Monday, June 27, 2011

The Plan

It doesn't make sense to start a project this big without a plan, right?
And so here is our loooong term plan for this great trailer... as of today, anyway.
If you have ideas, suggestions or words of encouragement please leave a comment!

Overall, we like the original floor plan of the Safari, so we don't plan on changing much.
- Two twin beds at the rear.
- Good amount of storage.
- Dinette that seats 4 and becomes a bed (comfortable sleeping for one grown up... or two small kids).
- Front kitchen layout is great… minimal bumping into whoever’s cooking.
- Front corner bathroom with toilet and sink (a shower would be nice).

- We'll be using it for weekend trips to the mountains or beach, summer vacation to who knows where, as an occasional guest room... y'know, normal stuff.
- It will need room for four grown-ups. Our two kids are 16 and 12... they are SO grown up!
- We are not a family of people who enjoy "roughing it," so lavish creature comforts are a must!
- We are also not tidy people... if there is a flat surface, you can bet it won't be long before it's covered with action figures, magazines, food wrappers, pop cans, sweaters, rock collection... you name it. Easy-to-use, out-of-sight storage is a must. In our old trailer, we would assign a cabinet or two to each person, that way we are all responsible for our own areas and it makes it easy to put things away.
- Sleeping areas: The two twin beds in the back are great... and maybe would be more usable with bolsters for couch-like seating. The dinette seems a tad narrow for two adults, so maybe we'll look into widening it 6 inches or so. That way mom and I could sleep on the dinette, and the kids can have the twin beds.
- Kitchen: Must have a decent size fridge/icemaker (propane & electric), sink (city water and tank access), propane cook top and microwave and as much counter space/storage as possible. An oven isn't a must-have. We're not big bakers and if we simply must have cookies or meatloaf, a counter top convection oven will be fine.
- Bathroom: It's pretty darn tight, but I think the space is manageable considering we aren't planning on spending a lot of time in there. I think we'll try to convert it into a "wet bath" meaning we'll add a drain to the floor and the whole room will become a shower if needed.
- “Suicide” Door-within-a-door. Center section unhooks and swings open making a built in screen door. Awesome!

- We love the classic look of these old 13-panel Airstreams.
- We also have a deep appreciation for history and the creative ways Wally Byam was able to design comfort, durability and function into his trailers. We want to maintain the look of 1956, but add the comfort features we will need to better enjoy using it.
-There are no extra holes cut in the exterior… only one access door at the rear, two small electrical inputs, one roof vent for the Panel Ray Heater, and that’s about it. No furnace, fridge, tank or water heater vents cut into the side. No air conditioner perched on top. We like it that way.
- Heat: Originally there was a tall Panel Ray Heater behind a cool-looking metal vent attachment to the left as you walk in the door. Air for combustion came in through the bellypan, and out through a small roof mounted vent. It used convection to circulate the warm air so no fans or electricity was needed. No need for ugly vents in the side either. I hear they work very well.
But does it still work? I don’t know. And I need to be positive about anything that requires combustion and involves carbon monoxide. Safety first!
So, in the interest of time and safety, I’ll probably replace it with a ceramic heater… or maybe a heat pump. I want to reuse the original Panel Ray vent so whatever heater I wind up using will live in the same location as the original did.
- Air conditioning: None originally, but we sure would like to add it. We don’t like how modern roof-top units mess with the uncluttered lines of the sleek trailer design. We’re thinking about adding one either close to the new heater behind the Panel Ray vent or maybe under a dinette bench. I would like to keep any needed venting hidden as much as possible.
- Hot water: Yes please. There was an original electric unit in the trailer when I bought it, but it was much too far gone to save. Typical heaters require obvious outside venting, and I’m trying to stay away from that. Perhaps a propane on-demand style water heater would work? I like the idea of having constant hot water. Still researching this one…
- Microwave: For our lifestyle, a microwave makes more sense than an oven. But I want to maintain the 1956 look of the interior. I think I’ll wind up hiding one behind a cabinet door so we can hide it when it’s not in use. We’ll use a counter top convection oven if we feel the need to make cookies, and crock pot if we gotta have a roast.
- Fridge: Gotta have it. The original was an electric only Kelvinator Brand. I still have it and I think it still works… but we would prefer frost-free and it needs to work with propane and electric.
My plan is to doctor up the door of a modern gas/electric fridge using the hardware and name plate of the original. Only big minus I can see is having to deal with a vent. I wonder if there’s a stealthy way to handle that. hmmm
- Floor: All new. Subfloor and tiles. No way around it. I'm about halfway done replacing the plywood subfloor. It's going OK, but I'm not 100% pleased with the rigidity of the new sections. there seems to be a little bounce between frame supports. Maybe the plywood I'm using is too thin? Crap, I hope not. I'm hopeful that cabinets and appliances will firm things up. (More later in the "Current State of the Safari" post.
For the finished flooring, we’ll use 12-inch VCT tiles cut down to 9-inches. The smaller squares make the space seem bigger visually, I think. We haven’t decided on color (s?) yet.
- Entertainment (TV, Music, Internet, Games…): We plan on adding a flat screen TV on a movable mount thingie for viewing from the beds at one angle, and from the dinette and kitchen at another angle. Music will be handled from either a car unit or small home stereo. I don’t know how to handle Internet connection, other than go find a wi-fi hot spot. The dinette will be great for games.

And of course there’s a lot more, but this post is nearing encyclopedia length!
I’ll add a “Current state of the Safari” post soon…

Monday, May 9, 2011

Our Retirement Home

This is the post where I'll introduce you to the project Haley calls our retirement home. I'll put in as many pics as I have right now, but there will be more as things progress. Also I have more pics on a laptop (iBook) that has a messed up power supply connection. I'll get that fixed someday and post those pics when I do.

We didn't know it, but we first saw this trailer in a parking/storage area behind Spencer's RV on 82nd Ave. We were told that it wasn't for sale.

Fast forward a couple of months when on an Airstream forum classified section, I found an ad for a 1954 Airstream Safari. It was in Portland and the price was right.
I contacted the seller who not only agreed to meet me at Spencer's RV so I could take a look at it, but also offered to tow it to our house (then in Scappoose, 20 miles away). Nice guy!

Before we left, I asked Haley if I should take along the cash... she said "It could be a total piece of crap, and you know you're still going to buy it!" I married a wise woman.

Well, it wasn't a total piece of crap. In fact, it was in pretty decent original shape... except the floor.
Airstreams are made of aluminum. Aluminum exterior skin. Aluminum wall and ceiling frame. Aluminum inside walls. About the only things that can rot away (except for cabinets & other furnishings) is the plywood floor (oh, and the steel ladder-style frame). And this floor was quite rotten. I like projects so we bought it.

Turns out he found this trailer in Arizona, on Rt. 66 being used as a storage shed behind a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Thanks to the incredible research done by RJ on his website, I discovered that my new trailer was actually a 1956 model.

I love the 13-panels needed to make the compound curves. I love the "door-within-a door." I love the 10-foot continuous span of 3 windows on the street-side. I love how it will polish up and look like a chrome toaster. At 23-feet ball-to-bumper, it's not too long... not too short. Actual inside living space is 18-feet.

I don't love replacing the floor. I am about half-way through replacing the plywood subfloor. Here are a few pics of us moving it from storage to the spot next to the house where the Aloha used to be. (It was also a 1956... weird coincidence.) At the storage facility. This is me and Max preparing to re-grease the bearings and tow it about 25 miles.
Hooked up and pulled out a little bit. Those are temporary tow lights and yes... those are the original split rim wheels. But the skin is in very very good shape. The only dents at all (besides a few little guys here and there) are at one front "corner" and another where the door was thrown open a little hard. I think I should they should be fairly easy to pop out. Rounding the first corner and heading for home.
It towed very well with little or no swaying. Due to questionable tires & wheels... I kept the speed down but it was smooooth! Now's the tricky part... backing it into position next to the house. Yikes!

Because the driveway is a little bit steep, I was worried that it might scrape. Turns out we had a good 6-inches to spare!
And there it is. Plenty of space. Looks great and ready for me to get rid of the wasps and finish putting in the floor.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Say Aloha to my 1956 Aloha

I just sold the 15' 1956 Aloha we had owned and used for about 4-5 years. It was a fun little trailer with many many stories that go along with it. I'll spare you ALL the details, but here are the basics and a bunch of pictures.

I play drums in an instrumental surf band (The Verbtones). It's a bunch of fun and every couple of years we get to go to Southern California and play shows at the Huntington International Surf Museum, live on the UCSD radio station, and clubs such as the Doll Hut in Anaheim, Safari Sam's on Sunset in Hollywood, Bar Pink in San Diego and others. The first year my wife and I decided to save on hotel fees and airfare by buying a vintage trailer and driving down (our Airstream wasn't usable).
I found this baby close to my office and it already had a "For Sale" sign in the window. We bought it, hitched it up to our Chevy Silverado and headed south.
We made it about 50-60 miles before we had a blowout. ZOINKS!
Thanks to the super cool guys at Les Schwab, we were on our way with a new set of tires in a few hours.
We didn't make it too much farther, so we camped our first night on the side of the road at a rest stop because all the truckers had already taken up the parking spots. Here we are the next morning.
The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful and we enjoyed using it parked in front of a band-members parents house in the City of Orange. I was paranoid about driving on the Santa Ana freeway with a trailer, but discovered that with a small twitch of the steering wheel traffic would magically back off. (No, that's not Haley in the below pic!)
We used it several other times, once to Long Beach Washington where we discovered it leaked like crazy. We really liked how it stood out from all the new rigs.

In the summer of 2010 we spent a few nights at the RV park at Silverwood Amusement park just north of Coeur d'Alene Idaho and a few more nights at a friends cabin in the wilds of Idaho. That trip consisted of many miles on dusty, narrow gravel roads without guardrails. If you've seen The Long, Long Trailer think about the scene where Lucy is looking down the cliff out her window and that's close to our experience.
But the Aloha was always meant to be a temporary thing. A means for us to get acquainted with pulling a trailer before starting work in earnest on the trailer Haley calls our retirement house, our 1956 Airstream Safari.

I put an ad on Craigslist and within a few days, I had a buyer with cash in hand and eager for a project. The Aloha wasn't without it's faults (wooden-frame rot, unknown propane system, 1956 era electrical), but it was fun and we enjoyed our time with it.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Missed Opportunities

Winter 2001 We had the vintage trailer bug, but we didn't know what to do about it. We took long drives in the country looking for abandoned trailers and found quite a few. Some were canned hams. Some were Airstreams. Some were horse trailers. Some were propane tanks. None had "For Sale" signs in them and I was too much of a newbie to go make an offer.

We found an Airstream dealer in Portland... Spencer's RV on SE 82nd (now out of business). It seemed like a great place to start. We looked through a few new trailers but everything about the interiors seemed utterly disposable. They had a large parking lot out back with a herd of trailers waiting to be worked on in their repair shop. There I saw an Airstream Safari from the 1950s. I had never seen a 13-panel Airstream before and I fell in love with the million rivets, extra panels, the door-within-a-door, 10-foot span of windows on the street side. I couldn't get very close to it, but WOW! I loved the way it looked. It wasn't for sale.

Then a used car lot close to our house got a 1966 SilverStreak Sabre in on consignment. It had two axels, anodized aluminum exterior, turquoise appliances, pink bathroom, would sleep 4 easily and seemed to be just what we were looking for. Remember I said I had just gotten laid off? They were asking $5,000. Too rich for my blood, so we had to pass. (This picture isn't it... but it was the same model)

Then literally less than a mile from our house, someone parked a 1959 Travel-Eze. It looked beautiful. It was locked up tight, but I looked inside to see very little water damage on the original birch woodwork. The 12’ body was painted yellow and white and all the glass was good. I called the number, talked with the owner and arranged to meet them at the trailer as soon as they could… that day at 1pm. I called again at 12:30 to make sure we were still on and the lady said she had just sold it… for $500!!! Apparently another caller was very adamant about seeing it right then and they met them an hour earlier. I said I would have gladly paid $700 and didn’t appreciate them lying to me. Grrrr…. (I haven't been able to find a picture of this model, but I'll post one if/when I do.) THEN through the miracle of the internet we found the trailer Haley fondly refers to as our retirement home. …stay tuned…

Cool Trailer!

I think from time to time I'm going to just post a few images of a cool trailer I've come across. Sometimes it'll be from the internet, other times it will be from my own experience.
In any case, I thought I would start it off with a bang! I believe this is the absolute coolest trailer I have ever seen. It's a Holiday House made in Medford Oregon. WOW! It was made in 1960 and is a prototype. I have no idea if there was more than one made, where it is today or anything. But wow... doesn't it look amazing?!


UPDATE: A facebook friend was familiar with this trailer and sent me the link with ALL the info. It's a GREAT story and if you find this trailer interesting, you will LOVE reading more about it, plus there are a million GREAT pictures!

NOTE: If these are your pictures or you know of some reason why I shouldn't have them up on this blog, please let me know and I'll address the issue ASAP! THANKS!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Choices choices choices

Fall 2001
There are many different varieties of vintage trailers. And many sub-categories of those. We were often mystified by the dizzying array of different names people had for the same things. Here is the world of vintage trailers as I understand it.

Chrome Twinkies: aka toasters. I think these are the classic shape and I like these the most. Airstream, Silver Streak, Avion, Aero Bolus, Curtis-Wright and others

Canned Hams: Shasta (with wings!), Travel-Eze, Aloha, Love Bug and many many others

Teardrops: Mostly home built with plans from Popular Science and other handyman-type magazines. Often customized. Either overbuilt (good) or very rickety (bad!).

Futuristic: That’s what I call ‘em anyway. Usually great looking and built in very small numbers.

Art Deco: The great Spartan Manor is probably the most popular of these.

Just Weird: Usually one-offs. Great for head-scratching and “what is it?” contests.

I probably also should have included really vintage trailers… trolley tops, Pioneers, ...but most pre-war trailers don’t interest me very much.

An explaination is in order....

FALL 2001

Well I guess I better explain myself. I love old trailers. I REALLY love old trailers. I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, there was a time when vintage trailers were not even on my radar.

We lived in Scappoose Oregon, a little town about 20 miles North by Northwest of Portland. I had gotten laid off in June, the 9/11 terrorist attacks had changed everything, and in between job searches (discovered I was too old to join the FBI… how depressing!), I wasted time playing music, tinkering with my fun car (a 1971 Volvo 1800E) and tackling various home improvement projects. My neighbors called me “Handy Steve” because I had good luck fixing things, and wasn’t afraid to try.

One November evening Haley (my lovely wife) and I were watching TV. HGTV did a segment about vintage travel trailers featuring a company called Vintage-Vacations. WHAT IS THIS?!! We looked at each other all bug-eyed and excited. How had we never seen this before?!! Vintage Airstreams?! Brilliant! What a great idea!

Haley had fond memories of camping as a child in an Airstream Landyacht her dad borrowed from a neighbor. I had never set foot inside a trailer, vintage or new… but I know I didn’t like tent camping very much. We have two children. What a great way to take vacations and build memories as a family.

The search was on!