This column is going to be about the differences, difficulties and rewards of owning and working on a vintage Airstream as opposed to owning a new one. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but simply that there are differences. So, to start things off Iâ€™ll start by writing about why I went vintage as opposed to buying new or nearly new.
When I decided it was time to shop for an Airstream I didnâ€™t want to also buy a bigger tow vehicle. Our garage wasnâ€™t deep enough to conveniently park a full size pickup or large SUV such as a Suburban. I could get them in, but the front bumper would nearly touch the back wall.
Instead, we owned a mini-van, a 1987 Ford Aerostar. It was rated to tow 5,000 lb. and I wanted to keep it. It fit nicely in the garage, got pretty good gas mileage, was in excellent condition and was a versatile vehicle. Weâ€™d towed some large pop up trailers with it and it did well, even when fully loaded with two adults and three good sized teenagers and camping gear.
So, I studied the weights on Airstream trailers, old and new. Vintage Airstreams are definitely lighter, and since they are also less expensive to purchase that is what we bought. Initially, I tried shopping for either a Bambi or a Caravel, but competition for either model is intense, at least in this part of the country. Three times I arrived just in time to see one of those little trailers sell to someone else. It was frustrating.
Buyers are nearly as anxious to get Globe Trotters. We found a 1966 20â€™ Globe Trotter and were able to buy it, but only after being very aggressive with the seller. There was no negotiating on the price, as there were thirteen other potential buyers behind us.
The Aerostar pulled the Globe Trotter quite well (UVW is around 3,000 lb.). That wasnâ€™t a problem. The problem was that the Aerostarâ€™s brakes were undersized due to its 14â€ wheels and after a few scary brake failures caused by the brake fluid over heating on long, steep descents we decided to shop for a better tow vehicle. Weâ€™ve been towing ever since with our Ford F-150 Supercrew and are very happy with it. It didnâ€™t fit in the garage very well though and so it has spent most of its life parked outside.
The lesson learned here is that the tow rating doesnâ€™t really count if the braking isnâ€™t equally up to the task â€“ especially in the Rocky Mountains. It’s ironic that we didn’t keep the mini-van as a tow vehicle, but that is how we got started with the vintage Airstream life.