November 22, 2006

#33 - 1956 Original Features

I found a 1957 Caravanner brochure on the VAC site. I haven't found a 1956 Caravanner brochure, but the two models were similar. If anyone finds a '56 brochure, let me know.
"Bold, adventurous trailering awaits the young at heart in this excitingly new lightweight Airstream crusing model."
Here are the standard features of the Caravanner. At this point, I'm planning to modify or remove features in red:
  • Overall length - 22'
  • Body length - 19'
  • Overall weight - 2800 lbs.
  • Hitch weight - 270 lbs.
  • Choice of 3 interior wall colors.
  • Comfortable divan with arms, converts to double bed. (I'm doing a dinette in front that converts to a bed.)
  • 48" x 76" Airloom double bed. (I'm 78" tall.)
  • Marine type flushing toilet, shower and vanity type lavatory.
  • Electric water heater. (I'm going with gas.)
  • Five foot drop-leaf table. (Our dinette will serve this purpose.)
  • Butane radiant heater.
  • Combination 5.8 cu ft ice-electric refrigerator with freezer. (The trailer came with the gas option below.)
  • Double basin sink with swing faucet.
  • Butane range, 3-burner, oven, broiler.
  • 60" of Formica galley tops in kitchen.
  • 116" of roof lockers, 32" wardrobe.
  • Closet for household appliances.
  • One 6 or 12 volt battery dome light. (I'll add a few.)
  • Airstream's "Airliner" curtains. (I don't know what these looked like. Maybe I can recreate them.)
  • Linoleum tiled floors. (Real Linoleum sheet instead of tiles.)
  • 9 crank operated windows.
  • 3 roof vents, power fan in center vent.
  • Warp-proof hollow core cabinet doors.
  • Touch control built-in step.
  • Radio antenna
  • Butane tank
  • Imported "Sta-Closed" closet catches.
  • Porch light.
  • 12' awning rail.
  • Waterproof 110 volt electrical outlet.
  • Escape type rear window.
  • Fiberglass insulation.
  • Trunk compartment.
  • Steel bumper.
  • Shock absorbers.
  • Electric brakes.
  • Truck wheels 7.00x15 six-ply tires.
And this is the list of the "Wally Byam caravan tested optional features." They were the "only permissible extra features." Can you see the salesman trying to persuade a reluctant buyer to get the options? What the hell, if Wally uses them on his caravans, I'll take 'em!
  • Pressurized water system.
  • 3.9 cu ft gas refrigerator.
  • Septic tank for toilet.
  • Gas water heater.
  • Puncture proof tubes. (I'll be using tubeless.)
  • 8-ply tires.
  • Two butane tanks.
The brochure also mentions
" extra roomy shower, a unique concealed wash bowl that converts into an attractive mirrored vanity and a hot water heater."
If you've ever seen the convertible vanity, you'll agree it's very slick.

Here's the most humorous section of the sales pitch for this trailer. Remember the shell is only 19' long:
"This wide open, spacious one room trailer is transformed into a two room apartment by simple use of an ingenious folding door. This also provides privacy for bedroom, toilet, lavatory and shower in their rear locations while the front living room is in use."
It then mentions my absolute favorite part of Caravanners:
"The 20 sq ft of area in the giant 'Panoram' window presents a kaleidoscopic view of all of outdoors, while flooding the living room with daylight and ventilation."

November 19, 2006

#32 - The Damn Step

The RV step is a deceptively complicated object. Besides tread style, and width, depth and drop dimensions, steps vary based on the way they latch closed and the way they mount. For instance, vintage Airstream steps use cut outs in the outriggers as tracks. Newer versions come with their own tracks on the sides.

#1 didn't come with an original step. It was an older replacement model. Colin and I have been arguing about that damn step since I bought #1. He pushed me to look for an original. I said I didn't care how it looked and a new one is cheap...a lot cheaper than having him fabricate something. I have to be cost-conscious someplace and a non-original step seems like a good place.

But Colin is a perfectionist and he had installed enough old and new steps to argue that a properly restored vintage Airstream step not only looks unique but also works better than a new replacement.

Ultimately, the argument ended when my #2 Caravanner showed up with a good original step. It has been cut out of #2 and made to fit just like it should on the #1 chassis. Colin wins.

Original Step Cut from #2

Step from #2 Restored and Installed on #1.

November 10, 2006

#31 - A Gold Mine!

As I had hoped, inside #2 is a gold mine of parts. Until now, I didn't know for sure because the previous owner had gutted the interior while they started the renovation. They threw it all back in loose when we picked it up. They promised it would be nearly complete, but I didn't believe it until it all came pouring out on the pavement when we got it back.

Inside were great original appliances, most of the original cabinets (stripped and sanded but not refinished), nearly all the window parts, original hubcaps, and more.

The propane fridge in the photo below is my favorite thing in the whole batch. It's an early Dometic gas-only fridge. The standard fridge in 1956 would have been a 110vac-only Marvel. Marvels are great looking fridges, but you have your fridge only when you are plugged in. Modern fridges go both ways, but they require a constant parasitic 12vdc draw on your battery to power the controls.

A Rare Original 1956 Dometic

November 05, 2006

#30 - Are There "Restoration Ethics?"

For the record, the serial number for #1 is O-9003 and #2 is O-9045. I have great reverence for the history of vintage trailers. I see each of these as unique historic artifacts with stories to tell.

I'm always sad to see vintage trailers parted out. Every day in my job I talk to restorers who are looking for windows, doors, vents and other items that are simply not available anymore. As our hobby has grown, the overall value (not just $$ value) of an original exterior has gone way up. As our hobby continues to mature, the value of an original interior will become greater, too. I take all this very seriously--to the point of an ethical duty--while undertaking this restoration.

Less than 100 Caravanners were built in 1956, the first year Caravanners were made. It is somewhat wrong to reduce the surviving examples by 1. But there is so little left of my #1 that it wouldn't have been all that original when it was done, anyway. I have to think of it as saving one gorgeous example and using the spare parts to save a few an organ donor.

Once the shell swap is finished, I'll need to rename them... referring to them as #1 and #2, or by their serial numbers will be confusing. Which trailer gets which serial number? I have already registered O-9003 and it is the one listed with the WBCCI... but doesn't the serial number stay with the shell?