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Old 11-09-2016, 12:29 PM   #1
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First Center Bath AS

When AS decided to move the rear bathroom to the center bath location in the early '70s, a bunch or 31 footers went out the door in JC with 1,100 to 1,200 pound tongue weights!!! Seems they forgot to move the axles to compensate for moving the weight around. Customers had their hitches bent and in some cases pulled off their TVs. Owners had them brought back to JC and the axles were moved to correct the problem. Not a good start for the CB introduction, but sales took off anyway when folks realized how much sense it made to have the bath in the center when camping with friends and family.

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Old 11-09-2016, 07:24 PM   #2
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Interesting observation in Airstream history. I'm surprised re-configuring the bath location would add that much to the tongue weight. I think of a bath being lighter weight than a bedroom due to the mattress and bed frame. But I don't know. My 86 is a center bath and has proper tongue weight proportions to overall trailer weight.

I had a coachman 29 foot trailer with a front kitchen years ago. That seemed heavy on the tongue.

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Old 11-11-2016, 06:57 PM   #3
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The bathroom itself probably doesn't weigh all that much, but the liquids associated with it (fresh, black, gray tanks) do. Larger coaches (think fifth wheels) are able to put the fresh water tank over the axles. Often the grey tank is in that area, too. The black tank is usually located under the toilet for obvious reasons, so sometimes there is a secondary grey tank located near there, too. (Many 5'ers have the bath in the upper level and the kitchen on the main level.)
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Old 11-11-2016, 07:03 PM   #4
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Bent and ripped off hitches?
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Old 11-11-2016, 07:59 PM   #5
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Bent and ripped off hitches?
That did happen to my parents in the mid-1950s. My dad noticed the trailer handling kind of funny, so he pulled over to take a look. The entire receiver assembly had torn loose from the truck at the welds, leaving the entire thing hanging by a single piece of steel no thicker than a pencil. No, it wasn't an Airstream, it was another brand of aluminum trailer.
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Old 11-12-2016, 01:38 PM   #6
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With the weight of the tanks in the rear, the leverage was working for less tongue weight. Moving the tanks forward eliminated the leverage.
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Old 11-12-2016, 05:38 PM   #7
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So about what year did the majority of Airstream floor plans have center baths with water tanks close to the axles? I'm guessing the early 80s.

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Old 11-12-2016, 09:46 PM   #8
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Interesting observation in Airstream history. I'm surprised re-configuring the bath location would add that much to the tongue weight. I think of a bath being lighter weight than a bedroom due to the mattress and bed frame. But I don't know. My 86 is a center bath and has proper tongue weight proportions to overall trailer weight.

I had a coachman 29 foot trailer with a front kitchen years ago. That seemed heavy on the tongue.

David
Another tongue weight problem, Airstream moved the axles forward to make up for the extra tongue weight of the front kitchen then moved the kitchen back and forgot to move the axles back.
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Old 11-13-2016, 07:49 AM   #9
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So about what year did the majority of Airstream floor plans have center baths with water tanks close to the axles? I'm guessing the early 80s. David
I have a 1978 Sovereign with Center Bath so prior to the 80's
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Old 11-13-2016, 09:49 AM   #10
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According to the airstream archive 1973 was the first year of the center bath for the 31' sovereign and 29' ambassador.

For the 31' double the center bath decreases total weight by 120# and increases tongue weight by 240# to 730#.
For the twin the center bath decreases total weight by 85# and increases tongue weight by 210# to 695#.
The 29' has simular weight changes.
I'm almost positive that there is no difference in axle placement between center and rear bath models.

The center bath fixtures are smaller and lighter and are located just behind and over rear axle hence the lighter total weight and increased tongue weight.
The black tank is moved forward 6' but doesn't effect these dry weights very much. The big difference is when full, which explains why rear baths have more rear end sagging problems than center baths.

I think 73 is also the first year for grey tanks. My center bath has one but not sure if the rear baths do.
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Old 11-13-2016, 01:20 PM   #11
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Hi Al,

Was on the AS payroll back in '72-'74 and it was an axle location problem. I remember folks coming back to JC to have the work done. It was not a good thing. Most folks towed with Caddys, Lincolns, Pontiacs back then. Most Airstreamers would not have been caught dead in a pick-up truck. The trailers were lighter back then and you did not need the power and torque you need now to do the job. I think you are right about the '73 being the first year for grey water. Took a '27 Overlander (CB proto-type) that year on vacation to Cape Cod . TV was "72 Chevy wagon with 454 engine. Towed like a camp! AS killed the idea of CB in that size as the layout did not make as much sense as the 29 and 31 footers did. Back then, 70% of the production was '31 footers and they were going together like Swiss watches. When a 21 Gobetrotter was coming down the line, nothing fit because the workers were so use to building 31s. Now the 25' is the most popular AS.

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Old 11-13-2016, 02:47 PM   #12
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Mike,

Man I'd love a overlander center bath! I started looking for an ambassador CB over a year ago but they are hard to find. I found an excella 500 that I couldn't pass up but I could do without the extra 2' up front.
But 5000# dry weight for 31' is pretty good and only a few hundred pounds more than the 29'.
They really started gaining weight in the late 70s.
Do you have any idea how many of the 31's were center baths compared to rear? You'd think that they would have been more popular than what you see still around.
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Old 11-13-2016, 06:46 PM   #13
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Al,

Don't have any production/sales numbers, but after the CB came out, the RB faded out. Only folks who had to have a bathtub were buying the RB. The dealers wanted CB trailers because they were the latest new thing and sold quickly. You would not have liked the 27' CB they made. It had 2 doors on the curbside and two pullout couch/beds front and rear. As you sat on the rear couch, you were looking at the rear bathroom wall and hall. Not a great layout I don't think there was enough space to make it like the 29 and 31 footers.

The Excella 500 was a super nice trailer! The carpet, drapes and fabric were high end and the color of the panels were stunning. I loved the L-shaped lounge in the front which was an option back then. They also came from JC with a swag lamp which did not make sense to me but set them apart from the Sovereign.
That blue beltline trim really made them look special going down the road.

Mike
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Old 11-13-2016, 07:04 PM   #14
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I like my 81 31ft Center Bath. The bathroom is a little on the small side. I do like what it does by putting all the tanks under the or between the axles. I have 3 tanks are all next to each other near the axles so weight distribution does not change much. I also like that rear end repairs are easier since there is not bathroom there. Having the rear bed room is nice because it at least gives you the illusion of some privacy.

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Old 11-13-2016, 07:26 PM   #15
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I did not realize the center bath layouts went way back to 1973. Thanks for the history of these early layouts. I remember my in-laws talking about the advantages of a rear bath versus a center bath way back, but I did not remember the year. They were Airstreamers back in the late seventies.

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Old 11-15-2016, 07:49 AM   #16
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So about what year did the majority of Airstream floor plans have center baths with water tanks close to the axles? I'm guessing the early 80s.

David
You are correct that while the first center baths were introduced as an option on the Excella 500 in 1972, and then quickly rolled out to all 31' and 29' models in 1973, with the rare 27' center bath coming slightly later in about 1974 or 1975, these models were rarer than rear bath models in the 1970's. It was not until the 1980's that center bath models came to dominate. In 1977 the center bath 27' was discontinued and in 1978 the center bath 29' was discontinued, I assume due to poor sales, although I suspect the 31' center bath models sales were slowly increasing during this time.

The 25' models retained a rear bath (and were never offered with a center bath) until they were discontinued altogether about 1983 or so. When the 25' reemerged in 1984 (a very few rare late '84 25' models exist) and went mainstream in 1985, they were center bath only.

The 27' models retained a rear bath only until they were discontinued (and not replaced) after 1988.

The 29' (in some late 70's/early 80's years, a foot shorter as a 28' Ambassador) remained a rear bath until the new center bath only model came out in 1984.

31' models were available with either a center or rear bath thru 1985 and became center bath only in 1986, but in the 1980's the center bath seemed to be much more popular.

When the 32' model was introduced in 1985, it was center bath only, but in 1991 Airstream experimented with a rare rear bath 32' model of which few were built.

When the 34' triple axle model was introduced in 1982, it was offered with either a rear or center bath, but the rear bath models are pretty rare and were last issued in 1985. 34' was center bath only from 1986 onward.

It should be noted that in the 1980's thru the mid 1990's Airstream rarely built trailers shorter than 25' and when they did, the numbers were small. On the those rare occasions that they did (example a very rare 23' in 1987 and the the slightly less rare 21' from 1992 to 1996), they were rear bath or rear corner bath.

The reasons the center bath became more popular may include customers shying away from rear baths due to the rear end separation problem that became more prevalent in the 1970s. A center bath put the heavier bathroom and especially holding tanks nearer the axles, which would reduce this issue, especially if needing to travel with the the black and gray tanks not empty. Additionally, the capacities of the black and gray tanks were much larger on center bath models than rear bath models. The capacities changed over the years, eventually reaching 30 to 35 gallons each for the center bath models and 20 to 25 gallons each for the rear bath models in the 1980s. (I still have not confirmed the numbers for the 1970's models, but rear baths, may have been more like 10 gallons each and center bath closer to 20 gallons each - this is a detail I still need to research.) Finally, putting the bath between the two sleeping areas may have appealed to some that at least occasionally traveled with more than two persons, so someone did not need to pass thru the other sleeping area if using the facilities in the middle of the night.

Carrma may be right that one reason the rear bath did not die sooner was that in the 1970's some customers still preferred a bath tub rather than the somewhat tight bath and shower stall offered in a center bath that was located on one side of the trailer. Overall, for dressing etc., the full width rear baths were definitely larger than the side center baths. These might be reasons that the rare 1991 rear bath 32' model was created. It was followed a year or two later by rare 32' and/or 34' models with a center bath tub, but those are very rare and you rarely see them come up for sale on the used market. The larger physical bathroom space is likely behind the move from a side center bath to a full width "pass thru" center bath on some models in the early 1990's, including the rare center tub models and the new for 1993 30' model and new for 1994 28' model.

To summarize, we can argue the specific year, but by somewhere in the 1984 to 1986 timeframe, Airstream became almost all center bath, with limited exceptions. This did not change until 1997, when the first 19' Safari Bambi with a rear corner bath was introduced. After that, Airstream began to experiment with more models, lengths, and floor plans, and rear corner baths became popular on some models, although overall, I would say center baths models remained the most popular, as the are to this day.

P.S. The fresh water tank was moved from above the floor below the front gaucho or dinette to a new location below the floor immediately in front of the axle(s) in 1970. For double axle models, it then moved between the axles some time in the mid 1970's, but this is a detail I still need to research to pinpoint the exact year it moved between the axles.
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Old 11-15-2016, 11:32 AM   #17
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I should point out, however, that the 1972 Excella 500 was not the first center bath Airstream. In the mid 1950s, Airstream experimented with many different floorplans, including mid bath and front bath models, before they standardized on the rear bath in 1957.
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Old 11-15-2016, 07:56 PM   #18
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Thank you very much Joe for your excellent report on Airstream floor plans. Having water weight around the axles is an important design consideration. And people have grown to prefer showers over baths to a large extent.

I now know why my father in law and his brother were debating the rear bath and side bath back in the early eighties. They both had purchased new 31' Excella Airstreams for their retirements. A rear bath was available.

I can confirm the freshwater tank is located between the axles on my 34' Limited. It is a 48 gallon tank weighing what, about 380 pounds when full. I had to take it down to fix a plumbing leak below the subfloor. Between the axles is a good place for it.

David
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