The Long, Hot Summer

The first major hurdle having been conquered,  getting Tallulah Belle home safely, was a milestone for us. It was also time for me to go back to work for 21 days, again.  This was to be the last of the three week hitches as the project I was working on was winding down. Now, being offshore for all that time meant that I had a lot of time in the evenings with not much to do, but I could get online and start accumulating some of the tools and parts needed for the trailer. I purchased all manner of items and Melinda started receiving an ever growing number of parcels delivered to the house. In fact, we set aside the spare bedroom as a storage depot for the items until they were needed in the renovation process, and we began calling it Tallulah’s bedroom.  Among the first items found online were a Bargman Trail-Lite–this is a really cool rear light which illuminates the license plate also, that a lot of trailers had back then, but ours did not–and a set of the Shasta wings, since Tee Girl was missing those also.

Shasta made three different sizes of wings for their trailers, and needed were the 42″x9″ size. We found a website for a guy who makes Shasta wings, does an OUTSTANDING job, and who owns a gorgeous early 60’s Astrodome ( it is an Airflyte with a cabover sleeping bunk above the dinette table). His name is Tyler Bessette and his website is called From Nasty to Shasty.

The wings were actually the FIRST item purchased, as we knew that whatever happened Tee Girl WOULD have a shiny new set, and it was a kind of symbolic purchase. Little did we know the length of the path before we installed those wings!


Early stages of accumulation. Note Bargman trail light, newly plated baby moon hubcaps and Shasta badge. The chevron items are drawer pulls.

We also scored a Shasta badge, since the trailer was missing hers,  and some chevron drawer pulls. The chevron was used by Shasta as a design element during the ’58-’64 years and would figure prominently in our makeover also.

These first weeks were a time of planning the tasks ahead of us, of making decisions about upgrades and learning what was practical and what was not.  Melinda put together a binder of photos showing other Shasta restorations, in color combinations that we liked, and interior design choices–fabrics, vinyls and Formica patterns. Tallulah Belle, as equipped had functional but bland and soulless flooring, Formica and upholstery. This would change!

Now to make a plan…we looked at all the systems and areas of the trailer that would need attention. First, the electrical system was hopeless.  There was a 120V lamp over the dinette, one over the galley and a small shaded reading lamp in the back corner of the gaucho area.  The wires all met under the sink, twisted together in a ball, and there was a hole in the side through which an extension cord had been run to plug into shore power.  The 12V running lights were not working properly either and there was a mess of wires under the frame that theoretically had been a working harness at some point, This would ALL have to be replaced.

Onward to plumbing. There was a nice stainless 20 gallon freshwater tank under a dinette seat, and it held water but the hand pump by the sink had been replaced by a mobile home faucet, and the 1/4 inch copper lines had been cut, and so the shower and sink did not work. The original toilet was in place but with no water supply was non functional also, and it drained into a 20 gallon blackwater tank under the bathroom. Ok…complete replacement of plumbing also.

Next, the propane system. The previous owner had installed a nifty dual selector for the propane tanks, and when we fitted a full tank we found the stove worked, and the propane light above the dinette worked also. So at least that was functional. The trailer also came with a propane water heater, which looked like a prop in a horror movie–rusty angular jagged metal plates and copper lines snaking through the entire hot mess– and a propane heater by the front door, which was in reality just a burner inside a metal box, with no fan or way of distributing heat…it would burn gas and heat would radiate from the burner grille. Ummm, NO. That got nixed early on along with the water heater.  We were pleased with the amount of heat that the ceramic heater produced and eliminating the gas heater gave us an extra space to work with. Sooo, back to Amazon, where I did some research and found a Marey brand tankless heater rated at 5 liters/minute, which would fit into the vented locker the old water heater was stored in on the street side of the exterior.  A few clicks and it was purchased and on it’s way.

The skins were in great condition and could be kept, the windows were all there and the jalousie mechanisms all worked, so that was a bonus. The Bargman L-66 door latch was in good condition but pitted and would need to be plated, but we decided to do that later on.

Ok, now the interior. Oh boy.  Here is where you can get bogged down, gentle readers, with  the myriad of choices facing you. Keep the original materials??  Replace with retro styled product?  Go nuts and completely replace everything with current choices?   (Editorial moment–we love the 1950’s amber shellac over birch paneling look and it is the main styling element we are attracted to in these old canned hams. THEREFORE, all the subsequent design choices would have to blend with amber shellac. NO PAINT. EVER!)

Our trailer had the typical amount and type of water damage, delamination and staining under the front and rear windows but the cabinets were in excellent shape. So, panel replacement in dinette area, street and curbside, and rear wall over the gaucho would need to be replaced.


Streetside dinette area showing water damage.


Curbside dinette area showing delamination and staining.

Flooring and countertops would wait a bit until we had replaced the bad panels, and upholstery was something that we needed to research and decide, so with this in mind, we began to remove windows and exterior skins, to see what needed attention in the frame.


Having identified several areas of attack and planned a strategy it was time to begin the long, hot summer of 2013.

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