Posts Tagged ‘Vintage trailer restoration’

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!


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

…and somedays, the bear bites you.  Today I feel like I may have been nibbled upon a bit.

We got up and went to breakfast, and Kim then headed out for our nieces graduation from her grad school.  I stayed home, thinking I was going to get a lot accomplished on the trailer, despite the cold.

By the time we got breakfast, got back, and I got ready to go out, it was almost 1100.  Since it was pretty chilly out, I took a space heater out to the Spartan and plugged it in to warm up the interior a bit.  So far so good…

Then I went over to the Gilmore Museum to pick up some springs for the roadster project that were supposed to have come back with them from delivering a car to another museum

“We asked about them, and nobody knew anything about them”, they said.  Oh well, I had another one all located, and went to my friends house to get it, and some other little parts he had that I thought I might need.  The spring is a mono-leaf rear for a ’40 Ford, which is brand new, perfect, and he gave me a good deal because he doesn’t need it, so that part went fine, although, by then, it was 2 pm and snowing hard.

Out in the shop, I wasn’t so lucky.

I had a terrible struggle getting the long, curved portion of the ceiling up on the curb side. Working alone, and handicapped by my (still quite weak) right leg, I just couldn’t get the almost 8′ section up and snapped into place.  Finally, after much struggle, a little trimming, and adjusting, I got it to pop into place.  Perfect.  The rest of them should go easily.

Or so I thought.

The left side one I had to make cut out for the kitchen light (actually both sides), and of course, I cut it on the wrong end of the panel.  Arghhh.  So, I cut another one, which was oriented the right way (I can use the wrong cut on in the rear, they’re shorter but still…) and with even more difficulty than the curb side, got it snapped into position.  After it cracked, making a barely noticeable, but visible, variation it the curve.

I then noticed a “bulge” in the middle, halfway up the panel.  Thinking it just needed to be seated a bit better, I smacked the area just ahead of the bulge with my fist, and sure enough, it popped right into place, and a 2″ long stove bolt that was screwed into that frame member popped right through the paneling.

So, an hour and half of effort wasted, and half a sheet of 1/8″ birch plywood.  I cut the offending screw off, how I missed that one hanging from the ceiling I have no idea, all the time I’ve spent pulling wire, insulating and working, but it happened.  Happily I have an extra sheet, so I’m not SOL, it is aggravating.  I’ll hit it again tomorrow, by the time that happened, it was almost 5:00, getting dark and temps dropping, so I went in, took an Aleve and had supper.

Here’s how I left it.


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!


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.

The mighty "Del-Ray" Imperial 90.

The mighty “Del-Ray” Imperial 90.


Since the Del-Ray is setting in the driveway, and I didn’t really feel like working on the T’Bird today, I decided I’d ought to finish up one thing completely.  I’d gotten some of the trim up on the campers new ceiling last week, but on looking at it, I wasn’t really happy with some of it.  So, back to Home Depot to get some 1 1/4″ wide vinyl lattice slats to make some new trim from.

This worked out very well around the curved, panoramic front windows, much better then the 1″ expanded foam trim I’d used first.  It had actually cracked just setting in the curve, so it had to go.

When I got that done, I repaired the booth frame in the front, where I ‘d had to take a brace out to get the old water tank out.  I pulled the old pressure pump, repaired the booth frame, and got the new water tank mounted.  I have a 12V demand pump to put in, but it’s over at the shop, so I didn’t get that part done, but it’s almost ready.

Replaced the light fixture over the sink, which has 120 and 12v bulbs, and then cleaned the counters, washed the walls and cabinets with Murphy’s Oil Soap.  It looks nice, but will need a coat of lemon oil, Liquid Gold, Panel Magic, or similar product to keep the wood looking nice.  The backsplash had what looked like adhesive from duct tape on it, and some “Goof-Off” got rid of that.

The original vinyl floor seems to have a thin coat of adhesive on it, from the green shag carpet I pulled out last fall.  It scrapes of with a putty knife, but I decided to forgo that for a later time.

It cleaned up pretty nicely, and I’m happy now with the trim.  We bought some cool ’60’s style fabric to do the booth cushions in, so the brown vinyl will go away for a brighter fabric, more appropriate for the camper.

Now, some butyl sealer on the roof seams, a coat of roof seal over all, a Lava lamp and sunburst clock, and it’ll be done!







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.

Ahh, springtime!

Ahh, springtime!

In a desperate attempt to enjoy the outdoors here in Michigan on  March 1st,  the crew here at Cool McCool’s Garage spent a little time yesterday relaxing in the shade of the new canopy for the Tini-Home.   We all agree the canopy is a success, but the surroundings are not what we would have chosen, if we were in charge of weather.

Today, at least it’s sunny, and a balmy 16 degrees.   The truck camper is ready to go, but there was 4″ of new snow last night that had to be plowed.  Who plows with a rig like this?

Look for us next weekend in beautiful downtown Detroit at “Autorama Extreme”, in the basement at

This is how we do it.

This is how we do it.

Who's idea was this long driveway?

Who’s idea was this long driveway?

Cobo Hall.  I promise, no snow inside, the awning will be up, there will be shade, although no palm trees.  We’re bringing the forest with us, so come on out!

DSC04823 (1024x768)You, gentle reader, will recall that we purchased vintage camper #4 recently, a mid 60’s “Del-Ray”.   This behemoth nearly overwhelms our equally gigantic GMC dually pickup, which groaned under the weight of the camper in the box.

Now that we’re owners, we’ve been researching this obscure camper, and while there isn’t a great deal of information out there, there WAS stuff to be had on eBay.  If it exists, it’s on eBay and it’s for sale.  I scored a very nice sales brochure, and could get more if I wanted to immerse myself in collectible stuff for this brute.

Which I could do, but, I don’t want to spend as much on literature as we did for the camper…

At any rate, the brochure has some great color pictures of mid-sixties Ford and Chevrolet trucks groaning under these monsters.  One, the cover shot, shows a happy family touring in the “Skylounge” model, children happily peering out the panoramic windows some 10 or 12 feet in the air as the family pickup teeters over a narrow bridge, father no doubt white knuckling the steering wheel as his bouffont coiffed wife grabs the dash-board in terror.DSC04864 (1024x768)

Ours sadly is not the flagship “Skylounge”, with its forward facing seats way up high, but the mid-level “Imperial Lancer” whose claim to fame is that it’s a full 90″ wide, an industry first (according to the ad writer).  Still, a pretty massive thing, with frontal area that says, “I don’t care how much gas it takes to push through the air, I’m on vacation, DAMMIT!”

These were intended for “…those families who insist upon, no DEMAND the finest in vacation traveling…”.

Obviously, they were talking about the crew here at “Cool McCool’s Garage”, some 45 years after the ad was written and the camper was built, because we are a pretty discerning lot here.  At least we insist on the biggest, if not necessarily the best.

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The photo above, showing the Imperial Skylounge, curiously setting on jacks, not in the truck, and the Imperial Lancer (the model we have), in an idyllic setting lakeside, the owners no doubt relaxing after having herded these monstrosities to this pond without tipping over or sinking into the muck, are shown relaxing under the awning (included with our camper is the original, awning in excellent condition).  This answers my question of how to mount the awning to that lofty rail.  Just take the camper out of the truck, you silly boy, and set it on the ground!

DSC04861 (1024x768)It’s fun to have some of the original literature, both for the information we learned, and to be able to display on the table when the camper is restored (oops, I mean, “refurbished”, this thing is NOT going to be a major project!).  We learned a little, had fun looking at it, and were pleasantly surprised to be able to find it.

Stay tuned, as we get ready, once my shoulder is recovered, to spruce this beast up and hit the road, Cool McCool style!

DSC04853 (1024x768)Every lady likes a sexy new pair of shoes, right?  This one is no different, even if they are a decidedly un-ladylike size 17.   She was wearing a set of hand-me-down Michelon 24575R17’s, and while they had lots of tread life left, they were 6 years old, and kind of wrinkly, run down at the heel, and needing some polish.

A while back, I scored a set of brand new, never mounted BF Goodrich in the same size, load range E, at a yard sale for $200.  Not only was this a complete set, but it was a complete set of 5!  Figuring that was roughly the cost of one tire, I snapped them up, and they’ve been waiting for this moment to be tried on.

Like Cinderella’s slipper, it was a perfect fit, and the princess is now set free!

I was a little uncertain I’d like the rather aggressive tread, more like a work boot sole than a sexy pair of Jimmy Choo’s, but the old girl wears them well.  They look aggressive but not intimidating.  Sort of, “Take me home, big fella, and if you’re lucky, I’ll leave my shoes on”, kind of thing.

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Since I had 5 tires, I made a call to our local wrecking yard, “Go Go Auto Parts”, and scored a matching Dodge 3/4 ton wheel in a polished finish, and had the extra tire mounted up on that.  The beautiful part of this is, that while it’s a hassle to carry a spare in the bed when traveling, the Spartan has the same wheels.  So, one spare fits all.

And, I have to say, it looks pretty bitch’n in the box.

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So, the lady is now completely dressed, and ready for the dance.

Wanna Rumba, anyone?

DSC04821 (1024x768)That’s right.  Uh-huh.  It’s high, wide, and  handsome, and it’s the baddest truck camper around.

This afternoon I made a trip to ALRO steel and got stock to modify the jack mounts on the Del-Ray, and to make “Happijack” style camper hold downs for the truck bed.  I got the jack mounts done, backed the truck under the camper and drove it down to our house just setting in the back of the truck.  Since it weighs as much as the truck, I figured it’d say put.

It did.

One irritating thing, the truck now sets just off the overload springs, and the slightest bump smacks the overloads on to the stops, making a disconcerting “clunk-clunk” noise.   A piece of old tire tread should make a good insulator, something for me to do while I’m off work.

Before I can get Kim to go camping in it, we need to make new dinette cushions, curtains, a new mattress and paint the exterior, but it’s got potential.  We’re both excited about it.

Maybe this fall, it’ll show up at a campground near you.

Watch out.

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This is the LAST time.  I mean it.  5 years ago we towed our ’48 Manor to Milford behind the (then new) ’51 Pontiac wagon, which had previously only been to the muffler shop, and brake shop to repair the seized up right front brake caliper.

On Thursday, we hitched the ’46 Spartan to the Diamond T, and once again headed out into the great wide open.   True, we’d towed the little “Tini-Home” canned ham trailer to Pinckney a week ago, but that hardly counted.  The truck had less than 300 miles on it, had spent the previous three weeks in body rehab and the shop (once again, my friend Ron Penny’s shop, who always seems to be able to bail me out) to make it actually run, before we hitched a 25 foot long travel trailer to it and  hit the road.

No more last-minute, down to the wire thrashing.

It performed flawlessly.  Effortlessly towing the trailer at traffic speed, and delivering, as near as I can figure, almost 16 mpg with the trailer on the hitch.

Confident of my inability fix anything that might possibly to wrong, I packed only a spare tire and lug wrench, figuring anything that happened I couldn’t fix with those things would need a roll-back, we headed out on Thursday afternoon, cell phone in my pocket and credit card in my wallet.

Which I left home in my work pants back pocket…

My eye was glued to the temp gauge, and ear to non-existent noises that would bring us to a grinding, screeching, halt, but none of the above happened.  The truck performed exactly as it should, keeping up with traffic, immune to cross-winds, bow-wake from passing semi tractor trailers, garnering “thumbs-up” from passing cars and delivering us to Milford without a single hiccup.

The truck was a big  hit at the TCT gathering, and at the Bakers Restaurant “Cruise-In” on Sunday.  Several people asked me if it had been “…some sort of fire truck…”, and more than one person asked “What did people do with them?”

Really?  What do people do with pick-up trucks nowadays?

I’m still basking the afterglow, ears ringing a little from the (glorious) exhaust note, but had to share a little of the weekend.


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