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Old 12-06-2015, 07:07 AM   #1
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2013 30' Flying Cloud
Windsor , Ontario
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First time rver: vintage vs late model???


Thanks in advance for your help. Not sure if this is in correct location on the forums or not, so please accept my apologies in advance if this is not the correct spot for this thread.

Ok so we are trying to buy our first Airstream. Further to my only other post, we are a family of 5 with 3 young girls.

We are strongly considering a two or three year old FC 30fb bunk as this layout seems to work. However it's still quite a bit of money so we are now considering restoring an older vintage 31'. We would be hiring this out and we understand you can spend as much as you want on a reno, we have a fairly realistic expectation of finishes, etc that we feel will allow us to achieve our budget. We think we could perhaps renovate an older Airstreams, put in bunks and be say 20k cheaper then a two or three year old 30fb an have something unique and interesting to share with our kids.

So very long story short: two or three year old 30fb or professional restored vintage with a goal of saving 15-20k and getting something unique, etc.

Appreciate everyone's insight and comments in advance.


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Old 12-06-2015, 07:32 AM   #2
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1992 29' Excella
2010 22' Interstate
Van By The River , Georgia
Join Date: Feb 2002
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Welcome to Air Forums!

Only you can answer the question about vintage vs. newer but there will be lots of comments to this thread that may give you some insight.

Let me suggest that you consider an "old" Airstream versus vintage. True vintage will potentially cost more up front than buying a late 80's or early 90's trailer.

We've seen several trailers from the 80's - 90's time frame that were easily modified to sleep from 5 - 11 people - sounds crazy I know but we know of two families that have done this.

My suggestion is a center bath, rear twin bed arrangement. The twin bed arrangement can easily be modified to include bunk beds so that will suit the girls and a friend that tags along. The front couch can easily be made comfortable for two adults.

The center bath layout allows everyone to access the bathroom without going through the other sleeping area.

Good luck!

Lucius and Danielle
1992 29' Excella Classic / 2010 Interstate
2005 Chevrolet Suburban K2500 8.1L
2018 GMC Sierra K1500 SLT, 6.2L, Max Trailering
Got a cooped-up feeling, gotta get out of town, got those Airstream campin' blues...
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Old 12-06-2015, 09:13 AM   #3
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1986 31' Sovereign
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My 1986 31' Sovereign is an example of a unit that would serve well to do what you want. There is a large closest street side that could be converted to bunks with relative ease. The downside is you lose a lot of storage.

My trailer has "male pattern baldness" caused by the plasticote failing and there are some scratches and dents but it is structurally sound. You could probably find one in similar condition for ten to fifteen grand. I have no idea of the skill set of your "professional" but I imagine adding bunks would not be a Herculean task.

If you go that way, I suggest you get everything working, add the bunks, and then go camping before you make any other changes. Lots of folks get their trailer, rip it apart and then fail to ever finish it (you'll often see stripped trailers for sale) or do something that later turns out to be unworkable. If you give yourself some time camping, you will have lots of home improvement ideas.

Read this forum until your eyes water, be very patient in your purchase odyssey, and then go have fun!

new (usually dirty) Nissan Titan XD (hardly paid for)
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Old 12-06-2015, 09:50 AM   #4

2003 25' Classic
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I would recommend the newest model year you can afford if your goal is to enjoy the Airstream experience with your three young daughters.

Vintage could very well be Honeymoon time.

Sweet Streams.....

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Old 12-06-2015, 10:01 AM   #5
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I agree with the idea of getting the new to you trailer and then trying it out. AS are easy to modify, you could likely purchase parts from Amazon to convert to bunks.

There will be plenty to learn as it is, which would likely drive your final plans. I have observed many folks bridge the sleep gap by adding a tent. You could start that way.
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Old 12-06-2015, 10:04 AM   #6
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Look at an older AVION too. It's a "vintage kin" and IMHO has better bones than Airtreams. I bought a used mid-1980's 10 meter (35 feet) one for $9K, and am spending less than $35K getting it professionally redone. Nothing hugely fancy, and boy the bucks are adding up fast - but way less costly than a vintage Airstream.
Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 12-06-2015, 10:31 AM   #7
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1993 29' Excella
Brighton , Ontario
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[QUOTE=nvestysly;1719853]Welcome to Air Forums!

My suggestion is a center bath, rear twin bed arrangement. The twin bed arrangement can easily be modified to include bunk beds so that will suit the girls and a friend that tags along. The front couch can easily be made comfortable for two adults.

The center bath layout allows everyone to access the bathroom without going through the other sleeping area.

Totally agree with this comment even though there's only the two of us. We just like lots of room and storage. Above all else the late 80's early 90's were built like tanks. Very little in the way of problems for our '93 29' Excella over the last 10 years. Knockin' on some wood here.
Hans Grim
1993 29' Excella
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Old 12-06-2015, 10:37 AM   #8
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If your primary concern is budget, then I would get the newest working Airstream that you can afford and go camping.

A restoration project is fraught with unknowns and cost overruns which your budget may not be able to handle. Most successful restoration projects are completed by do it yourselfers who approach this as a labor of love over a period of many months or even years. Those who are successful with a professional restoration company usually do not have budget constraints.
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Old 12-06-2015, 10:38 AM   #9
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2007 23' Safari SE
Central , Connecticut
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A few thoughts:

- I was really happy that we cut our RVing teeth on an almost new trailer. It let us learn whether we actually liked RVing or not, without the added variables and stress of dealing with an older trailer.

- How handy are you? RVs almost always need something fixed. The chance of this goes up considerably with a vintage trailer. I know this from experience: we had a vintage Argosy that, despite considerable updates done by a professional, still managed to have a bug list after most trips. (In contrast, we've had several surprisingly reliable seasons of camping with our late-model AS, after a period of debugging.)

- Is there a style of Airstream - new or vintage - that you prefer? As much as I admire vintage trailers (and I'm frequently tempted to do it again), that runs counter to the fact that my wife and I simply prefer how the new trailers look inside and out.

Restoring vintage - done right - is a hefty investment in money and time. Look at as many trailers as possible, new and old, before making that decision.

If the budget for an almost-new Bunkhouse scares you off (fair enough!), and if you want to prioritize getting out and camping over a restoration, another option is a mid-2000s 30' bunkhouse (similar layout, but less snazzy than the newer trailer) or maybe a Safari 25SS (sleeps six).

Hope this helps.
Now: 2007 Safari SE 23' "Anne" towed by 2011 Dodge Durango "Herman"
Before: Argosy Minuet and T@B, towed by various Honda Odysseys
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Old 12-06-2015, 10:55 AM   #10
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2014 30' Classic
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I love our Airstream. We started with a 2000 30' Classic and moved up to a 2014 Classic. What I want to say is that the difference was great. The new is so much better. Now I am 73 and started out with nothing and can spend a little now on nice things. When I was raising my family buying a fairly new Airstream would have been a great danger to my future life, I could have done it, but it would have taken away my chance for a good retirement which I am enjoying now. So you must stay in you budget. I am an airstream man, but I know you can buy some "white boxs" out their that your family can have a lot of fun in for 1/3 the cost of an equal Airstream. Now is the time to buy.
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Old 12-06-2015, 10:57 AM   #11
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Agree with the buy newest you can afford. While I applaud the rebuild the vintage crowd I have no idea where they get the time or energy to tackle such a daunting project. I assume you work full time like I do. I'm out of the house at 7:00am returning home at 6:00pm. If errands involved getting home even later. After spending time with family in the evening and soccer etc on the weekends so forth, its hard to imagine where the time to tackle such a project would come from. Be realistic.
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Old 12-06-2015, 11:34 AM   #12
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2003 28' Safari S/O
Atlanta Burbs , Georgia
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The comments above are honest insight gained from ownership. We bought our first unit using the "the newest you can afford" approach. I highly recommend it.

There are some very nice units in the mid-$20s which should serve your initial needs and be a livable balance between repair and use time. Bouncing a 'house' behind a vehicle will always result in something failing to perform as expected so some handyman skills are necessary between trips besides regular maintenance. The fix-it item list may be small or large on any given trip, but the frequency isn't that bad for the days of bonding with your family.

Luckily, I am retired now and have the time to expand my trailer projects to customization and remodeling efforts. It takes way more time/resources to complete each upgrade than most predict and what is necessary to transition from project trailer to useful unit is inevitably more than budgeted/envisioned.
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Old 12-06-2015, 11:35 AM   #13
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a bird in the hand

Writing now as a guy who built his house (years ago) and has owned and worked on many truly vintage (1950s) trailer coaches, I gotta say: the process of having your project trailer refurbished, renovated, remodeled, remanufactured -- restored! -- is fraught with peril. Everything takes longer than estimated, everything costs more than imagined, everything is loaded with surprises -- and every bit of the process (if you have a budget) will be appallingly maddening. Sure it'll look great (hopefully) but at what emotional and financial cost?

Contrast that with buying something that fits, that works, that satisfies your needs -- and most importantly -- that actually exists, as opposed to something you (or your dollars) must create. Buy something that is close to what you want, and tackle a small remodel job if you must.
"Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands... A journey, in fact, appeals to Imagination, to Memory, to Hope,—the three sister Graces of our moral being.’
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Old 12-06-2015, 11:43 AM   #14
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1998 31' Excella 1000
Clear Lake , Minnesota
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Very well said. I would suggest looking at the 98-2000 Excella 30-31 fts. with dinette. Wardrobe will be minimal, but there is still lots of storage. Mid 25k will buy you a reasonably nice one and well worth the investment.
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Old 12-06-2015, 11:49 AM   #15
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1972 27' Overlander
Woodburn , Oregon
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I went the older route and I really like what I have and what we have done , basically a older airstream with everything new and modernized inside also I have things in my airstream that you can't get on a new airstream , its not cheap but it's mine and the only one like it , lots of money and time
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Old 12-06-2015, 11:51 AM   #16
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2004 30' Land Yacht 30 SL
Elkmont , Alabama
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We purchased new A class in 2000 and almost new in 2010, new in 2012, then looking for a smaller A class purchased a 2004 SLD this year. I mention this because the 2004 has needed more time in the garage than we have spent on the road. We have learned a lesson if you wish to go camping buy as new as you can afford. The alternative requires a deep pocket and much time and patience!
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Old 12-06-2015, 12:39 PM   #17
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I will only add this, we bought a 1988 325 Classic AS motorhome, and Chris says as he takes things apart now and again to fix something, "Wow, they did a really cheap job here". I'm not sure when it began happening, and I will say we are lucky to have one of the ones that have solid wood cabinetry, but AS began cutting corners just like the SOBs do. Airstreams are likely still better than the SOBs, but the ones they build now are not the ones they built when they first began, not by a long shot. Buy the most vintage in good repair Airstream you can afford to restore financially and emotionally because I truly believe the older ones, if they were well cared for, have the greatest potential. my .02c
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Old 12-06-2015, 01:56 PM   #18
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2015 27' Flying Cloud
Caledonia , Michigan
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The FC 30 BH was reintroduced in 2015, so there is not much supply of used units.

The previous and very similar model was the Safari 30 BH, only built from '05 to '06. I owned one of these for eight years and recently sold it, switching to an FC 27 Twin, now that the kids have grown up and gone to college. There were not many of the Safari 30 BH units built and my impression is that demand is high for these.
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Old 12-06-2015, 02:09 PM   #19
Tom T
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Orange , California
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Vintage options & considerations

Hi Dan,

I'm assuming you mean AS trailer - not motorhome/RV options.

Initially you'll need to decide whether you - & your spouse & kids - prefer new, older-new or vintage/classic trailers, or maybe all of the above. You should also think about what you want to do with your trailer & where you want to go, for how long on trips/outings, etc., future family additions - vs what you really need in the trailer.

You may find that you really need a shorter trailer with the same fitment/amenities in a shorter length to get into the parks & on the roads where you'd like to visit. A 30 footer is a BIG rig & excluded from many roads & parks. I think that Sequoyah National Park limits to 26 or 28' for example, & no I didn't miss spell it, that is the correct Cherokee phonetic spelling for the man it's named after - not Sequoia).

Many shorter 24-28' trailers from AS & vintage kin offer the same sleeping & bathroom amenities in a shorter & more maneuverable length, than a 30', but less storage cabinets & galley counters. Can your family pack more efficiently for trips & not carry everything including the kitchen/galley sink!? We did so for many years since 1988 with our VW Westfalia for 2-4 week long trips cross country, so our 20' Avion trailer now is true luxury now with just my wife & I as empty nesters!

A few points to consider....

1st - There is a 3rd option you don't mention, which is to buy someone else's completed resto project which they've enjoyed for a few years & are now moving on for whatever reason, which will save you on doing the resto yourself in both time & expense. I say it that way to differentiate from the "Flippers" who buy an old trailer, clean it up, slap on some paint & relatively low cost "fixes" & then sell them as a fully restored trailer - which they're NOT!

The key is that the resto includes updating of the critical 12v/110v electrical, plumbing & LP systems & appliances, as well as the running gear (original is okay if kept up & brakes, bearing, wheels/tires, springs/shocks, mounts/bolts are all okay or replaced), floor & frame are sturdy, etc. - in addition to all the more cosmetic renovations.

Also - you can add any modern conveniences to any vintage trailer - including microwaves, digital TVs & entertainment systems (these usually save weight over the vintage tube-type options from back in the day), so that really isn't the deterrent that the new trailer buffs claim.

Most importantly - have any trailer which you seriously consider checked out by an expert, which may cost you some "insurance" money to avoid pitfalls (we paid $250 & that included his opinion of value for insurance purposes with AAA). If you have a restoration shop in mind already, then they may do it for free in order to ensure you get a starting project which is reasonable, & they can rough out what they think the resto cost will be - on top of the purchase cost.

2nd - Vintage trailers/RVs are usually differentiated by being built in the early, mid or sometimes late 70's (e.g.: 1972, 1975, 1978, etc. & earlier), & vintage trailering opens you up to a whole additional set of experiences for your family at vintage trailer rallies, camp-outs & events, classic car & trailer events, etc. - in addition to the AS events (many of which are open to vintage kin/other Silver Twinkies).

3rd - What PammieSue said is correct, & I think it was in the late-80's or early-90's where this down-quality cost savings started - as a vintage AS guy we know says. He also said that the old pre-Fleetwood Avions were better built than AS, & the 80's ones are about the same quality as AS due to Fleetwood's decontenting them - eventually ending up as only an Avion decal on their standard box SOBs.

The vintage trailers will usually be lighter & stronger than the modern AS examples since the 1990s, due to use of better lighter weight materials (the cabinetry she said is a good example). The old addage of: "They don't build them like they used to!" is really true, so in a well maintained original or restored vintage trailer will be at least as good as, if not better than, a new "modern" example - despite what the salespeople will tell you (they're job is to sell new/newer used trailers - not vintage ones).

For example - our 1960 Avion T20 was 2680 lbs. before options & about 3-3500 as restored & updated with all options, wet & loaded (a 1960s AS would be in a similar weight range) - whereas a new AS 19-22 example is 4500-6000+ lbs. dry & before options. It makes a huge difference in both handling, towability & your fuel burn while towing!

So if you think you want to go with vintage, then think about expanding your options beyond vintage AS - to also include the Avion, Silver Streak, Spartan & a plethora of others "Silver Beauties" from the hey-day of trailering in the 1950s-70's (pre-oil crisis).

Go to a vintage trailer event near you or anywhere you can get to, & look at some of the options out there in the 24-30'+ range, to see what the options are, if you'd like the idea of your family hanging out with young & middle & older trailer folks, & doing the fun & silly events many do at them for the entertainment of all (mini-golf & bowling in funny outfits, potlucks & group meals, open houses to show off their vintage prides, icecream & movie nights at the campground - usually featuring old trailer/camping movies & the infamous Lucy & Ricky "The Long, Long Trailer" movie, etc.).

Many would have floor plans which would be comparable to or better than that AS 30FB, the basic structure or "bones" would be better than the new AS, & as good as or better than even the vintage AS, but the new or vintage AS command a higher price mostly on popularity & numbers out there since the post-WWII days (sorry AS guys, but it's the truth ).

Not to push Avions, but as an example of other options in vintage kin, you can peruse some old sales brochures at this link:
Silver Avion Trailer Brochures

You'll see in them that the Avion 24, 27/28 & 30' models of most years have similar floor plans which sleep 4-6+ (including the convertible dinette/full size bed), with a full bath (rear), & Galley - with basically more cabinets & floor space between those basic components. Do you really need that extra space, or would you rather have a shorter & easier to handle rig able to get on more roads & parks?

Other vintage brands also have similar factory sales brochures online too.

We got our 1960 Avion T20 in 2012 as a restored DONE project in 2007 by the prior owners, who had to give up trailering for health reasons, & have been very happy. While there is always things to do maintenance-wise & to personalize your trailers - new or used - ours is no more than what our "new trailer" friends do.

Good Luck!
Tom T
Orange CA
1960 Avion T20, #2 made, Hensley Cub, TV tbd- looking for 08-14 Cayenne S
1988 VW Vanagon Westfalia CamperGL (Orig Owner) + 1970 Eriba Puck
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Old 12-06-2015, 03:37 PM   #20
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2016 28' Pendleton
Bettendorf , Iowa
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Your choice, but...

Obviously, this will be your family's choice, but after reading through some of the ideas and going off our experience, here is a thought:

We had a pop up camper and three girls. We could take up to eight of us with this. It was a great way to start camping. We would camp several times during the year. We went to Europe and rented a camper and took the girls. We saved money for retirement and spent what we could on experiences.

Later with swimming, soccer, dance, Homecomings, Proms, required grand parent visits, we used the pop up less and less. Boyfriends take time, too.

The girls have all moved on and we bought our new AS. It is great. All three have joined us at various times and they sleep on the configuration at the dining area and couch. We have the bed. We take two extended trips with our AS every year and this winter are in Arizona. We take a long trip overseas every year, India, Europe, Middle East, Central America, Carribbean in the past and China in the next year. We could not have done all that we do, if we had spent on an AS and towing vehicle at the beginning with college, braces, etc. in our future. We did not short change ourselves but we did not go into debt, either.

Someone else said something similar, about getting a white box, too. They are much cheaper. All campers cost money and time. You have a family and that really costs, too.

Oh, my wife just retired at 54. I was 59 when I retired.

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