Vintage travel trailers that make you go Canned Ham CRAZY!

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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

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.

IMG_8826 IMG_8827

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!

Old primer, new primer, sanded and masked.

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!

More than 1/2 way there. Ain’t she beautiful?

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!

Just some of the tools I’m using on the restoration project including the HVLP spray gun kit.


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 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.

Finished Cargo Door

Inside frame. You can see the sealing gaskets.They seal behind the frame and between the frame and door.

New framing with furring strips underneath

We head down to pick up the camper this weekend! Here’s a photo-journal of the trip

Driving south on I-5 my wife caught this clever image of the sunset through the side-view mirror.

Those little digits of your bank account  on a screen  just don’t hold a candle to the real thing. This is what we “traded” for our Camper!

We own it!!! Driving away down in So. Cal.

Bribing the kids to tolerate the 14-hour round-trip, we spend the rest of the day at Universal Studios.

What can I say? Awesome giant Krusty the Clown Head.

It’s a sign! Genuine Airstream vendor location inside the park.

Oh so retro.

Just a cool dragon

Iron work over a huge courtyard on the CityWalk at dusk.

Self Portrait

and miles to go before we sleep…


Now the real work begins…cleaning, painting, polishing, water, electricity, propane, dinette, etc, etc, etc.

Well, I continue to loose sleep because this ridiculous thing is still in my head. (Our 1954 vintage camper trailer which WE HAVEN’T EVEN PICKED UP OR PAID FOR YET!)

We found out yesterday that it won’t fit in the garage. Great. But it was going to be an outdoor sewing room anyway so I guess that’s ok…except…there’s no easy way into our backyard. Right now the best bet looks like tearing down and rebuilding 35ft of fencing so there will be a removable fence panel to drive through.

So I was up at 3:30 AM trying to figure that out in my head. I gave up trying to sleep and just got up to research fence panels. Found the perfect thing at Home Depot, then started thinking about painting.

It’s primed but needs a color topcoat. I want that shiny durable automotive finish, which means urethane. Which means acquiring an HVLP spray gun set up. I had no idea what that was until this morning around 4:30 am. Turns out you need at least 6cfm and 30 gallons of air, which is a big compressor. If that’s Greek to you don’t worry it was to me too until about 5:00am this morning. My wife thinks I just want to acquire toys, uh, I mean tools, and poo-pooed the whole thing. She found something on the web about using rollers to paint tractors. What??? Who ever put an automotive quality finish on a vehicle with rollers and tractor paint??? I thought this was supposed to look cute? Cute is a 30 gallon air compressor atomizing low volatility acrylic urethane with minimal bounce back or overspray. And don’t even talk to me about pressure regulators and fan patterns. I’m a You Tube painting graduate! So that’s all priced out and ready to go. If I ever actually paint it, between my wife’s mistrust of my motives, and this project ever really happening, I’ll post how-to details of what I learn for you all. (Honey, but then we’ll still have the equipment for other projects!)

Did I mention that WE DON’T EVEN OWN THE CAMPER YET???

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