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.