Where to begin….Well, the other day I saw an ad on Craigslist for a 1956 canned ham but there were no photos. The ad said the camper was in good condition (you know this statement always leaves a lot open to each persons interpretation!) But I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. So I contacted the seller to inquire about it. The seller sent me some photos and said they hadn’t had a chance to get them uploaded to the ad. The ad was just listed a couple hours before I inquired.
When I saw the pictures I was immediately intrigued. This old vintage camper was about as canned ham as you can get and had those charming 1950′s style windows. It is 13 feet long from tongue to rear. Probably 10-11 feet long inside. It was like a tin bubble it looked so round. So after a few back and forth emails, a phone call and more pictures, I was off to find the only bank open on a Sunday and soon we were on our way to Indiana. The seller promised me they would hold it until I could get there. The excitement was growing and I honestly could hardly contain it. I had a suspicion that the sellers didn’t really know the value of this trailer.
So after almost a 3 hour trip we arrive to check out the trailer. You know if you have been searching online ads for trailers you may have found that a lot of them look much better in photos than they do in real life and I was preparing myself for just that. However, when I arrived and saw it I was pleasantly surprised. She was undeniably ADORABLE!
Can you envision her with a really shiny polished exterior? At some point in her life she was painted all white on the bottom half and the top half was bare aluminum. The previous owner had stripped off all the paint on the bottom half. While I can’t find much information at all online about these trailers other than they were manufactured by the Mathison Aircraft & Trailer company based out of Long Beach, CA., I wouldn’t be surprised if they originally unpainted aluminum. In fact I believe these trailers are actually pretty rare. I’ve only seen 3 others from searching online. One is currently in the process of a complete rebuild, the other is a larger one owned by a famous person and the third is one owned by a Sisters on the Fly member. Another interesting fact about this trailer is the aluminum appears to be thicker than what we have on our 61 Shasta Compact. While the trailer is the same size as the Compact it’s definitely a bit heavier. Her outer skin is overall in very good shape. She has a couple dings on the front but I think I may be able to pop them out. If not, I may replace the front lower skin at some point. There is no hurry in that as I have other things to keep me busy on her.
Anyway, onward with our story….so after a thorough once over on the trailer I knew I wanted it and proceeded to ask the seller what was the least they would take for it. They said that since I contacted them they have had multiple inquiries from folks saying they would take the trailer sight unseen and said they were so surprised that it would have so much interest. (See they didn’t know what they had). They were just a couple that had used it over the years to camp in it down in Florida (thus that ugly A/C unit mounted on the tongue). So at that point I knew they had a sudden realization that their trailer was worth exactly what they were asking if not more and they were not going to take a penny less. In fact the wife told me after I got home with it that she was really struggling the night before with second thoughts on selling it at all. So I’m very thankful that I paid them full price (which was a deal in my humble opinion for this particular trailer in this condition and age), hooked her up and away we went. The trip home was uneventful and she towed beautifully. All the rear lights work (that is always a plus) and even the running lights work.
OK, on to the good stuff….the interior pictures! At 56 years old she’s in very good shape. She sports the original flooring and while some things have been modified over the years she still retains a mostly original look. You can click any of these photos to view them larger. So come on in and have a look around….
I just love that old screen door. Note a small bit of water damage on the lower lip of the exterior door.
Right as you step in you see the kitchen straight ahead. You have two overhead cupboards, a counter on the left with a sink (not hooked up) and a lower counter to the right. This trailer originally had a floor model (tall) stove/oven combination. Probably a beautiful white one. On the wall there on the upper right is the A/C remote. I’ll grumble more about the A/C later.
Sink and cover. If I don’t install a faucet in this…it would make a great cooler. Just add ice and stick soda’s in there. It does have a drain to the outside.
Excuse the wonky angle of this picture. That is a pull out spice rack the previous owner made. Not sure I’d ever have that many spices but OK. Right next to it is where a fridge could go. I’d love to find not only a fridge to fit there but on top where you see that bare counter space I’d like to put a vintage princess propane stove top. Although I’m not apposed to other options like going all electric. Above the two drawers you see there is a large pull out cutting board. It’s right next to the bed so one could actually pull it out and use it as a table. But no crumbs in the bed please! (:
Looking to the right after you step in the doorway you see the dinette (needs cushions). The table was shortened in order to make it easier to get in/out of the dinette seats. The table folds and lays down on those lips you see on the benches and that area makes into a twin size bed.
Looking at the rear you see the double bed and closet. The closet used to have a door at one time. I think what I’ll do is put up a tension rod and hang a long curtain (maybe make uses of a cute shower curtain). The porta-potty will be stored in there as well as clothing and other items. My plan is to put in a second shelf.
Under that closet shelf is the wheel well. Notice the original floor. I love this floor! It has scratches and such here and there but I’m opting to keep it…dings and all. It’s just so retro charming. Also I like those sliding storage doors under the bed.
Another view of the bed. See that metal panel across the back? The wood actually goes behind that and this is like a kick panel. Just in case you tend to kick things in your sleep LOL!
So that is the “BEFORE” tour in a nutshell. I’ll post more pictures as we work on her. She’s not perfect by any means but she’s very solid and over all in very good condition considering she’s 56 years old! One thing I don’t like about this trailer (yes there is something…) is how dark the stain is on the interior. So I’m hoping I can come up with a plan to maybe sand it all down and re-stain it a lighter stain and that way it’s more even all over as well as there are some panels that are darker than others. For the exterior I am going to try and polish it. To be honest I am dreading that! While I love the look of the vintage Airstreams and other trailers that have that high polish shine, I also know just how labor intensive it is to achieve. I think painting this trailer right off the bat would do her an injustice though, so I will give polishing her a good shot with my best effort. If all else fails, then I may have to consider painting the exterior.
I know the question some of you may be asking is if she is for sale? The answer to that is not at this time. I’ve named her “Bubbles” because that’s what she looks like to me…a big tin bubble (: Plus I’m secretly a huge fan of blowing bubbles and totally a kid at heart when it comes to that! And who doesn’t love bubbles right? I think she needs one of those electric bubble making machines to sit outside at her first rally. Did you all know they now make bubble solution that comes in colors!? The next best invention since sliced bread in my book.
I hope you all enjoyed seeing her and hope you’ll follow me on the journey of her renovation.
P.S. Regarding the A/C; If I had my way I’d remove it and replace the front skin. However, after much discussion I think we’ll keep it for now and seal it in better with some metal of some sort and build a diamond plate or similar hinged box to hide it for when it’s not in use.