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Old 04-24-2015, 08:00 AM   #1
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1978 31' Excella 500
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Question Inherited a 1977 Airstream Excella, now what?

I have recently inherited a 1977 Airstream Excella and the 454 equipped Suburban used as a tow vehicle. It has been in covered storage for the last 16 or so years but I am not certain what was done to prepare it for storage although it was meticulously maintained up until the point it was put up.

I have been searching for instructions on how to prepare the trailer to be pulled out but I can't seem to find a comprehensive set of instructions on how to actually get things going. Where do I even start? I read some threads saying the axles will probably need to be replaced and the drum brakes might be seized but without pulling it out of the very tight storage area I'm not sure how to even check such a thing. I will be pulling it out with a tractor (as has always been done) and there is no power available on-site without about 500' of power cord.

I used to love going on trips in it when I was a boy but I was never privy to anything beyond cranking up the levelers and guiding the truck back to the hitch ball. I would appreciate any help as I would love to be on the road with the ol girl by summer!
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:39 AM   #2
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I would hook the tractor to it and pull it out. You will definitely need axles, bearings, brakes (which all come with the axles), shocks, and tires. Also batteries. At that point, you should be able to hook up to electricity and start checking things out.

I would put air pressure (about 35lbs) to the water system to check for leaks first, and if no leaks are found, then check out the water system. Then, on to the propane system which should also have the main lines under the trailer blown out with high pressure air to clear any oil that might have accumulated, then test as normal.

Good luck, and congratulations.
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:54 AM   #3
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Hello, Inwo. Welcome to the forum, and congratulations on the trailer, although "inheriting" might mean you've endured some family loss in the process. If so, my condolences.

Where are you in Western NY? My dad's side of the family is from wayyyyyy western NY, Sherman, Ripley, Westfield area.

I have no experience with Airstream axles. Like you, when my folks had an Airstream, I was in my teens and doing the jobs you described. However, if I was in your shoes, I would check for air in the tires (if you can squeeze in to do it), although they are going to be toast anyway, but maybe they'll be good enough to let you roll the trailer out of the storage area. I'd hitch on with the tractor and gently see if it will move. Can someone spot for you while you're attempting to move it? If it moves OK, maybe you can creep it to an area where you can start inspecting? That's when all the fun begins. I think I'd start with a good once-over, looking at things and taking notes of what you find. It's been under cover, so hopefully there have been no leaks. I would assume that any batteries there are would need to be replaced. Once that's done, I'd plug in to some power and see what works and what doesn't.

One of my main concerns of a trailer sitting for so long would be mice. I hope you don't have that to deal with.

I could think of a million things to do, but that's a start...

Keep us posted, and pictures are always a plus!!
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Old 04-24-2015, 08:56 AM   #4
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It depends on what it was like when they put it in storage. I would check out the bearings and brakes before replacing everything. Same with the water and gas, hook it up and see what happens. It's hard to say without seeing it.
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:30 AM   #5
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Tagging in so I can follow along with the adventure.... I'm sure you will get a lot of really good advise.
Please post some pictures so we can visualize things as you move forward. Moving a unit after 16-years really needs to be photographed as its part of the trailer history.
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:44 AM   #6
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1978 31' Excella 500
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Thanks for the responses! I'm from a town just north of Niagara Falls right on the river. The trailer was taken to Florida and back once a year for about 25 years before it was last put up. I was researching how to get it going again after it only sat for a few years when I made this account, unfortunately circumstances led it to sit until my Grandfather's passing.

I too had the concern about mice. I'm not completely familiar with the shell of the trailer, is there anywhere they could get in if everything was closed up?

It will be a tight squeeze on the door side to even get to the wheels but I'll get some air in them. Where the trailer sits in the barn the actual wooden floor of the barn is sagged down. I will be able to have someone spot for me when I am able to pull it out so hopefully the wheels will turn. The biggest question I have is what if they don't?

I'll have to grab some pictures later today.
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:47 AM   #7
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The wheels were turning when it went in there, and I'd bet they still turn. If not, it still has to come out for you to work on it, so put the tractor in low gear, keep in touch with your spotter, and pull it out. Worry about the bearings and such when you get it out.
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Old 04-24-2015, 01:45 PM   #8
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Concur. The wheels will turn, pump them up to at least about 40 lbs. More than that and if they are that badly dry rotted, they may blow. Sitting for 16 years, the rubber in the axles will be shot, but they can be replaced a bit down the road, so a short haul probably wont be an issue. The tires would be the critical thing.

You may have mice or remnants of mice in there, but if it sat covered for all that time, you probably wont have much or any water damage, thats a very good thing. But if it is going to sit outside from now on, pay close attention to new leaks. The old caulking on the seams is probably plenty dry and water will find a way in.

All the other advice is spot on. If you are going to try and fire up the suburban, that may take more prep work, especially if gas was left in the tank and fuel system.

Post some pix of this time capsule, we LOVE PICS...
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Old 04-24-2015, 01:59 PM   #9
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Even if the wheels DON'T turn you still gotta get it out of the barn. Hook it up and pull it out. You can't hurt anything if they are seized up. Once you get it out then the fun begins but get it out first. AND yes mice can get in just about anything. I hope you find that they left it alone. If so the places you can see you can deal with. Worse, of course, is the places you can't see. Good Luck and get to it.
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Old 04-24-2015, 02:30 PM   #10
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Your trailer will have Midland-Ross vacuum actuated hydraulic disc brakes with Ausco calipers. These require both a vacuum supply and an electrical signal. Since you have the original tow vehicle, it should be set up already. They can usually be made to work, but it may turn out to be more efficient to replace axles and brakes with modern equipment since many of the original parts (like the Kelsey Hayes hub/disc units) are only available used, if then. The original propane tanks had level indicators, if you still have those they will need to be modified to have the new style valves and you will loose the level indicators unless you buy special new tanks. The original Parr pump for the water system is still serviceable, but will benefit from a pressure accumulator added to the system. The original uni-volt charger ought to be changed out for a modern switching power supply as well.
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Old 04-24-2015, 03:43 PM   #11
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1974 27' Overlander
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If it was me I would take it straight to the local trailer shop and let them deal with the running gear and then run through the rest of it myself. That's just me, axles and brakes are mechanical and I am not a mechanic.
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Old 04-24-2015, 04:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excella CM View Post
Your trailer will have Midland-Ross vacuum actuated hydraulic disc brakes with Ausco calipers.
I've never heard of these brakes before, is this something that is unique to this era trailer? And I wouldn't start that truck after 16 years without going through the fuel system first anyway.
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Old 04-24-2015, 05:23 PM   #13
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Just hook onto it with the tractor and pull it out.
No sense scratching the sides if it is a tight squeeze in there.
You only have to move it 30' or so.
If the tires are flat it will still roll that far on the rims.
Then I would air up the tires and pull it the 500' to plug it in and start checking things out.
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Old 04-24-2015, 06:49 PM   #14
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What a "gift"!!!! Congrats!
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:12 PM   #15
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1978 31' Excella 500
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Here are some pictures I took with my phone, unfortunately most didn't come out but this is what I have for now.

Front view, lots of stuff on both sides that needs to come out before I can move it. Looks like the clear coat is scratched up here and there.

I double checked and apparently it's the floor under the leveler that is sunk in not under the tires. Unfortunately all 4 are flat...

Disturbingly I found a hole in the screen behind the front window. The window isn't locked so you can pop it open with your finger no problem. Now I'm scared to look inside.
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Old 04-24-2015, 09:22 PM   #16
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There must have been a lot of fond memories of you enjoying your Airstream by your family. Someone knew that you would keep it going, and wanted to see you enjoy it again. That is Awesome.
You can look for an Airstreamer in your area to help you go over everything. If you are handy, and mechanically inclined, there are volumes of information here. That it was in covered storage is good.
Getting it back to where it was probably wont take as much cash and time as you think. Have fun with it and make some new memories!
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Old 04-25-2015, 12:01 PM   #17
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I wouldn't worry about something having gotten in through the hole in the screen, since (a) the window wasn't broken and (b) they're a little heavy for a mouse to move.

The hole was obviously made by some creepy semi-human monster living inside trying to get out. And it's probably really mad and really, really hungry by now.

But congratulations and welcome to the Big Fun!!
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Old 04-25-2015, 12:44 PM   #18
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1978 31' Excella 500
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That was my initial thought drboyd. You never know what might be lurking in that old barn. There's a ton of wildlife out here though. Raccoons, skunks, squirrels (red and grey/ground) among other things. There was also an 84 Suburban on the property parked and not touched in 2012 next to a black walnut tree. The squirrels literally filled the entire engine compartment full of walnuts and walnut related products. Fortunately the 90 didn't have that problem and it is still in running condition. The 84 was when it was parked, not so sure now.
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Old 04-27-2015, 11:51 AM   #19
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First, our thoughts are with you on the loss of your grandfather. Having recently lost my grandmother, we know it can be difficult.

Second, our trailer sat for over 10 years and has lived in our back yard for the past (almost) three. Everyone here on the Forum was a huge help to us in getting her on the road again. You are extra fortunate in that you have your family memories to add to your trailer's history!!

We made lists upon lists, tried to continually re-evaluate priorities and asked numerous questions. We were also recommended to pick up a copy of the book Newbies Guide to Airstreaming which helped us with the basics. I, like you, was used to being the set up peon with our family's trailer, so I didn't recall much of the more important things.

Congrats on your new addition - we look forward to joining you on your journey!
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Old 04-27-2015, 12:30 PM   #20
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don't get any axles just yet. Go and enjoy the trailer if everything works, and see how you like it. The " gotta get axles" panic here is way over rated...
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