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Old 05-03-2013, 10:26 PM   #1
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Are there any deal breakers?

We have found a 72 31ft AS we want to buy. Bathroom is in the rear and there are a few things that need attention. Before I go look at it again, are there any specific items to disqualify it? We want to live it for maybe a year while I build a micro house. Of course that year could turn into 2. We'd be putting it on land with a well and septic and power already there. I'd be borrowing a friends Cummins to get it. Tires under 2 yrs old or there abouts. A/c was recently "gone through" according to current owner and it does work. One small dent. We'd put in a small marine stove for heating and be parked under a carport for summer shade. Anyway, when I go next time with cash in pocket, are there a few things specific I could look for that would make this trailer no good? I hope this is in the right forum. I can't get it to show up in "new threads".

thanks for the assistance.
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Old 05-03-2013, 10:36 PM   #2
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Hard to say without pictures. There are some checklists available. From your email I would check for the "rear end separation" problem. In some AS of this era, the rear bathroom is too heavy and you can get a sagging rear end and separation between the floor and the body. I'll see if I can find a link for to.

Mike
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Old 05-03-2013, 10:43 PM   #3
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A quick google search on this topic will find lots of information. Here is what I found:

Tail Sag or Droop: There is only one era that had a common structure problem, and that was the early 1970s coaches in the longer tandem axle models. The first is frame droop where the frame actually wears out of level behind the rear wheels, and stress cracks may form close to the rear axle. The factory offered a retrofit "stiffener" that was field installed when this defect was discovered (the kit is still available from Airstream from what I have heard).

Rear End Separation: Rear end separation that was first identified as a problem with the early 1970s coaches, but is now known that nearly any Airstream can suffer from this malady. Rear end separation is identified at the rear bumper when someone stands on the bumper or places a heavy weight on the bumper, the gap between the bumper and body should not change. If that gap changes, rear end separation is likely present that is usually accompanied by rotten floors in the rearmost portion of the coach. Airstream has a service procedure to address rear end separation.

I have a 1970 Safari and I'm pretty sure I have the retrofit. There are extra brackets on the frame under the rear end.

Good luck!

Mike
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Old 05-03-2013, 11:10 PM   #4
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We were in the same boat 2years ago. Looking for a solid trailer to full-time in and simplify our lives.

After looking at numerous trailers we stumbled upon a '66 26' Overlander that was clean, complete and everything was original. Based on surface appearance, the price and the junk we had looked at before we dove in.

Now after countless hours gutting the interior, making frame repairs, replacing large sections of floor and replacing leaky pop rivets with buck rivets I wish I would have know the following before buying our trailer:

Floor rot is a big deal.
Our bathroom floor had the notorious bumper leak which rotted our floor, part of the frame, disintegrated our black tank pan and damaged our black tank valve. Our simple plans of paint an fixtures turned into a lengthly and costly repair process.

There is always another trailer.
After looking for months we got crazy eyed after the first trailer that looked decent. I wish I would have spent a bit more time searching, and maybe a bit more $$$ to get a less needy trailer.

We are about 90% done with our trailer and as a whole I have enjoyed the renovation/repair process. That said if I could go back I probably would not have purchased our trailer.

Good luck with your search!
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Old 05-04-2013, 11:15 AM   #5
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There are very few trailer that old that will not need A LOT OF ATTENTION. Chances are the rear end it separated or in the process. The frame will be rotten as well. Center bath trailers are easier to fix if the rot problems are confined to the rear end. Rear bathroom trailers are harder to evaluate and harder to fix. The bathroom covers up the floor. If you see lots of rust on the rear frame members chances are there is a leak at the back that has already rotted the floor and is in the process of rotting the frame.

Perry
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Old 05-04-2013, 11:29 AM   #6
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What's a "deal breaker" depends on each person's available time, money and tools.

Like livinlightly, I probably would have passed our trailer over if I had known how much work it actually needed. My husband knew, though, and had confidence that we could do it. He's done the toughest parts - new axles, rear end separation, floor patching, new plumbing, water heater and beautifully subtle indirect LED lighting. I've learned a whole lot about upholstery, birch plywood and aluminum rivets. I didn't know how much work the trailer needed, but I also didn't know how much I was capable of learning and doing.

If we'd followed my original intentions, we would have ended up with a different trailer that was "good enough." Instead, after three years of camping with repairs in between, we have a trailer that is exactly what we want and that has brought and continues to bring joy and satisfaction.

If I had known then all of what I know now, I would still have bought the trailer we did, but for different reasons.
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Old 05-04-2013, 11:30 AM   #7
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Airstream are designed to be on the road, traveling. They are not always the best choice parked to live in. By design the curved sides are what make them aerodynamic. But you also loose space. A flat walled SOB might be a better choice to park and live in rather than an Airstream. My thoughts anyway.
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Old 05-04-2013, 11:47 AM   #8
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Even though there is less upper cabinet space, I find that the curve gives me a feeling of greater space. I feel less "boxed in" in the Airstream where the ceiling gradually becomes the wall that I do even in larger SOB's with clearly defined ceilings and walls.

We originally bought one just to park it on some land, but now we take it all sorts of places. The features that are valuable for one use may not transfer to the other, though, so consider all the possibilities. Longer trailers are better for being cooped up in during long rainy spells, but shorter trailers are easier to tow and to fit into camping spots, for instance.
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Old 05-04-2013, 12:59 PM   #9
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The people are happiest with old Airstreams are those who fix them up, are super handy and enjoy the process and the inevitable problems. Lots of wisdom herein by those who have been there and done that.
X2 about the advice to get another, newer trailer to live in while building a house.
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Old 05-04-2013, 01:08 PM   #10
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This is Worth Repeating

Quote:
Originally Posted by adonh View Post
Airstream are designed to be on the road, traveling. They are not always the best choice parked to live in. By design the curved sides are what make them aerodynamic. But you also loose space. A flat walled SOB might be a better choice to park and live in rather than an Airstream. My thoughts anyway.
To live in for a year or two, there are much better choices.
The Airstream is a wonderful "travel" trailer. The features that make it so wonderful to tow make it a less than optimal to live in.
Listen to adonh, find a flat walled SOB.
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Old 05-04-2013, 03:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scouter Mike View Post
Hard to say without pictures. There are some checklists available. From your email I would check for the "rear end separation" problem. In some AS of this era, the rear bathroom is too heavy and you can get a sagging rear end and separation between the floor and the body. I'll see if I can find a link for to.

Mike
thanks for the response and advice everybody. Regarding the things mentioned...sag and the separation....is that something I can look at and tell? or do I need to take a bunch of stuff apart? I have pix but I have to figure out how to load them on the site.
thanks
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Old 05-04-2013, 03:01 PM   #12
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1978 Argosy 30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scouter Mike View Post
A quick google search on this topic will find lots of information. Here is what I found:

Tail Sag or Droop: There is only one era that had a common structure problem, and that was the early 1970s coaches in the longer tandem axle models. The first is frame droop where the frame actually wears out of level behind the rear wheels, and stress cracks may form close to the rear axle. The factory offered a retrofit "stiffener" that was field installed when this defect was discovered (the kit is still available from Airstream from what I have heard).

Rear End Separation: Rear end separation that was first identified as a problem with the early 1970s coaches, but is now known that nearly any Airstream can suffer from this malady. Rear end separation is identified at the rear bumper when someone stands on the bumper or places a heavy weight on the bumper, the gap between the bumper and body should not change. If that gap changes, rear end separation is likely present that is usually accompanied by rotten floors in the rearmost portion of the coach. Airstream has a service procedure to address rear end separation.

I have a 1970 Safari and I'm pretty sure I have the retrofit. There are extra brackets on the frame under the rear end.

Good luck!

Mike
I assume these are horribly expensive fixes???
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Old 05-04-2013, 03:06 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webspinner View Post
What's a "deal breaker" depends on each person's available time, money and tools.

Like livinlightly, I probably would have passed our trailer over if I had known how much work it actually needed. My husband knew, though, and had confidence that we could do it. He's done the toughest parts - new axles, rear end separation, floor patching, new plumbing, water heater and beautifully subtle indirect LED lighting. I've learned a whole lot about upholstery, birch plywood and aluminum rivets. I didn't know how much work the trailer needed, but I also didn't know how much I was capable of learning and doing.

If we'd followed my original intentions, we would have ended up with a different trailer that was "good enough." Instead, after three years of camping with repairs in between, we have a trailer that is exactly what we want and that has brought and continues to bring joy and satisfaction.

If I had known then all of what I know now, I would still have bought the trailer we did, but for different reasons.

It's funny you mentioned your husband like that. I have remodeled a couple houses and kinda feel capable of most anything. That being said, it is mostly blind confidence and this is why I am posting this question. I can do most things but I don't want to spend thousand and thousands in parts and my countless hours of labor. I figured small bathroom, small problem....but clearly ya'll are telling me no.

So, mid baths are more desirable? I figure the exact opposite. silly me
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Old 05-04-2013, 03:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adonh View Post
Airstream are designed to be on the road, traveling. They are not always the best choice parked to live in. By design the curved sides are what make them aerodynamic. But you also loose space. A flat walled SOB might be a better choice to park and live in rather than an Airstream. My thoughts anyway.
First, I have no clue what a "SOB" is. Is that a person or a trailer? Second, thanks for the opinion. Funny thing is we thing that inside curves are what makes them cool. thanks
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Old 05-04-2013, 03:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ibskot View Post
First, I have no clue what a "SOB" is. Is that a person or a trailer? Second, thanks for the opinion. Funny thing is we thing that inside curves are what makes them cool. thanks
"Some other Brand"
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Old 05-04-2013, 03:43 PM   #16
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Pix 1972

Here are a few pix of the camper. Hopefully they load. Any opinions are appreciated.
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Old 05-05-2013, 07:33 PM   #17
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Many of us would avoid that Airstream for all the reasons already stated.
You however seem enamored with the idea that your temporary home be an Airstream.
The coolness factor may be getting in the way here.
You need a good volunteer inspector to help you inspect it with a checklist in hand.
That model was produced in huge quantities so it is one of the lowest priced used Airstreams out there.
If you ever want to use it as a camper, there is a whole list of things you must check before we can tell you what it will cost to make it whole.
From the pictures you will certainly need new axles. This we know from the cracks you have shown us.
From the age it is likely you will need new refrigerator and hot water heater and maybe a furnace. For sure you will need a converter charger and new batteries along with new tires.
Not sure what is meant by the PO went through the AC. It is something not easily done, so I doubt it is true.
There is some evidence of tail droop, but not as bad as some.
If you can get it for $5,000 or $6,000; go for it.
When we who buy Airstreams look at one we approach it by making an inventory of everything that needs replaced, so we know what our total investment for parts will be before labor.
We then decide what we can do for ourselves and what we must pay someone else to do at $100.00 per hour.
Hope this helps.
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Old 05-05-2013, 09:54 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alumaholic View Post
Many of us would avoid that Airstream for all the reasons already stated.
You however seem enamored with the idea that your temporary home be an Airstream.
The coolness factor may be getting in the way here.
You need a good volunteer inspector to help you inspect it with a checklist in hand.
That model was produced in huge quantities so it is one of the lowest priced used Airstreams out there.
If you ever want to use it as a camper, there is a whole list of things you must check before we can tell you what it will cost to make it whole.
From the pictures you will certainly need new axles. This we know from the cracks you have shown us.
From the age it is likely you will need new refrigerator and hot water heater and maybe a furnace. For sure you will need a converter charger and new batteries along with new tires.
Not sure what is meant by the PO went through the AC. It is something not easily done, so I doubt it is true.
There is some evidence of tail droop, but not as bad as some.
If you can get it for $5,000 or $6,000; go for it.
When we who buy Airstreams look at one we approach it by making an inventory of everything that needs replaced, so we know what our total investment for parts will be before labor.
We then decide what we can do for ourselves and what we must pay someone else to do at $100.00 per hour.
Hope this helps.

thank you for your help. I have been trying to look up things for pricing of what might need replacement. I can't really do it until I know what actually needs to be replaced. That's the scary part. Same with a house. Every house I've got into there are always suprises.
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Old 05-06-2013, 06:06 AM   #19
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That one will be a project. In photo 4 there is a piece of floor tile missing and under it looks like wet wood. Farther back will be the totally rotten floor and rotten frame below. It will be a project so buy it with that in mind. I don't think you have a ready to camp in trailer.

Open the rear storage compartment and see what the frame crossmember looks like.

Perry
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Old 05-06-2013, 07:47 AM   #20
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I see no difference between a "mature" Airstream and buying a house as the second owner three years after it was built. Within a year of buying an almost 7 figure house, the expensive surprises started and have continued, in no particular order:

1. Replace all exterior windows and french doors as they were only primed, not painted and were rotting from sun exposure.
2. Replace the entire roof.
3. Regrade the drive so vehicles did not bottom out coming and going and put in pavers
4. Landscaping replacement and repair irrigation system
5. Redo stucco on complete exterior of the home.
6. Install a complete house RO water system due to low water pressure and contaminates in the city water.
7. Repair cracks in adobe walls due to settling.
8. Replace failing garage door

These challenges have exceeded 1/3 of the purchase price over the last few years.

So, I expect that there will be "repairs" even on our new 2013 model year Airstream, but hopefully the magnitude of these expenses will be more reasonable.
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