Although my search for a larger vintage Airstream may now be over I had an interesting experience while I was actively looking. An â€™83 Excella was for sale not far from where I live. It was advertised as being in â€œbeautiful condition, SECOND OWNER, fully equipped, twin beds, fold out double, awnings all around, aluminum wheels with excellent tires, twin updated propane bottles, air conditioning, new carpeting, many attachments for water, power, tows beautifully, original owners were ambassadors for WBCCI.â€
That intrigued me so I contacted the seller and scheduled a showing. Fortunately, I got there early and he got there late. That gave me time to look over the exterior of the trailer at my leisure.
I immediately suffered a letdown. To begin with, the location had the appearance of a junk yard, not a storage facility. The Airstream sat in weeds and mud. Rabbits scurried out from under it when I walked up. Trust me that should always be a red flag.
Weeds provide a ladder for mice and other rodents to get in. Also, the storage compartment and bumper had been damaged and the tray had come undone and was hanging open from below. That also provided an entry for rodents to get into the trailer.
I was so preoccupied looking under the trailer that I didnâ€™t pay much attention to the upper. I had noticed some ghost WBCCI membership numbers, but thatâ€™s so common that I didnâ€™t bother to read it. Then I saw a decal indicating that the original owner had been the WBCCI Parliamentarian. That made me actually read the membership number. Being a three digit number, it indicated that the original owner had been a WBCCI International Officer.
I stood there dumbfounded. I knew that number well. It belongs to a good friend and life member of the Club. Further, I had just recently bought his tow vehicle â€“ the same one that had pulled the trailer I was looking at for over a decade. For a moment, I thought it must be providence. Was I meant to find this old trailer and bring it back to life?
My friend had sold the trailer a few years prior to my knowing him. The second owners had taken it into the mountains and parked it. They only used it as a cabin and had never moved it other than to bring it back into the city to sell.
The problem with using a trailer as a mountain cabin is that the snow loads can cave in a conventionally framed trailer (Iâ€™ve seen this) and while an Airstream withstands the load by distributing the weight more evenly it can still be damaged. No trailer is designed to withstand six feet or more of snow and that is how much regularly accumulates in that mountain location.
Evidence of this was provided by the seller himself. He had taken a vent cover off the roof because the snow load had broken it in half.
There were other problems likely caused by the snow load. There were telltale water stains in the interior and the street side window awning roller tube was bowed.
All of this can be fixed of course. The seams can be resealed, the vent cover replaced, and the roller tube bent back. The curtains can be replaced and stains removed. Wet carpet can be pulled up, but the list goes on and on not to mention the hail damage and failed clear coat.
Then there was the mouse problem. â€œOh yes,â€ the seller told me, â€œthere was a mouse.â€ But where there is one there are ten, and droppings throughout the trailer indicated they were still in house.
Mice can be very destructive as well as unsanitary. They put holes in the fiberglass insulation because it makes good nesting material. Likewise they will chew through upholstery and bedding to make nests in the cushions and mattresses. All of this can become very expensive to correct.
My friend, the original owner, was meticulous in his maintenance and care when the trailer was in his possession. Heâ€™s told me the trailer was pristine and completely equipped for travel when he sold it and I believe him. Itâ€™s why I bought his vintage tow vehicle.
He and his wife were so excited for the people who bought their trailer. They envisioned that family having fun travel adventures, making memories they way they had. But abuse and neglect by the second owner ruined the trailer in a few short years; sad, so very sad.
Leaving the underside unrepaired like this invites rodent infestation.
I hope that anyone knowing my friend will not tell him about this post. It would be better if he didnâ€™t know. But let it be a lesson for all the rest of us. Airstreams die from neglect and abandonment more than from any other cause, which is why so many owners of vintage Airstreams insist on using them. They thrive when they are kept on the road.