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!