I just had to go see it.
I've bought 5 other vintage Airstreams over the past few years; only two of them for myself. I've learned you can't tell the whole story with photos. You have to see it and smell it in person.
I drove the 200 miles to Connecticut, hoping for one of those rare trailers that looks better in person and "just doesn't photograph well." Upon inspection, it was clear that Cliff was an honest seller and the trailer was exactly as he represented it in the photos.
He had wanted my opinion on the price. I told him that, considering the model and year and the fact that it had a great low serial number (#O9003, which means the 3rd Caravanner ever made), it might be worth $2000 to the right buyer. I just wasn't the right buyer. I knew it would need just about everything, from a new axle, frame repair and a new floor, to an entirely new interior, electrical and plumbing, to a host of exterior door, window, vent and shell parts.
Serial Number: O (for Ohio) 9003
I headed for home empty handed. But a few minutes after I left the driveway I called Michele. I told her about the condition and that I still liked it. No matter what 50s trailer I started with, I knew I'd probably need to do extensive frame, floor and system work, so why not start with an inexpensive trailer. If we started with this one, in the end we'd have a brand new trailer inside a classic 1956 shell. We had a discussion about the value of making mortgage payments vs. the value of restoring a vintage Airstream. Overall, though, Michele was not adamantly opposed.
As soon as I hung up and still on the road home, I called my friend Colin Hyde in Plattsburgh, NY. I live about 2 hours from Colin's restoration shop and I knew the only way I could do this is with a lot of his help. Colin restores vintage Airstreams for a living. I'd seen his work and it was first-rate. His attention to engineering as well as aesthetics was just what I needed. I knew Colin would be the guy to do the big projects...especially early on...that I didn't have the skills to do.
I gave Colin a full description over the phone and he agreed it was a project worth doing. I called Cliff back and we agreed on a price significantly lower than my first suggestion. We were both pleased and I turned around and drove back to hand him the check.