So in March of this year–yes it’s been busy and I’ve been very delinquent in posting–my thanks to several commenters who prompted me to get back at it–we did a long fun road trip back to Carpinteria State Beach, just south of Santa Barbara. We stayed here one night on our first big road trip (the previous post–wow time flies!) to San Diego, just stumbling upon it. This time we really took time to explore, relax, and get into the beach groove.
So, I recommend this park highly, and we’re going back AGAIN for Thanksgiving with friends this year, but the real point of this post was to show you all some pictures of the finally (mostly) complete interior restoration.
The Master Bedroom
The Gourmet Kitchen
Stove doesn’t work yet–will be the last thing I work on, and my wife insists that I never hook it up for fear of the gas–but I’m determined to make everything in our vintage baby completely functional. We don’t have to cook a turkey in it, but everyone boils water don’t they?
The diamond on the ice box and the stove handle I painted with the spray gun set and the exact same urethane paint as the lower exterior (Petty Blue). The drawers are regular interior latex that we had matched to the urethane.
The elegant dining room seats four (five with a camp stool on the end). The table is original (like the counter-tops.) The dinette seats were something of a pain to restore properly so the whole dinette would fold down into a single bed. A previous owner had cut back the depth of the seats, I’m guessing in order for their bodies to fit between the stove and the table as you go to sit down (see the cut corner in the table to help this issue.) That meant that the space between seats was too wide for the table when folded down. So, I basically had to totally deconstruct both dinette seats, cut new curved pieces for the sides, and then rebuild the internal structure. My wife then made the cushions custom to match our external paint job, complete with white chevron! So retro we could die! The only regret in this project was the thickness of the foam. When you’re in the fabric store buying vinyl and foam, the foam will look really thick (I think this is maybe 2 inch foam.) However, take my advice, the foam almost can’t be too thick! Four inch would have been much better.
Here’s our whole vintage beauty from the doorway. I love those panorama shots from the iPhone!
Some exterior shots of the cabana and the tag from it showing the original manufacturer. This is one of our favorite parts of the trailer. It adds a whole other room to the living space. There are four “wall” pieces that all zip together making it completely enclosed. Only the back one is hanging here.
When we bought our La Cabana, only the two rear break lights were working. I purchased cool retro starburst pattern red rear running lights, and three teardrop yellow side running lights, once again from Vintage Trailer Supply. I wired them up and they look great at night! I even got the original glass-lens license plate light working with a new bulb.
The Camper is ready for the big paint job!
What a lot of work to get here! First fixed both rear storage compartments for wood rot. Then I resealed both edge joints with butyl tape and replaced the alunimum seams using many, many new #6, 1″ zinc plated, pan head sheet metal screws (many of the old ones were rusty.) Next I sanded the whole bloody thing with farily fine grit, #330 sandpaper to smooth over the old primer coat plus roughen up the bare alunimum roof that never got primed or painted. Then, and I thought this was clever if I do say so myself, I blew off most of the sanding dust using my lawn blower! Great clouds of primer dust came off. Still I had to wipe it all down with a tack cloth to remove the fine particles that remained. Next I carefully washed any remaining grimy areas with soap and water, and then used a naptha and isopropol alcohol cleaner/degreaser on the whole thing. To my delight and surprise, the degreaser disolved and removed the remaining black gunk from the roof seam that I couldn’t scrape or sand off. Worth buying! Then came masking and taping. With two people, not hard. I used painters paper and 2″ blue tape. I recommend the paper because it doesn’t crinkle and is easier to handle than plastic. Also I taped both the inside and outside edges just to make sure everything was carefully masked. Finally, my water inlet on the outside was fused to the internal water tank. The old water tank is nasty alunimum and I was going to replace it anyway, so I used a Sawzall with a metal cutting bit and cut the short piece of threaded pipe right off.
They say 90% of painting is the preparation. Well, they’re right!
Now came the big paint job! I got all the supplies to do this at TCP Global.
They’re located in San Diego. Everything came by mail order, was a good deal, and the right stuff. I’d use them again, so I can recommend them. It took a little longer to ship the paint than I expected, but when I called I learned that they often mix the colors at the time of ordering, so I thought that was acceptable. Besides, I was still prepping and not ready to paint anyway.
I used the Single Stage Acrylic Urethane product. Urethane is the most durable stuff you can use–the same that modern cars are painted with in the factory, only this product is a one-step application. There’s no basecoat followed by clear coat. I’m painting aluminum which will never have quite the finish of a heavier automotive panel, and it’s 60 year old alumimum skin at that, so some imperfections will exist no matter what. Plus the two-step product is more expensive and time consuming. I’m delighted with the finish I got, and didn’t need the extra step. The other lacquer and enamel products are for specialty antique car applications and don’t have the durability of urethane. The colors are where we went retro. The top is Wimbledon White and the bottom is going to be Petty Blue. Facinatingly, while sanding I uncovered the original line of the stripe on all four sides, and it was a similar blue! This has to be Karma. We’re excited now to be able to match the original stripe design including the chevron in front, and practically the same color scheme. The old top color was also a creamy white. I love the authentic detail!
You have to be diligent using this stuff–it’s nasty, dangerous and harmful. It’s a two part urethane. They package the hardener in a kit for you with the paint. You must use long sleeves and pants, chemical resistant gloves, safety glasses and an OSHA-approved, cartridge-type breathing regulator. Even still, if you’re indoors there must be very good ventilation. I was painting outside, so ventilation was less of a concern. Nevertheless, visitors said they could smell it all the way around the house and down the street. So be careful–it’s nasty stuff.
I bought the cleaner, primer, two colors, measuring cups and an HVLP spray gun kit all from TCP Global. The specialty measuring cups are crucial. The primer is a 3:1 primer:hardener mix, and the paint is 4:1. The cups come graduated so you just poor in the right amount according to the mix you want as marked on the side–no calculations to do. They also throw in paint filters, which is also crucial. Tiny particles, or clumpy paint can easily clog the sprayer, which would be a bummer to clean in the middle of the job.
Using the HVLP (High Volume, Low Pressure) paint gun is probably a post in itself–I’ll work on doing that. But I bought a kit that included three spray guns with different nozzle sizes for $99, and it’s working great. The extras included like the pressure regulator and water trap are crucial and not something you can find easily at home depot. (I looked)
Spraying the primer was quick with the biggest nozzle gun (1.8mm). Spraying the white color took 7 hours using the medium nozzle (1.4mm)! I was covering a lot of surface area (the roof included, which isn’t evident in the pictures) and 2-3 wet coats are needed for complete coverage, but that was still a long time. The results are fantastic however! The urethane paint and spray gun is definately the way to go. It’s smooth, hard, shiny, and appears very durable. The off-white is fantastic and looks really great on the vintage camper.
Obviously I ran out of time last weekend to do the blue on the bottom, but masking and painting that is the next step! Then polishing the alunimum windows and reinstalling them (another post on how-to.) Stay tuned!
If you’re going to restore a vintage camper trailer, you’re going to become friends with Butyl tape. OK, sounds like an odd friendship, but water is the enemy. Pretty much 100% of unrestored vintage campers out there have water damage. The old putty that was used in the 50’s and 60’s didn’t hold up to the elements over time, and eventually they leaked. Water damage and wood rot was the result. You want to remove every door, window and seam that represents a joint between metal, scrape off the old stuff and replace with black, synthetic rubber Butyl tape. I started with the alunimum edging that joins the roof and outer walls. It’s a sticky, yucky job, but unless you live in a desert, or plan on camping exclusively indoors, you’ll need to do it. Here’s a before and after on one particular seam.
Emptying the thing, taking the windows and seams off, and ripping out rotted wood feels good, but is not an accomplishment. Rebuilding and finishing a part is. My first proud restoration is the little cargo door in the rear. The frame wood was rotted and the seals were old and gross. I rebuilt the frame with furring strips making sure there was wood for the door frame to be screwed back into as well as the edging. I replaced the seals using weatherstripping glue (very expensive – $16 a tube) and new seals that the old owner had bought but not used. However, I think the right kind of seals can be purchased at www.vintagetrailersupply.com. Butyl tape is your new best friend. It’s going to be used at every sheetmetal joint that could leak, such as at the top of this door. It’s placed on the underlying metal on top of the screw holes and the door is screwed down on top of it. If you’re buying new screws make sure they are #7, round head sheet metal screws 3/4 or 1 inch long (I used mostly 3/4″ but 1″ come in handy when you need a deeper or stronger connection) and zinc plated. There, I just saved you an hour and a half of wandering the screw isle at Home Depot or OSH.
We made it back, including a trip up and over the Grapevine (topping out about 4000 ft). Turning off the air conditioner out of paranoia of overheating caused quite a stir. “Dad, it’s getting stuffy out here,” my kids said. “Ok, I can’t talk anymore, it’s too hot,” my wife told her friend on the cellphone. It was 95 degrees outside. The minivan did great however, and so did the trailer.
Back in our driveway, it was exactly 48 hours to the minute when we received the obligatory letter from the Homeowner’s Association reminding us that we are out of compliance with the rules. Those Neighborhood watches are efficient!
So, the next weekend was spent ripping out plants in the side yard and cutting a fence panel out in order to move it to the back patio for continued maintenance.
The renovation is going well, seams are being sealed and cargo door frames rebuilt due to rot. All effort is focused on prepping for the big paint job! I’ll submit additional posts for those restorers out there who would like to know details.