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Old 10-16-2012, 06:11 PM   #1
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Maybe we should go vintage?

Hope I've got this in the right place....
We have been looking at late model airstreams.... Beginning to think we should be looking at vintage. I'm looking for some general guidelines, in rigs that are 20' to 25'. which years and models should we avoid? We are contractors, not worried about taking on gutting and redoing a trailer as we want. But am not interested in doing a major redo on a trailer with a lousy frame or other issues that we wouldn't recognize.
Thanks!
Mark
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Old 10-16-2012, 06:24 PM   #2
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We bought vintage. Looked at newer or new but did not want any payments. In our area, being a dry climate we got lucky. The previous owners cared for and spent a lot of money on ours before we "stole it" for cash.
Will be looking forward to responses on your thread. Good luck on your hunt!
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Old 10-17-2012, 10:13 AM   #3
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I took the leap and went vintage after searching for a trailer for almost 2 years. I've been restoring my trailer for over a year now, and have only recently turned the corner from tear down and repair mode to rebuild mode.

As mentioned above, the trailer I found was the result of a 2 year search, and I was specifically looking for a trailer that would not require a full refurb, just relatively superficial fix ups (new floor covering, fabrics, etc.). My expectations, of course were unrealistic, and I ended up with a 40 year old trailer with all the problems you would expect of a 40 year old car, ie., rotting floor, disintegrating frame, etc.. I have been having a good time working on the trailer, it has become my full-time hobby and obsession, but there are some things I would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight.

So here are my words of advice for someone considering going vintage:

1) Don't drive/fly too far to look at a vintage trailer. If you have invested a day of driving, you are very unlikely to go home empty handed, and will buy something that will require more work than you really want.

2) Be realistic in your expectations. Any vintage trailer in "as found" condition will require a lot of work and expense. You are really just buying the shell--most of the balance will get thrown out in the process of your refurb.

3) Its not an investment. You will spend thousands of dollars to do a complete refurb of a trailer. You will never be able to sell it for what you have in it, even if you don't include your labor. You may not even be able to insure it for what you think it is worth. I just saw a thread the other day entitled something like "how our $2000 trailer ended up costing us $30,000."

4) In terms of initial price paid, only pay a premium for things the pervious owner did that will save you time/effort/expense. I see 70's trailers advertised all the time in "original" condition as if 40 year old shag carpet and sticky tambour doors are worth a premium. A half polished trailer is worth much less than one with a solid floor, frame and new axle. Also, don't be lured in by a super cheap price. If they seller only wants $500 for it, there is probably a reason.

5) Get educated. There are several "buyer's checklists" on the Forums that will help you inspect a trailer you consider buying. There are also folks who will volunteer to act as your inspector. Get the old episodes of the "Vintage Airstream Podcast" (The VAP). There was lots of good information in the early episodes about what to expect when buying vintage.

6) There are plenty of trailers out there that someone gutted, and then lost their enthusiasm and are now selling. If you are planning on gutting anyway, this can save you work, plus it is easier to inspect with everything out. If the floor is completely sound, then your chances of not having a rotten frame are much better.

7) The drier the climate your trailer comes from the better. The fact that my trailer lived its life on the Florida panhandle probably contributed greatly to the amount of rust I found inside the bellypan.

I bought a 70's era trailer because they are a little wider than the 60's, and feel roomier, and lighter (more/bigger windows) inside. I also like the look of the body, with its more rounded shape. I didn't want a museum piece, just a trailer that I could make my own. The 70's (and later) body style is prone to the dreaded "rear end separation," which is something I had to repair as well. Airstream stopped using 2024 T3 Alclad aluminum in the shells at the beginning of the 70's, so if you have your heart set on having mirror polished aircraft aluminum in your trailer, then older is better. One thing you might very well want for practical purposes is a grey water tank. Airstream didn't start installing them in all their trailers until 1974. You can retrofit most trailers with a grey tank--its just more time and money.

Newer models have their short comings as well, OSB floors that disintegrate, softer aluminum, cheaper materials, and heavier towing weights. I looked at a 2002 while on my search and was stunned to see wood grain shelf-paper type stick-on veneer on the particle board cabinetry that was peeling off. I was mentally adding up all the repairs I would need to make as soon as I stepped inside the door.

I hope this helps, and doesn't just serve to discourage. This may be an oddball comparison, but as it is October, I will go ahead. Having a vintage Airstream is like making your Halloween costume from scratch. It's going to take more work, and probably cost more than the plastic outfit that someone buys at the costume shop, but you'll have it for ever, it'll be absolutely unique, and you'll be the life of the party.

Good luck!
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:31 AM   #4
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I have a vintage Airstream and IF I could afford to pay cash for a new Airstream I would in a heartbeat. I would like to go a bit bigger, 22 foot or so. I find that I am getting a bit tired of banging my body parts into something sharp every time I turn around or bend over, the lack of storage space and also the lack of a fixed bed that I don't have to make up and put away after each use. Plus I really like the layouts and features of the new trailers.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:44 AM   #5
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I bought vintage (78) and wouldn't have it any other way. I ripped out the furniture/cabinetry, building my own along the way, and have only around $7k invested in it total.

I agree with Belegedhel in that you can save yourself a TON of time and money by finding the RIGHT trailer to start with. Axles and rear separation were two things I didn't want to deal with so I made sure the trailer I bought already had new axles and the rear end was solid.
I wish I'd found one with single pane windows but two out of three isn't bad.

The trailer is getting regular use now and I'm absolutely loving it. I wouldn't give a second thought to buying another one or more, and I see, now, how people become collectors of these babies along the way.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:45 AM   #6
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Airstream stopped using 2024 T3 Alclad aluminum in the shells at the beginning of the 70's,
I thought it was the beginning of the eighties. Well, just learning about vintage myself.

From what I gather from reading, the mid 60's seem to be good years, especially if you are handy. They have wood cabinets and other things that are not plastic. They are clad too.
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Old 10-17-2012, 12:13 PM   #7
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Some forum members put together a "history of aluminum in Airstream," which is posted somewhere here in the forums. When I came across it, I was stunned to see that my '73 was made of 6061 T6. I called the mothership just to confirm, and sure enough, the early 70's are made of 6061 T6. The material continues to change in the later 70's, 80's and 90's. One thing I do notice is that I just don't see 70's and earlier era trailers tha show dimples due to hail, whereas I do see more recent models with that golf-ball appearance.

Not a heartbreaker, but a revelation nonetheless. Also good to know, as it kept me from buying a bunch of 2024 T3 as patches and new panels.

Having thought on this topic a little more, I would offer one more point for consideration: Do you want a trailer that you primarily work on (ie., a major project), or one that you primarily camp in? I really wanted one that I would camp in more than work on, and hence, all the lessons learned above. With benefit of the knowledge above, I would have paid double or triple the initial price to have avoided the shell-off (though it makes for good conversation). Had I known that a shell-off was practically inevitable if buying a trailer that hadn't already had been worked on, that lives on the Gulf Coast, I think I would have bought one of the first trailers I looked at (3 years ago), and by now, I would be finished with all the work and hitting the road.

I know there are plenty of "as-found" trailers out there that people camp in on a weekly basis, but I think I exhausted all of my good charma just to tow my trailer home 600 miles without any major incident (especially after dropping the belly pan and seeing all the rusted through frame members). Since I've set foot to the slippery slope, I am convinced that one day I will have a better-than-new trailer that I can take personal pride in, but that day is still depressingly months away.
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Old 10-17-2012, 12:29 PM   #8
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I'd encourage you to look at "Semi-Vintage" instead of Full Monte Restoration projects from the 50's through 70's.. The Beatrice years were tough on the brand, and frame sag, less durable interiors, wood failures in sub floors, etc are relatively common unless someone else has done all the hard work to rebuild..

The Mid-80's to early 90's are often in much better condition, and not much more expensive.. Real wood in cabinetry (mostly..), beefier frame rails and outriggers, better windows, etc.. You can find good 25' models for less than $16-18K, and 21's are less, though they are kind of cramped, as poster above noted.. Classic 25's with rear queen or twin are often sold within days of listing here in classifieds, so if you find one in good shape, be prepared to move in a hurry.. If you're not familiar, Airstream made everything 6" wider and heavier starting with 1995 model years ("The Widebodies..") and they also have less rounded shells, with more upper storage spaces.. The mid-90's Safari's are good value, though also some interior cabinetry issues if abused, and the Excella/Classics have interior upholstery/linings that might be problems if smokers lived there, or they were abused..

Best advice is to get really clear on what floor plan and decades you want, and what condition you can tolerate, and then watch diligently and be ready to pounce when one pops up...

p.s. We love our '88, though we expected and did have to go through and replace all fabric (couch, bedspreads, curtains, carpet, mini-blinds, panels, etc) and replace failed control board in fridge, thermocouple on water heater, etc.. New axles are coming next year...
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Old 10-17-2012, 01:17 PM   #9
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Wasn't the plant (Jackson Center) selling a '60s model that had been re-done in new insides? That sure sounds appealing...
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Old 10-17-2012, 02:50 PM   #10
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Maybe we should go vintage.

Yes, I seen the 60's model listed on ebay I think. Vintage outside and modernized on the inside,not sure what it went for or if it did sell. It looked really good,but I am trying to find vintage all the way. I like older things.
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Old 10-17-2012, 02:55 PM   #11
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Here it is. I forgot; it's for sale on our own Classifieds! It's p-r-e-t-t-y...

1966 Airstream
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:11 PM   #12
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I think the best Airstream in the world to own is a 1976 center bath.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:14 PM   #13
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We went Vintage!

For us the only way to go was vintage. We loved the process of restoring/updating our 65 Safari. Others are correct when they say we may not get our investment back if we sold it. We're not concerned with that as it's priceless to us. Every where we go people are attracted to it and want to take a tour. If your not afraid of the work then go for it. You can make it a personal statement or you can restore it to original. To me there is something about the earlier models that are narrower and more rounded. Do a search on Vintage Airstreams and check out the pics. Some are simply incredible.
Best of luck.
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:46 PM   #14
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If'n I had it to do over I would be merrily making payments on a nicer used trailer ie: a 6, 8 or 10 year old model and then beholden to it until it *is* vintage... with constant updates along the way... but most importantly get one you can use sooner than later!
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Old 10-17-2012, 04:33 PM   #15
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Mark,

You've gotten some good advice here so far.

It depends on your available cash, your skills, quickness of learning, and your ability to sort out all the info on the Forum about problems to look for.

Having remodeled two houses, I didn't want to do a trailer too. And I knew much more about houses than I did about trailers (about trailers, zero knowledge). We considered a recent model, but didn't know much about those. And when we looked at new ones, the aluminitis takes over anyway.

So we bought a new one in late '07 believing a "premium" trailer would be troublefree. We were wrong. But it didn't need a shell off, a new subfloor, new appliances, etc., etc. If I were to do it again, I'd look for a model 5 to 10 years old in great shape at a good price, but in '07, I didn't feel I knew enough to do that. And that trailer I would have looked for if I were smarter, would be the same one a bunch of other people are also looking for. So it would have taken a while to find one and then quickly pounce on it. And maybe someone had died or couldn't use the trailer anymore, so it sat for several years, maybe leaking. Something to watch for also.

You will have to search the Forum for exact dates of problem trailers, but here's a few generalities:

Some, mostly longer (over 25') trailer from the early '00's, have had front end separation. You can tell if it has been repaired by "elephant ears"—pieces of aluminum resembling ears riveted to the front on each side. The repair should also have been done on the inside with steel angle braces, but may not have.

Beatrice year trailers were cheapened. They were pretty much the '70's, but I don't remember the exact years. I believe those are the ones most likely to have rear end separation.

In the past 10+ years a lot of cost cutting has resulted in crappy parts being used. They get replaced by some people with better parts, but maybe not. A lot of stuff was fixed by warranty and since then, I have been doing it.

Over the last generation the aluminum used has been thinner and thinner. It scratches easily and dents easily.

The clear coat on trailers from the '80's and '90's may be pealing off.

Corrosion has been reported frequently in at least the past decade and shows up first on door hinges, taillights and along the beltline. It is more frequent near the ocean and in states where they use a lot of road salt. It appears to be on the surface (maybe that will be different in another 20 years), but isn't pretty.

Lots of trailers have dents, some pretty big. Replacement panels are expensive, especially the long ones on the side. If you can live with dents, these trailers can be bargain, but sometimes it separates the seams leading to water damage inside.

40 year old appliances are old. Sometimes they last for many more years, but count on some of them needing replacement. RV appliances are expensive.

Older trailers used copper pipe. Copper breaks easily when frozen (with water inside, of course) and a pressure test is necessary before purchase.

Older trailers may have had repairs done by people who didn't know what they were doing. There are lots of threads about electrical repairs done badly. You may have to rip it out and start over. Plumbing is also done badly by some people.

Some trailers made in the early '00's used OSB subfloors. I think they were the smaller ones. OSB deteriorates quickly when wet; avoid OSB, even if in good shape.

Rotting subfloors from water damage are common because of poor sealing techniques at the factory. I have read of trailers a few years old with rotten sections. Test the floor thoroughly for soft spots. Sometimes there have been plumbing leaks inside, but it appears water damage comes mostly from windows and other penetrations into the body not being sealed well and/or not maintained.

That's a lot to find out with specificity. But it pays off to help you find what works best for you. There are plenty of posts from people who bought an old trailer and were overwhelmed. Then after sinking money into it, they sell it at a loss. They were blinded by aluminum and unreasonable optimism. Carefully assess what you are willing to do and what you can do.

Good luck. You can do the research and look hard for your dream and come through it happily, but learn as much as you can for a while.

Gene
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Old 10-17-2012, 04:45 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Splitrock View Post
I think the best Airstream in the world to own is a 1976 center bath.
How about to travel and camp in?
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:01 PM   #17
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I bought a vintage trailer because it was my first RV and I didn't want to sign on for a big payment before I really know how much I'd enjoy using the thing. I looked at a couple of trailers I'm glad I didn't buy, and ended up finding an Argosy that was close to home, had been used pretty regularly by the 2nd owners who sold it to me, was more or less ready-to-camp but I knew on day 1 was not perfect.

Nearly 2 years later, I don't regret the purchase though I've spent more than half again on the trailer since then. (Axles, new tires, leak detection and eradication, rebuilding dump valves, etc. as well as the accessories and doodads anyone would "need" to go with the first trailer.)

I really enjoy the Argosy, and I plan to keep it indefinitely. I think it might be fun to have a bigger/fancier trailer as well, so someday when I run out of things to spend money on I may look for a long mid-80s trailer that's structurally sound but worn on the inside, because as a matter of personal taste I'd probably want to replace most of what's inside. I'm well aware that wouldn't be the cheapest route to go, but that would be for showy trips and the Argosy would be for state parks and boondocking. Gotta have dreams, right?
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Old 10-17-2012, 05:50 PM   #18
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I'm in the middle of a shell off, build new frame. I have learned a world of info that I would not have otherwise sought.
About 10 years ago my wife was looking for an Airstream, we were traveling hundreds of miles every weekend looking at used trailers. I thought if I didn't buy her an Airstream we were headed for divorce. We finally gave up, as all the ones we were looking at in our price range looked like major projects even to my untrained eyes.
Then in March of this year less than 50 miles from home an Airstream came up for sale. The shell looked in good shape no major dents or dings so I started haggling on price,finally paying a little more than scrap price.
When finished I will have a trailer I can tow anywhere without worry, plus the knowledge that if something goes wrong, or breaks I know how to fix it.
I've been reading on this forum of a lot of problems with later model coaches,a lot of frame problems in late models. To repair these new coaches the right way will require the same trouble I'm going through to repair my 1975 model.A 10 year old trailer can have the same structural troubles as a 40 year old.
I read a post of a couple that started out full-timing in an Airstream the frame broke with then in the southwest basically stranding them. This really got me to thinking about traveling,vacations and time constraints. With a complete rebuild I will know the condition of my trailer when finished.
Good Luck,
Jack
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:22 PM   #19
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Wow! Thanks to everyone, this has been awesome! I can't believe the amount of input.
We have looked at the 22' ccd with the stern falling off... We have seen the late model 23' sinking into the mud and full of mice...
We own a very old house, we can relate to falling in love with something that we dump time and money into that we will never get back.
I guess I'm looking for a solid frame and body. Gutting, redoing the inside and mechanicals, that's what I do for a living ( on houses) so it could be interesting...
I hope folks with any thoughts on this continue to respond... It helps a lot !!!
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:38 PM   #20
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I think a big part of this question is this: is there an era of trailer that you prefer?

If you like that 22 CCD (a troubleprone model, due to OSB floors and a weak frame design) or the 23 that was sinking in the mud, maybe vintage isn't your thing. (You just need to find a better example.) Or maybe you wouldn't care one way or another.

I originally started looking for a used Bambi on a budget for a 5-week cross-country trip and wound up with a T@B teardrop. Lovely trailer, like new, tought us we loved RVing. I then bought a rather nice vintage Argosy. It needed work which I had done professionally. I spent a lot of money on it that I didn't get back.

I was proud of the Argosy. It was unique. I met a lot of nice folk with the vintage trailer that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. But none of this got around the simple fact that I liked the newer trailers better, and wasn't going to be content until I had one. Plus vintage means frequent repairs, a problem given that any RV already requires a fair amount of fixes anyway.

Now we have one. I found a very clean 2007 trailer and worked out (most) of the remaining bugs and am making upgrades. I walk into it and smile - every time. (Unless something is leaking.) With the wonder of 20/20 hindsight, I wish we had just taken a loan and bought a slightly used Bambi or 20' Safari to start with. We'd probably still have it, or at the very least, I would have less gray hair.

So, if you want a newer trailer and don't want to spend much time fixing it up, be patient and get what you want in the first place. Or, if you find the project to be fun, go for that.

Tom
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