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Old 12-09-2011, 07:07 PM   #1
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Real close to buying an old American Eagle

Hello folks.
Well, after months of searching online and checking out RVs, I'm real close to closing the deal on a 95 American Eagle 39AF on consignment at a very reputable dealer. The dealer has gone through it and it needs a few little things which they will fix prior to the sale, so that it's delivered fully functional just as their new models. It's got well over 100k miles, and the genset has about 1500 hours, but it was very well taken care of. I didn't see any evidence of leaks, no weird smells. The tires were recently replaced; he wasn't sure about the batteries. I've never owned an RV, and I was just wondering if anyone could tell me specific things to watch out for with this particular model. I've searched the forum and saw some things about the later models, but not the '95. I checked it out a week ago, and actually took it for a test drive. Having never driven a vehicle that big before, I was surprised at how easy it was to handle. The balljoints seemed tight, and the engine ran great. I sat on the sofa while the dealer was driving and it felt like I was in an upscale cocktail lounge, floating down the road. I really liked the cabinetry and furnishings; it didn't seem that unlike an American Revolution I checked out which was ten years newer and three times the price. It seems like it will be perfect for my situation, which is this: 35 year old with wife and three little boys, a fourth on the way, looking to take off on weekend trips up and down the Carolina coast, and take it on the long haul about four times a year. I'm in the Marines in NC and our whole family is in PA, plus we like to vacation in Hilton Head and I would LOVE to take the kids to Ft Wilderness. I'm at the point in my life where I typically invest my money in things that I expect to appreciate, kind of 180 out from the "can't take it with you" crowd buying the new motorhomes, but I think the enjoyment my family will get out of an RV will more than offset the cost and depreciation--but only if it's reliable enough that we can actually USE it. I figure this one, originally $230k and now priced in the mid-$30s, is pretty well bottomed-out. I do realize that a major repair on a coach such as this could easily top $10k but I'm willing to accept that. Maybe I'm naive for thinking I can continue to care for it as the previous owner did, and make it last another 10 years. I fully expect to encounter some issues in a coach this old, but I'm reasonably handy, both mechanically and in carpentry (I used to work on aircraft, now I fly them). My wife is concerned that it will be too small for us. There are no slide-outs. I think that may be a good thing on a coach this age--one less thing to leak or break. I think we can fit our 3,5 and 7 year olds in a 39' motorhome about as easily as we currently do it in hotel rooms. It has two sofas, one pulls out. A booth would be nice, but it will be a few years before the soon-to-be-born needs something more substantial than the pack-n-play to sleep in. Maybe if we haven't upgraded from this one in five years I could swap out the table for a booth to add a berth. Strangely enough, the dealer hasn't been able to tell me exactly which motor it has. I took a picture, and it certainly looks like the 8.3L Cummins, but he seemed to think it was a 5.9L. It has a six-speed Allison. I really have my heart set on a DP because of the huge basement storage, and the efficiency of the diesel. We travel with a LOT of stuff. When we visit family out of state for the holidays, we normally need to pull our 5x8 enclosed trailer behind our Yukon XL. And that's not including the new addition's extra baggage. We'll probably do a lot of dry camping (boondocking?) when we visit family, so the max power we'll have available in most cases will be 120v/30a. The dealer told me I could probably run one roof A/C unit on that power.
For storage of the vehicle, I have a lot of room on the side of my garage. I suppose I'll either put down some gravel or concrete eventually.
I plan on using our Envoy 4x4 for the dinghy.
I'd love to hear from some experienced members to let me know if I'm on the right track or headed for disaster. Thanks for your time!

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Old 12-09-2011, 07:29 PM   #2
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One fact applies to RV, boat, aircraft, etc. One of the main reasons that they depreciate is that they get more expensive to maintain and repair as they age. Reliability also goes down. It's a trade off that only you and the DW can put a value on. "No free lunch" applies.

Best of luck whatever your decision.

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Old 12-09-2011, 07:56 PM   #3
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Hi Chris,Not sure where to start on a reply.I have a 1993 bounder with 5.9,almost 90,000 miles.Generator 1400hrs.I plan on keeping it another 5 years,maybe longer.I have had more repairs to do the last 2 years,it is getting a lot of use.More than you would.
I am a mechanic and do all repairs.I would not hesitate to purchase this MH.It would help to talk to the owner.From what you have posted it has been taken care.That is a very price.
I would be willing to talk to you if needed.
I have a grandson-mechanic at Pendelton.
Doyle and Peggy
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Old 12-09-2011, 08:27 PM   #4
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After owning 4 MH's, a class C, and 3 A's, I have had some considerable experience. I have always remembered what the dealer said when we bought the first one, "you will have to buy one, inorder for you to decide what you want." Having said that, I will tell you, that if I had bought the one I have now, I wouldn't have had to own the othe 3. The last one, is the one in my signature. It seems to be kind of a tinker toy, but I still enjoy riding and driving it.
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Old 12-09-2011, 09:36 PM   #5
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Can you be a little more specific about what makes an older RV more expensive to maintain? I mean, a typical passenger vehicle will start falling apart at about 150k, even if it is taken care of. I would think a diesel pusher built like a bus would have a little more longevity designed into it. I'd be concerned about 150k mi on a GM 2.8L V6, not so much on a Cummins diesel. Is it the coach support systems or the drivetrain which I should expect to give me the most trouble? While I'm pretty sure what it would cost to replace the engine or transmission, no idea what a Norcold fridge compressor would cost. Making the comparison to aircraft, I would think a brand new motorhome has some issues, and a very old motorhome has a bit more issues, but the ones in between have most of the bugs worked out, and are constituted of components which are wearing out on schedule. What that mean time between failure schedule is, regarding motorhomes, I don't know. I've flown 45 year old CH-46 helicopters with 10,000 hours which were as consistently mission capable as my John Deere mower. I've also flown factory-fresh MV-22 Ospreys with 30-40 total hours which were about as reliable as a Yugo until they passed the 100 hour mark (then they were as reliable as a Chevy Cavalier, but much, much faster).
Doyle, I would like to speak to you. Please send me your number.
Thanks, guys.
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Old 12-09-2011, 11:18 PM   #6
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your thinking is not unjust. You will need to be able to diagnose and repair with any RV...possibly more so with an older unit. The vehicle your proposing is a good solid unit to consider. If you can do it yourself with many things, your going to have to understand it will be at a dealer (probably more than you would like).

the slide out...only you and your family will know if it is right or not for your needs

5.9 or 8.3? Did you recall a "wait to start" light on the dash? If so it will be an 8.3. They have an intake heater, the 5.9 has no preheat of any sort.

Go over that rig top to bottom, inside to out before buying...Too many have bought used from a dealer and ended up unhappy after the purchase because they find things not working. If possible work out some sort of warranty....for the whole vehicle...it is a long shot...but will help avoid major out of pocket expenses right after your purchase
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Old 12-10-2011, 04:40 AM   #7
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We are looking and would consider that coach in a minute if an A was what we wanted. The mileage even at 150,000 is for me ideal, at about 10/yr the rv has not sat around for long periods of time.

As for the lack of a slide this is a big plus for me, while they are very functional the feature does bring their own issues.

Tires and brakes(drums, rotors, lines, master cyl) would be one concern as would the quality of maint the coach was given replacement batteries are a given, the generator hours, if diesel, are a non issue to me.

I think all would hindge on a favorable mechanical inspection and especially a used oil analysis. Of course you have to confirm the engine type to be certain you are still far away from a major service/rebuild. Which by the way you may want to confirm just how intelligently the maker allowed for in chasis rebuilds.

Was it stored out or under cover?

The million dollar question though, even if you can afford to roll the dice and have in reserve 6k or so for surprise repairs can you afford to drive it????

AND you do have a place to park it, or rather you do have a place where you would be able to park it, legally...
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:51 AM   #8
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Those old American Eagles are classics and there are quite a few of them around. A really excellent coach and a top end model in its day. Through the American Coach Owners group on Yahoo, I'm acquainted with several people who own 93-96 Eagles and they all love them. That would be a good group to join if you decide to get this coach.
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:03 AM   #9
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You know about moisture related delamination? Look VERY closely, inside for loose/peeling wallpaper, outside for loose siding. Along the roof to side wall joints and under all windows. If you see much (or any, your call) that's big time bad news. No matter the excuse you hear regarding it. I would walk at that point. It's nearly impossible to repair economically. If the windows are dual pane, look for fog between the panes. That can represent another considerable expense. I don't know what kind of roof is on this coach, but I'd be finding that out, as well as it's care and feeding requirements, and it's general condition/immediate requirements.

Another thing is documentation. Good documentation not only will include manuals for EVERY item in it, it should show a history of regular maintenance as well as provide a history of parts replacements. I would want to know when the belts, hoses, and filters were last changed for instance? In addition to the engine oil, trans fluid/filter and antifreeze changes are expensive. You would want to know where you are at on those schedules as well. Not knowing that info means you'll need to foot the bill to zero all that out to establish a point to allow regular intervals. I know you likely know this, just making sure you're reminded prior to purchase.

The inter-cooler and radiator, check them out closely? Not just to see if they're leaking, but condition. It's not unusual to have to replace a radiator at that age/milage (diesel=big money). You might also want to know it's not plugged up solid with oil/dirt crud they're famous for collecting. Look under the coach for oil leaks. They can represent a pretty substantial investment to repair.

While checking out the rad. there's a tag on that engine somewhere. Well worth your time to find it. I think knowing what it is ahead of time is pretty important from a resale perspective. A coach that size with a 5.9 might be looked down on by many?

I do all my own work as well. I'd probably be pretty upset if I had to take it in for service every time something broke or wasn't working right. Actually I doubt I could afford it? Instead, I write all that off, mentally justifying the time spent on it doing itmyself as a a hobby. If you don't have time for a hobby a coach the age of the one you're considering may be a mistake.

Last, double check your thinking regarding a slide out. We bought a 34' gas coach to see if we would use it/enjoy the lifestyle. Spent quite a bit on it to bring it up to snuff, to the point we could take it anywhere we'd ever want to go without concern. We lost our hind end on it when we decided we: #1 Loved the thing and were using it a lot, and #2, decided a DP w/slideout may increase our enjoyment enough to make the extra expense worthwhile. That loss, due to lack of foresight going into it, would have easily paid fuel and campground fees for quite a while. FWIW
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:05 AM   #10
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OOH-RAH as we have a Sargent in the USMC (oldest son) stationed at Marine Barracks Washington. He is currently a member of The Commandant's Own and is now deliberating on what his next MOS will be. He is a musician but loved Parris Island the the Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger.

Now on to the Eagle. In the spirit of full disclosure please note that we own a 1998 American Eagle which we bought almost 3 years and 24K miles ago.

The 95 will either be on a Spartan or a Gillig Chassis. Both are excellent...the Gillig is a real battle tank of a chassis and is found on many inter-city buses. While they no longer participate in the RV market the factory support is still reported to be excellent.

So while it is important to know the chassis...both are A+ performers and will be just broken in at 150K miles.

The engine is definitely a C8.3 Cummins mechanical engine. These are some of the best engines ever built, are very simple and just need clean air, clean fuel and a well maintained coolant system to give you more miles of performance than you are likely to need in a Class A.

These Eagles were the flagship of the Fleetwood line when they were manufactured and you will see that attention to detail everywhere you look.

-Excellent fit/finish

-Excellent factory paint jobs that are almost up to aviation standards. Our 98 still gleams after almost 14 years of service.

-Logical layout and design of all systems (12 volt, 120 volt electric, plumbing)

-Redundant systems for A/C, heat and hot water

-Large tankage (which you will learn to appreciate) for fuel, fresh water, grey, black and large propane tank (last us 2 years between fills but we live in S. Florida so only use the heat 2-3 times a year).

-Generally "overbuilt" which in our experience has yielded a coach with extraordinary reliability and excellent cargo carrying capacity

-Excellent factory support from American Coach. They will treat you as if you just bought a $500K Heritage when you call for parts information etc. Recently my passenger side covex mirror fell off. Called and got the manufacturer's part number and purchased it from the supplier direct as they no longer supply to American Coach.

-Ditto for Spartan

Have a heavy truck shop check out the chassis, engine,transmission and batteries. The solar panel on our coach keeps the battery bank topped off most of the time. See if the 95 has this feature.

Next, make sure everything works. Test the fridge on LP and electric.

Fire up the A/C's, fire up the furnaces.

The generator hours are pretty low and they like to be run so get a voltmeter, plug it into an outlet and make sure that the voltage being produced is the the "green zone" around 120 Volts.

As you can see, I am a happy owner of one of these "vintage" Eagles. All of our maintenance expenses have been preventive in nature except for the mirror and replacing the magnetic switch for the entry steps.

I take it to Speedco once a year for oil change, filter changes, tire inspection, oil analysis, chassis lube and generator fluid and filter changes. Very reasonable and you are in and out in about an hour.

1998 American Eagle 40EVS
Cummins C8.3 325 HP
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:19 AM   #11
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Won't try to give any advice, but welcome to the forum. Anyone who may know something about your MH will speak up. Good luck...
John, Deb; & our dog, Benji, Forever in our hearts.
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:24 AM   #12
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AC Eagles are, and were, top of the line coaches. As noted above, only you can make the purchase decision. Don't known your financial situation and how much you are willing to spend, but to me, 16 years, 100k plus eng hours and 1,500 gen hours are a bit much.

Good luck with your decision.
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Old 12-10-2011, 08:44 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by marineguy View Post
Can you be a little more specific about what makes an older RV more expensive to maintain? I mean, a typical passenger vehicle will start falling apart at about 150k, even if it is taken care of. I would think a diesel pusher built like a bus would have a little more longevity designed into it. .
Thanks, guys.
Drivetrain is not the problem if it has had any kind of regular maintenance. All the other systems are more prone to failure. Appliances, air conditioning (both engine/dashboard and house units), generator, transfer switches, inverter/charger, hydraulic jacks, electric steps, and on and on.
All rubber hoses and brake lines are suspect at this age, as well a radiator and CAC as already mentioned. Dash heater controls, blower motor, heater core. All suspension and steering parts. There is just a lot of stuff to wear out, and it costs money and reliability.

I'm an experienced mechanic and carry a lot of tools with me, but the last thing I want to do on my vacations is work on my vehicle. My current MH is a good quality unit and is less than 4 years old. It has already failures in both the Dash and House A/C units. You just need to be prepared mentally and financially for whatever problems arise.
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Old 12-10-2011, 09:01 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the replies.
SC: yes, the start did require a warm-up.
Roughroad: It's definitely in nice shape. I'm sure it was covered for most of its life. It's got air brakes, seemed to hold the pressure just fine. I should have no problem covering the cost of driving it, provided I don't back into or sideswipe things... When I built my fence I created a 12' vehicle gate, and there is a 25x60' clear space on the side of my garage. I was originally expecting to buy a cabin cruiser, but now that we have our fourth kid on the way, a boat big enough to sleep all of us isn't exactly towable, so we've shifted gears towards RVs.
Gary: I'll have to check out that Yahoo group. Thanks!
ahicks: I did look it over for delamination. There is none. I got some photos down the sides. Maybe I'll be able to figure out how to post them. I think the windows are single pane. Either way, they weren't foggy at all.
Dave: That's very helpful and encouraging. They also have a '98 with a slide out, but it's twice the money. I'd like a slide out, but not enough to justify spending another $25-30k (and it's not in as good condition as the '95). Plus without the slideout I think we'll benefit from it being a little more roomy while on the road. The dealer had it in his shop for a quick look and only found a couple little things, like the awning tube was warped, and the generator slide motor needed a new circuit board. They're fixing the little things and he assures me when it's delivered it will be functional as new. And they will service everything, so I can baseline my maintenance schedule. I think it could use a new carpet. How difficult would that be? I'm just talking about the cab and sofa area.

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