Our search for Mavis was intensive. As in combing classifieds, Craigslist, eBay and anything else we could get our hands on. We searched for months only to find out either another buyer beat us to it, the trailer was too far gone, too expensive or too far away. Our search radius was 500 miles. Even that scared us. We are the type of people that can’t buy a used car if it has a scratch or door ding on it. So buying a trailer – an old trailer – sight unseen was majorly frightening. We knew absolutely nothing about Airstream besides my obsession with them since I was a kid. They were like some other-worldly creature to me. Like spotting a unicorn. Some people see a trailer, I see art. But when it came to actually pulling the trigger and taking one on as a project we didn’t know the first thing about what to look for.
We knew the basics:
+ Is the floor solid?
+ Can you see or smell mold?
+ Does it smell in general?
+ Does it pull straight?
+ Does it leak?
These were my main questions I asked sellers. Any of these that came up with a “yes” for an answer we ran from. I’m sure there are many of other questions that are important but with our limited knowledge, this is what we asked. I think this mostly covered the major issues that we just weren’t equipped for or had the time to deal with. And I would still ask these same questions if I were in the search for another trailer. But now I wouldn’t be afraid of fixing leaks as we found a couple of leaks anyway even though we were told it’s sealed. I just absolutely didn’t want to get in with a trailer that needed a new subfloor or full gutting.
We looked at three trailers before we found Mavis. A 31′ Sovereign and two 27′ Argosys. The 31′ was just too long, too hard to maneuver and the weight limit far exceeded our towing capacity for our SUV. The Argosys were beautiful and far less expensive but a “painted lady” just didn’t live up to my dream of a silver bullet. We held out for the perfect Airstream. One evening as I combed my usual sites, I stumbled upon Mavis. A 1975 Overlander in Tampa, Florida posted on eBay. It was listed through a 3rd party service and had very little information and photos. I was put in touch with the seller – a sweet older lady living in Michigan. She had been paying to have her Airstream housed at the storage facility in Tampa for the past seven years. She was having a hard time parting with it as it was a project she and her husband shared. He had since passed away and their adventures in the Airstream came to a close. She just didn’t have the heart to part with it and was waiting for the perfect person to come along and breathe new life into it. We got to talking, sharing our life stories and she later told me she had waited seven years for me to come along. The trailer passed all five of my questions (and then some!) and we started making arrangements to pick it up.
We used a 3rd party service – wegolook.com – to go out and ensure that the trailer was road-worthy as well as provide us with a comprehensive set of high res photos of every inch of the trailer. The owner actually had a free inspection through the goodsamclub.com so all of this didn’t cost us a dime. This was the next best thing to actually seeing it in person before committing to buy. The trailer was deemed road-worthy, however we did have to spring for a set of new trailer tires before our 500 mile trek home to Atlanta.
My original intent was to leave the trailer original and just rip out the carpet and paint everything white. Easy, right? Not at all. We decided a 40 year old bathroom and kitchen made our skin crawl. So we gutted the bathroom and kitchen entirely. I’m so glad we did this as these areas were so outdated and impossible to refinish in any way that was remotely attractive. I considered marine paint for the sink and tub but then only thought of how chemical ridden a pool of bath water in that caustic paint must be. Maybe it was just fine but it’d always be in the back of my mind. Heating up that paint every time I took a bath had to do something to leach chemicals. And forget about painting the interior walls and cabinetry with latex paint. It just scraped right off.