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phlegm 07-10-2015 01:37 PM

My 1971 31ft Sovereign
I wasn't really in the market for an Airstream, so this caught me a bit off kilter, and it was a whirlwind decision and trip home.
I heard about it being for sale on June 22, I talked to my brother who was selling it on June 23, I went and looked at it on June 25, negotiated a price on June 26, paid for it July 3rd, hauled it home July 4th, and then the cleaning commenced.

FWIW, he was asking $1200, I paid under a grand.

Initial examination pictures.

And that ends the good stuff.
Apparently my brother lived in it for almost a year, parking it at friends houses while he hid from the law (you read that right) and when he finally moved out of it into an apartment, he basically abandoned it as is.
Nasty mouse nests, I only found two so far.. one in the oven
The other in the top shelf behind where tambour should have been next to the fridge.
He had blankets over the (self) tinted windows, and duct tape on the outside to keep the drafts out.
Prior to purchase he told me that the furnace would not ignite and that the water heater worked off 110v, I don't know who did it but the fridge had been replaced by a 110v unit. There was a hide-a-bed in the front living room area, and a propane portable heater unit in the corner.

I undercut his original asking price because I planned on fully gutting it and remodeling it with an updated floor plan with a full bed in the back, and convertible sleeping areas for the kids (ages 5 and 6).

So good, bad, or (definitely) ugly.
Here starts the adventure..

phlegm 07-10-2015 01:53 PM

Still not having much of a clue as to how any of the systems work or what condition they were in, July 4th 2015 I hooked up to it with my pickup.

The truck is a 2005 F250 CCSB 6.0/auto/Lariat with Camper and FX4 packages, and towed it home, pulled like a dream.
From what I've read, it looks like I'll be needing axles..

Tail, brake, 1 reverse, and a couple clearance lights worked, so I left around 3pm CST to be home before it got too dark. Once home I parked it in the driveway and enjoyed the rest of the 4th, by NOT working on the AS.

July 5th, got up at a reasonable time and started the clean out process, I made 3 piles.
Garbage, this was the first load, I didn't pile it high because I wanted to close my tonneau cover while driving. And since I have a huge dumpster at work and permission from my boss to toss things in it, there isn't any huge rush to make just a single trip. I took another truck box load of garbage in today that included the stuff from under the beds and bathroom, plus items from the pantry. As of today (7/10/15) the trailer is ready for me to start washing everything down with pine sol or similar before I start pulling out interior and working on the main systems.
I should also mention that after I burned the couch (full of mouse droppings) and the mattresses, I took their frames in and put them in the metal scrap recycling dumpster at work.

And lastly (smallest pile)
By this time it was looking a lot better, less like a garbage dump.
I wasn't done cleaning at this point, I still needed to pull out and burn those mattresses, one of them had a hole chewed into the bottom of it.. again, disgusting.

But at least it was somewhat presentable.

I still need to take down this "flat panel mount plate"
Why was he so lazy that he didn't turn the hide-a-bed 90 degrees and mount it on the divider wall for the refrigerator location?

This is the same trailer sitting in my yard, in front of the garden and barn.

phlegm 07-10-2015 02:21 PM

That brings me to the current state of things.
The AC works, which was a blessing while I was cleaning, it was low 90's and humid July 5th around here.

The 110 to 12v converter works, it is labeled Newmark DVC 40 R-A-C
I don't have a spare 12v battery to test the straight 12v, it didn't have a battery in it when I bought it, so I have to figure out how that all is expected to work.
The lights in the living area, kitchen area, and bathroom work.
I hooked up water to the inlet line at the rear driver side (street side) and it took on water for a while, then started leaking profusely out of that same corner of the AS. More investigation is necessary.

The propane tanks he provided are ancient, and probably empty, I talked to a guy filling the propane tanks for the forklifts at work today, he said that I should look into new tanks, or get the valves updated and the tanks recertified. I'm certain that I'll need to do more than that to get the propane subsystem back up and online.

I called ZipDee about replacing the awning, over the phone the rough estimate was $2300, but that is not solid. They estimated $400 for each of the missing window awnings.

When I opened the vista windows, the covers are in really bad shape, faded, thin, cracked, and in need of replacement.

The step is missing?

All of the windows need to be resealed, all of the weather stripping is dry rotted and cracked. Additionally a couple of the windows have shrinkage of the seal that locks the window into the C-channel.

Once you start considering how much air this thing is leaking, its no wonder the AC never got 'cold'. I sure it didn't help that I had it parked in direct sun light on a 90 degree day without any awnings or window shades either.

Maybe not immediately apparent, but if you look at the rear vent above the bathroom in a few of the pictures you will see that my brother put a plastic tote lid over the vent opening and then held it down with an 8x8x8 cinder block :angry: I'll be looking at options to put in a new powered fan up there, I'll replace the front one at the same time.

At this time, the plan is still for an eventual full gutting and remodel, but for this year so we can get some use out of it; I plan on the following.

Track down and acquire as much reference material as possible.

Fix stupid neglect issues
Window seals
Ceiling vents
Remove copious amounts of clear silicone, replace with suitable sealant.
Get the 12v system back into a working condition.
Decide if I'm keeping the existing furnace or replacing it.
Fix/replace as necessary.

I want to pull out all the interior walls to make certain that all the mouse droppings are out, seal up any water leaks, and reinsulate with bubble foil.

At minimum get the water working well enough to flush the toilet.
Make certain that there are no issues with the black water system.

Paint all the inner panels, including the front bulk head.
Paint the bathroom.

Some of you may be wondering why I stopped with the water system for the toilet/blackwater. Well, that is because I haven't done enough reading yet to figure out if I can or should reuse the clear water tank for potable water source. Water that gets flushed can be 'questionable' but water that I drink, or wash my hands/dishes with needs to be safe.

With a clean interior, working toilet, we should at least be able to use it for camping trips, even if we are still sleeping on our old air mattresses.

I should start a punch list and get these things prioritized..

CaCraig 07-11-2015 01:33 PM

Welcome to the club!

That roof vent in the bathroom does not have a fan, at least mine doesn't. The only fan is a fart fan to the left of you if you're sitting on the toilet. It vents through the floor.

Your vista view shades look different than mine. Mine are made of the same aluminum sheeting as the walls and then have an aluminum handle like the tambour doors.

You can find a service manual/owners manual from a guy on eBay. AS started them in 1972 but it's pretty close.

I'd get the tanks re-certified. Aluminum tanks are $$.

AirstreamPDX 07-12-2015 10:57 AM

Breaking Bad? A shame to see abuse of a nice old trailer like that.

davidlparker 07-12-2015 11:08 AM

By all means get the aluminum tranks recertified. From the picture it appears as thoughyou will need new valves. Once that is done the recertification processis simple. You sholld call propane dealers ahead and find one who can do the recertification. They may also be able to change the valves.

davidlparker 07-12-2015 11:13 AM

In spite of the work ahead of you I think you got a fairly good opportunity to make this AS the way you want it. Also, get new axles! The ones on your AS are almost certainly original equpment and need to be replaced. If they fail it is likely to be catastrophic and far more exspensive than replacing the axles. Plus you will still need new axles.

David Parker
1969 Sovereign (31')
1989 Dodge D-350

Sbb 07-12-2015 11:26 AM

Welcome, great beginning of work to make it yours.

idroba 07-12-2015 11:47 AM

You have lots of work ahead of you. Just two comments now from me:

1. The aluminum tanks you have can be updated with new valves and certified for about $50 each, and they will last another 50 years. New Aluminum tanks are several hunderd dollars each, so re using the originals is a good move.

2. The furnace is 44 years old. For safety just replace it.

Glenritas 07-12-2015 12:30 PM

We just went through the rebuild process on out '69 Tradewind it took 2 years and $20k+ to make its maiden 2200 mile trip last month and its still not finished.

I replaced the rear four feet of the floor, installed underlayment and Marmolium , replaced the axles ,brakes, wheels and tires, all plumbing with PEX, new fresh water tank and pump, water heater, stove , refer, added micro wave, A/C, Maxxair powered vents, new 30amp electrical, Intelipower smart charger, Lifeline battery, new fuse panels,LED lighting, furnace, LP system, new wet bath, all new partitions and the list goes on and on and we haven't even got to the outside finishes yet.

Well I have to go out now and work on some more stuff in it now.

Unfortunately these things take 5-10 times longer and more $$$ then you think they should.

Have fun with your rebuild and I hope you can at least get a couple of nights in this summer in your aluminum tent even if its only in the driveway.

duncans 07-12-2015 01:01 PM

That AS is looking so much happier in the last photo! So glad you "adopted" it!

NavyCorpsman 07-12-2015 02:04 PM

It will be nice when it's done. Mine started out the same way. My PO was a diabetic.....uncapped insulin syringes and needles in the darndest places. Three years later and a lot of sweat equity, we're almost done. Have fun with it and thank you for sharing your story.

SuzyHomemakr 07-12-2015 02:23 PM

You can always take those old propane bottles to Home Depot or Lowe's, and exchange them...

As long as it tows, is mostly water-tight, and is clean, you can always have fun in it! THere's nothing like a good "design session" in a nice camp, but make sure to have plenty of supplies. They are a thirsty business! :)

featherbedder 07-12-2015 03:57 PM

As far as drinking water from potable tank be safe as many do, drink bottled water and for cooking, sterilize water tank, how to do this many posts on forums, I only use tank water for sanitary reasons, much better to be safe than sickness. I think you made good deal with price. I def. would have valves replaced and recertified, they don't wear out, and much lighter than steel tanks, just no trade in for them only for steel tanks Welcome to AS ownership.

JCWDCW 07-12-2015 04:59 PM

When I look at a Vintage AS my only concern is the condition of the skin and windows. Yours seem to be in quite good condition. I've never undertaken an interior rebuild, but that seems to be the norm for vintage units so you now seem to have a clean slate to "paint you own picture". I Say ...have fun. You don't have a great deal of cash invested so everything else is just doing it for yourself.

Rhino33 07-12-2015 05:10 PM

Congratulations on your new project!

Ours was a similar situation (PO left it in storage for 10+ years) and was used as spare storage. A list longer than I care to write here, 2 1/2 years and a fair amount of $$ later, ours is finally on the road, though not completely finished even now. One of the biggest repairs for us was to replace the wheels and axles and it made a monumental difference.

Enjoy it, and don't hesitate to ask questions here. Everyone is a wealth of information and can give you sanity when yours may be lacking.

BluesClues 07-12-2015 06:18 PM

Yahoo!. We have a '72. Congratulations for seeing through the clutter.

SL4BLLT 07-12-2015 07:39 PM

you've taken on a project, but have moved mountains. We have a 72 and have done allot of work over the years so it can be done even in the condition you received it in. Couple real quick comments.
1. Keep the aluminum 40# tanks and get them re-certified. They cost about $300 apiece new on a good deal and like mentioned above, will last forever.
2.Just replace the fans with either fantastic fans or max vent fans and replace all three. Don't even mess with it. The new technology with low drawing amperage and ventilation will save you lots of time.
3. Check with Silver Trailer Supply and see what they have for zip dees that may fit your needs. Zip Dee is a great Company and if you can re-purpose left overs it may be worth looking into their web site sending them the serial number of the coach. you never know.
4. Love Bradd and Hall RV out of Elkhart for close out or even new mattresses. They can make them to size as well as sofas and dining sets U-shape as we have in our 72 that you can find on the forums from a few years back.
Have fun, thanks for saving and continuing the legacy of Airstream by keeping this one still on the road. Keep in mind that is is very light even for the "long boy" length. Make sure that all of the under carriage and out rigging are solid before too much investment.
Good luck and we will see you down the road!
Best regards,

CaCraig 07-12-2015 08:06 PM

I read on here that the Fantastic fans don't fit the curved roof. I prefer the vintage aluminum cover so I just got a new motor from Inland.

I also read that new Zip Dees for the Sovereign are 21 feet long and cost about $2500. On his trailer I see 2 windows that look like they had awnings. The curbside doesn't look like it's ever had an awning.

If you keep it original you'll spend the least amount of money. The more you change, the more money it will cost and take more time.

Mine was all original and very dirty inside from being parked in a field with a broken skylight and old weatherstripping. Just to get it cleaned and roadworthy will cost about $7-8000. I have solid floors and no rear end sag. If I were to gut it and replace everything I think I would be spending at least 2-3x that much.

phlegm 07-12-2015 08:34 PM

Thanks for reading and replying.
My wife's daily driver is a 1968 Mustang. And one thing I know with 100% certainty is that the only "done" project of this age.... is a SOLD project.

I'll have more pics and words tomorrow.
My weekends belong to my wife and kids, as such I don't post much until back at work. (don't tell the boss)
Time constraints will be my biggest hurdle.

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