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What’s So Great About Restoring A Vintage Airstream Trailer?

Restoring a vintage Airstream trailer is a slippery slope. One repair leads to another – again and again – and when it’s done you realize that a brand new Airstream could be bought for the same price as the parts and labor you put into the project. Yet why is restoring a vintage Airstream trailer still so appealing to many RVers?

What makes this RV better than others?

restoring a vintage Airstream trailer
Rene Agredano

Since I’m not an Airstream owner I wanted to understand the appeal of a major RV renovation project like this. I asked one of the biggest vintage Airstream experts to share his thoughts and contacted Tim Shephard, the author of Restoring a Dream: My Journey Restoring a Vintage Airstream. He was kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of the book so I could find out for myself.

Tim is the creator of the Vintage Airstream Podcast, aka The VAP, the Internet’s biggest and best resource for information about oldie Airstreams. His book is an in-depth narrative that chronicles how he restored two vintage Airstreams of his own.

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restoring a vintage Airstream

Is Restoring a Vintage Airstream Trailer Smart?

Let’s face it, today’s RV trailers aren’t made like they were in the old days. Most modern trailers are fabricated with lightweight materials held together with staples and glue. Few if any trailers can be renovated to the point where you can gut the inside all the way to the frame and restore it inside and out. The Airstream is unique because it falls into this category.

When it’s done right, a restored vintage Airstream trailer can actually bring in more money than you paid for it. Once again, modern RVs just can’t live up to that.

But before you get swayed by the financial potential, keep in mind what Tim says about restoring one:

“It does require a certain type of individual. Someone interested in restoring an Airstream needs to look past the issues of an ‘As-Found’ trailer and see its potential. Patience and perserverance are words that come to mind when ou choose to ‘go vintage.’ Once you commit to restoring a vintage Airstream, you have an open canvas. There will be hurdles to overcome, guaranteed, it’s all part of the journey.”

Still think you’ve got what it takes? Then reading Tim’s book is mandatory. In just over 300 pages he chronicles his own love affair with vintage Airstreams, starting with a 23-foot 1971 Safari restoration and then a 28-foot 1960 Ambassador that he got for under $4,000 on eBay.

But Restoring a Dream isn’t just about Tim’s vintage Airstreams. The book explains the many features that make all vintage Airstreams different from other trailers, and readers also learn the ins and outs of what it takes to find that perfect vintage Airstream trailer project that’s waiting in a field somewhere.

Learn What Vintage Airstream Features to Look for – and Avoid

Tim’s book is a must-read mainly because he explains how to assess different features of vintage Airstreams before you buy so that you don’t make the mistakes that he and many others have made. Some of the critical information you’ll learn includes:

  • How to avoid the dreaded “Polished Turd” – an Airstream that’s been polished to a spit shine on the outside but critical components like the subfloor, plumbing or frame is a disaster.
  • How Airstream models differ from decade to decade.
  • What to look for in appliances and exterior dents.
  • Things to prepare for during the renovation project.

One of the greatest benefits of Tim’s book is that he provides tons of details about restoration products that worked – and didn’t work on his Ambassador. He shares the brand names of everything from tub refinishing paint to polish for the aluminum shell. Unfortunately it’s all done in narrative form and not in checklist format, so you’ll have to read through every sentence to find out, but it’s worth the time spent since it will make your life easier and save you money.

Do You Get It Now?

As I read through Tim’s epic restoration project and all of the tips he shares from his VAP Podcast, I finally got it! Now I know why vintage Airstream fans are so passionate about their trailers.

Not only are these rigs built to last with craftsmanship that surpasses new RVs, but no matter how much time or money they spend on the project, when it’s complete a vintage Airstream owner has the satisfaction of towing a totally personalized work of modern art. You just can’t say that about the majority of typical RV trailers.

Vintage Airsreams are as personal as a tattoo!

restoring a vintage Airstream
Rene Agredano

If you can see yourself towing a vintage Airstream on your camping vacations, pick up a copy of Restoring a Dream and check out Tim’s podcast library filled with endless hours about all things Airstream. You’ll be glad you did!

More vintage trailer reading:

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