Vintage is as much an esthetic as it is a yearning for a simpler time. For us, the all wood interior, shining aluminum exterior, simple floor plan and uncomplicated systems of a mid-century camper trailer always evoke strong emotions and capture the spirit of the American road trip. Unlike many of their modern successors, these relics of travel's golden era, were built with a craftsmanship that is too often missing in mass production even as early as the 1970’s. Indeed, the number we see on our travels testifies to their longevity.
The obvious downside of buying one of these can be both cost and condition. Buying a fully renovated vintage trailer in mint condition is expensive, because someone has put in the time, money and skills in restoring the old beauty. However, buying on the cheaper side means potential problems, mold, dry / wet rot, and leakage among them. Our search for a tiny home which began in the fall of 2010 became a search for something affordable, and in good enough shape to do the repairs ourselves.
Our trailer is a Canned Ham style, and there were thousands made before and after WWII. Hamlet, as we have named him was made in Cortland, Ohio by the Sportcraft Trailer company. Without a bathroom taking up all the interior space, our 15’ trailer feels remarkably spacious taking many visitors by surprise when they step inside. With its banquet that can seat a cozy 4 as well as convert to a guest bed, galley kitchen, full time bed, closet and lots of storage, it has everything we need in 72 square feet, well... mostly. The rest we have figured out how to improvise, from creative shower solutions to needing a toilet in the middle of the night.
Our renovation project was pretty straightforward. Despite the poor condition he arrived in, we were able to look past most of the superficial problems and recognize the good bones. We first removed everything that was ugly, and there was plenty, fishing inspired curtains, bench seats that didn’t fit the era and a double layer of cracking linoleum tile. We replaced much of the rotten wood paneling inside, as well as resurfaced all the interior wood, and replaced about ⅔ of the roofing aluminum. We painted the trim and with a lot of elbow grease finally brought the shine back to the oxidized siding. When he finally hit the road, we were reluctant to drive him down a dirt road -- but campers are not intended to remain looking good for long. As with any dwelling, or any body, there is always maintenance required.