Information about my vintage 1948 Mobile Sportsman trailer.
The rusty round thing high up on the side is the electrical hookup.
The trim strip down the middle once held a bright red insert!
Took me a while to realize the original tail lights were not original at all...they came new on a 56 T bird, but they look good, so I kept them.
The dinette cushions were thick, but far from soft.
This view is from the bed looking forward, not an ounce of spare room.
Lighting was provided by a fluorescent bulb at each end, and a tube light over the counter.
The table was removeable, and the dinette could be converted into another bed.
It is common to find these old trailers advertised as having only "minor" water damage...BEWARE!
This is, unfortunately what a lot of trailer walls look like inside.
When looking at minor interior water stains, one must remember that the water came from outside, soaking everything in its path.
Going against my usual rule of never buying a car, etc, from a dealer, I did.
After much negotiation, we agreed on a fair price (yeah, I know I probably could have found one cheaper...But I knew where there was a parts trailer, pretty important for my retrofit plans).
I drove a 150 miles on a very cold, snowy Sunday morning to pick up my prize, arrived in time for fresh coffee and a tour of the dealers lot.
The owner was at church, but his employee helped me get everything hooked up and saw me off.
The ride home was great, lots of time to dream about how neat this old trailer was going to be...Well, the ride was great for the first 50 miles or so, until I noticed the front of the trailer bouncing up and down.
At first I didn't pay much mind to it, I was using our dump truck since my truck was in the shop, and the road was bumpy.
A little while later, the sickening realization that the truck wasn't bouncing brought my pleasant thoughts to an abrupt end!
I pulled over and discovered that the tongue was bent upwards, uh oh.
So, on a cold desolate road I peeled back the aluminum underbelly to find that the frame was rusted through, and cracked on two of the three supports that held the tongue to the frame...
My dreams were definitely shattered, I'd purchased the trailer "as is", so much for doing my homework!
The last hundred miles were spent driving 10-15 miles an hour, with visions of an old trailer merrily crashing into the ditch, and a few prayers that no one was passing me when it let loose!.
We made it home safely, my dream and I, but with new focus.
I contacted the dealer, not in anger, for he had no idea the frame was rusted, the belly pan had been intact until I opened it.
I explained what had happened so that he might add this area to his pre sale checklist, and was ready to say goodbye when he said he'd take care of it...huh, was I dreaming?? No, he offered to pay whatever it cost to have a new frame made!
I'm not prone to fainting, but if I were, I would have!
My faith in the old trailer, and dealers, was instantly restored.
I don't want this to sound like a commercial, but Dan, the owner of Vintage Campers.com made good for every last penny I spent on having a new frame made.
So, the plans for the trailer had changed a bit, but I was up for the challenge!
What I found wasn't good.
Oh well, I was in this to the end, besides, I knew I'd never be happy with the results unless I took the thing completely apart.
After removing all the interior cabinetry (which I donated to a friend who was rebuilding a similar trailer) I punched a few holes in the interior paneling and ran 2 x 4 braces through the trailer (Firmly attached to the bottom plate, and studs).
Then, using a floor jack, I raised first one end, then the other, in even amounts shimming under the projecting 2 x 4's until the body would clear the wheel wells.
After it was high enough, it was a simple matter of pulling the old frame out.
I redesigned the new frame to save a future owner the same troubles the original had caused, and added enough length to the tongue to prevent those nasty dents caused by turning too sharply.
The old frame was made from two "c" sections of steel spot welded together, okay for strength, but a poor design that held moisture.
The new frame was wire wheeled,cleaned well with solvent, and received 4 coats of paint.
I had a friend who is a certified welder build the frame, taking much care in leaving no openings for moisture to get in.
The old frame also relied on a 2 x 4 for the outside support, we went with the same plan, but added an 1/8" plate around the outside for extra rigidity, then bolted a treated, and well painted 2 x 4 to the plate.
After the initial fitting, the underside of the floor was treated to 3 coats of a good oil based paint, the first coat thinned 50% for good penetration.
After all the construction was complete, the underside received 4 coats of rubber based undercoating (wood included) as I chose not to install an underbelly.
Based on the same thought, I used an asphalt/rubber based roofing sealer (the material the young folks use to keep their cars from rattling when they crank up the stereo!) The material is actually a roofing product, in my case, used to isolate the wood floor from the steel frame, to seal the fasteners, and act as a drip edge for the inevitable spray produced from driving in the rain (it never rains when you're on vacation...Right?)
The thickness of the material was accounted for by the frame being just a slight bit shorter than the original.
Then came the fun part, stripping it clean!
What a mess! A good respirator is a must.
If you look closely at the wall to roof joint, the extent of the rotten wood is clear.
The next step was to re-install the siding in preparation to replace all the bad wood, being careful to use the same screw holes both in the siding, and framework
As I discovered during the steel frame reconstruction, the workers who built the trailer either didn't know how to use a tape measure, were drunk, or perhaps both...The streetside wall was 1.5" longer than the curbside wall, the windows and door were not square, and a few other hints that it may have been built late on a Friday afternoon were present.
I was going for the look of Birch, but couldn't find any locally, however, I did have a friend with an old lumberyard/millwork shop (the place had been shut down for 20 years, but it was his "hangout").
He had unused stock from the 50's (and likely before) that he provided. The paneling is 3/16ths thick, and so closely resembled Birch that it was an easy choice.
He also provided much NOS polished aluminum trim that was perfect for the new interior!
The original roof to wall framing method was abandoned as it had proven to be too weak, but the new supports were installed in the same location.
Insulation, then a vapor barrier was installed
The plastic barrier was placed inside (toward the living space) but about a foot above the floor on each end, it was turned and run to the outside to deposit any accumulated water (future leaks?) harmlessly on the ground.
I wanted the interior to have a "golden glow", of course there is no stain by that name, so I mixed my own, it took a few tries, but I got exactly what I wanted.
I chose a Danish oil finish for ease of application, and because it penetrates well.
Danish oil dries to an almost varnish like surface, giving more protection than stain alone.
After the three coats of stain were dry, I applied a 75/25 mix of oil varnish (thinned to give good penetration) after which I applied 4 coats of full strength varnish, with a light sanding between coats.
As the final top coat, I chose two coats of spar varnish, it is very thick and difficult to apply, but gives a glass like appearance to the wood.
Since this record would be destroyed by polishing, I took a high resolution digital photo (This is the photo, though reduced in size) and recorded the exact width, height, etc.
I sent the photo and info to a friend who owns a sign shop, soon after, my new logo's arrived!
It took a couple hundred hours to get this far, and I spent at least 50 more before deciding it was good enough.
Next time I might just buy some paint...
The skin I thought was so straight, really wasn't, but you can't beat the look!
I had of course spent many hours creating the layout before I ever got this far, but things change...
It was a challenge to fit all the "modern" items in without ruining the "vintage" look.
Included are; a microwave, hot water heater, A/C,new fridge with original door and face frame, and a power converter.
Believe it or not, there is still room for food and cooking supplies.
I used a good quality futon mattress with inner springs, very comfortable!
The fresh and waste water tanks, along with the water pump and storage space are located under the bed.
My favorite "modern" addition is a vibrator unit from a chair.
It is attached to the back of the couch, perfect for relaxing after a long day of hiking or touring.
The adjustable vent at the base of the bed hides a circulating fan, mounted in ductwork.
It is designed to pull the cool air from the floor, and push back up the curved end wall.
The top measures 3' x 3', is covered with vintage linoleum, and the chairs are straight from the 50's.
It took far more effort and money to bring it back than it will ever be worth, but it was an enjoyable challenge, and makes for a great camper!
One of the best for general knowledge is the Vintage Vacations discussion board.
You might also like to visit Repairing Yesterdays Trailers a board I've just recently created, aimed at answering "how to" questions.