Archive for the ‘Tin Can Tourists’ Category

 

A Facebook friend in California just relayed that he’d found a cool old bread loaf style trailer near his home.  Prewar, intact, fairly priced, but a total rebuild.  He was torn, because he has a very cool, very rare trailer now, and this other one would be a  nice compliment to their current one, and his vintage tow car.

He passed.

I should take a lesson from that.  While I’m making good progress on the ’47 Spartan, it’s down to the fussy finishing and detail work that I’m not fond of, not patient enough for, and takes more time than I want to spend.  It’s also clear I’m in no way going to meet my (self imposed) deadline of having the trailer done by the third week of may for the Tin Can Tourist Spring Rally in Milford to debut. I could have it usable, but not finished, and I don’t think it’s worth taking it uncompleted, not polished or finished to the level we want.  It’s disappointing, but not we have two others to use, and lots of events coming up this summer where we can “debut” in style.

I have the plumbing done, the fridge is in and the vent system roughed in.  Had to order more Olympic rivets before I can cut the vent hole in the roof and move the original stove vent blister to that space, so that’s a bit of a hold up.

The plumbing is done,  mostly.  The grey water tank has to be hung and the sink drains run to it.  My good friend Mike Greene of Sierra Custom Interiors gave me a bunch of PEX tubing drops, crimp rings, miscellaneous fittings and the crimping tool, I’m indebted to him for that.  It went well,  it’s always good to add another thing to my skill set.

The trim work is also 90% complete.  I steam bent the curved pieces with a home-built steamer set up, my first attempt at bending wood.  It went pretty well, and I have a few little pieces yet to go that can’t be done till some other things get done, like the fridge cabinet.

We have the interior fabrics, thanks to another friend who’s an upholsterer and let us buy the fabric on her account for half what it’d have otherwise cost.  The foam we have to order, but she’s helping us out with that too.  Kim will make the covers and curtains.  It should be very dramatic, we’re excited about our choices, no peeking until we’re done!

All this is good, and I have to admit I did feel relief whenI decided the other day not to try to have it ready for May.  It was like a weight had been lifted.  Not that I’m not working on it, but the pressure is now off.  I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by that project, and seeing my long neglected Thunderbird, the half-completed ’63 Riviera I started last year, and the “new” ’34 roadster setting in pieces, all of them covered with a thick, soft layer of wood dust, was a bit overwhelming.

These three cars are cars I’ve loved since I was a kid, and always wanted.  The fact that none of them are completed and drivable doesn’t really matter, because I love having a project, but three at once, along with normal maintenance on our other cars, not to mention household chores, lawn care, and so on, takes tool on my “free” time.  Part of my rationale for having all these projects is to provide activity for my upcoming retirement, so the fact that they’re not finished shouldn’t be a stress factor.  It seems a long way off, but I know that 4 years from now I’ll look back and wonder where the time went.

And what I was worried about.

I’m picking away at the Spartan project, slowly but surely. We had our grandson Milo this weekend, but in between Grandpa fun, I got a little done.
I re-did the kitchen lights, in the usual “…build it twice to make it nice…” manner, finished the bed base, made some adjustments on and hung the rest of the cabinet doors.
Theres much yet to be done, but the to do list is getting shorter!

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Good day of progress on the Spartan. Had an issue with the GFI devices, but with the help of my friend Butch Starner, figured out is just wired them wrong. Dinette booth done, wiring done, bed frame and its storage drawer done. Up next, plumbing, and we’re going to order fabric and counter tops.

I took advantage of a beautiful sunny and warm late winter day here to finish up (almost) the wiring on the Spartan Manor.  I’d pulled wires months ago, but hadn’t gotten the boxes cut in, circuit breaker panels wired up or devices wired.  Everything is done now but the rear outside plug.  I would have plugged it in and powered up, but I don’t have the twist lock adaptor needed for the marine 30 amp plug in, so that’ll have to wait until I can go get one at the RV store.

All the interior lighting is 12V LED, I have several fixtures to temporarily mount, but we are using some with standard base bulbs and need to get the 12V standard base bulbs for those.  Still, I’ll be able to light it up.  I decided today too not to use the rather ugly 12V florescent fixtures in the kitchen and bath salvaged from the motorhome, so tomorrow maybe a trip to a big box store for some low voltage LED under counter fixtures to replace them.

I think I’m on schedule to have it done for our May outing in Milford with the Tin Can Tourists!

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I freely admit my woodworking skills are marginal at best, but I’m muddling through the cabinets pretty well. I’ve even managed to only build them just once!

I’m pretty happy with how the fridge looks inside its cabinet, and I especially like how the round top fridge echoes the shape of the round topped interior. It’s pleasing.

I was able to mount the sink on the street side, the stove will now set next to the fridge with 32″ of counter top, so the extra large fridge actually fits nicely. The companionway to the back is 20″ wide, almost the same as our last one, so that worked well, and the water closet, located behind the fridge, is a bit bigger.

It’s starting to come together, despite the hip replacement!

IMG_8166 I have a little space heater in the trailer, a fire in the stove in the shop, and I’ve been busy doing what I consider “cabinet work”, although I’m sure my high school shop teacher, and my brother-in-law would shake their heads in disbelief and walk away, I think I’m making progress.

Above, we have the beginnings of a lunch counter, which we had to have because we bought two of these killer bar stools right after we bought the this trailer (a ’47 Spartan Manor).  Seen here in it’s first, roughed in state as a wiggly bunch of sticks, I had to take in the trailer and see if was actually going to fit and be useable.

The verdict is: Yes.

To the right of the cool bar stool is the dinette booth, which is a modified version of the one in out last Spartan.  This one is longer on the curb side, and shorter on the street side (the side we see here), and will sit 4 people comfortably.  I made the seats cushions of the ’46, our last Spartan, about 3″ too short in an attempt to  make the booth seem “roomy”, but they were awkward and uncomfortable.  This one has deeper cushions, the table will be narrower, and we’ll again have a “coffee table” option, one with shorter legs.  The larger dining table will stow away behind the back of the curb side of the dinette, to be used only when we have guests for inside meals or when Milo, our grandson, stays with us.  (We hope that’s often!)

IMG_8164.JPGOnce again, we’ll have a wrap around shelf under the panoramic front windows, that’ll continue down the top of the booth to display stuff.  That was one feature of the ’46 that we really liked.  This should be a notable improvement over that trailers seating.

I’m waiting to get the beautiful (but slightly larger than we really want) vintage GM Frigidaire fridge (that we scavenged from the Spartanette we bought this summer, along with the Dixie stove)  from the shop that’s converting it from electric to RV propane and 110V operation.  This was all arranged by our good friend Mike Greene of Sierra Custom Interiors, a fellow TCT member and all around great guy.  It should be done next week,  then I’ll be able to build the sink and fridge cabinets, and complete the bathroom.  I’d like to have the fridge on hand to assure I build things correctly, all these other things hinge on where and how the fridge will be positioned.

It’s gonna be close…

Also in the wings is the beautiful little Dixie gas range.  This too was scavenged from  the Spartanette before it left.  It’s in great shape, although the clock lens was broken the face of the clocks graphics are peeling, and the springs which hold the oven door closed are both broken.  All this stuff should be easy to fix, the stove and fridge will really set off the interior of the trailer.

IMG_5578The street side cabinets are framed in, with space for the stove, and the lavatory sink is in place behind the little partition between galley and bedroom.  This all fits well and looks great, we’ll have a simple display shelf above the  stove, no upper cabinets on this side of the galley.

IMG_8235Todays project, in bitter cold, was the wardrobe cabinet that is just inside the front door, where the original furnace sat.  I all the interior doors, kitchen doors and drawers from a ’49 Imperial Mansion, and am using what I can in this Manor.  Two of the wardrobe doors worked perfectly for our wardrobe, I’m very happy with how this turned out.  The sink, a stainless double basin unit with built in drain board from IKEA, will be just aft of the wardrobe, and the fridge will set somewhere behind that,  which will also determine where the partition for the bathroom will be.

IMG_8255I cut down a small pair of what had been overhead cupboard doors from the Mansion to use as upper doors.  I’m pleased with how it all came together.  It’ll looks original, but will be all modern and very functional for our needs.

About all I can do until the fridge is done and on hand now is to frame in the bed base in the back, and I can start cutting making cabinet doors, as I don’t have enough of the correct size to re-use from the Mansion, and originals from this trailer are trashed.

In other news, the Traveleze trailer I bought a couple weeks ago has a new home, Mike Greene bought it and is going to restore it for his family to use.  I had a small mishap with it, got stuck in the snow trying to back it in the barn at my dad’s to keep it out of the weather.  I could only back up, the truck kept sliding a bit sideways, and I ended up backing it into a small tree at the edge of the drive.  This wouldn’t have hurt it a bit, but it turned out the wood framing at the rear of the trailer was completely rotted away, and the siding buckled, revealing the beginnings of a black hole where the trailers framing should have been.  This was demoralizing, I’d hoped to use it as is, and with the Spartan project, and the three car projects now on hold until that gets done, I just didn’t want to fix it.  Mike didn’t care, planned on a complete rebuild of whatever trailer he found, so we cut a deal, he came and got it yesterday.  Everybody’s happy!

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That’s Mike, happily changing wheels and tires for the trip to Bristol, Indiana!

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Made it 5 days.

Well, so much for the  best laid plans.  I swore the Spartan was priority #1, then the T’bird, then the ’34, but look what followed me home today.

This is a late 60’s (we think) “Travel-eze” camper, roughly 18′ box, probably 22′ overall, that we rescued from a church camp near Lansing MI.  My good friend Mike O’Connor took another vintage trailer pal, Brandon, and I there about two months ago, to show us half a dozen vintage campers on the campgrounds that the camp manager wanted moved off, ASAP.  I was cool to the idea of even going to look, but once there, I was sort of smitten with the cool, 60’s shape of this one, and how nice (relative to any other old camper we’ve dragged home) the interior was.

The camp manager Bob assured us that yes, they all have too go, and the sooner the better.  Since I’ve been laid up a bit secondary to my hip replacement 6 weeks ago, and the ground had been, until last nights bitter cold, soft, today, with the morning temps hovering just above zero, seemed like a good day to try to retrieve this one for us.  As I said, I was cool to the idea of adding another project to my plate, but kept looking at the photos, thinking about it, and decided I ought to go get before someone else beat me to it.  Besides, my friend Mike Greene, who helped me today, wanted to see them, and Butch needed something to do, so, why not?

Faithful readers will remember last summer, when on what was the hottest, most humid day of the season, Butch, Mike O’Connor, and I dug the Spartanette from it’s resting place of 50 years.  It pays to have good friends, with poor memories…  In a twist of irony not lost on any of us, this one was only a couple of miles from the site we pulled that trailer from.

I called my pals Butch and Mike G., and we descended upon this honey hole of vintage camping gold early this morning.  Mike’s heavy duty 4×4 3/4 ton diesel pickup we though would yank the trailer from it’s resting place with no problems, but the inch of ice on the ground said otherwise.  A little dirt from under the trailer shoveled under the truck tires stopped the spinning, and in a short time, we had the trailer up and out into the yard where we planned on quickly changing the ancient, rotted tires for the only slightly better ancient, rotted tires we brought along.

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This was a good plan, except two of the wheels we brought didn’t fit, and one of the tires on the two rims that did fit had gone flat on the way up.  Undaunted, we put the two questionably “good” ones we had on the trailer, and headed out for home, with an equally questionable spare pilfered from one of the other trailers.

What could possibly go wrong?

We got 5 miles, when one of the trailers original tires gave up the ghost and exploded in spectacular fashion, happily a quarter mile from a gas station and a tire store.  We took the leaky tire we’d left in the back of Butches van to  the tire store, where in a few minutes they dismounted it from the rim, cleaned the rim and re-mounted it with no leaks.  We mounted it back up, aired up the spare, mounted it, and headed back out, confident, with three “good” tires rolling, and one ancient spare, stolen, er, “borrowed” from one of the other derelict trailers, we thought we had it made.

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Mike, “Tire Trouble” Green assess the damaged tire alongside the road. “This seems to be problem, right here…”

Thought, because another couple of miles, a loud “bang” had us at the side of the road again, but a quick inspection showed all 4 tires aired up, nothing dragging, so we set back out.  Mike, towing it with his truck, immediately noticed the curtain in the front window blowing OUT of the window, and said, “Well, this can’t be good.”,  and I noticed the door blowing open against the tarp strap we’d secured it with, so we stopped again.

This time, the culprit was a broken street side front window, looked like a rock from an oncoming car had tossed a pebble and cracked it.  Happily, all the pieces aside from the impact spot were still in place, so we limped to the next closest gas station, another mile or so, where I bought two rolls of cheap duct tape and taped the broken pieces together, put some reinforcing strips across the rest, and also the window on the other side.

We were now well and truly on our way, and continued on home, about 35 miles without any incidents, although Mike was a little uncomfortable at our slow, 45 mph pace on a major highway, with no lights, no brakes,  or safety chains.  The plan was, if something bad happened, we’d just unhitch and leave it by the side of the road.  Butch was following with his van, so I felt confident.  The state trooper we met later never gave our little parade a second glance, so we were fine!

Getting it home and giving it a close inspection, I’m really happy.  There’s been a little seeping around the front roof vent, but the paneling isn’t rotten, the roof doesn’t flex, so I think I can simply pull the vent, shim it and the roof skin up a little, (so water will shed off better) reseal, replace and call it good.

The flooring is fine, the walls and ceiling are that odd “pickled” finish popular in the 60’s, and the rounded shape also look very ’60-ish, but the copper appliances and orange upholstery and curtains look early 70’s.  It’s a bit odd, but overall it’s clean, not moldy, doesn’t stink, and nothing blew off or shook loose coming home.  Even with the vibration of the blown out tire!

Hopefully, a little fluff and buff, new wheels and tires, clean and pack the wheel bearings and running light check will have it useable as is.

Many thanks to Mike G., Mike O, and Butch for the help, comaradary and for validating my poor decisions!

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Yesterday in the wind and snow/rain I drove down to Bristol IN to see my pal Mike Greene at Sierra Custom Interiors. He hooked me up with needed holding tanks, the missing trim bezel and controls for the Coleman heat pump, and some miscellaneous hardware.
HUGE THANKS Mike!
Today started installing birch, I’m halfway down both walls. I’ve made lots of scrap, having cut two left side front wall panels and then cut out curb side window panel wrong. Good thing I have extra.

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I thought I’d be writing about having the new flooring installed in the Manor, but, the red tiles (which would be where the white ones are) we ordered turned out to be a weird shade of pinkish magenta, so, another carton of tiles was ordered and we’re waiting on those.  So, hurry up and wait.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and I can get it done this week on my days off.

Instead, I’ll talk a little about last weekends Tin Can Tourist Fall Rally in Milford, MI.  Kim and I left Wednesday about 6:30, a day earlier than we’d planned, and got there just about dark.  We had a great weekend of reuniting with old friends, hanging out, and surprisingly little looking at old trailers.  In fact, going through my photos, I took pictures of exactly two.  One, our friends Jake and Tami’s ’48 Spartan Manor, which makes me regret not having ours done, or maybe even regretting selling the ’46, hence, the work being done on ours, and the other a very rare “Holiday House”, the Holy Grail of sticks and staples late ’50’s canned hams.

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Jake and Tami’s trailer was a 3 month thrash build from a gutted shell, which included the stripping of the original interior, complete new floors, running gear, custom interior, glass, insulation, wiring etc.  In other words, a total, frame up rebuild, which was completed the night before a cross-country family vacation with their two young daughters.  Jake is a high energy hot rodder, the quality of the build is incredible, and the trailer works flawlessly for them, right out of the box.  That little truck is another of Jake’s builds, his daily driver, built from swap meet parts, a thrashed S-10, and a rusty Sierra pickup that donated its heart to the project.  Nice work, Jake!

The Holiday House belongs to another friend, Dawn, who has several other vintage trailer builds under her belt, and she’s building this herself as well.  It’s an unfinished project as yet, but she’s already replaced the skin, much of the front framing and she’s now working on renovating the interior.  These trailers are unusually wide, in fact, they’re a shade over 8′, which makes them very roomy, and the panoramic windows really open up the trailer to the outdoors.  It’s a great trailer, I can’t wait to see how Dawn finishes up the interior.

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We had a wedding on Friday, so missed that days fun, but we made up for it the rest of the weekend.  The highlight may have been impromptu downhill rides on Jake’s (new) blue poly waste tank, which was pressed into duty as Soapbox derby racer.  We quit sometime around midnight on Saturday, figuring that since nobody had been hurt (a miracle) and the cops hadn’t shown up, we should quit while we were ahead.

The weekend, and the camping season, came to a close when we pulled out on Monday, having spent an extra night at Camp Dearborn to watch the lunar eclipse with some of our friends.   We sadly packed up and pulled out, heading home for overdue laundry, lawn-care, bill paying, and the usual household chores we escaped for the weekend,

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The trip home was smooth, until the wagon uncharacteristically sputtered and quit about 20 miles from home.  When we left Camp Dearborn, we both remembered filling the car with gas in Milford before Sunday, but we forgot about the trip across the state and back for our nieces wedding, and the car really did not have a full tank.  An embarassing call to Hagarty Insurance’s Road Service line had a tow truck with a can of gas, and we were back on the road.  Maybe figuring out why the gas gauge doesn’t work would be a good winter project?

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So, all that’s left of this seasons camping and travel is winterizing the campers, tucking them in for the long winter, and getting the Spartan done for next summer so I don’t feel bad when Jake rolls up with theirs!  Stay tuned for progress on the ’47, the T’bird, the Rivi, and the ’34 (if I can squeeze it into the shop).  It’s gonna be a busy winter!

imageYou’ll recall last weeks adventure retrieving the Spartanette trailer, and that under the mess and debris, the better if looked, and smelled.  After three days of scrubbing, bleaching, throwing out more and more stuff, I finally got to the trailers “bones”, and it was amazingly good.  So good, I was tempted to keep it.  We have some family property up north, and have talked for some time about getting a large vintage trailer to park in the big pines next to a beautiful little pond.  As tempting as this was,  one more project didn’t seem like good idea.   Kim and I agreed we’d both be worried about leaving a classic trailer unattended for fear of vandalism or theft.  Besides, for what we’d spend restoring this Spartanette, we could have a site cleared, electric brought in and drive a shallow well, and take the Manor up.

So I mentioned it on the Tin Can Tourists Facebook page.

i was inundated with responses, and a fellow TCT member from Indiana bought it. I had a friend from high school and fellow hot rodder and trailer enthusiast standing in the driveway looking at and drooling while I sealed the deal on the phone, and a list of people who said they wanted it if either of those folks passed.  That’s the way to sell something!

It ultimately cleaned up very well, with only very minor work needed.  The paneling is BEAUTIFUL, no water damage under any of the windows, the varnish still gleams.  No rot, the only damage anywhere is the cabinet above the sink and a ceiling panel where water leaked in through holes in the skin from an awning rail long removed.  The ceiling will be easy, the joist is not rotted, just a firing strip attached to it that the paneling attaches to (the seam and the joist didn’t line up, so it was had a firing strip added to meet the paneling seam) and the paneling can even be saved.  The cabinet repair will be a little challenging, but there’s enough left of the beautiful curved front to cut the bad off, put a new flat bottom piece on a narrow trim strip.  It’ll look like it was supposed to be that way.  We kept the Dixie stove and fridge, replaced the fridge with a great but smaller Marvel that I kept beer in, and the Dixie stove that had been damaged in transport here breaking all the knobs.  I left the cool, and very rare Bargman  door latches and handles (even though we need them for our Manor), the beautiful glass tail light lenses and stainless bezels, and the two marker lights that were still on it when we got home from Ionia.  I figured those items would be needed by a new owner to make the trailer worth restoring.   Our friend Mike at Sierra Custom Interiors is going to have the fridge converted to an RV gas/electric unit, so we got we want and the trailer is going to get the restoration it deserves.

Everybody wins!

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Time capsule cupboard.

Time capsule cupboard.

Cool Dixie stove.

Cool Dixie stove.

Frigidaire fridge by GM to be converted RV gas/electric unit.

Frigidaire fridge by GM to be converted RV gas/electric unit.

I hated to leave these Bargman handles and latches, they're made of unobtainium.

I hated to leave these Bargman handles and latches, they’re made of unobtainium.