Acquiring a 64 Airstream

One of the first orders of business, when one decides to open up a coffee shop in an Airstream, is to acquire an Airstream. That we did. We had been searching for a while and waiting for a decent one to come up for sale which was in our price range. We found a 30′ 1964 Airstream Sovereign in Port Townsend, Washington on Craigslist for $2,300. That would be a 5 hour drive.  So my dad and I rose early in the mornin’ and took off for Port Townsend. Yep, just like that. I pressed that button. 5 hour trip to buy a $2,300 fifty year old trailer sight unseen and drive it back? No problem. Just to compare, I’ve spent days… DAYS researching what dishwasher to buy and becoming completely indecisive about it. DAYS, I said. Well, not this time. I have a plan.

The Condition

We got there about 1pm. The body was in pretty good shape except for some dents in the back above the bathroom window. It was already gutted, which saved some time. The floor material was in decent shape but it was old and the strength was fading. No floor rot or mold anywhere for the most part, which was surprising for it being a western Washington Airstream. The tongue was rough, but it could be cleaned up. No lights worked: running lights, brake lights, marker lights… nothing. I bought a cheap set of magnet towing lights at Harbor Freight with knowledge that the lights didn’t work. There were no holding tanks, no drain pipes, no water pipes. The vents were all goners. The glass in the windows had been replaced with Plexiglas (Apparently the original windows were not tempered glass and broke easy). The jalousie window next to the door was froze up and wouldn’t open or close. The interior skin was rough.

Airstream Interior
The interior

This was a 50 year old trailer and it showed. But this was expected. I planned on replacing almost everything I could, except for the exterior skin and the frame. There was one other Airstream that we thought about that wasn’t gutted and needed just as much work. That was going for $2,000 in Tri-Cities. That one wouldn’t roll without replacing wheels and tires. The only other vintage Airstreams that were close to our budget were in Montana, southern Idaho or western Oregon. None of them were under $3,000 so this was really a good deal.

So here we were, in Port Townsend, looking at a 50 year old trailer that we needed to drive 5 hours. The tires looked very, very, very, very old. It had split rims. That means they are very old as well. The tires had cracks (a lot) in them. That wasn’t a good sign. I debated stopping by a tire shop in Bremerton before making the long trek back. However, delays prevented that possibility so we ended up going for the 5 hour trip, hoping the axles, wheels and tires could survive it.

64 Airstream
Oh boy. The rims look original. The tires can’t be but, man, do they look old.
Delays, Delays, Delays

The first delay was my fault. I knew the 60’s Airstreams required a 2″ ball instead of the 2 3/8″ ball. But I never moved the 2″ ball to the receiver before we left. I was bright enough to throw the 2″ ball in the truck though. I brought tools, but not a pipe wrench. Thankfully the seller’s neighbor had a couple so we got that taken care of.

64 Airstream
Hitched up and (almost) ready to go, once the lights start working.

The next delay was much longer. About 2 hours. The magnet lights weren’t working quite right. The signaling was all messed up, even though we had it hooked up correctly. We tried swapping out connectors, wires, lights testers, etc. Ended up taking it to a Uhaul down the road and they helped us fiddle with it as well but still couldn’t get it to work. Afters 2 hours I decided to try a thicker gauge wire and it worked. The problem was, those magnet lights were only long enough for a 20 foot trailer so I bought an extra length set to use them on the 30 foot Airstream. So they used a gauge of wire just thick enough for 20 feet and that’s it. Found that out the hard way. Don’t extend the wiring of magnet lights while using their original gauge. 20 feet means 20 feet. Ok, got it. Finally, around 6pm, we were on the road back home.

64 Airstream
Fueling up on the other side of the Hood Canal bridge. And no, I don’t love the cat door.
Good Job, 50 Year Old Airstream

The trip home was pretty boring, which was good. I only went 60 mph the whole way back though. Wow, that was a long trip compared to 75 mph. It was a long, stressful day but we made it home. No blowouts, no axles breaking. Its a 50 year old trailer. Name another 50 year old trailer that can make a 350 mile trip with mostly original everything. Probably can’t. All was good.

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