Monthly Archives: April 2017

Upgrades

Camping and working with a vintage trailer teaches you the necessities and not so vital issues to deal with these time capsules. After four years of use, we finally agreed that we HAD to install some kind of built in A/C system: summers were just too hot and the portable unit we had tried just did not do the job. So following the rally at lake Livingston we dove into some upgrades!
First, the freshwater pump needed attention. Starting last summer, the pump would not catch prime or pump water out of the freshwater tank. Not a huge problem since we had not been boondocking, but it needed to be fixed, so it was first on the list.
When we restored Tallulah Belle, we had installed the pump under the sink– about 4 feet distant from the tank outlet– and ran a length of Pex line to allow freshwater to gravity feed to the pump. In assessing this layout we decided that it would be better to mount the pump directly adjacent to the outlet of the tank (within 6 inches) to avoid the restriction of several feet of Pex line before the pump. After moving the pump, it still would not operate at full pressure, so we guessed that some sort of malfunction had occurred. Ok, it happens, nothing mechanical lasts forever, right? Off to Amazon to order a new Shurflo 60 psi pump. And wait 10-12 days for it to be delivered.
While waiting for that to occur, we tackled the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Yes, the A/C issue. There is a cabinet space above the refrigerator in the center of the wardrobe area, and THAT is where the new A/C was to be installed. The opening is not quite 12 inches by 22 inches and was about 16 inches deep, but the back wall was a false wall and there was an additional 5 inches of space to the outside wall. Searching for a window unit small enough to fit yielded an LG 8000 BTU unit at our local Home depot–but there was a problem. The dimensions of the unit would allow it to fit inside the space, but the front cabinet was too small for it to pass through. This meant that we would have to cut an opening in the side of the camper and install it from the outside. Of course, we would be opening up the sidewall to vent the unit outside anyway, but now we were required to install from outside.
Oh, and one other thing–the cabinet itself was built of paper thin birch plywood, and the new A/C weighs about 60 lbs, so serious reinforcement would be needed to support the weight.

Wellll, since we were going to be doing some woodwork, this seemed like a good time to upgrade the cabinet/storage space. The floor to ceiling closet to the right of the fridge would get shelves installed to store dishes, appliances and lots of sundry items, and the half length cabinet to the left of the fridge would now be used as storage for hanging clothes. The slide out chrome tray we had installed there in 2013 would be moved to under the sink for cleaning supplies, since the water pump was to be moved from that location.  So, removal of the original A/C shelf and replacement with 3/4 plywood with heavy duty shelf supports, and lining the closets on both sides with new 1/2 inch birch (shellac finished of course) to support the new shelves in those locations.

Cabinet above fridge is where the new A/C will be installed

A/C cabinet after new shelf and supports installed, before opening up outside wall.

Sorry for the sideways photo–this is the full length closet to the right of the fridge after new birch lining and new shelves have been installed

Following a couple of days of measuring, cutting, shellacking and installing, the shelves and cabinet for the A/C were ready. Now came the nerve wracking part. In order to install the unit, the outer skin and inner birch wall would have to be breached. We made a template the same size as the A/C unit and marked it’s outline on the outer birch wall, then drilled holes through the skin at the four corners. Moving to the outside, we used hand sheet metal cutters to slowly, carefully cut the metal from hole to hole until we had an opening exposing the inside birch, then use a jigsaw to open the hole all the way through. A bit of trimming of the top 1X4 brace was required to shoehorn the unit into place but eventually it fit through. We attached pads of Sorbothane vibration damper material to the bottom of the A/C to ensure quiet operation and then slid it into position. Fit like a charm!

New 8000 BTU air conditioner in position in it’s cabinet. The cabinet door still fits flush!!

The cabinet door was retained as it still fit flush with the unit in place, but we moved the hinges to the top and the chevron pull to the bottom, and ordered gas piston struts to hold the lid open in use. With the cabinet shut there is no indication that the trailer has been modified.

Of course the drain tube needed to be installed and the opening sealed and insulated, which we used pool noodle foam to accomplish. Heavy foil heating duct tape was used to wrap and seal the edges of the opening and to create a foam seal on the edges of the louvered vent cover which now covers the opening. (We also used black fiberglas mesh to make a screen to keep out bugs and unwanted stuff)

Making the cuts to create opening.

Please don’t screw up!

Sheet metal cut into shape, Time to cut away interior birch.

Unit in place and foam insulation sealing up opening, Drain plug not yet installed into position. It was run down behind the fridge and out the door behind the fridge compressor.

The drain tube was installed to drain through the door behind the fridge compressor and fixed into position. Once everything was buttoned down we tested the A/C and blessed cold air filled the formerly stifling hot interior. WE HAD AIR CONDITIONING!!

We also removed the chrome slide-out rack from the left hand closet to the under sink area, which involved building a flat platform with riser blocks to give the rack clearance from the wheelwell tub. Now we have a handy storage for cleaning supplies under the sink!

We also had decided to update the front window rock guard, and replace the polycarbonate with a three panel solid panel, which we used vinyl flooring material to create. If the vinyl proves unsuitable we will try a thin sheet of Lexan, but for now the rockguard looks good to go.

New rockguard

Another view of the new rockguard.

The new louvered vent is the only cue that we have slammed an air conditioner into the old girl.

So now with all the upgrades we will have to take some road trips and see how everything is working, but fear not, camping is in the forecast!  We will continue to update Tallulah Belle’s evolution. Happy Camping!

New Adventures-Old Friends!

Time to add another chapter to Tallulah Belle’s archive!  The weekend of April 7-9th was the annual spring rally of the Texas Vintage Trailer Club at Wolf Creek Park on Lake Livingston, Texas.  Blessed with glorious weather and sunshine, 53 trailers attended, and it was an overload of vintage trailer goodness.

Working on some last minute items to get Tee Girl ready, I moved the water pump from under the sink to the outlet of the freshwater tank under the streetside dinette bench to minimize hydrostatic backpressure, cut and installed hardwood quarter-round moulding on the edges around the flooring, and finally, troubleshooting the on again/off again Marey tankless heater. All of these tasks were finished when April 7, 2017 finally rolled around and we hitched Tallulah Belle to Pearl, the new truck, for the first time.

On the way to the park, April 7. 2017.

This was also the first time we had towed the trailer since having the new springs installed in the fall, and we were relieved to find that the increased ride height allowed the trailer to handle dips and bumps without bottoming out.  The new truck pulled the trailer without effort, BUT being 2 feet shorter and about a half ton lighter than the 2006 truck, the motion of the trailer influenced the truck MUCH more than we were used to. Driving in sidewinds is especially when you notice the swaying and jouncing. Looks like a set of sway bars/ride control is in the works for our trailer!

Arriving at the park in early afternoon, many of the other trailers were already set up, and the owners enjoying the sunshine. We had a spot between some great friends from last year’s rally, so we got to catch up on happenings in their lives.  The three main loops of the park were all filled with vintage trailers, and some lakeside spots a bit further on had several rally attendees as well.  A good number of the Shasta reissue trailers were present, and many restored Airflytes, Deluxe, Astrodome and Compact Shastas, but there were some highly creative homebuilt teardrops and customized vintage trailers. The ingenuity and creativity involved in some of these restorations is mind-boggling!

1954 Clipper

1970 F-100 Sport Custom with slide in camper

1978 Silver Streak motorhome

Our favorite was the 1970 Ford F-100 truck with the slide-in camper, and it’s owner had done a magnificent job recreating the original look of the rig.

Interior of 1970 Ford truck camper

period-correct magazines

Check out this custom tile work on the kitchenette of the truck camper!!!

Friday night arrived and we all gathered at the pavilion for bbq brisket and sausage, beans, coleslaw and dessert, and got to mingle and socialize with other owners. As darkness approached, we clustered around campfires and enjoyed embers and smoke blown into our faces…(doesn’t that always happen?)

Saturday morning dawned radiant and golden, and as we sipped coffee and came to life, an omlette breakfast  was set up and prepared by our neighbors.  We had never seen “omlettes in a bag” before but it seems to work well. Crack your ingredients into zip-loc baggies and toss them into boiling water for a few moments, they all turn out perfect without burning.  Pretty slick way to feed over  100 guests with minimum prep and fuss!

Saturday afternoon was the open house/tour of campers, and this year we were able to actually go to look at some other trailers, thanks to the son of some friends who cat-sit our kitties and allowed us to wander around and play tourist.

Ben keeping our cat Deuce occupied and letting us look at other trailers.

Omlette breakfast on Saturday morning.

One of the benefits of touring the other trailers is getting to see the mods that owners have done, and taking inspiration from them. We have wanted to incorporate a three-flag holder onto our trailer for  flags of the US, Texas and Acadiana, and we saw a setup that we are going to copy on our trailer.

The owner of a 1954 Clipper had built a bracket with built in lighting on the hitch of his trailer, and it seems to be just the thing we have been wanting to do ourselves. Seems to be a perfect solution for this application!

Three flag holder on the hitch.

Saturday evening rolled around and the potluck dinner was served. Melinda had prepared several dozen ultra deluxe deviled eggs, and there were many iterations of pasta salad, beans, and casserole, so there was plenty of food for everyone.

After dinner, the door prize drawing was held, and then once full dark arrived (?), the cornhole tournament began. It was fun but being able to actually see the target to toss bags at would have made it more enjoyable.  Following this, the campfires were lit and we got to share fellowship and Melinda’s trademark Mexican style cinnamon hot cocoa.  It doesn’t get any better!  Friendships and campfires are the payoff for the whole camping experience!

Sunday morning dawned as another cool beautiful morning, and Melinda set up the Camp Chef stove to prepare eggs benedict breakfast for us and our neighbors. For most of them it was a revelation, getting served a four-star breakfast in a camp setting. You Only Live Once, right?

All too soon it was time to break camp and pack up all the ‘stuff’ that goes with a vintage camper, and to make our way back home again. In this case we were only 60 miles away, but due to idiot drivers on US 59 the trip took us almost 3 hours to traverse those 60 miles.  Made it home safely and got Tallulah Belle parked back in her spot, and the trucks  unloaded. Why do the really great events have to end so suddenly?

And so with another rally behind us we prepare for the summer camping season, and possible plans to caravan with some other owners to a remote camp destination as well as our annual trip to Fredricksburg.  We will update as these events happen.  Happy camping!