OK, It’s nine months away, but I’m sitting here on a business trip in the cold rain (At a nice restaurant in Provence, France, so it’s really not so bad…) and I just registered for Trailerfest 2014 in Lodi, CA, and I’m super excited! Why? I don’t really know, honestly. A lot of work has gone into our little baby, I’m proud of it, and I’m excited to show it off. Vintage trailers really aren’t that common, and when we’ve been camping with ours so far we might see one, maybe two vintage trailers in the same campground, AT MOST. And when we do, it’s really fun to meet the owners. Vintage Trailerites are universally friendly (in our experience) and happy to talk about their love, sometimes obession. It’s fun to see such a wide range of models from the past, and there’s just something intangible about owning and bringing into the present, a working, living artifact from another era.
So anyway, can’t wait. There’s a countdown timer on the sidebar for those of you who want to get into the spirit with us!
My apologies, If you read the short non-fiction story “A Chance Encounter” here in the last few weeks, I’ve moved it to a new blog called ajlockhartbooks.wordpress.com
I’m going to publish my first fiction novellette very soon, and I’ve started a whole new blog to concentrate on just writing and self-publishing. CannedHamCrazy will remain dedicated to our love of our little vintage travel trailer.
By the way, driving down Route 101 with our La Cabana in tow this last November 2013 for Thanksgiving, I noticed a little red sedan in the passing lane speeding by us, (Cars towing anything can not exceed 55 mph in California, no matter what the posted speed limit is) but then slowing down, backing off and matching our speed. Then the driver backed off a little more moving behind us.
“What is going on,” I thought. Then looking out my window, I saw a woman in the passenger seat snap a photo of our awesome vintage camper right then on the highway! Booya! I gave my wife a high five inside the car and said, “That’s our first official Camper Compliment (CC) of the trip.”
Several more CCs would come from strangers at the campground wondering about various details. We also met a lovely couple in a vintage Airstream Bambi. What a great little compact touring trailer! They preferred to keep the bed always made up, foregoing their dinette and just eat outside each night. We got a full tour and they were quite sweet.
By way of a preview for my readers, I am very anxious to attend the Vintage Camper Trailer Rally in Lodi this year. The La Cabana is more than ready for it, and imagine the people we’ll meet and the stories we’ll come home with! Gotta do it.
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.
Wow, How life catches up with you! I haven’t posted in three months, but a comment from a reader prompted me to catch up a little. I had to read my last post to remember where I left off, which was with the big paint job.
I finished the bottom blue color the same way I did the top: careful masking, and HVLP paint spraying. It went much faster due to the smaller surface area. I paid extra for the really good sealing, high quality blue tape. Well worth it and highly recommended. When the tape came off, the line looked fantastic! Not a single drip through to the other side.
I used steel wool to carefully clean the rest of the alunimum windows before polishing them with Mothers Alunimum polish. I used one of their mini Power Balls attached to my cordless drill. Made it a lot faster and easier. Once it turns black you wip it off with rags. I also used steel wool to clean and polish all of the original aluminum drip rails that go over the windows–several hours of work after 60 years of patina build-up.
Then, tragedy struck. I was driving home from a weekend away, where I had done this work, and had the drip rails taped (yes, I’m embarrased to say, taped) to the roof rack since they’re quite long and I didn’t want the kids to damage them. About 20 minutes from home, they all flew off all over the highway. Needless to say, they were a complete loss. I was heartbroken not just for the effort I put in to them, but for the original, vintage parts that could never be recoved. Thank god, they are replaceable. Once again, Vintage Trailer Supply came through. They carry a product that’s very, very similar to the originals. They come painted white, so I repainted them my cream and blue colors to match the surface they were on, rather than strip them to bare aluminum, which I had planned for the originals, but they came out looking great and I was relieved and happy.
So now everything was water tight and ready to go on our first big road trip: three days down California Route 1 from Monterray to Big Sur to Santa Barbara. We camped each of three nights (Monterray, Moro Rock, and Carpinteria) and had just a fabulous time. There were several CC’s as my wife coined the term, “Camper Compliments” from neighbors admiring our vintage trailer! We took in each comment with great pleasure and glee. It’s amazing how small our little 11 footer seems when parked in a campgound of 20-40′ RV’s and fifth wheels. But that just made us appreciate all the more our little vintage beauty. Here are some pictures from that trip:
Driving away! Note the chevron design in front–it exactly matches the original design we found when sanding.
Route 1 approaching Big Sur. It’s going to get curvy!
Lunch break on the side of the road.
Parked at Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park
This State Park houses the only fresh water waterfall that falls directly onto the beach on the west coast. You can see it in the distance a little left of center. It used to fall directly into the ocean until a large landslide nearby washed enough debris onshore to extend the beach.
I love panorama mode on the iPhone 5. You can get nice wide angle shots effortlessly.
After our second night camping: sunrise at Moro Rock.
Our favorite spot on this trip: Carpinteria State Beach. We lucked into a spot backing up RIGHT on the beach. We set up the original 1954 cloth cabana that came with the trailer for the first time! Looks so deliciously retro you could cry! (Sorry for the fuzzy image–low light conditions at dusk)
Camping out under the Cabana in our 1954 La Cabana vintage trailer!
This is what’s left of the Temple of Saturn (497 BC) in the Roman Forum – the place where conquering generals would place the booty captured from foreign civilizations.
Although the sun is directly behind a column in this shot, I used the iPhone’s High Dynamic Range mode to enable some of the texture in the foreground to be visible. I like this ability to electronically superimpose three separate shots to produce one image that no single exposure could capture.
This picture is big (taken with the new panorama mode on the iPhone 5) The Grand Canal in Venice is named “big.” The Ponte Rialto in the background on the right is a seriously big tourist trap. The outsized egos of 17th century Venetians during the height of their global commercial power is still on display here through art and architecture–in a big way. For a Californian family, a trip to Venice is one Big vacation!
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!