them while mounted when pulling the trailer?
Alan, congratulations on your latest obsession, er, project. We have Tekonsha Voyager controller for ours, and it works very well, it was about $70 or so. As long as the old WD bars are suitable for your tow vehicle, and not excessively rusty (as in rotted out) there is no reason not to use them, at least in the short term.
As for the tanks, I have always pulled mine off, and taken them to be filled. It's usually, but not always, cheaper to take them in, than have the LP brought to you.
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Old 06-26-2006, 06:04 PM   #7
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1977 31' Sovereign
Erie , Pennsylvania
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Now I'm worried

All this talk of blown tires and a damaged frame is making me ill. The tires were put on about two years ago and it wasn't ever used. I hope they are good enough to make it home. They looked great to me, they have more tread on them and less cracks then the new ones on my car. I was reading up on frame seperation and most of the forums talk about 31'ers with the bath in the back, mine has the bath in the centre. Since the bumper is 1/2 broke off I can't really do the bumper test. Would the rusted off bumper where the bike rack connected be any sign of a bad frame, or just neglect at a weak spot? I don't remember seing any buckels on the sides or any apparent sag in the back, this will have to wait for further inspection. How does one repack the bearings? Is this something that can wait until I get it home or is it imerative that it is done before I bring it home? My resouces are very limited in the area I am picking it up in so the least I have to do there the better. Thanks again.
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Old 06-26-2006, 06:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrk247
All this talk of blown tires and a damaged frame is making me ill. The tires were put on about two years ago and it wasn't ever used. I hope they are good enough to make it home. They looked great to me, they have more tread on them and less cracks then the new ones on my car. I was reading up on frame seperation and most of the forums talk about 31'ers with the bath in the back, mine has the bath in the centre. Since the bumper is 1/2 broke off I can't really do the bumper test. Would the rusted off bumper where the bike rack connected be any sign of a bad frame, or just neglect at a weak spot? I don't remember seing any buckels on the sides or any apparent sag in the back, this will have to wait for further inspection. How does one repack the bearings? Is this something that can wait until I get it home or is it imerative that it is done before I bring it home? My resouces are very limited in the area I am picking it up in so the least I have to do there the better. Thanks again.
Okay, to help put perspectiver on a problem with your coach that may or may not exist, you coach would be the easiest one to repair if it does have frame and floor rot in the rear, as you would not have to do anything but pull out the bed and maybe some cabinetry, no plumbing. If the tires are only two years old, you should have no problems with them, just make sure they are properly inflated. It would be a very good idea to have the wheel bearings repacked before leaving with it, and you will be able to see what condition the brakes are in at the same time.
Repacking the bearings is not hard, if you have ever done this on your 1968 Chevy pickup with drum brakes, you have the skills to do this.
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Old 06-26-2006, 06:59 PM   #9
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1979 31' Excella 500
1975 28' Argosy 28
Rutledge , Georgia
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A mid-bath rear twin is the easiest model to check for rear rot on. The beds tilt up and you can see the floor. You can see the floor through the aft streetside compartment door, too.

The test of looking for skin crinkles just behind the rear wheel is not too useful on a 31, however. They are easily indicative of a tail drag event. Would that be how the bumper got partially broken off?

I also removed a 50 lb bike from the back of mine. (Why tempt things? It was just so much more weight hanging out the back.)

Lamar
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Old 06-27-2006, 01:32 PM   #10
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We have a 31ft 75 model with the center bath and you can check under the beds for rot. Like the others have stated you have to be veryyy careful with tail drag we found that out last camping trip. We have a 03 truck like yours and I also have pulled many many horse trailers. When you pull the Airstream it's a whole different feel. Ours is so smooth and with sway bars and a good hitch you don't even know it's there.
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Old 06-29-2006, 10:44 AM   #11
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1977 31' Sovereign
Erie , Pennsylvania
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Pics and such

Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
Repacking the bearings is not hard, if you have ever done this on your 1968 Chevy pickup with drum brakes, you have the skills to do this.
Nope, never done this...The truck is an 02 and still under warranty! The extent of my vehicle skills is changing the brakes.

Mine has a queen/full bed, how's checking for rot and a bad frame with this layout?

What are sway bars? Laying on the floor there are some extra bars and a strange hitch. I assume this is some sort of sway control?

At any rate, it doesn't look like I will get to spend my vacation next week in the camper, but rather working on the camper! Oh well, atleast it will be ready for use.

Attached below are some pictures. A few of the outside, one of the rust damaged bumper, and one of these sway bars.
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Old 08-06-2006, 02:52 PM   #12
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1979 31' Excella 500
1975 28' Argosy 28
Rutledge , Georgia
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Hi, JRK,

Well, it looks like you have a Reese Dual-Cam hitch setup on the trailer, and those are the lift bars. Usually the seller will include the forward part - the mount and actual hitch that plug into the receiver.

Post #7 on this

http://www.airforums.com/forum...tup-24880.html

thread shows what the hitch parts look like, and post 11 shows what it looks like when hitched up.

Bike rack BAD. I took one off of my '79 and was really surprised at how heavy it was.

If you open the rear side compartment, I think you can get to the floor there. Other places to check include under any window that may have been leaking, around the battery boxes, around the toilet, around the water fill, around the water heater, and around the water inlet.

It looks about time to replace the carpeting anyway, so that'll give you great access to inspect the floor.

Looks like the shell is nicely intact. (Mine has dents and waves).

By the way, you DID get this trailer to have something to work on, right?

Lamar
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Old 08-06-2006, 03:01 PM   #13
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1979 31' Excella 500
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Rutledge , Georgia
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And the owner of Buttercup (a '77 Overlander) has some information on how to repack the wheel bearings here:

http://overlander.archnevada.com/index.php?repack

Lamar
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Old 08-17-2006, 09:44 AM   #14
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1977 31' Sovereign
Erie , Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SafeHarbor
Bike rack BAD. I took one off of my '79 and was really surprised at how heavy it was.

If you open the rear side compartment, I think you can get to the floor there. Other places to check include under any window that may have been leaking, around the battery boxes, around the toilet, around the water fill, around the water heater, and around the water inlet.

It looks about time to replace the carpeting anyway, so that'll give you great access to inspect the floor.

Looks like the shell is nicely intact. (Mine has dents and waves).

By the way, you DID get this trailer to have something to work on, right?

Lamar
The bike rack was the first thing to go in the big clean out. Followed by the carpet. The floor in this was fairly good. The only bad spot that I could find was all the way in the back. I replaced it in about 1/2 a day. The rest of the floor is great. The shell is in decent condition, there are some scratches on it, but nothing major. I didn't set out to buy one to work on but, the price was right and the condition was fair. It doesn't really have anything severly wrong with it, just some things here and there that are to be expected with a 30 y/o trailer.

I did replace the carpet in the front and back, and also put some laminate in the kitchen area. I was amazed to find that the orange fabric on the couch was in perfect condition.

Thanks for the links

Jake
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Old 08-17-2006, 10:56 AM   #15
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Jake, we hope you managed to go camping as well as getting so much done cleaning up your new trailer. It sounds like you have made some major strengthening and brightening changes with your flooring. Post some pics of the new interior soon to show off your new look! Congrats. ~G
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Old 08-17-2006, 05:35 PM   #16
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Hi, Jake,

You get gallery space with a membership here. How about a picture of the couch?

Lamar
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Old 08-18-2006, 03:22 PM   #17
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About your brakes are they electric? If so make sure you have good controller. If you have hydraulic brakes replace with electric easy to do for about 420 bucks with new pads and everything (brake's also help with swaying thats why I say get new brakes) new Marathon tires 420 bucks with new heavy duty valves and balenced...
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Old 08-27-2006, 09:01 AM   #18
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Erie , Pennsylvania
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Uploaded some pics.

I uploaded some pictures this am. They're in the members area. Remember it's a work in progress. I took it out a few weeks ago, to break it in and find all the things that I need to fix. It's been sitting in the yard since then so that I cna fix everything. I camp out in the weekends and pretend I'm further in the woods than I am. (100' from the house but there's trees around) My grandmother stayed in it for a week (we referred to it as the guest house) and she thought it was greatest thing, next to spending the week with me. The next big trip is Labor day weekend for 5 days. I got the crack in the water tank fixed and the valves on the holding tank fixed, electric fixed so I'm almost set. I discovered yesterday that the full propane tank leaks propane around the knob when you turn it on so now I'm in a rush to get some new opd lines installed so I can use the tanks from the grill until I get the old tanks updated...they're aluminum so I'm going to get new valves put on.

The brakes are hydraulic and not hooked up at this time, that will be next years project, this trip will probably be the last trip for the year and it tows and stops fine without them. (It's getting closer to winter and I need to get back to working on the house) Electric brakes for $420 sounds like a good deal...where would I get those? I currently have the hydra-vac disc brakes.

There, I think I covered everything in the previous posts. Have a great Sunday.
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Old 08-27-2006, 09:44 AM   #19
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1977 31' Sovereign
Erie , Pennsylvania
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http://www.airforums.com/photo...0&userid=14384

So that you don't have to go find them...here they are.
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Old 08-31-2006, 07:53 PM   #20
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1979 31' Excella 500
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Rutledge , Georgia
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Hi, Jake,

Thanks! That's a very cool trailer. I came of age during the 70's and it reminds me of just cool we were. (Don't tell the modern kids that we knew just as much about fun and debauchery as they do now . . . and we still do!)

Nice-looking radio installation, too.

I love the couch, but I wonder if it's original? The fabric looks TOO NICE somehow.

Love the flower-power bathroom print. Alas, I got an old-fogy's trailer, and to make the point, Airstream not-so-subtly put an autumn-leaves print in the john.

And, cool man! Ducted air-conditioning in an Airstream!

Looks like you have the frost-free Dometic, too. Check to see if it has two sets of wires going into the flue assembly - it might be a three-way with a 12 VDC option!

Jake, I love it. You have a great looking trailer there.

Hmm... this is a biggo trailer to be hauling without any brakes. I would not recommend that. That sounds biggo dangerous to me.

What some folks here have done is keep the disc brakes and dump the controller/vacuum actuator and all its complications in favor of a new electric-over hydraulic controller. I think it's more cost effective than either repairing the existing system or converting to electrics. It's certainly what I'd consider if my '79 still had the discs when I bought it (knowing what I know now - and learned here).

Safe travels!

Lamar
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