I met Kent Greg at the 2015 Trailerfest Vintage Camper Trailer Rally near Lodi. During the Open House on Saturday they invited antique car owners (and other vehicles, obviously!) to come put their babies on display. Kent brought his 1955 Aristocraft outboard complete with original Mercury Thunderbolt four cylinder engine and original trailer to the show, and I fell completely in love with the “jet age” period design. The slick, swooping lines of the gunnels, the “jet intake” bow grill on the front, and the absolutely beautiful job that Kent did restoring it. After talking awhile, he agreed to an interview which I transcribe for you below:
I love the way the side of the boat swoops around and twists upward toward the rear.
Here you can see the Aristo Craft brand name and the original boat license still in place from its first foray into the world in 1956.
Not really an air intake, but very cool styling with this “Jet Age” grill on the bow.
Absolutely beautifully restored original outboard Mercury engine. I love the chrome and red combo.
John: Where’d you find the boat?
Kent: I found it in San Diego, California. It was not in that shape, of course. It was originally shipped in July of 1955 to Burbank, California where it was sold with that trailer and that motor. All as a package deal from a dealership in Burbank. It sat in Vista, California for more than 40 years in a shed, from about 1971 until 2011.
John: And so how did you buy it?
Kent: I purchased it on eBay.
Kent: Yeah. So a guy had traded some work for it. Some people owed him some money for some landscaping he did, a waterfall and fountain and everything that he did and he said he would take the boat, motor and trailer like that as an exchange for the work that he did. Because they owed him the money. So he took that and posted it on eBay about two months later. He only had it two months. I purchased it on eBay from him from San Diego.
John: Do you mind me asking how much you paid for it?
John: Great. It’s beautiful. How long did it take you to restore it?
Kent: Three years.
John: Wow. You were saying about the architecture of the boat, the design of the boat, from what you know?
Kent: OK, the original owner, after he got out of the military in World War Two, he started building boats, and his concept was the Jet Age, the beginning of the Jet Era. OK. So, he put the hood scoop on the tops of the boats, this is called a Torpedo, this particular model. He has another model called a Typhoon which is a twelve footer. And that was his styling, kind of the barrel-back styling with the hood scoop in the front, a non-functional hood scoop grill which is depicting kind of like an intake, a jet intake. So that was his styling.
John: So cool. You met his son, I think you said?
Kent: I talked to his son, and his son still reproduces this boat, but not in this era, it’s more like later fifties. This is a 1955.
John: What’s the full name of it again?
Kent: Aristo Craft Torpedo
John: Have you had it out on the water?
Kent: Never! I have not.
John: [laughing] Do you think you ever would?
Kent: I don’t think so because I own two other boats that are very capable of having fun and going into the water and doing what I want to do, because that’s what I do. It is seaworthy. It will go in the water, but I just don’t want to because of all the bare, fully polished aluminum and everything, I just don’t want to deal with it, I don’t want to have to clean it and all that, it just goes into the garage with the car. It’s just a display item and just sits on the trailer.
John: Well it’s a beautiful piece. Congratulations. Thank you.
Kent: Thank you.
Of course, we reserved our spot for 2015 before even leaving the campground last year. We loved the people, we loved the location, and couldn’t wait to see more and a wider variety of vintage camper trailers! This year they sold out the ENTIRE KOA! Over 250 spots. And the event lived up to all our expectations. Here’s a look at some of the new and cool stuff we saw:
This all-custom 1950 Starcraft owned by Bob & Jacyn Gallagher of Keizer, OR was an amazing, truly one-of-a-kind piece! Yes, it had a second story! Stairs inside led to a loft-like double bed with it’s own little airy windows. Also very cool and very retro, was the delta-wing star-burst step used at the doorway!
Now this 1961 Lil’ Loafer owned by the Harrison Family of Hughson, CA is the SMALLEST and the CUTEST thing we’ve ever seen. It’s literally 6.5 feet long (and probably about six feet wide and tall as well!) Quite a unique vintage camper.
This is a 1953 Terry Rambler, fourteen footer–very similar to our ’54 La Cabana except that they have two rear side windows on account of a built in hammock/bunk over the rear bed. I just loved that they named it The Pickle. Yup, seems right. The Pickle is owned by Julie and Rick Coe of Reno, NV.
This we thought was a very unusual camper–almost a tear-drop, almost a pop-up. Very cool design! It’s a 1949 Kamp Master. Ten foot long, it’s owned by John & Mary Blackard of Capay Valley, CA. Check out the cute little couch in the fore!
The lilliputians have come to tow away their giant camper! Hook ’em up boys! She’s ours!
I love the humor and joy people take at this event…
What a great vintage Chevy truck! Complete with the windshield visor and this funny contraption coming out of the passenger side window. I took a closer look and wow! it’s a vintage air-conditioner! The Firestone Car Cooler! Evidently scoops air while driving, turns it around and blows it in the side window. I bet it was quite the luxury item of its time.
And here we are again in the same spot as last year. New additions are the white picket fence, and the awesome lotus-leaf vintage kitch-lights we got at the open house garage sale!
We collected vintage items all year at other garage sales, mostly just to sell them here at a loss! Totally fun and our daughter made a few bucks running it.
Lucky sports his new, vintage-style outfit.
Yes, we have to pack up and leave even if the teenager won’t get out of bed.
New cover on, (the old one got completely torn by high winds at our old storage place) I thought our little La Cabana made a funny contrast with the massive type-A parked next door. How could people nowadays want all that SPACE without the TASTE!
The Trailerfest hosts and volunteers once again did an amazing job pulling this all off with apparent ease. (I’m sure it wasn’t!) And OF COURSE, we signed up on the spot to come back in 2016. How will they top this year? We’ll have to wait and see.
Here’s a look at just some of the great vintage camper trailers and vintage automobiles we saw during open house on the second day.
This is a 22′ long 1964 Airstream Safari owned by Steve Walker of Sacramento, CA. Love the all-black “Blues Brothers” style car pulling it!
Renovation not finished? That’s OK, bring it to Trailerfest!
This is one of the coolest contraptions at the Trailerfest: a 1952 Kom-Pak Sportsman, owned by Bob Sullivan of Carson City, NV. It’s got a Tear-Drop-like utility area in back, and a sleeping area inside, and the roof unclamps to become your fishing boat for the day!!! Very cool, creative idea. Just better make sure all that fish muck is cleaned out before you go to bed that night! Oh, and, hope it doesn’t rain during the day…
This is a 1957 Kenskill 16 footer from San Francisco, CA owned by Holly Hitchcock and Rob Biaggi. The matching station wagon is perfectly reminiscent of old time family vacations.
This is a beautifully painted and restored 1957 Jewel. One of the longer canned hams at 17.5 feet. Chuck and Sharon Taylor brought in this beauty from Sacramento, CA.
This cutie is also a longer model (16 ft) of a 1962 Shasta owned by Gracie and Jim Lathrop of Paso Robles, CA. Complete with the classic Shasta “wings”!
A really true 50’s canned ham, this is a 16 foot, 1957 Cardinal owned by Jay and Kathy Bell from right here in Lodi, CA. Interior and exterior both are just immaculate and beautifully preserved. Note the original ice box (no refrigerator compressor in there!) opposite the galley.
This is an unusual 1965 Mobile Scout, 15′ in length with owner Randy Bonfantini from Rohnert Park, CA (wife, Char, must have been gone checking out the other vintage treasures!) Note the canned-ham style rear left over from the 50’s and the bunk space up front, starting to look like the late 60’s, early 70’s.
See what I mean? This 19 foot 1967 Shasta Starflyte brought by Laura and Nick from Cloverdale, CA, looks more 70’s than 60’s. The rounded look is gone and the boxyness begins. (We all knew there was something wrong with the 70’s)
Now this, for us, was a VERY special find: a 1958 13 foot Westerner. This one owned and obviously lovingly taken care of by Howdy Hoover (now that’s a great name!) of Sacramento, CA. What’s so special about this one is that I read somewhere that after two years of operation, La Cabana Trailer Company sold itself to Westerner. Our La Cabana is a 1954, so look at this westerner only four years later! Almost identical, save the louvered kitchen and side dinette windows! Very cool! I love rediscovering the hidden history and similarity in things that reveal a common heritage.
For instance, look at the similarity in these two Aljoa’s. The green one is a 1954 (Owners: Mike and Kim Archambault from Wilton, CA) and the red one is 1956 (Mary Upham, also from Wilton, CA). Obviously in the second half of the 50’s, that louvered window style came into fashion. (our 1954 doesn’t have them.)
I couldn’t end this post without a shout-out to our camping neighbor, ex-pilot, and all around cool guy, Christy Bardon of Nevada City, CA who brought his 1966 Ultravan–the Ultimate Burning Man vehicle! My kids called it the wiener-dog mobile.
Here we are, all set up and chillin’ with Lucky and Tucker.
The original cabana with all three sides more than doubles the useable space.
I have to give a huge complement to Paul and Caroline Lacitinola (not pictured here–that’s the folks who made the cupcakes! Thank you guys too!) who did an amazing job of organizing and pulling off such a huge event. Next year is supposed to double in size, filling the entire KOA–Over 250 units!!!
All packed up and ready to go into storage for another year!