Face Off: 1974 Airstream Vs 1968 Winnebago

Motorhome Face Off

When summer rolls around, I know there’s a part of the month of August where I spend a week with my wife’s family in a very rural – and camper friendly – location. I’m talking the deep South, where snowbirds and locals alike indulge in the thrills of living on the open road in an RV. This was a new world to me, a northerner who didn’t hail from a background of campers and explorers. Needless to say, as a gearhead, the first thing I took stock of was the types of motorhomes nestled around these campsites. That’s why today’s Face Off features a highly-restored 1974 Airstream Argosy for $37,000 here on Austin’s craigslist squaring off against a classic 1968 Winnebago for $7,500 here on craigslist in San Diego.

Airstream Argosy Interior

So, nearly $40K seems like a huge chunk of change for a vintage camper. But when I began pouring over the photos, it almost makes sense: this thing has had a lot of luxury thrown at it! There are stainless steel appliances, a clawfoot bathtub, new laminate flooring and just an overall clean feeling that is nearly impossible to find in a used home-on-wheels. It may be priced optimistically, but I’m sure there are some people out there who want a camper but not the remnants of whoever used it before them. The 454 motor is a great choice as well, both for pulling such a large load and also because of parts availability; most folks will tell you there are minimal fuel economy gains if you went with a 350 in an Argosy. Also – the exposed aluminum body is just awesome!

Winnebago Interior

Now, for a lot less money, you could get yourself into a less attractive but more maneuverable Winnebago. I picked this one because unlike a lot of original motorhomes, this interior seemed quite spiffy and cared for – move right in, if you will! I’m sure the lack of A/C is a deal-breaker for many, but perhaps sleeping by the ocean in San Diego with the windows open made it livable. Original sales material indicates the F17, the smallest Winnebago in the lineup, was not available with A/C – but you could spec a limited-slip rear end if you wanted! Power comes from a 300 CID inline 6 cylinder with a C4 automatic transmission – pretty basic stuff. If you can live without A/C, this compact coach could be a city-friendly entry into life on the open road.

1974 Airstream Argosy1968 Winnebago F17

So while I may not be a camper in practice, I could get into the spirit of it with one of these two travelers. It reminds me that as a gearhead, I really should experience every type of classic vehicle at least once – but space prohibits motorhome purchases at this time. Do any of you hop into an RV or hitch up an Airstream to flock to warm weather or open spaces when time allows? Let us know in the comments below – along with which one you’d choose from the two options above!

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Comments

  1. Fred

    I’d choose the Winnie, but I’d be worried about using those drum brakes in the mountains.

  2. Domitype

    I don’t recall any Airstreams with clawfoot bathtubs!

  3. Dan Farrell

    Winnebago’s generally are good products but the old ones are incredibly ugly.

    • Tom S.

      But it’s a brand of ugly all its own. As with the Airstream, you don’t need to see the badge to know what it is.

  4. krash

    Imagine luxuriating in that tub while cruising along some curvy mountain road…water splashing all over your laminate floor, …only to awaken hours later in your empty tub with a concussion after your daydreaming doobie smoking pilot hits the Grand Canyon of potholes….

    just can’t wrap my brain around the whole tub thing…unless yer tryin’ to evade them there Revenuers with yer backwoods bathtub gin biz…..
    I’ll go with the giant box-o-popcorn Winterbagel and spend the other $30k on five star hotels when I grow tired of sleeping in the sweltering 68 Mold Machine….

  5. francisco

    I almost expect to see Walter White and Jesse Pinkman crawl out of that Winnebago.

  6. viking

    RV”s must be comfortable, but this airstream is missing the most important items, toilet,and AC,that is a must on any RV. For the price of this one you can by a nice diesel pusher with a cat, or cummings diesel turbo motor.Even with a slide out , check out ebay and see. Perhaps I am missing the point, if this is regarding vintage RV”s only.

  7. J.W.

    Funny you bring these up as I was just checking some out on Craigslist. I would have to say take the Winnie as the Airstream is way too fancy for camping IMO, don’t like to worry about wiping my feet when camping. Plus the price is a factor too. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan and I happen across this in the St. Louis area and it seems to be a pretty good deal.

    https://stlouis.craigslist.org/rvs/4965135914.html

  8. David C

    I’m actually sitting in my Argosy camper watching golf while camping in West Point, Ga. I think my choice is clear.

  9. Stu

    The Argosy pictures appear to have been taken at many different times–hard to tell which configuration it’s in today. The gashes in the door might be the most telling. Whoever ‘remodeled’ it made a serious mistake leaving out the toilet.

    The Winnie is extremely clean for its age. I once drove one like it with a 318 Mopar V-8. It could barely get out of its own way.

    These remind me of 6 of the happiest days of my life–all revolving around the 3 motor homes we’ve owned. Still not ready to experience the 7th happiest day……

  10. Will

    It is no different than comparing two classic cars. The more expensive one is almost always nicer. Even when new. If you were going to buy a new rv today would you get an economy version or a luxury version? Just because they are both old does not change that question. It applies in exactly the same way. Do you prefer living in luxury or do you prefer living less large and keeping a savings account?

  11. Dan h

    Neither. RV’s/boats….been there done that.

  12. jim s

    i like the winne because it has a ford 300ci 6, overall size. much lower price ( even after adding A/C and upgrading the brakes ) but i do not see the miles listed. if i was going to be in the airstreams price range i would go with an old GMC front wheel drive unit or as noted above a much newer unit. nice finds

  13. Elizabeth

    They lost me with the tub. How totally un-functional.
    Can’t do any real camping or hunting trips with that thing!
    I can muck up and LIVE in the old Winnie just fine!

  14. Brian C

    Dang, that Winny is so ugly, it’s kinda cool……but…..wouldn’t it be better off at the county fair as a cotton candy or Corn Dog stand?

    Additionally, I hate baby blue and pink (raspberry?),…..but gotta say, in some weird retro kinda way,…it works in the Winnebago.

    Love the new airstreams,…looked at them recently,…but at $100K, Im not a player,…I have yet to see an old one restored or not that did anything for me. No shower or toilet,……They might have been able to squeeze a wet bath shower/toilet combo in the same space that tub takes up. Admittedly,….the tub does make a cool artistic statement,….but most folks want more function than form in their RVs.

  15. Domitype

    I didn’t even notice that toilet removal on the Airstream – that is really dumb! Even if they were just using this as an airbnb rental (very popular in Austin) not having a full bathroom is a real downer.
    I almost bought a Argosy (the bargain version of the Airstream with steel endcap panels instead of aluminum) about 15 years ago. The seller put a Corvette engine in it and it drove pretty well – problem was I would have to cut down my main big tree to be able to park it in my driveway.

    The Winnie has no appeal for me at all. Not even as “ugly chic” does it work for me.

  16. Dave57210

    The first hailstorm will make you re-think the Argosy! The Winnie is just too underpowered as presented, but in reality a disease-el would be required for either one of these to make it useful. Agree – need a toilet – get rid of the tub!

    Also REALLY need A/C – do not even think about trying to go to the salt flats for speedweek sans A/C! (and a good genset to run the A/C!)

  17. Wayne

    Whoever “designed” the outside of that Winnebago was either blind or on dope. It would make a freight train take a dirt road. Hello from downunder.

    • James g

      Hmmm… it was the sixties no telling what they were doing! Just like the Lamborghini jalpa

  18. krash

    …after a few drinks, that tub will make a fine toilet… how could you possibly miss it?!

  19. Ranger Herb

    If you really have a burning desire for a Winnie, here’s one in the Bozeman Craigslist for 750 bucks, been in Craigslist for at least a year, one small thing the roof is caved in, but hey it ran when parked. http://bozeman.craigslist.org/rvs/4930819708.html

    • James g

      If you have deep pockets that camper would be the one to build

  20. James g

    I saw three Winnies when I went out west plenty of old classics everywhere all the Winnies like the one in the pic they were all abandoned

  21. James g

    that airstream even has a real claw foot tub that’s not cheap at all

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Did you miss the part where it ways the tub is acrylic?

  22. Alan (Michigan)

    Neither. Zero interest from me, and I hope to have a motorhome by summer of 2017.

    The Argosy… Yes, built by Airstream, but as a second, more affordable (less luxurious, etc) line. Those who own them try to lean on the cachet of the Airstream Land Yachts, but ultimately they fail many tests for comparable values. This one… Like so many projects which fulfill one person’s fantasy, it lacks a singe absolute necessity. What, no toilet? Has me shaking my head in disbelief. Use a bucket, then? The rest of it… Oh my, not so good. And although much more maneuverable, the 24 ft. length makes for a tiny interior. Seriously, if the seller gets half of his ask he will be doing thumpingly spectacular. A white elephant! The asked level of money will buy so very many nice, completely appointed and capable units. A real Airstream. A Bluebird. Many nice diesel pusher types. Not just not a fan here, I’m appalled.

    The Winnie? Cute. A candidate for Burning Man, but the lack of AC even dents that notion. That motor won’t pull more than the motorhome itself, and mountains would leave it gasping. Sure the exterior styling is dated. This was built when motorhomes were not exactly designed for beauty, they were just funky boxes built on light truck chassis. If I had to choose one, it would be the Win’bag. But even for this money, there are plenty available which would pull my 14 ft. trailer….

  23. Mike_B_SVT

    Ok, the Airstream is classic, but the Winny… all I can say is…

    SHAZAM!!

    Eagle 5!

    Dale’s RV!

  24. RickyM

    Winnebago for me. Ugly as sin, but fantastic value !

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