By now, with the new birch panel in place behind the gaucho area, I could claim that ‘progress was being made’. Problem was, it was a teaspoon of progress in an ocean of ‘still to do’. And this is where the enormity of what we were trying to accomplish set in. SO MANY THINGS TO DO. SO MUCH MATERIAL TO BUY. At this point is where doubt begin to creep in.
Once again, the sage advice of Vintage Trailer Talk forum really helped out. The key was to look at the whole restoration as a series of small but related tasks, and to focus on one task at a time, and DO IT RIGHT! Made sense to me. So, with new birch in the back, and everything else left to do, I decided to pull the aluminum skins to assess frame status and to start designing the electrical system, because the old wiring was going to be completely removed.
Breaking out the drill and square drive bit, I started removing screws from the skins. As the pieces came off I stored them in our side yard leaning against the fence, but another option if one does not have any storage space is to store them underneath the camper. They will be protected from wind and storm damage until you are ready for them. Once the skins were off, I could see where the PO had replaced some of the skirt boards (2×6) with new lumber, and that the existing framing was basically good to go.
What’s that?? Yes, you with your hand in the air! Insulation?? Ok let me explain. As built, this camper had a layer of yellowish fiberglas insulation attached to the back of each birch panel. A thin layer. A VERY thin layer. As in maybe 1/8 thick. Now then gentle readers, can anyone tell me what 1/8″ of 53 year old fiberglas insulation will do for heat or cold loss in a hollow box of a vintage camper?? Bueller…Bueller… It does NOTHING AT ALL! New insulation would have to be installed. Now, realize that there is only 1″ of void space between the birch panel and the aluminum skin, or rather the framing pieces are 1″ thick so the skins and panels are touching in most places and the 1″ is where the frame is.
Time to MAKE A DECISION. For our usage we had decided that we would be camping in Tallulah Belle in all seasons, from beach to mountains and therefore good insulation was required. There are several methods one can use namely
1. Fiberglas pink insulation
2. Reflectix or mylar coated bubblewrap sheets
3. Spray on polymer expansion foam.
We chose R14 Owens Corning pink insulation due to ability to cut and shape for odd sized areas and overall cost. Since the back curve was done, and the rear walls were not needing replacement, I began installing insulation and vapor barrier. (Vapor barrier is needed to stop moisture from migrating into the fiberglas from the interior of the camper).
I knew that pulling old wires and running new would be happening soon so I did not worry about the insulation on the side walls at this point. The unending Louisiana summer heat and crushing humidity was a constant now, and afternoon rain showers were almost daily, so we had purchased a 20′ x 30′ tarp from harbor Freight as well as a form fitted cover of a nylon type material to ensure that rain did not leak into the work-in-progress. With the skins off, the fitted cover would not slide into place over the bare wood, so the tarp was used to cover the trailer and then the fitted cover could be pulled over and secured, as it would slide over the slick green poly tarp material.
As work (slowly) progressed, I would become frustrated at inevitable problems and delays, so I found myself working on several different areas simultaneously so that when I was just burnt out on one area I could continue on a totally different set of issues show and progress rather than just stopping work. I now started to turn attention to the countertops/table/Formica covered areas. The galley counter was covered with a remarkably hideous tan/beige Formica and the countertop wood itself was warped and heavily stained from water seeping over the years. One good point was that the original sink was in almost mint condition, and so would be saved and reused.
HISTORICL NOTE—On many of the travel trailers of this period, the date of manufacture (of the sink or mirror) was stamped on the underside of the sink, and the backside of the mirrors found on the closet doors. Our mirrors were not stamped but our sink WAS. 3-10-60 was the date we found on ours, so we knew that the trailer was assembled shortly after that date.
Off to Home Depot I went and came home with a hardwood project board that was 3/4″ thick x 24″ wide x36″ long. Using the old counter as a template I cut a new counter and then marked and jigsawed the opening for the sink. Normally one would discard the cutout piece from the sink, but since counter space is so limited in a canned ham, I decided to use the cutout piece as a filler panel to place over the sink when travelling or the sink would not be needed. I did the handrubbed shellac treatment on it at the same time I shellac’ed the rest of the new birch. It looked great!
About this time Melinda and I finally settled on a color palette for interior and exterior treatments. We had gone round and round about different colors, ‘themes’ and whatnot, but could not agree on the final look we wanted. We definitely were not the ‘glamper’ type so leopard fur waterbeds and lace curtains were out. She collected a really enormous number of images on Pintertest to compare and contrast, and we had already decided on an upgraded retro look. Original Shasta campers were usually white with a contrasting color, most often yellow, red or aqua, so we decided that the exterior would be aqua and white. As for interior colors, the amber birch was the predominant color so we went with a light, buttery yellow for appliances and upholstery, with aqua as the contrast color. NOW I had a direction and could start on appliance restoration!
First up was the Princess three burner oven/cooktop which was a lovely, Mississippi river muddy brown. I removed it, disassembled and polished the shiny bits, primed and painted the enameled parts in Krylon “bright Idea” yellow spraypaint, and at the same time I also did the same to the heater cover.
We would be adding a hinge to the heater cover and using the space the heater had been for pantry storage and utility area…first aid kit, broom, dustpan, etc.
So now several different areas were being addressed and if the weather was bad outside I could work inside the trailer, or under the carport…polishing window frames and edge trim and cleaning 50 years of gunk off the awning rail. Remember Dory, from “Finding Nemo”? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!