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Old 06-21-2022, 06:59 AM   #1
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1965 26' Overlander
Towanda , Illinois
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To restore or renovate?

Iím in the process of completing a deal to purchase a 1965 International Land yacht (26í). Iím just waiting for the owner to find the title to finalize the purchase. My original intent on finding an airstream was to do a complete renovation with a fully modernized interior. However, in coming across this airstream, Iíve found the interior much in tact (something Iíve found challenging to find). While it will still require a full frame off restoration, it has me wondering from both a historical purpose and financial standpoint, which route is the better to take?

It seems many take the route of renovating their airstream to become a custom piece. However, Iím finding it hard to find one restored to the original configuration. While original configurations vary, Iím curious as to what anyone on the forum has come up with in terms of fully restored versus renovated airstreams and the value proposition of both scenarios? Does historical significance matter in an Airstream? Or is functionality valued over vintage nostalgia and what it was rolling off the production line?

Iím fully aware of the financial costs and significant work associated to this project as Iíve completed a 29í travel trailer (non-airstream) from ground up already. I appreciate any research or thoughts anyone has.

Thank you!
Brian
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Old 06-21-2022, 07:17 AM   #2
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1979 23' Safari
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Are you buying this Airstream to actually use it for camping, or just to fix and flip?


The vintage people are going to tell you they are only original once and you should keep it that way. In my option if you want to gut it and start over their are lots of those around from people who have gotten in over their head. I personally hate the current 'it must be all white interior' that we see a lot now, to me that just shows this person has never been camping and doesn't realize how much dirt and mud gets tracked in!


Finding original trailers is getting difficult, but you can find lots of poorly restored units. Just like the collector car market what is worth more and restored car or a resto-mod?


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Old 06-21-2022, 08:11 AM   #3
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1966 22' Safari
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Weíve renovated a 66 Safari and a 55 Flying Cloud. Bother weíre a shell off. We rebuilt the interiors to the exact layout and dimensions, even using the same species of wood. We reused items that were in usable condition. We have all the modern amenities but are basically concealed. There are some who have restored, but we use them for camping and want to be comfortable. To each his own. Do what makes it usable and comfy. Good luck
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Old 06-21-2022, 08:54 AM   #4
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Welcome to the Forums!

I would be willing to bet that it is a rare buyer who would be willing to pay a premium for a trailer that has been redone, but still looks just like it would have coming out of the factory in 1965.

There are plenty of ads out there for vintage trailers that state that the trailer is in "original" condition, and as if this is a major selling point. I usually just interpret this to mean that it is a candidate for a complete rebuild, as nobody has done anything to it in the last 50 years. Of course there are ways to screw up a renovation and make it worth even less than when you started. Slap a window unit in there, install some flooring over the rotten subfloor, and complete the reno with a dorm fridge and futon.

So most people's advice is going to be to do with it as you see fit. Even if you plan to sell it some day, there are probably way more buyers interested in a trailer with a brand-new modern interior and a vintage looking exterior.

good luck!
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Old 06-21-2022, 09:50 AM   #5
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Really depends on your reason and preference.....
Fix it to use..... Do you want original or new interior and features, or something in between... ?

Fix it to flip ...... Do research to see where your return on investment is, most likely return close to original
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Old 06-21-2022, 11:11 AM   #6
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1959 24' Tradewind
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My 1959 Tradewind

That will be a fun project. I restored mine because it was all there, just dated and worn out. Was a ground up that took us 5yrs. Here's a couple before and after.
Good luck on your trailer
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Old 06-21-2022, 11:45 AM   #7
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Regardless of your choice, it is unlikely that you will recoup financially what you invest in it once you account for your labor. There are a few companies out there who specialize in restoring Airstreams, and they do a great job, but can also charge close to seven figures for their work, depending.

This decision is the hardest, but once made, the rest is just busy work.

There is a company out there that has purchased the Bowlus name and is making new Bowlus trailers to the original specs, eschewing modern technologies such as satellite receivers, motorized awnings, etc. but are building these luxury trailers to far, far more exacting standards and craftsmanship than Airstream ever did or ever will.

My advice would be, whatever direction you take, to do a great job with skill and attention to detail. Anyone can do the quick, cheap, and easy -- and even then, since it's an Airstream, even cheap isn't so cheap.

Is the trailer for you or to impress others? Figure that out, and the way reveals itself.
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Old 06-21-2022, 02:21 PM   #8
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1965 26' Overlander
Towanda , Illinois
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Thanks for the initial responses. The primary plan of doing this is with my boys and continuing to teach them restoration and remodeling skills they can use (or decide they never want to use) as they get older. While a 200sqft trailer is nothing like a house, there are principles of construction that cross the lines of both automotive and home ownership.

With a trailer, attention to detail becomes magnified as you're trying to place everything you want from a large home into an efficient space that rolls down the road. The body lines and even the interior lines have to be exact.

The secondary piece of doing this project, is to make sure financially there is a return greater than the investment of dollars placed. I wouldn't be honest if the desire to have a financial return on completing a trailer greater than the investment. To invest 40-50k into a trailer (plus the significant time) and not expect to at least receive that as a return would be unrealistic. It's for that reason some of these restoration companies exist. However, they are customizing and tailoring those trailers to exact requests of the client.

From the sounds of the couple responses I've received, there are those who have restored rather than renovated. All the responses have restored or renovated for their own use following the completion. However, I'm not really getting a sense that value increases significantly keeping a "concourse" airstream. The reason to keep a concourse trailer would be to have that historically restored trailer and those who would purchase are a niche group.
I'd love to hear additional perspectives on the topic. I hope this perspective helps as others chime in on thoughts.
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Old 06-21-2022, 03:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trons4u View Post
That will be a fun project. I restored mine because it was all there, just dated and worn out. Was a ground up that took us 5yrs. Here's a couple before and after.
Good luck on your trailer
Woooow!!! It's so beautiful!!
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Old 06-21-2022, 04:56 PM   #10
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1965 26' Overlander
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Tony, thanks for the pictures and timeline it took you. It looks amazing!
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Old 06-21-2022, 05:15 PM   #11
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2018 33' Classic
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While this sounds as a major or overwhelming undertaking to some; only you have the vision and drive to carry your goal to fruition. Probably only a RV museum would want it to be 100%; while on the road and campgrounds, we have seen numerous vintage (1950s-60s units, their owners are excited to own & use an early camper. With the current interior in tact and good shape. I would probably use the original configurations, replacing such items as rotted flooring, toilet/brakes, axles, etc. to follow a full restoration, but I would use this opportunity to update the lighting to LEDs, and your choice to include wiring for cable and satellite television; and what about internet router? These items can be properly installed and placed in such a way to keep out of sight or discreetly visible while usable. It will be fun, hard work, great teaching project for the boys, and a project of pride, and fun to use on the road and campground. Good Luck. MM
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Old 06-21-2022, 06:17 PM   #12
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1965 26' Overlander
Towanda , Illinois
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That's great perspective on a museum piece versus a practical on the road trailer. There are practical ways to enhance and add modern conveniences while keeping the original configuration. Thanks!
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Old 06-21-2022, 07:21 PM   #13
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1965 22' Safari
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bbogner12 View Post
The secondary piece of doing this project, is to make sure financially there is a return greater than the investment of dollars placed. I wouldn't be honest if the desire to have a financial return on completing a trailer greater than the investment. To invest 40-50k into a trailer (plus the significant time) and not expect to at least receive that as a return would be unrealistic. .
The odds are not in your favor for this result.

My 65 is mostly original interior, but modern mechanicals and upgrades that make it, in my opinion, better than new. I did all the work myself- I have the tools, shop and experience. Factoring in my labor I might break even, or even make a small profit if I sold it today. But I bought at a good price, before the current craziness and got lucky with a solid subfloor and frame.
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Old 06-21-2022, 07:22 PM   #14
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1975 27' Overlander
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Greetings from Colorado and welcome to the vintage Airstream hobby. A 1965 Overlander 26' in decent condition is a great project. You mentioned it is an International trim level meaning it has a better interior and more features than the basic Land Yacht. I enjoy "renovating" these old Airstreams making them comfortable travel trailers with a unique look that are fully functional. Your trailer won't have a grey waste water tank and a wholly inadequate black water tank. You will have to light the pilot for the fridge and water heater on a windy, rainy night. It may not have an air conditioner and may have a furnace that is rusted and leaks carbon monoxide. The wiring may be aluminum screwed to copper outlets (not sure on this, but my 66 Trade Wind 24' did.) The city water connect hose, shore power cord, and sewer dump connection are likely crammed in to the rear compartment of the trailer along with the battery, fuse panel, and converter. Not easy to access Airstream's "one stop access". And the cargo compartment doors are not hinged, they are just hooked on and can fall off. I never liked the plastic sink over the tub idea, or the hidden "console toilet" under a seat cushion. The toilet was quite a contraption in itself.

So the design level of 1965 Airstreams was nothing like a modern trailer. I decided to upgrade my 66 Trade Wind and make it more functional. But I didn't change the basic layout of our twin bed floor plan. I sold the trailer to start another project. Aluminum-its they call it. My Trade Wind went to a good home and I recovered my "investment" but not may labor, which is worthless anyway. Non essential they call me.

You can learn all about your 65 Overlander in the Knowledge Base found at the bottom of the Forums page. Click on Overlander and click on your year range. Now stay up all night and learn all about your new old Airstream.

David
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Old 06-21-2022, 07:31 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by skyguyscott View Post
Regardless of your choice, it is unlikely that you will recoup financially what you invest in it once you account for your labor. There are a few companies out there who specialize in restoring Airstreams, and they do a great job, but can also charge close to seven figures for their work, depending.
Who would pay almost 1 million dollars for a restored Airstream? It's not like these things are some sort of ultra-rare Ferrari.

I know that market seems limitless but that seems a little excessive give that a brand new Classic 33 is only $225k or a top-of-the-line Class A is around that number.
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Old 06-22-2022, 06:37 AM   #16
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On the topic of Return on Investment... It would be interesting to take a poll to figure out who is buying what for how much.

I suspect that are two major categories of AS buyers: The DIY types who are willing to at least do their own repairs, if not tackle major renovations, and the Pure Users, who will seek out a professional for all but the simplest issues. The DIY types are looking for a bargain, because they figure they can fix what is lacking. The Pure Users are willing to pay the premiums associated with dealerships, and custom shops because they want the assurance that the trailer is as good as can be from the start, and there is a company to stand behind the trailer via warrantees.

So if the above is basically true, then this explains why it is so hard to make money doing a home-built trailer renovation. Let's say I complete my work, take it camping a few times, and decide to sell. I set the price at $50k to cover the costs of materials, and a $1/hr for my time. The DIY buyer is going to look at my redone trailer and say to himself "I could do that, why pay $50k, when I can get an empty shell for $5k?" without any detailed knowledge of how much the materials alone can end up costing. The Pure User is going to look at my trailer and say "how do I know it was done right?" and "$50k is a lot to spend, and get no warrantee," and "what if something goes wrong, or I find out down the road that this wasn't built correctly?"

As a data point (or two), I recently saw a mid-90's Excella 1000 sell at auction for only about $20k. The pictures made it look like it was in really good (for a 30 year old trailer) shape--ready to camp. I have been rebuilding my '73 Globetrotter for years now. I sat down and added up what I have in it so far the other day, and I am at $20k for materials alone, and still need to do the interior cabinetry and upholstery.

Anyway, not trying to discourage you, just sharing my observations from the last 10 years.
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Old 06-22-2022, 07:27 AM   #17
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Who would pay almost 1 million dollars for a restored Airstream? It's not like these things are some sort of ultra-rare Ferrari.

I don't personally know (sadly) anyone who has yet paid $1M for a custom AS, nor anyone who would, but I know of several who could. And, looking at a few examples from, say, Timeless Travel Trailers, I can see some that approach seven figures, especially the mobile recording studio or some of the super-custom trade trailers. TTT doesn't disclose how much these projects cost, so your guess is as good as mine, but I'm sure they made a profit from their labor from a customer that could afford it. Yes, they are one-of's, but the point is, there exists a (small) market, companies and customers for old AS trailers redone at a profit.






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Old 06-22-2022, 06:52 PM   #18
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If you're wondering which way to turn, it's always good to get advice from someone who's doing it every day. 'There's no greater master for a business than the P&L statement...'

I used to do research as a part of my job, and it was always invaluable to call someone up and interview them about what I was researching. Part of the trick was to get to the right person, in the right job.

For your research, I'd suggest calling up Flyte Camp; they do trailer restorations for profit. They'd be a perfect business to call and help you get your mind wrapped around what to do. I found their website: http://www.flytecamp.com//

First rule is to ALWAYS offer to pay your interviewee (or their business) for their time; get the info for Accounts Payable up front so that they can be reimbursed for the time they'll be speaking with you. Sometimes, they'll say, 'Hey, it's no bother; you don't need to pay me - things are slow right now, so ask away.' Those are the best... But the thing is, they appreciate that you value their time.

Second rule is to be way overprepared: have different levels of questions ready, and follow-ups ready, based on the expected (and unexpected) answers.

Third rule is to be respectful of their time - set up the interview in advance if need be, and end it ON TIME.

Doing these things, I always got good results and solid data.

Hope this helps.
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Old 06-22-2022, 07:02 PM   #19
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That's fantastic advice Steamguy! Thanks!
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Old 06-23-2022, 06:12 AM   #20
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[QUOTE=Belegedhel;2607690]On the topic of Return on Investment... It would be interesting to take a poll to figure out who is buying what for how much.

The Pure Users are willing to pay the premiums associated with dealerships, and custom shops because they want the assurance that the trailer is as good as can be from the start, and there is a company to stand behind the trailer via warrantees.
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The only thing I would add to your definition for "Pure Users," is they also don't want to tie up their "life's blood" - a.k.a. time - in procuring a trailer and getting on with camping and life. None of us knows how much life we have left to do the things we really want to do.
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