Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vintage Travel Trailer Makeover!

This post has been a long time in coming. The sad part is that I haven't done much work on my trailer since it started getting hot here in Phoenix. So be aware that there are still no running lights/tail lights installed, nor are the tires replaced, bearings repacked, or any batteries purchased to power the Love Shack off grid.

In the last post about the trailer, I had finished the painting on the outside and had installed the drip rails, but still needed to paint and put on the railings that cover the panels along the bottom edge. After a few wind storms that twisted those aluminum rails a bit, I stopped procrastinating and finished it.

I still want to add some color in a stripe along the sides, but this is great for now. Notice the only peeling paint you see in this photo is on the neighbor's house.

As you know, I was so excited to get inside and make her pretty. She's still a work in progress, but here's a tour of the inside:

Remember the way she looked before?
 Dinette with ratty old curtains and icky 1970's paneling
 Bed area complete with the standard ratty, gold curtains and a broken out window
 Lovely retro striped backsplash that brings the whole '70's package together
And now she looks like this:
I really wanted color so I chose the ever popular turquoise and painted the rest white. Can you see those bottle caps on the table? Work in progress.
Here is what the table looks like now. Still needs to have a clear resin poured over it to seal and level the top.
Here's what the bed area looks like. I'm making a quilt for it right now that has my green and turquoise colors. I want to change out the flowery back curtains with more of the white with red stripe that are on the sides. Don't ya just LOVE that deer head? I made it myself :)
This is my new kitchen. I love, love, love the bottle cap backsplash. Many thanks to all those who donated to my project!

Getting here took a ton of work on the inside. I had to cut away old paneling from the dinette and also the whole back bed area and replace it.
 I used the old panels to create the templates for the new ones.
 It was really tough and I might have said a cuss word or two.
The new luan installed
Raise your hand if you make a mess when you paint.
 I believe in using primer. It is not a step you should skip if you want to have paint that lasts and goes on evenly.
Can I tell you how much I really hate prep work? Even with just the turquoise cabinets and primered walls I am getting excited!
 LOOK! Ain't that the purtiest thing ever?!
 Then it was on to installing my backsplash "tiles" onto the grid I created. I started out using a hot glue gun, but all those stringy things and the heat on the caps was awful so I went and got some construction adhesive.
 This was a much better choice and the project began to move along quickly. It went even faster when Jacob came outside and we took turns squeezing glue. It's pretty tiring on your hands getting that glue out.
The caps are all on! Now it needs grout.
All grouted and just awaiting some finishing strips along the top to hide that ugly edge.
What post would be complete without a picture of Elvis? He really likes to be inside the trailer. I would come outside after taking breaks and he would be sleeping on the bed.
I'm waiting anxiously for this darn heat to go away so I can get back outside and finish this gal up. I'm ready for some camping adventures!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rebuilding a 1972 Aristocrat Travel Trailer

You can read the 1st post here and the 2nd post here of my vintage 1972 Aristocrat Land Star travel trailer.

After tearing my old travel trailer apart, the hard work really began. I am not a carpenter, I am a nail tech. Lucky for me that Jason has some awesome tools. Yes, I'm a lucky girl.

 I first worked on rebuilding the front. Because there was so much wood rot, I had no idea how this area was supposed to go together. I spent many hours on Google searching for images of other Aristocrat travel trailers hoping someone out there had documented a rebuild. Aristocrat trailers from the 60's and on seem to all have this peak on the front. Eventually, I decided to just go for it and do the best I could. After all, it shouldn't be seen again...at least for another 40 years, I hope. I did see on a few blogs how others had used metal fasteners to tie in the new wood with the old. It worked great, even if it isn't pretty.
 I didn't cut out every single piece of wood with rot. If the rot was in a small area, I just brushed on a product that "petrifies" the wood and therefore not allowing the rot to have good wood to feed on. It worked very well. The wood became so hard that I had some trouble with a few of my staples not wanting to go through that hard wood when I put the panels back on.
I loved being outside working on this trailer. Every new piece of wood that I put up fueled my excitement for this project. I can do this!
 The back end of the trailer had even more challenges for me. The frame for the trunk was toast. It was full of angled cuts and hid a bigger problem than I realized....the entire trunk had shifted out away from the main frame. This made all of my measurements for the depth of the trunk about 1/2" too long.
When I did a test fit with the trailer skin, I couldn't understand why it didn't fit. I was so frustrated. I had to walk away for the rest of the day. The next day, I was ready to try again. After going inside, and moving the couch/bed base out of the way, I could see the separation of the trunk portion of the frame. With it pushed back into place and secured with some metal fasteners, I only had to use my
sander to knock off a little more of the wood to get the skin to fit.
I added new insulation and used a spray foam that had minimal expanding to seal up all the areas around the window frames that were too small for regular insulation. Jason began testing out the new tail lights we bought.
There was so much peeling paint on the upper panels. I spent many hours trying to sand that peeling paint. I'd get it to where the paint was nice and secure and no more signs of peeling paint, and then I used a self etching primer on the panels.
Jason said he liked the color of the primer and thought we should leave it that way. I told him that if we ever broke down in the woods and a search party was sent out, we would be camouflaged so well that nobody would ever find us. Another project I worked on was stripping the white paint off the drip rails that run along the entire top side edges and down each corner covering the seams.
I then used aluminum polish and shined them up. I'm sure they were white to begin with since the white paint went all the way around each strip, but a family vote was taken and they all said it would look better being shiny metal. These are the strips that run down the corners. They had taken a beating over the years and I had to try and repair the edges with sheet metal pliers.
I added bubble insulation while the skin was off. At this point in the rebuild, I was not wanting to find any more damage. I was adamant that I was not going to remove that last panel you see on the side and NO WAY was I going to pull the roof off!
Oh well, girls are supposed to change their minds. Jason kept saying that I'd gone this far with taking it apart, that I should just do the rest. Knowing that there were roof leaks in the past from the ceiling damage inside, I admitted that he was right and I could repair the roof more easily if it were on the ground. I was very happy to find that the roof itself was in very good condition once we could see the top framing.
The second week into December, 8 weeks after we took the first panel off, I was finally putting them back on. You can see the new insulation we added to the roof and the plastic vapor barrier. All this time our Arizona weather had been wonderful and I kept saying I had to hurry and get the skin back on before any rain was announced in the forecast. Just look at that blue sky! We shouldn't be worried....
 3 days later we were hit with our first heavy rain storm. My poor trailer still did not have her full skin on. Luckily the roof had been put back on, but only half of it had been stapled down. None of the windows were installed, so one back side window had to be tacked back into place with a couple screws since we were out of plastic and tarps and couldn't cover all of her. I just did what I could and let it be.
The trunk did get soaked as well as some of the insulation along drivers side edge. The wet insulation was cut away and I replaced it with dry. A few sunny days and the wood on the trunk top was dry again. Christmas was coming fast and I decided to take a much needed break from the trailer.
Weeks later, I noticed that many of the areas along the top two panels were still peeling. I went back several times and re sanded and primed again, but no matter how much I sanded, that paint still wouldn't come off until it decided to peel away. I made peace with the fact that this isn't going to be one of those fabulously restored trailers I have seen on the internet. I am creating a fun camping trailer that we can enjoy as a family, or at least those members of our family who chose to join our camping adventures. So she will have peeling paint. And that's OK.
I got an HVLP spray gun from Harbor Freight and taught myself to use it and gave Lola the Love Shack her first coat of white paint, finishing just before the sun went down. I see the light at the end of the tunnel!
And here's another photo after the paint was finished and I have all all the polished windows sealed and installed and all that shiny drip rail installed.
There was so much more that work that went on with this 1972 Aristocrat Land Star that I skipped over in this blog post. Such as: We removed the old non working air conditioner and installed a roof vent in it's place. We have future plans to replace the old a/c, but it isn't in the budget right now. She also got a new refrigerator vent hood since the old one was missing. I also repaired the broken back window. At this point, I still have to paint and reinstall the bottom edging of the trailer. The rock guard for the front window needs work before I can put it back up. We need 4 new tires. The wheel bearing need to be repacked. We need a battery...make that 2 batteries. We still can't get the refrigerator to work. I might need a new water tank. We need to figure out how to fire up the furnace and I really hope it will work because those suckers are expensive. Thankfully the stove and oven work and since I've got the outside all back together we've had more rain and I can't find any water leaks inside.
So many things left on my punch list, but I've moved on to the part that I have wanted to do all along...the inside! Time for her lipstick and mascara!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Vintage Travel Trailer Woes

When you buy a 40 year old travel trailer you'd better expect to do some work. Maybe I was lying to myself about how much work would need to go into Lola the Love Shack to get her where I wanted her to be. Or to be more accurate, to get her to where SHE needed to be.

Jason always says I enjoy a project, and this girl was the Mother Of All Projects to enter my life so far. I'll let you in on a secret....I am daydreaming about taking on another one. Yeah, I'm a little sick.

This was the beginning of the tear down at the front dinette.
That dent isn't from me, but that gash right above it is from me. I wasn't very careful gouging out the old wood rot and I damaged the aluminum skin. Lesson learned.
The first section of aluminum comes off. I was telling myself at this point that I wasn't going to invest too much time in a lot of renovations.
When that first section came off and the old rotted wood fell to the ground, I knew this was going to take longer than a couple weeks...but I KNEW it wouldn't take me much longer than that.
What the heck? Is there supposed to be something covering this hole on the roof? Turns out this is the refrigerator vent and there should be a cover over it. Add it to the list.
I kept saying that I was just going to do the minimum and that would be enough. Jason said that if I planned to keep this trailer for any length of time that I HAD to fix her right. He said, you can do it now, or you can do it later.
The first side is skinned. Guess how many staples it takes to attach those panels? What ever number you guess, add about 10,000 to that number.
This was about the time when Jason and I were both hating this project. Pulling staples wouldn't have been so hard if over half of them weren't rusted so bad. I was pretty amazed to learn that these old trailers are framed with 1 x 2's and cut plywood. Guess that is what makes them so light. Thankfully the rot was contained to the front and back with the sides being in pretty good shape.
I loved finding the Land Star model name written on the framing.

This is the back driver's side at the trunk. Lots of rot here.

And this is the trunk top. Rotten on both sides.
Every section revealing rotten wood makes my heart sink. I'm a little freaked out since I have NO IDEA how to fix this. I can't say enough how lucky we are to live in the digital age. Google became my best friend. I was so grateful to those who braved a trailer rebuild before me and posted what they had done to make repairs.
If anyone asked me what advise I would give them before taking on their own vintage trailer project I would say to take as many photos as you can. Document everything. These photos became valuable to me when it came time to put things back together. The other thing I would say would be to not get overwhelmed. Just pick one thing at a time to concentrate on. There were days when I got a little scared about the project. But after stepping away for awhile, I could look at it with fresh eyes. I'll admit that I spent many, many hours on the internet with research.
I hope I haven't scared anyone away from their dreams of a vintage travel trailer. I can honestly say that during this time, I was truly happy and in my element. It was somehow soothing knowing my girl was always out front waiting for me. I always had something to do. Unfortunately my family probably suffered from a lack of attention and the house got dirtier than it should. Jason actually called me Obsessed. Yeah, I really was.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm Back! And I bought a friend.

My blog is my homepage when I hit the internet. I have no excuse for ignoring my little blog. So without further ado, here comes a new post.

It's time to share with you what has had my interest, my time, my blood, sweat, and tears over the last several months.

Meet Lola, the Love Shack

She's a vintage 1972 Aristocrat Land Star travel trailer. I kind of love her. She joined my family mid October 2012. She was a little rough looking when we brought her home. I knew she would need a little work.

Lovely avocado stove with groovy wallpaper back splash

Dinette with old shabby curtains (I'm sure they are original)

Couch folded down to a bed.
I just couldn't wait to get going on fixing her up to be a sweet little gem we could enjoy camping in. All she would need were tires, a little paint and a few touch-ups here and there.

Ah, ignorance is bliss.

We did see this water damage before we bought her. We'll just find the leak and fix it. No problem. 

We brought her home and I started to clean her up and thought this front corner of the dinette was pretty bad looking and decided to replace some of the wood.

Before long, I had torn out so much rotten wood and uncovered the fact that the entire front was rotted away from years of water leaks.
I really had no idea of what I should do or where in the world I should even start. I feel very lucky to have Jason as my husband. He may not have wanted a travel trailer, but he knew how very much I wanted one (because I sent him craigslist links every other day) and he told me if I was going to fix this trailer, then I may as well fix it right.

It is a good thing that I wanted an old trailer so bad that I'm ready to do whatever it takes to get this old girl into shape. With the help of the internet and Jason's arsenal of tools I begin my trailer saga.

To be continued....