Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Mercury gets a new butt

Having suffered a bit of water damage in her rear end from having been sitting in a field knee deep in snow, the back half of the Mercury has had to be completely rebuilt.  The floor under the bed was completely rotted and needed to be replaced and the timber that connected it to the chassis had suffered from water damage as had done the rear interior panels.

Luckily, the damage was only in the rear of the caravan under the bed where there was no Lino flooring, so it hasn't affected the plan to save the original flooring if we can. The J rails were unscrewed  and the skin peeled back and the old floor, interior panels and perished beams were all ripped out .

Once the chassis was exposed, the caravan was hoisted up and the metal chassis was wire brushed and treated with a rust inhibitor in preparation for a repaint in black Rustoleum.

Once that was all done, the rotted timber floor and support beams were replaced with brand new treated timbers and marine grade ply and glued, clamped and bolted back together.  This van is going to be so solid and waterproof after all this that it should last another fifty years!

My sister's dog Rosie has become quite the "trailer dog" and loves spending time with us out when we are working out in the caravan

So now the next step is to remove all of the J rails and remove the perished old chewing gum type sealant that had allowed the water to come in and reseal the entire caravan with a urethane sealant and brand new screws  - replace all the window rubbers and get stuck into sanding the entire outside back to raw metal - Oh joy!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Doing up caravans is not fun...

Just when I thought we might have a bit of a break from what has seemed like almost constant road tripping intermingled with restoration projects, here we are back at it again! How did this happen?
I mean it is, as always a great adventure and I love coming to America, but to be honest, I was all set to jump on a plane and head back to Australia right after we had dropped Rosie off at Retroluxe Vintage Trailers and come back when she was all done and ready to take to Trailerfest.
Ah  the best made plans...

So it started like this: Back when I first started Vintage Caravan Magazine, my dream was to make it a truly international magazine with features and readers from all over the world coming together like a community of wanderers finding their tribe.  Although our caravans (or "trailers" as many Americans call them) may all be different, unique expressions of our varied personalities, we all share a love of the quaintness of these tiny spaces as much as we love their portability.  Knowing that there were lots of events happening all over the world, my plan was always to have a car and caravan in the three places I spend most of my time: Australia, America and New Zealand. That way I could hitch up and go to any event in any of those places and live in eternal summertime in my rolling abode...

My other big dream was to eventually be able to offer a prize giveaway caravan to my loyal subscribers; the ones that have helped to make the press keep rolling issue after issue for the past three years; my favourite people in the world! Knowing that parts, labour and things like retro Laminex, cool flooring and professional paint jobs and upholstery were cheaper in America, it seemed obvious to do our first one there.

But back to the story..
One day I was heading towards LA, all set to fly back to Australia. Finding it hard to say goodbye, I decided to stop in and visit with my sister and her family one last time as they were staying over at a friend's ranch that was only about three hours drive away from where we were in California. We pulled into the driveway of the ranch and saw this:

"Isn't it just gorgeous", squeals my sister.
"Hmmmmm...." I reply as I hold my nose to enter inside the musty and grimy interior of a caravan that has quite clearly not been lived in by anything but mice since around 1975. "Lovely"( said with quite a large hint of sarcasm in my voice)
Anyway, it turns out that it was for sale for $1500 and the next day we had bought it and were towing it back to Oregon. What the?

Noddy got all fired up about how we had always talked about giving away a restored caravan as a Vintage Caravan Magazine subscriber prize.  With one issue of the magazine having just gone to print, the book launch done and some free time on our hands what better time to do it than now, he says. I ponder if this man of mine even knows the meaning of "free time" and remind him again that, even though I have done it many times before and have written an entire book and publish a magazine on the "joys" of vintage caravans, I keep saying; "Doing up caravans is not fun".  It's dirty, it's messy, it's exhausting and it's expensive. You end up with paint in your hair, broken fingernails and raw fingers from sanding and scrubbing and big dusty brown boogers up your nose.  Tell me again why we though this was a good idea?

I say; "No, I'm not going through this again. I am done with restoring old vans. If you want to do this one up babe, you're on your own.  There's too much work to do and I don't think you're being realistic about the costs of it all and the time it will take".
But we've had this conversation before and when I liken this whole process to child birth, people who have been through this and know what it is like always laugh.  You know the drill; you swear you'll never do it again, that it was too hard, but somehow you do, and when it is all over you sit back and admire what you made and go: "Isn't she just so beautiful?"

Yesterday Noddy towed the 1956 Mercury off to get water blasted in preparation for sanding and her new upcoming paint job and then he brought her home to begin cleaning and preparing the inside.
Today, armed with disinfectant, steel wool and a very large bucket of soapy water he started off by ripping up the filthy old musty carpet. Feeling just a tad guilty, I went and got some dirty work clothes on and went out to help.  Under the old carpet was yet another layer of 1970s blue carpet tiles - Gross! But just as we began to peel back the carpet tiles, I spy a thing of great beauty; it is the original mosaic laid lino tiles in a spectacular blue and yellow that matches the pale 1950s yellow oven and ice box. Oh my! How cool is that?

I got all excited about the discovery of this piece of originality and had a sudden overwhelming desire to preserve this very, very cool old floor. So I picked up a sponge and started scrubbing...
Yep, here I am doing it all again! Stay tuned for updates...

Subscribe to Vintage Caravan Magazine at: www.vintagecaravanmagazine.com

The fine print:
The caravan is currently undergoing restoration in Oregon, USA and registered in California, USA
Delivery to a U.S winner can be arranged for a fee. (We don't mind taking a long road trip if you can pay for the gas!)
If the caravan is won by one of our Australian subscribers or by anyone else outside the USA they will have the choice to either shipping it home (at the winners expense) or sold and the proceeds kept by the winner.
The estimated value of the restored 1956 Mercury is $10,000 USD
The draw will take place once the restoration is complete and the winner will be notified by email or phone

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rosie's make over begins...

Rosie is a cute little 1949 Crown "canned ham" caravan that we found for sale in the yard of a Salvation Army thrift store across the road from the Hot August Nights Swap Meet two years ago. I wrote all about her in a previous entry and you can read all about it HERE

After having spent the last two years locked up in a shed in Oregon, the time has finally come to give her the make over she deserves.
Her old axle and bearings were pretty crappy and it had a 5 by 5.5 stud pattern that limited our options somewhat, so once she was rolled out of the shed, she was hoisted up onto stands and the temporary wheels we had put on her to transport her from Nevada to Oregon were removed.

We ordered some shiny new chrome smoothies and Coker whitewall tyres and a brand new axle, hubs and bearings online and Noddy set to work replacing the old ones with the new ones in the car park of our hotel.

Noddy had been quite confident that we could do the rest of the restoration work ourselves as we have now done up four  caravans together and they all came out AMAZING. The problem was that we both have very busy schedules and Rosie was going to be a big job.  She had suffered quite a bit more structural damage than we had at first noticed, and having been transported hundreds of miles with missing windows had made it worse. The once intact ceiling had been sucked out through the missing window in the door revealing some major rot in the supporting timbers and the side panel had come loose. After re-bracing her temporarily with some extra timber and boarding up all the missing windows to make her air tight again, we both agreed that it was time to call in the experts.

After having sussed out quite a few vintage trailer repair places around, we decided on Retroluxe Vintage Trailers in California. Firstly because I liked their cool name, secondly because in our email communications they had always been great to deal with. The third and main reason was that their prices seemed reasonable (as always, we work to a tight budget!) and the work that they had done that I had been watching on their Facebook page was impressive.  Feedback from their customers was always glowing and Scott had years of kitchen and cabinetry making experience under his belt that I thought would come in handy in repairing the extensive timber damage in both Rosie's structural framework as well as in her internal fixtures. Scott 'gets' the hot rod-yet-original kind of look I was wanting. It was great to be able to meet him, Wendy and co-worker Damon at Pismo a couple of weeks ago to talk about our plans to start work on Rosie.

One week later we set off on the 8-hour drive from Oregon to Northern California with our 1975 Ford F250 truck and our new-shoed Rosie in tow...

Once we crossed the border, we stopped for a break and a photo of Rosie with Mount Shasta - isn't she just the cutest?

The next day we caught up with Scott and Wendy for breakfast at a local eatery and then spent a great day sightseeing around the area, antique shopping, checking out the great collection of second-hand caravan parts and retro wares at the Vintage Deluxe Travel Trailers Shop 

We even found this old US Military Airstream Bambi for sale on the side of the road.... very tempting!

Later that afternoon we chilled out and brainstormed our ideas for Rosie over a glass or two or three of particularly scrummy wine on the deck of the Iverson Winery vineyard.

The next day Scott cast his expert eyes over our Rosie and we talked in depth about what we wanted to get done, what was required and how much it would all cost. 
"I'm not afraid", declared Scott 
"We can do it!" said Wendy

  I breathed a sigh of relief and dreamed of what kind of fabulous interior style I will do once she is all done... Stay tuned!