The “FREE” Spartan comes home.

Posted: July 10, 2012 in Tin Can Tourists, Vintage trailers

If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there’s also no such thing as a “free” vintage trailer, although, I’m not complaining.  Yesterday morning we headed up to Manton, MI, to fetch home the ’47 Spartan Manor that was given to us by the family of the guy who bought my ’00 Silverado pickup last fall.  We left with the ’76 GMC Dually packed with tools, the torch set, extra wheels and tires, ANOTHER pair of tires in case the (slightly questionable) pair of tires mounted on the aluminum Suzuki ‘Gran Vitara’ wheels didn’t make it, a pair of auxiliary magnetic base trailer lights, jacks, planks, 4×4 blocking, a box of shop towels, wheel bearing grease, high expectations and no small amount of dread.  We were ready for anything, and as is usually the case, if you’re ready for the worst, nothing happens. 

This trailer had been sitting in its former location since the late 70’s by a little creek serving as a vacation get-a-way for the Heighton family.  Prior to that, the same family had it on another parcel of land nearby since the early 60’s, and prior to THAT, by the same family, the great-grandfather of the fellow who graciously gave it to us (as opposed to it being scrapped), since it was new, at least as far as they know.  Pretty neat to know the history.

We got there around 3:30 in the afternoon, and worked for three hours pulling the original wheels (still wearing what I’m sure were the original tires), pulling the drums, cleaning and packing the wheel bearings, and getting it off the cement blocks it was resting on.  Cement blocks holding the roof vents down were tossed to the ground, and the rear, forward facing vent cover was removed to prevent it from making a unsceduled departure on the way home.  I’d bought a pair of magnetic base lights, which I duct-taped to the rear window sill inside, as Spartans are aluminum bodied.   The only glitch we had was that I’d bought the wrong adaptor plug for the 7 pin plug on the truck.  I picked up a 7 round, and needed a 7 flat pin.  I was in a hurry and didn’t look closely. 

While I changed wheels/tires and packed wheel bearings, Kim duct-taped the cracked and crazed front windows up, picked spiders out of my ears, provided moral support, took the photos,  and kept Ari under control.  We make a good team!

After a moments anguish about the plug adaptor error,  (Kim helped me not totally lose it!),  the two 4′ lengths of 5/16″ chain were attached to the tongue (safety chains), the hitch was dropped on the ball and locked down, and for the first time in almost 40 years, the trailer was moved from its resting place, leaving some scraps of copper tubing and a mummified turkey vulture that had crawled under it to die in peace decades ago.  If you think buzzards are creepy looking alive, you should see a totally desiccated, dust-covered mummified one!  The good find under the trailer were the original skirts, so that made up for the dead vulture…

Ultimately, it went as well as it could have.  The trailer only fell off the jack once, when the tongue slid off the (slightly rotten) block of wood it was perched on.  Didn’t hurt anything or anybody.  The trailer plug adaptor issue was solved by towing it to our place at Fife Lake, and going to the hardware store in the morning for the correct one.   Once plugged in, we had turn signals and brake lights, and all was well.   We didn’t bother with wiring up the brakes, as the truck has plenty of stopping power,  and I didn’t want to press my luck with a hurry up job re-wiring them.   

The Spartan followed along obediently, and, fun fact, the truck gets 12 mpg empty, and 12 mpg towing.  We stopped once for gas and a little road food, and continued on home with no problems at all.  The GMC is pretty comfortable to drive, although we discovered right away that I need to have the tires re-balanced.  It’s a little bouncy…   We got a couple of thumbs up along the way, and the trailer is now in the back yard while we ponder what to do with it, and what to sell to finance whatever we decide on! 

It should be a fun project, the body is almost perfect, far better than either of the two we’ve done before.  The floor is solid, the frame is free from cancer, the copper screens are intact and useable.  We sifted through the flotsam left behind and found a couple of cool things, the original strainers for the sink, the porch light housing, and some other bits.  Sadly, somebody in the past cut the beautiful aluminum counter top with its built in drip tray out to make room for a stove (we think), so that’s toast, but the aluminum counter top on the other side is intact, so we’ll do some creative cobbling and salvage the sinks. 

Following are some pictures of the weekends road trip.  Stay tuned for more as we decide what to do with this beast, it will be a really fun project.  We’re excited!

  1. Jeff Heighton says:

    Love the story so far Brian. It’s kinda bittersweet on this end…sad to see it go…happy to see it in good hands. I know my grandparents are looking down with big smiles seeing new life beginning in the old girl. Glad to hear you had a safe trip home, and we will all be waiting for the “fermenting” process to end and the restoration to begin….who knows what evolution waits!? Have fun and thanks again to you and yours…..

  2. Nancy Wolfe says:

    Lucky you. Looking forward to watching the redo’.

  3. Karin says:

    you are a glutton for punishment Brian! Can’t wait to see progress pics on this one though, it will be a beauty!

  4. Kevin Barbato says:

    I really enjoy reading the stories behind your trailers and other projects. Keep up the good work you do. Cant wait to see your progress on this one.

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