With the trending tiny house movement, and the popularity of living a nomadic lifestyle in recent years, renovations of vintage airstreams to live in, has been all the rage. I happen to have jumped on that bandwagon too, sort of. I do not necessarily want to live in an airstream, but I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind. Can you imagine the money we’d save? Wow! But can you imagine how crazy we’d go? lol
However, what I did want to do was find a vintage airstream and renovate it. I wanted to keep some of its original character and charm, while also updating it with my own personal touches and adding a few modern upgrades. That way, we would be able to travel throughout the USA in a fun and quirky style, while saving money on hotels and being able to bring along our cherished fur babies.
Now, I’m not a person who likes campers or camping even (I’ve gone a total of three times my entire life), but with airstream, it’s totally different. I fell in love with these shiny, moving milk cans forever ago and for some reason I don’t even look at them as a camper. I especially went gaga over them when browsing through the amazing renovations people have posted on Pinterest and YouTube. (If you do the same, you might catch the vintage airstream fever? Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
I was so inspired by these makeovers, I just had to do one myself. I also thought about how I travel all around the world, but haven’t experienced hardly any of my own amazing country. I’ve never even seen the Grand Canyon! By having a house on wheels, it’d be like having my very own mobile airbnb. We could go anywhere the road could take us! And last month, that’s just what my husband and I did!
Here’s Our Story:
For the last two years we have been searching off and on for a vintage airstream to renovate. On our quest we quickly learned that they are really expensive, hard to find in our area, and many are in far worse condition than we wanted to take on. We also learned that airstream literally has a cult following, making it even harder to find these much sought after unique relics, that look like a cross between an airplane and a submarine.
The criteria for the airstream we were looking for had to be; under $10,000, not completely gutted and within a few hours from where we live. This was an almost impossible checklist, until last month.
One evening while watching tv and browsing the web for airstreams, we stumbled upon one that seemed to meet our requirements. It was located only a few towns away, the pictures of the trailer showed it to be in pretty decent condition, but the price they were asking was $11,000. This was a little over budget, but I decided to go check it out anyway.
The next day I drove to the location and toured this 1972 Sovereign Land Yacht 31 foot beaut! She needed a little TLC and some upgrades, but overall, she was in good shape for being forty-five years old (same age as me, and I hope the same assessment 😉 ). I immediately broke out my phone and took a little footage to show my hubby. From what he could see in the video, he thought it was in acceptable condition too, but the price tag was a bit higher than we wanted to spend, especially factoring in renovation expenses.
So, I had to work some magic.
I took note of all the things that were wrong with the airstream. Some examples were, the awning was missing, the A/C needed to be replaced and there was evidence of past water damage in the bathroom. I made sure to point out all of these things to the owner, and found out that this has been for sale now for eight months, so I’m sure our interest motivated him a tad more than it would have a few months back. How did we miss this listing all these months?
Anyway, my husband never even saw it in person and here we were, putting in a very low-ball offer of $7,000. We knew that was way too low, but we wanted to throw it out there anyway to see if he would bite at all.
He came back and told us that he could not let it go for that low, stating that he was originally asking $13,500, had just put in all new electrical, plumbing, replaced the bathroom floor and sink, got a new stove-top, new tires and bought a new door lock that ran him $500. However, he said he could work with us a little.
After a bit of haggling, we came to an agreement of $9,000 AS IS.
And she was ours!
We took her home, gave her a name (Her Gypsy Soul) and started mapping out our renovation plan. The very first thing that had to go was this ugly red table that looked like it came from a pizza parlor. Nope, that was not the vision I wanted at all. I wanted the style to be comfy and cozy with a sort of bohemian/ shabby chic feel and everything light in color.
My husband was the planner of the technical things, such as being sure the water heater was in good working condition, installing flooring, water sealing the entire trailer, sealing the windows and door, adding a back-splash in the kitchen, changing out all the outlets and painting (although my mother-in-law and I did most of that). He also had to learn all about the black water tank, how to dump it and so forth, discovered that we don’t have a gray water tank because of how old she was, and learned how we could get a tote and store portable one instead. All I can say is thank goodness for YouTube tutorials. They were a lifesaver. I think we watched every single airstream video that was ever made! It really helped us understand the workings of our old gal and how we could upgrade things.
I was the planner of the more fun part, interior decorating. I planned the design layout and the decor, which was so much more challenging than I anticipated. I had to remind myself over and over how small the space was, how the weight of items was an important consideration (the lighter, the better), how the walls are curved like an airplane, and when in transport, breakable things wont survive.
We worked tirelessly for a month on nights and weekends and gave ourselves a due date for when we wanted to have her completed and road ready. We thought a fitting and kind of ironic day would be my 45th birthday, June 17th. We could celebrate her and my 45th year together on our shared maiden voyage.
Since this would be our first camping trip in a vintage RV, we thought it would be best to not go too far, just in case. So we chose our local seacoast. This would be beneficial for a few reasons:
- If anything went wrong we would have help nearby.
- My adult kids could join us, even if they didn’t want to sleep overnight.
- We could host a Father’s Day cookout for our dads at our camp site by the beach.
What a perfect way to kick off summer!
The time crunch was getting close and we almost thought we wouldn’t be ready in time, but luckily we finished! Although there were little things here and there that we still wanted to do, she was ready enough, to set out on the open road.
June 17th came and as I was shopping at the grocery store to pick up cookout foods, snacks and drinks to stock the airstream, my husband was at home packing last-minute items and hitching up Her Gypsy Soul to his truck. To his horror, while connecting the hitch he noticed severe rust on his 2004 Ford F150, and when he attached the two he heard a loud crunch noise!
He knew he had some rust, and was planning on upgrading to a newer truck soon, but had no idea how much, especially there!
I got home and noticed an odd look on his face and immediately asked him what was wrong. He explained what he discovered and said it wouldn’t be safe for him to haul the airstream with his truck and he didn’t think we could go!!
“What?? OMG!” This was so unexpected and I was in disbelief. “Was all that hard work for nothing? And what were we going to do?” I mean, my son was already at the beach waiting for us (him and his girlfriend were joining us to celebrate). My daughter was coming up for just the day too, we had a Father’s Day cookout planned for the next day, and it was MY BIRTHDAY! Such a bummer!
So, we had our cool vintage airstream all pimped out and ready to go, and realize it may never leave our driveway, ever!
I walked into the house in kind of a daze. “Should I call my son and tell him the weekend is cancelled? Should we try to rent a truck? Should we try to borrow a truck? Was getting this airstream a mistake, since now we have no way of actually going anywhere with it? All of these thoughts were flooding my head and it triggered an instant migraine. I went to my bed and laid down, hoping this wasn’t really happening.
Then, a new plan was made.
Thankfully my wonderful in-laws offered to let us use my father-in-law’s truck. He wasn’t using it and was already up at the beach too, but was driving their jeep. We would be meeting them also the next day for Father’s Day. Crisis diverted! Well, at least for this trip anyway.
We finally made it to our site, later than we originally planned, but we still made it!
My daughter came for the day, but couldn’t sleep over because she had to work in the morning. My husband, myself, my son and his girlfriend, plus my two Boston Terrier pups, all had our first overnight in our vintage airstream.
It was so much fun!
My dogs have never been able to vacation with us and now with Her Gypsy Soul, we can take them along with us sometimes. Not to mention, they absolutely loved it!
It was a very nice weekend getaway celebrating with our family.
Overall, our trial run went great. All except the truck fiasco, that is! We took note of all the things that we forgot and things that we might change. For instance, the papasan lounger chair I chose, now that we used it, isn’t quite as practical as we thought. It looks pretty, but it is bulky and we discovered it’s hard for people to sit in, especially my dad! I ended up taking it out and making a little reading nook in my bedroom with it. It actually looks better there. We are thinking that we could put a small futon or a twin trundle-bed in that spot instead eventually.
I think the more we use Her Gypsy Soul, the more we will get a feel of what our style of camping will be? With experience, we will learn what things we absolutely need and what things we really could do without. Working out the kinks and having all the necessities you don’t think about, takes time. But, we will get there.
And as far as how and when we will ever get to use her again?……
I am happy to report that my husband just upgraded his truck to a 2015 Ford F150-platinum, and it will haul Her Gypsy Soul with ease. He is super psyched because he wasn’t going to do this until winter and now, this summer, he is driving a beautiful new truck with massaging, air-conditioned seats! Are you kidding me?
I can’t help but to wonder if this was all in his master plan. 😉
But seriously, this was a lot of work, a little stressful, but so much fun too! We have big plans for awesome adventures in Her Gypsy Soul and look forward to making many happy memories traveling our beautiful country with our dogs.
If this is something you are considering or have any questions about our 1972 vintage airstream renovation project, feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to help in any way I can. Just remember, when you become an airstream owner, you become a member of a very exclusive club, and we feel very lucky to be in it.
It’s not camping, its glamping!
BEFORE AND AFTER PHOTOS