Copyright © 2004 by Robert Hesselmann.
Unauthorized duplication is prohibited!
This material may not be reprinted for profit, but may be re posted as long as credit is given and a link to this site is included.

QUESTION-Where can I buy a vintage trailer?

ANSWER-Many places!

There are several vintage trailer dealers across the country that specialize.

E bay and the internet in general is a good place to search.

Ask around, friends, relatives, and co-workers may know of one, but not your interest.

Place a "wanted" ad in your local paper.

Attend one of the annual vintage trailer rallies held across the country.

Take a drive; look in back yards, behind garages, behind factories, out in the country.

Old trailer parks, both in the big cities, and small towns.

Look in the "older" neighborhoods, where "storing" things in the yard is a way of life not yet interupted by zoning or covenants.

If you're really serious, go to your local courthouse or records building, and look over the Aerial photos, not an easy task, but much faster than driving every road in your area.

Older resort area's hold many gems.

They are still out there!

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QUESTION-How much does a vintage trailer cost?

ANSWER-Prices range from a couple hundred dollars for a unit that needs a lot of work, to around twenty thousand* for a very nice original or restored unit.

*(not rare, or especially unique).

There are however always exceptions, if you are very lucky, you may find a very nice original without damage for next to nothing, if you want a professionally restored/rebuilt coach retrofitted with all the modern amenities, the sky's the limit!

Unless you're an "old pro" with regard to pulling trailers down the highway, you'll want to research how much the trailer weighs, and how much your car/truck can safely pull...even if you are, it wouldn't hurt.

Discovering, after you've made a purchase, that your tow vehicle won't tow, can add the cost of a new truck to the bill!

Storage...where will you store your dream trailer?

Some communities won't allow you to park your "project" on the street, OR in your yard... rented storage isn't cheap...

Where will you work on it?

Some very dedicated folks have done full restorations in their back yard...and my hat is off to them, but what a challenge!

As a friend of mine is fond of saying; it's a hobby, not a job.

If you enjoy the "process" of repair and restoration, then an inexpensive "fixer upper" can bring you much joy, if you just want to be done and go camping, spend a little more up front (it'll likely be cheaper in the end).

Either way, understand your limitations, the for sale ads are full of half completed projects...

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QUESTION-I already own a vintage trailer, where can I find information on my brand?

ANSWER-According to Craig Dorsey's Vintage Vacations Website "there have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 4000 different trailer brands produced since the beginning".

If you own one of the more popular brands, websites devoted to them abound, if you have an obscure name, the search can be a bit more challenging!

The Atlas Mobile Home Directory has a fantastic collection of vintage trailer photos, brochures, and miscellaneous related items, well worth a look!

If all else fails, the RV. Heritage Foundation has an extensive archive.

QUESTION- I've been looking through advertisements, and have seen a lot of "restored" trailers for sale, should I buy one of these, or do it myself?

ANSWER- Well...first, let's discuss the term "restored".

Restored means many things to many people, it has become a "catch all" term, and can be very confusing.

Knowing what "restored" really means can save you, the buyer a lot of headaches, and even more cash!

It is very common to find an old trailer advertised as "restored", but what does that mean?

To some, it means new curtains, and perhaps a bit of paint here or there...?

To others (the people who are willing to spend small fortunes for a "correct" restoration) it means a trailer that has been rebuilt to be as close as possible to the condition it was in when it rolled out the factory door, right down to the correct shellac, or varnish on the walls!

VERY FEW trailers are ever "restored" to this level, most are in the broad range of just "fixed up" to very nice but not perfect.

I find it amusing to browse the "for sale ads" for old trailers. There can always be found one or more that state "completely restored trailer" for a price that sounds too good to be true, but, human nature being what it is, we look anyway, don't we?

So, the generally accepted version of "restored" means as close to factory original as possible, these units are exceptional, they DO NOT sell for a few hundred, or even a few thousand.

Understand the true meaning, and you will be an informed buyer!

Now, for those of us who lack small fortunes...first and foremost, KNOW WHY you want/have purchased an old trailer.

My reasons are a love of camping and touring, and simply because I enjoy fixing things!

While having a " restored" trailer is something special, having one that is just "fixed up" is certainly acceptable too!

Whatever level of "condition" suits you is all that really matters.

There will always be someone that has one just a little nicer.

With fixed up, or partially restored/partially rebuilt to suit YOU, you get to have a great time USING your trailer instead of worrying about it being damaged!

Buying a trailer advertised as "restored", may, or may not be a "great" deal.

Do your homework, ask lots of questions (such as; the trailer is advertised as being rewired, do you have electrical experience?)

Or; you advertised it as being "completely restored" do you have documentation (photos, receipts, etc) and what parts were replaced/repaired.

Just because it wasn't a true restoration doesn't mean it is a bad deal...but there are exceptions.

Doing it yourself can be a good experience...as long as you are comfortable/capable of completing the required repairs.

The majority of wood framed trailers have rot/ hidden damage to some degree.

New paint and pretty curtains can make one "forget" about what is hidden in the walls, but it is very important to know the true condition of the structure.

Please note that most owners do NOT know that there is hidden damage.

It is just a little water stain...

QUESTION- Aren't old trailers and campers the same thing?

ANSWER- No.

Old campers were designed for touring, or weekend getaways, and were "self contained" to the degree their vintage would support.

Old trailers, while commonly used today as "campers" (with retrofitting) were simply mobile housing.

They generally had a sink with faucet, a stove, and heater, but no fresh water, or wastewater storage tanks.

In other words, they relied on utilities/facilities rendered at the trailer camp.

There is nothing wrong with buying an old trailer to use as a "camper" as long as you understand that (sometimes expensive) retrofitting will be required.

QUESTION-I've heard old trailers called "Vintage", "Classic", etc.
What is the proper term?

ANSWER-Check this list of definitions
(Courtesy of "Vintage Trailer Collectors of America")

1907-1926 "Classic Caravans" These are the rarest with only a few remaining.
1927-1933 "Early production" or "Classic Coaches" A few more remaining.
1934-1941 "Pre-war" or "Collector Coaches" these are the most sought after.
1942-1945 "War-era" or "Housing units" Poor quality units, mostly destroyed.
1946-1949 "Post-war" or "Vintage Coaches" Many of these units still remain.
1950-1959 "Vintage travel trailers" or "Classic travel trailers"
1960-1976 "Older trailer" quite a few of these out there.
1977-2003 "Used Trailers" A ton of these out there.

QUESTION- I want to buy an old unit and "fix it up" where do I start?

ANSWER-First chore is to assess the condition of the trailer, including the chassis, body, framing, interior, appliances, and operating systems

Make a list of all damaged and questionable items and then research the cost to repair/replace them.

Compare this number to your budget (you are working with a budget, right?)

If there are no bank busting surprises, you can relax and enjoy the process (If there are, now would be a good time to Part Company).

If it's a go, safety related items come first, running gear; tires, brakes, bearings, hitch coupler, safety chains, etc.

Next are operating systems, such as electrical, LP gas, water and waste lines, and appliances.

Once these Items are checked and or repaired, you can move on to the exterior.

Unless you have the luxury of indoor workspace, you'll want to make it water tight before refinishing interior wood, etc. There are exceptions to the order these items are listed in, one of which would be the need to remove some of the siding as part of wall or ceiling framing replacement.

These are general guidelines, your project may require a slightly different approach, but the key is to know the extent of the damage, and the cost to correct it BEFORE "jumping in".


Edited 3 times by 48 Rob Oct 20 09 6:48 AM.