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Old 02-03-2020, 12:10 PM   #1
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1993 29' Excella
Crystal Lake , Illinois
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Introduction with some questions

Hello, and thanks for this great resource of information on Airstreams. I'm a 55 year old guy about to buy a vintage Airstream, and I am certain I'll have a million questions, but just a few to start.

I've been reading, reading, and more reading, and trying to learn as much as I can about the different models. My plan, most likely, involves purchasing a vintage Airstream in the 27' to 30' size range, and restore it. My background is a lifetime of construction, and I've been a custom furniture and cabinetmaker for 35 years. I have a lot of experience with home renovation work, and have my own workshop including metalworking equipment, so I am not intimidated by the scope of work.

As I read quite a few "full Monty" threads here, from start to finish, I get a good understanding about the monumental effort involved to bring one of these vintage beauties back to life, and look forward to the challenge.

There have not been a lot of vintage Airstreams for sale in my area, near the Illinois/Wisconsin border. I've been looking. I've found several candidates, and it involves a long drive to view them, check them out, and potentially buy one. Not worried about that, either.

My biggest initial question is this......how important is it, given the fact that I will most likely do a complete frame-off restoration, to purchase an initial model that is laid out originally (or at least, currently) the way we want the finished Airstream to be. We (my wife and I) like the arrangement of a rear bedroom, all the way down the hall, with a split bathroom, mid trailer, with a shower on one side, and a sink/toilet on the other side. Keeping them separate is going to be a more user friendly trailer configuration for the way we live, and camp.

I'm unsure about arranging the holding tanks under the floor, and the plumbing issues of moving a rear bathroom to the middle of the trailer.

I am leaning HEAVILY towards eliminating the black water situation, and going with a composting toilet instead. This will leave gray water tank and fresh water tank to supply heater/sinks/shower.

Am I making sense with my question?

Reason for this question is, since I'm most likely going to do a total frame off restoration anyways, why worry about the configuration of the trailer I buy? I'd rather purchase a trailer with the best outer shell, with good windows/seals/doors, and the least amount of exterior panel repairs as possible.

I've found a potential candidate, but it is a 27' Overlander, and has the rear bathroom.

Enough typing, as I'm already giving the impression of being a windbag. Thanks for any enlightenment you can shed to help educate me on these questions.

Jeff
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Old 02-03-2020, 02:38 PM   #2
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Jeff, welcome to the forums. Unless you purchase a vintage AS and want to renovate and keep the same vintage layout, it doesnít matter what the interior layout is. As youíre planning a shell off reno, you can place things where you want them. You just have to have a plan where the kitchen, shower, etc will go so you can move your frame crossmembers around to accommodate your tanks for your new layout. Depending on the year you purchase, there may be an exterior vent that you want relocated. Doable with a shell off. If Iím going through all the money and time, personally I would try and find a pre-seventies. If you havenít done so, take a look on Airstream Hunter. They have quite a few choices. Putting money into an Airstream renovation is like putting money into a piggy bank. If you sell it in the future, youíll get back the money back you put into it, but not your labor. Also, if you find one youíre interested in possibly purchasing, look up an Airforumís Inspector in the area where the trailer is located. Contact that person and see if theyíll look at it and relay their opinion. Can you tell Iím hung on the vintage? Good luck and keep us posted. Youíll get more opinions and advice here than you can imagine.
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Old 02-03-2020, 02:42 PM   #3
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There are center bathroom models out there, but they are the exception to the rule.
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Old 02-03-2020, 03:33 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Bubba L View Post
Jeff, welcome to the forums. If Iím going through all the money and time, personally I would try and find a pre-seventies. If you havenít done so, take a look on Airstream Hunter.
Bubba

Thank you for the warm welcome. Why do you recommend Pre-seventies? A learning experience for me, so I'm all ears. I'm looking very hard right now at a '72.

I'm a "Vintage" preferred guy, too. I earn my living in my workshop, and all my woodworking and metalworking machines are vintage that I restored myself over the years.

I'm not doing this to make money on my work, but to have a great trailer that my wife and I can enjoy for the rest of our lives. We have 2 new granddaughters in California, and another one on the way this year more local. It's time to see this beautiful country, and spend less time working myself to the bones.

Best way to get what I want, without spending a fortune on a new one, is to to build it myself, so that's my attitude on this one. I'm not in a hurry, but want to learn as much as I can from you great folks before getting started.

I'm going Wednesday to look at an AS that is 5 hours each way....not bad. My main concerns are safe axles to get it back home, along with tires for the ride, also. As far as the trailer goes, I'm looking for the best exterior I can find, without, or as few, dents and damage as possible, along with good windows and door. I honestly don't care about the inside.....it's all going in the dumpster, and I'll recycle and make available any good vintage parts I don't use to this community. I don't think I'll be re-using anything in the finished trailer.

Thanks for the tip on the Airstream Hunter. I wasn't aware of that site, and I will check it out promptly. I'm in no hurry....until I find the right one. Then it's "go" time.

I'll be checking back here frequently to learn from all advice given.
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Old 02-03-2020, 04:17 PM   #5
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Jeff, the exterior aluminum changed from 2024 T3 alclad in 1982. I like the pre-70s mainly for the shape and vintage aspect. Beatrice purchased Airstream in the latter 60s. The 70s had an issue with rear end separation. Nothing you canít fix. To each his own. Iíve seen some beautifully restored 70s. You study up and whichever year you end up with will be your dear machine.
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Old 02-03-2020, 04:18 PM   #6
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Airstreamfan, welcome to the Airstream community from McHenry, IL. I couldn't help to say "hi" - I work in Crystal Lake.

While I can't offer any vintage advice, I'm happy to share our '19 Globetrotter experience if you're interested.

Good luck in your hunt!
-Jeff
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Old 02-03-2020, 08:59 PM   #7
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1993 29' Excella
Crystal Lake , Illinois
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Thanks for the warm welcome, folks.

McHenry! Right up the street. Good to know.

Bubba-I've probably spent the last couple months reading a lot of renovation threads, "full monty's", as well as typical repairs. I half expect to find a trailer that will need plenty of welding repair. I'm very comfortable with fabrication work, and fabricate steel structures for my business all the time, so I will probably have plenty of questions regarding placement, when the time comes, but I'm sure this community will set me straight.

I'd be quite happy to find a 60's Airstream in the size range I'm looking for, but have only seen a few that had a lot of exterior panel issues and broken windows, along with a very steep (in my opinion) price. A vintage trailer with a "vintage original interior" holds no value to me, as I'm going to replace it anyway. If I was going it alone, I'd be totally fine with some serious cleanup and a paint job, but my wife would never stand for it. The goal is to get her to join me on this adventure.

I'm a fisherman and outdoorsman, and I spent years tent camping on fishing trips. My wife won't have anything to do with that, so this is an effort to keep her happy while we cruise the continent.
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Old 02-03-2020, 09:05 PM   #8
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1993 29' Excella
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Welded frames

Speaking of frames.......

I've seen a few restorations where entirely new, and more rigid trailer frames were built using thicker steel than what comes with a typical vintage Airstream.

Is this approach considered a bad idea for the all Aluminum shells on these Airstreams?

If the additional weight is the only issue, I'm not concerned. My tow vehicle is a Ram 2500 4X4 with a 6.7L Cummins diesel. Tow capacity is 19k lbs.. I realize that the axles would need to be appropriate to handle the weight, but is there a reason to avoid just building an entire new frame out of heavier steel?

Once again, I have looked for this answer in my reading, but have yet to find an answer.
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Old 02-06-2020, 11:50 AM   #9
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Roges , Arkansas
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Great Plan by a Smart Man!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Airstreamfan View Post
Thanks for the warm welcome, folks.

my wife would never stand for it. The goal is to get her to join me on this adventure.

I'm a fisherman and outdoorsman, and I spent years tent camping on fishing trips. My wife won't have anything to do with that, so this is an effort to keep her happy while we cruise the continent.
Sounds like any trailer that comes your way is fixable. The long term relationships are the hard part. Good for you for making that the priority.
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Old 02-07-2020, 09:47 AM   #10
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1993 29' Excella
Crystal Lake , Illinois
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Thanks Mike. I spent plenty of time, in my younger years, alone in the woods of the North on fishing and hunting adventures. The wife came tent camping, and pop-up camping, a couple times. At the time, the Pop-up was in rough shape, and it was a mistake on my part to subject her to it.

The solo fishing trips will continue, but it'll be great for us to spend time on the road, seeing the country, and the nicer amenities of an Airstream will make it a lot more enjoyable to her. Personally, I'm good under a tree, on the ground, under a bug net.

I think I've found a good candidate. My most important criteria is the shell and window condition. Unless the trailer frame is in really great shape, I'm leaning towards just building one from scratch with stronger steel. I'm not worried about the extra weight, as my Cummins diesel pulls my 18,000 lb. work trailer with ease. Going to look at it next week.
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Old 02-07-2020, 11:07 AM   #11
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A couple of items to get you thinking:

Finding an airstream with the existing bulkheads in it will be extremely handy so that you can use them as templates to Cut your new bulkheads so you get the curve right.

Before and during your disassembly of the interior, take lots of pictures and careful notes and especially look at what the clever airstream engineers did in constructing the trailer. For instance Notice how the bulkheads do not reach all the way from the floor to the ceiling and walls, but there is about a three eights inch gap which is covered by an aluminum channel that is riveted into the walls and ceiling. This very clever arrangement allows the bulkheads to float in the airstream as it bounces and flexes and jiggles down the road like a bowl of Jell-O.

Even though you have a hefty tow vehicle, it’s always a good idea to keep weight and balance in the fore of all of your thinking about how to remodel your interior and the placement of all the heavy items. Weight is not just about being able to tow, but also about being able to stop in a short distance under control when you apply the brakes.

Airstream was ingenious about selecting materials that were both strong and light weight, attributes that are not usually considered in conventional home construction. Four instance, in the 1970s the cabinet doors were made out of a sandwich, honeycombed cardboard core. Keeping it light weight will make towing easier, and help your mileage.
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Old 02-07-2020, 11:25 AM   #12
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Welcome from Colorado, I'm converting from a rear bath to a side wet bath on a 21 foot Globetrotter. Although I haven't done a whole lot of work in the last few years, I am now retired and will jump start the project this spring..See may thread listed below.
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Old 02-07-2020, 03:41 PM   #13
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1993 29' Excella
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Originally Posted by skyguyscott View Post
A couple of items to get you thinking:
Thank you for the thoughtful reply. Those are good pointers to think about.
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Old 02-09-2020, 12:20 PM   #14
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Hey Airstreamfan!
From your self description, I'd say that you totally have this project handled. Bravo! There is a place in Paradise for those who lovingly restore beautiful old things!

Even if you really, really wanted to keep the interior original, you'll find that 50 year old plastic doesn't hold up well. If you're lucky, the first piece that you attempt to take out will irredeemably crack/shatter, so you won't be tempted to try and save the rest (and have the LAST piece crack!).

50 year old insulation that has provided a home for many generations of critters doesn't smell so good, either. The cooktop that came with mine didn't have an auto-shutoff thermocouple. Evidently dying from a propane explosion or gas inhalation wasn't that big of deal back then.

So your thought about ignoring the interior condition is a good one. Besides, chances are it won't be to your taste.

You do know that the big ones cost about half of what the little ones go for, right? It's getting tougher and tougher to find a reasonable deal on a used Airstream. I'd recommend something like OneCraigs to do a bigger search. Watch out for scams! If you find something good, be prepared to zoom out immediately. I had two bought out from under me when I was looking, and another buyer showed up when I was doing the deal!

Use the Buyer's Checklist, here on the Forums, when you go to check it out. In the meantime, start saving large pieces of cardboard, like refrigerator/bike/HDTV boxes for templates. Go on high end RV, yacht, and aircraft interior sites to get some ideas. It might take a while to find the right trailer, so be patient and persistent! Keep in touch with the Forums to let us know how things are going.
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Old 02-09-2020, 01:01 PM   #15
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1993 29' Excella
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Thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm making a long drive Tuesday to investigate a candidate. If it comes home with me, I'll post some pictures.

I've made up my mind on one factor....not much of the original interior is staying.

I love vintage "Made in America" everything, when it comes to machines, cars, trucks, wooden boats, Airstreams, etc.... but definitely not the interior appointments. A/C units, stoves, cook tops, fans, lights, etc.... have all improved by leaps and bounds.

I also enjoy restoring/rebuilding things, as well. I have my own YouTube channel rebuilding vintage woodworking and metalworking machines, and my shop is filled with machines I've rebuilt myself. Very proud of that, and also the quality American industry put into manufacturing during a time when we weren't concerned at all about a global economy.

Cheers.

Here's one of many "trainwreck barnfinds" I've put back together
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Old 02-09-2020, 02:19 PM   #16
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Nice job.


Your next restoration project is those trailer fenders.
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Old 02-09-2020, 02:27 PM   #17
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Welcome to the forums!! My wife and I purchased our 1989 31' Excella 5 years ago for $13k. While not the most popular era (every era has some "issue", lol), it's still "vintage" and it was in very good shape. In our case, we bought it to camp in (vs. glamping) and didn't have any major layout changes planned. We did convert the rear twins to a queen bed, the hall closet to a temporary crib for our infant son and put in a porcelain toilet. We ended up putting $7k into the trailer to date (axles, 3" lift, a/c,16" rims, etc). The point is, we were able to camp in it from day one and throughout our "restoration", upgrading as we went along and enjoying the AS at the same time. We have plans to tailor our AS as life changes for us and enjoy the fact that the vintage rigs are technically "user friendly" and are open to layout changes!! Good luck in your search and enjoy your restoration!! Jim & Gretchen
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Old 02-09-2020, 09:07 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rowiebowie View Post
Nice job.


Your next restoration project is those trailer fenders.


I bought that trailer new in 1997, and it's still in great mechanical condition. All that black on the fenders is tree sap, as my property is wooded, and it's parked outside under a tree. I've redecked that trailer 3 times already.....can't find a new one built half as well as that one was 23 years ago. They want $10K for junk these days.

It's about due for a paint job.....
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:23 AM   #19
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Roges , Arkansas
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Beautifully Restored Yates

Quote:
Originally Posted by Airstreamfan View Post
Thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm making a long drive Tuesday to investigate a candidate. If it comes home with me, I'll post some pictures.

I've made up my mind on one factor....not much of the original interior is staying.

I love vintage "Made in America" everything, when it comes to machines, cars, trucks, wooden boats, Airstreams, etc.... but definitely not the interior appointments. A/C units, stoves, cook tops, fans, lights, etc.... have all improved by leaps and bounds.

I also enjoy restoring/rebuilding things, as well. I have my own YouTube channel rebuilding vintage woodworking and metalworking machines, and my shop is filled with machines I've rebuilt myself. Very proud of that, and also the quality American industry put into manufacturing during a time when we weren't concerned at all about a global economy.

Cheers.

Here's one of many "trainwreck barnfinds" I've put back together
You are a true craftsman!
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Old 02-10-2020, 08:16 AM   #20
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1993 29' Excella
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Thank you, Mike. I try hard to honor the machine I'm working on, as well as all the craftsmen and women who may have worked on the machine over the 80 years of that machines life. It sounds very corny to those who don't think that way, but it is very important to me.
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