Posts Tagged ‘Vintage camper restoration’

The weekend with the Spartan was a huge success.  Lots of compliments on the trailer, especially the two-tone exterior polish.  Everybody liked it, we love it, so it’s permanent.  I’m going to Scotch bright the roof and rear panel for a satin look to contrast the polished sides.




Whew. Time to step back and admire my work. The kitchen cabinets are DONE. True, I have to make the door fronts and couple of trim pieces, but the cabinets themselves, upper and lower, are complete.
I have to make the front bulkhead cabinet over the windows, a small bulkhead cabinet for the bedroom, and decide whether the vanity med cabinet is salvageable, but it feels pretty good to have the galley. The hard part, done.

After struggling with laying out a pattern of (seemingly) randomly placed floor tiles in the Spartan Manor, I came up with this.  I think it’s a winner.  Now, waiting on the correct color red tiles (these are too pink) and I’ll get them glued down.  Then, on to paneling and cabinetry.  It’s gonna be cool.


Put a big “DONE” stamp on the Spartan floor, it’s wrapped up.  I found another soft spot on the street side, ahead of the wheel well, this was replaced in the same manner as the other bad spots, and the underlayment is down, covering all the scars.It feels good to have this part of the job done, even though it’s a small part, it’s the basis on which the rest of the restoration sets.  We ordered a carton of red VCT 12×12’s to mix in with the vintage 9×9’s, I’ll cut them down to the same size.  The primary color is green/grey, with black and the red to be mixed in, probably randomly, but we’ll lay out a couple different options.

I also got the rest of the Kimsul insulation cleaned out, so it now smells like new wood and construction adhesive, not rotten old cellulose!



IMG_6062I promised my wife I wouldn’t work on the ’34 Roadster until I had the Manor done, so, in order to get that out of the way, I’ve been working on the ’47 Spartan Manor.  I’ve got it up by the garage, the interior is stripped, the old, deteriorated Kimsul insulation is (mostly) gone, and the floor repairs are done.  The original 5/8″ plywood floor was delaminated in front of both doors, and soft under the curb side rear window.  I found the drain tube plugged in that, which explains the damaged floor.

A 4×8 sheet of 3/4 exterior grade plywood was enough to do all the needed repairs.  I went to the new Menards store in Kalamazoo this morning and bought 7 sheets of 1/4″ underlayment, and 17b sheets of really pretty birch 1/4″ plywood. The underlayment will go on the original floor to give me a clean, level, smooth surface to put the vintage 9×9 asphalt floor tiles on, and the birch will do the walls and cabinets.

Looks great, it’s fun to get started on it!



What we have here folks, is a 1952 Spartan “Spartanette” (a misnomer if one believes that the suffix “-ette” should mean something small and dainty) 33′ trailer.  We weren’t looking for a trailer like this, or ANY more old travel trailers for that matter, but this one fell into our laps, another deal too good not jump on.  As if I didn’t remember last summers “free” motorhome…

It was at least closer to home than the Spartan Manor we got a couple of years ago, just 40 miles.  My friend Butch came over bright and early the other day, and we headed out with the dually, a 2″ ball in the GMC’s receiver.  Things seemed to be going smoothly and I figured we’d be at the place by 1000, drag it out and be home by 1 or 2 in the afternoon.  I had a floor jack to put under the tongue, long planks to roll the floor jack on, and figured I’d slither under the trailer, wrap a chain around the rear axle, drag it out, replace the wheels and tires, hitch up and go on our merry way.

Good plan, right?

Things went slightly awry when I remembered I hadn’t put the lock pin in the hitch when I flipped the ball to the drop side in order to use it on the dually high hitch.  I pulled into an AutoZone on the way, walked to the back of the truck, and sure enough, the whole thing was gone.  So, I bought a new one, and put the pin in this time.

We got to the guys place with the trailer, meeting another buddy Mike there, who lives nearby.  We quickly decided dragging it out backwards wasn’t going to work, because it was sunk in the ground up the frame, the entire bottom edge of the body was laying on the dirt.  In addition,  a grove of box-elder trees (a kind of soft maple that are widely regarded as weeds) had grown up in front of it and long the curb side.  In the tongue, between the body and the hitch, was a clump of them, three trunks about 4″ in diameter.

This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

To make a long story short, the owner, a retired excavator, had a new compact 4wd tractor with a loader with forks, and he made quick work of dozing the brush away, and he also whipped out an electric chain saw that we used to cut down the trees and brush.  He lifted the tongue with the loader, I cut the stumps off at the ground and he swung the trailer out towards his drive.  This angered a HUGE woodchuck which bolted from its den under the trailer.  That may have accounted partly for its sinking, as the chuck had undermined the wheels, letting the trailer drop down onto the frame.  As it was, it took us until 2:30 to get it out and on the road, I’d have had to hire an excavator if the owner hadn’t had his own equipment.  Made me appreciate how easy getting the Manor out really was!

The first tire will blow in 3-2-1....

The first tire will blow in 3-2-1….

After we had it out in the drive, we were shocked to see that the original, 1952 BF Goodrich tires all had air in them.  The did look a little soft, and Frank, the owner, appeared with a small air compressor and began airing the softest one up.   Butch and I debated going to Mikes to change all four, or simply head home and hope for the best.  That question was answered by the cannon-like report of the curbside rear tire exploding.  We changed that one, which took almost an hour, we had to dig a hole to get the tire out, and headed up the drive towards the road.

I got about a trailer length, and another tire blew, so we set about changing that one.  While we were digging the hole back out, the tire we’d put on, over-loaded by bearing all the weight on that side, and probably being a little soft, came off the rim and went flat.  So, two blow outs and one flat before we ever got on the road.

We decided to had for Mikes house, just two miles away, and change the other two tires.   This turned out to be an excellent decision, as one of the street-side tires blew about a mile up the road.  Butch asked what I was going to do if the other ancient, rotten tire blew before we got to Mike’s, and I said we’d just drag it on the rims.

We didn’t have to do that, because amazingly, that 4th 63 year old tire made it, and after changing the two tires on that side, we  headed for Delton,  We went slowly, about 40 mph, because two of the tires Butch had brought along, we discovered that although they were new, that they are implement tires, rated for 20 mph!

Wheel cut outs would help...

Wheel cut outs would help…

The Three Stooges.

The Three Stooges.

As found.

As found.

After getting the trailer home, I took a closer inspection.  At some point in the recent past, a door was left open and a family of raccoons moved in.  A word of advice if you’re thinking of having raccoons house-sit or trailer-sit for you.  Don’t.  The inside was a horrible mess, and smelled worse than it looked.  The trailer had been simply closed up when Frank’s mother died in 1982, leaving everything in it that was there the day she died.  It would have been kind of neat if the raccoons hadn’t moved in.

Today I started cleaning up and throwing stuff out, and I’m happy to report that overall, it’s better than I’d expected.  I’ll share photos of that and what we plan to do with it in another episode, so until then,

Happy Camping!


Last week when we out to the little Shelter-logic garage to get something for the Del-Ray, I noticed with horror that the fiberglass “Filon” skin on the Tini-Home trailer had split above the front window on each side, from the corners to the outer edges.  Evidently that stuff shrunk so much in the bitter cold last winter that it contracted as far as it could, then simply tore at a stress point.


What to do?  I don’t want to re-skin it, simply because it’ll be a lot of work and I have several projects that are a lot of work, and I’d rather work on them.  I didn’t want to do a funky patch, although simply taping them off with duct-tape or Gorilla tape would have worked, and I couldn’t just leave it because it would have leaked like a sieve.

The answer came in the form of some .030 polished diamond plate used for gravel shields on new little RV’s from Bontragers Surplus.  I made a gravel shield of a half sheet drop over the window, after sealing the tears with self leveling RV roof sealant and HVAC tape over that, and today I made lower gravel shields of some scraps to flank the diamond plate tool box already on the tongue.

I think the result is actually an improvement.  It looks like it was always there, it all matches, and, it was easy, the key to a good cobbled up “repair”.  A buddy offered to help me re-skin the trailer, which I may do when after the T’bird, the Riviera, the ’47 Spartan and the Chris Craft are done.

If we’re both still living, that is…

IMG_5280 IMG_5279 IMG_5281

Faithful readers will remember that for reasons known only to myself and an excess of disposable income, last summer I bought a mid 60’s “Del-Ray” truck camper.  Why, I have  hard time explaining, but it certainly looks neat in the back of my GMC dually, and it might actually get used someday.

We had it stored for winter in my Dad’s shop, whose roof a couple of weeks ago partially collapsed from snow load.  In order to clean up and rebuild, I had to get the camper out, and it’s now setting in the back of the GMC,  with the plow on the front and chains on the rear tires for plowing.  As it’s setting in my driveway, and the weather was decent today, I made a trip to Home Depot, spent my Christmas gift card money, and got some vinyl trim to finish up the new ceiling I’d put in last fall.

I’m happy with the results, and while I need to figure out how to finish up the front windows and get a couple more sticks of trim, it looks really nice now.   Still on the “to do list” is the center cushion for the booth, mount and plumb the new water tank and demand pump, and some “Panel Magic” or “Liquid Gold” on the cabinetry and paneling, but it’s useable and looks pretty cool now.

What will we do with it?  Well, a trip up north would be fun towing the Chris Craft, and we certainly could use it for camping and some short trips, but I really haven’t figured out what we’ll do with it once it’s finished.

I’m sure we’ll think of something.

The mighty "Del-Ray" Imperial 90.

The mighty “Del-Ray” Imperial 90.

From the bunk, looking rearward.

From the bunk, looking rearward.

Ceiling trim.

Ceiling trim.

Looking up from the door forward.

Looking up from the door forward.



The dinette.

The dinette.