Welcome to the RV Dreaming Podcast! In this episode, we dive deep into the world of vintage camper trailers with Paul, the founder of Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine. We’ll explore the charm of old trailers, the art of refurbishing them, and how they can be transformed into modern-day businesses.
About the Host:
Stuart, the host, has been a nomad since 2020, traveling in his 40-foot Super C and 24-foot Sprinter van. He is accompanied by his two cats, Camden and Izzy. You can follow his adventures on Instagram at Stuart Doing Stuff.
- The allure of vintage trailers and their significance in the RV community.
- The history and evolution of trailers from the past to the present.
- Paul’s journey in establishing the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine.
- The significance of rallies in the vintage trailer community.
- The value and pricing of vintage trailers in today’s market.
- The trend of using vintage trailers for Airbnb and other unique accommodations.
- The importance of experiencing a trailer firsthand before purchasing.
Vintage camper trailers are more than just vehicles; they are a testament to history, craftsmanship, and a simpler time. Whether you’re a seasoned RV enthusiast or new to the world of trailers, there’s something magical about these classic beauties that captivate the heart. Join us in celebrating the charm and legacy of vintage camper trailers with Paul.
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We're going back in the day. In this episode, we're going to talk with Paul from Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine, and we're going to talk about old trailers, how you can refurbish them, how you can update them with modern day amenities, and how you can even take these classic trailers and start your own business. That's all coming up on this episode of the RV Dreaming Podcast. And welcome to the RV Dreaming Podcast. In this podcast, we help you prepare for life on the road. Whether you're in an RV, a van, or in the back of your car, we teach you how to get on the road and how to survive your first year as a full time nomad. RV dreaming, start here, go anywhere. My name is Stuart from Stuart Doing Stuff on Instagram. I've been a nomad since 2020, and I split my time between my 40 foot Super C and my 24 foot Sprinter van. And I travel with my two cats, Camden and Izzy. Follow me on Instagram at Stuart Doing Stuff for more stories and videos. You know, we spend a lot of time talking about these new rigs that are coming off the lines. We talk about build quality from what's being put out by the manufacturers nowadays. And we spend a lot of time talking about tech and new stuff that's happening in the RV business. But I want to take a step. Backwards today and not just one step back. Let's go decades and decades back. Let's go back to those classic vintage camper trailers that we all love to see. And we have so many questions about, and who better to talk about that then vintage camper trailer, mag trailers, magazine founder himself, Paul, welcome to the RV dreaming podcast, Paul.Vintage Camper Trailers:
Thank you so much. We appreciate being here.Stuart Doing Stuff:
No problem. So real quick. Tell me about your magazineVintage Camper Trailers:
Well the vintage camper trailers magazine, um came about when I wrote an article for another Magazine because I thought I had vented and had invented a new hobby I had an old car and I had bought an old trailer to take my kids camping in Mainly because it was cheap not because I thought it was cool or anything And i'm still writing that article for that magazine About 14 years later and somewhere in the middle there, I decided, well, maybe the trailer guys need a similar type publication that tells them when the rallies are, you know, kind of picture a hot rod magazine shows pictures of restored trailers, that type of thing. So we've been doing the magazine and print and digital now for well over we're in our 12th year. Wow. And so you've got the magazine and I know you also produce a lot of rallies as well. We do, we do We, we produce a lot. I'm gonna have to take a look at that moving forward because we've got a lot on our calendar right now. But we do, essentially for us, a rally is, I always say it's like a classic car show, but you get to sleep at it. So you've gotta be nice to people and, and, 'cause you're gonna be waking up with 'em for a few days. So we do several days, typically Thursday through Sunday, we have, uh, live bands, we have activities. Our events are typically heavily themed. So it might be a Western theme or we've got a British invasion theme or a Renaissance fair theme among others coming up. But, uh, yeah, they're, they're a blast, you know, over the years it's just become a lot of good friends getting together. Several times a year to camp.Stuart Doing Stuff:
Yeah, I worked in a radio station back when I was younger. It was, uh, oldies, fifties, sixties, uh, era kind of station. And I remember doing classic car shows where traditionally restored or older fifties, sixties, even some forties, you know, cars, and it was just a lot of fun to, to kind of see these classics and, and restored. And you guys, that's kind of what these rallies are.Vintage Camper Trailers:
They are. And a lot of our guys actually tow with the vintage cars. So, um, it's, it turns into a, you know, a big vintage festival and the people even dress up, especially if there's a theme. So at our, our Western rally, we have a country band. People will dress up in, in vintage country gear. They'll decorate their trailers in that fashion. Um, next year we have a Christmas in the trailer park, which is a decorate with vintage trailer, vintage Christmas stuff. We'll have an ugly sweater contest. We'll have a potluck, uh, Christmas dinner and, and, and just a bunch of goofy fun. It's really, if, if you're not willing to come and kind of be silly, it's. Not for you, because it's just a goofy time of everything from costumes to decorations.Stuart Doing Stuff:
So if I wanted to come to one of these rallies, do I have to have a vintage trailer or can I come in my other RVs or place for me to park and camp out with everybody? Or do I need to go find my own spot?Vintage Camper Trailers:
Yeah, usually, you know, our, our events have gotten so big that we still try to reserve some sites for new trailers because we do want to. So as long as we've got room, we welcome people that want to come and play. And, and a lot of times those people come in, in their new white box and they end up falling in love with what we're doing and ended up getting a vintage trailer too. But yeah, usually we've got some space. We do a big rally in San Dimas. That's 280 vintage trailers and about 150 classic cars. And we probably hold back. 10 percent or so for, for, for new trailers. And, and we're pretty liberal. I mean, you know, we let the retros in and the fiberglass stuff and, and, uh, a lot of those aren't as old as some of them, but they kind of fit the vibe.Stuart Doing Stuff:
You know, and that kind of asks, brings up my next question. What is considered nowadays a vintage trailer?Vintage Camper Trailers:
Yeah. So somewhere in the, in the 1970s. The design of trailers really started to change and, and, and the design of everything, the use of plastics in, in, in stuff. And, and so you went from a trailer that was around you, what we'd call a canned ham shape, or before that a bread loaf shaped trailer to square boxes. With, you know, white sides and plastic interiors. And so depending on the event and, and, and who you ask 72, 75, 70s, somewhere around there is when they really started to change and they just didn't really have those warm wood interiors and the classic pastel colors and, you know, the stuff that really looks vintage.Stuart Doing Stuff:
Maybe this is a subjective question, but to be vintage. You talked about restoring. You guys also do a lot of restoring of classic trailers. Can I restore a trailer to be considered vintage? Utilizing the same color schemes or the same materials, but also add maybe some modern conveniences like solar and lithium or does it need to be pure era style to be considered vintageVintage Camper Trailers:
were were really non discriminating as far as that goes. Because in today's camping world and things, you're going to need and want some modern conveniences. And so I just saw a beautiful 47 Spartan Manor this last weekend that was stunning to me. But that model didn't even come with a bathroom. And they were able to incorporate a bathroom in their brand new floor plan and everything. And so that's a real common upgrade. And of course, air conditioning and things. But a lot of the trailers back in the 40s and 50s, Were designed for people to live in. So 25 foot Spartan Manor, for instance, doesn't have a bathroom because it was made to go into a trailer park where you would have had a bathhouse that you could use and you might live there for several months while you worked at the factory until you move to go work somewhere else. And so Uh, some of these, uh, like I have a 28 foot 1955 Spartan, that was really more of a mobile home back in the day. People didn't necessarily camp in it. So we've added tanks and things to make it much more campable, but from the exterior, it looks like a vintage trailer. Now there's... Flat screen TVs hidden in, in closets and things, but to just walk in, it looks straight outta 1955.Stuart Doing Stuff:
You know that, that's kind of an interesting, 'cause it is a subjective thing. It's kinda like if you're restoring a classic car, but you wanna put in a, a stereo with Bluetooth and a CD player or whatever, or,Vintage Camper Trailers:
or upgrade a motor, you know? Yeah. Have a motor that will run on today's freeways. You know, I mean, so, Yeah, it's, uh, there's both. There's certainly both.Stuart Doing Stuff:
You know what, I would ask, what shocks you the most between, like, the progression between these trailers that you were saying pre 1974 stuff and the newer ones? I mean, we know they're getting bigger, but what would you say as far as the build quality of the stuff that's coming off the line now as opposed to the stuff that was produced back then?Vintage Camper Trailers:
Well, they are getting bigger. My 28 foot Spartan is considered a big trailer in the vintage world. And if I'm in a truck stop with, with a modern trailer, I'm dwarfed. I mean, it's, you know, it's minuscule. We do have little tiny, you know, a 14, 16 foot Shasta is a real common trailer for us. And they don't have a bathroom and they don't, most of them even have a refrigerator. They ran with blocks of ice and things, but it, the new ones. You know, I mean, they are what they are. They're coming off a production line. There's certainly different levels of quality, but man, these, these vintage trailers, some of them have lasted already. For decades and decades. And they were built with real wood, real metal, you know, their, their arch nemesis is water, but if they don't get wet, they'd probably last forever. You know, we're still finding barn finds sitting in, in sheds and things that look like they're off the showroom floor. We were featuring one of the next magazine that. Still has the tags on the seats, and it's a, it's a 40, I want to say a 49 Travelees. It's still got the original tags on the seats from when it was manufactured. I mean the thing's just an incredible time capsule.Stuart Doing Stuff:
You know, so who are these vintage trailers for? It doesn't sound like a modern day full time digital nomad would probably be very comfortable in one of these smaller things. Are these mostly for weekenders or retirees or just people looking to try and get out or who's buying these nowadays?Vintage Camper Trailers:
You know, I, I, I think it's, I think it's people that have some connection to the culture and, you know, I, I, I describe us as old souls. I mean, I've always had old cars. I honestly, I mean, I like camping. All right. But honestly, to me, it's about the vintage trailers and the classic cars. That's where my real passion lies. Not necessarily in the camping, although we camp, you know, we have a cab over and we camp otherwise as well. But I think that it's, it's more of a, more of an activity for most people going to the shows, going to the events, you know, for a few hundred bucks, you can go for the whole weekend and get a pancake breakfast and live music and see your friend it's even though those prices have gone up, especially on the West coast, truthfully. It's a few hundred dollars for several days of fun and entertainment and camping and food. And, um, even though we've seen those prices rise, you know, really it's not, not a huge investment. Uh, if you can find a little trailer, fix it up yourself and then go meet a whole group of people that will welcome you in and you can go have fun with a few times a year.Stuart Doing Stuff:
I'm looking on your website right now. And on your website, there's a section where there's a classifieds where people can buy and sell different trailers. And I'm looking at some of these and it, it really is just a blast from the past.Vintage Camper Trailers:
Yeah. Yeah. And by and large, that section of our website is our most traveled by far. I mean, people looking to buy selling, um, we just opened up the ability to take your trailer to auction for you with And so the classifieds are really. A big part of what we do in helping people buy and sell trailers.Stuart Doing Stuff:
So I would love to get your help on this. Okay. Cause I'm a total novice when it comes to these old school trailers, other than I think they're really cool. All right. So I'm looking at one here. It's a very rare 1948. Vintage Spartan trailer, everything is new, clean title, pink slips, ready to go, designer features, and it looks awesome, the shine on this thing is, is amazing, and it looks great, I can't get the photos to load right now, but that just might be my internet. Um, the um, the thing on this is uh, 125, 000, the asking price, I'm trying to find out. How, how are these valued booked at? I mean, is it, we know that a lot, let me rephrase that. I think a lot of times on classic cars, there's, there's a book, you know, like a blue book, just like you have these normal cars. But as any, as, as anything else, something's only worth as much as someone's willing to pay for it. So if I wanted to do this, if I wanted to restore one of these trailers, what makes, yeah. These old ones valuable and, and what is it that, that, what, what is it that holds their value?Vintage Camper Trailers:
Well, you hit the nail on the head. They're worth what you can get for them. And we've seen just a crazy escalation in prices go up and everybody keeps pushing it and pushing it and pushing it. You know, it doesn't necessarily. just because you put a lot of money into anything mean that you're going to get that money back necessarily and so you've got to be smart about that doing a restoration. I just consulted with somebody selling an Airstream trailer the other day and they literally want almost double of what That type of trailer usually goes for trying to justify the money they put into it in their time. And unfortunately, if nobody's willing to pay it, it doesn't matter. You know, and so trailers up over the six figure mark, you know, obviously there's a more limited customer base for that. And a lot of those end up. Going to the auction to the bigger collectors and stuff that that will bid them up But most vintage trailers a finished vintage trailer that you can camp in that's you know reasonably clean and stuff are probably going to be more in the you know, six to 16, 000 range and then you know up around the 30 40, 000 mark you can get something pretty darn nice and and then beyond that, you know You're looking at collector stuff or maybe it's loaded with Solar and boondocking and, and, and other bells and whistles. Bathrooms make a big difference if it's got a bathroom in it. It will bring markedly more than if it does not. So yeah, there's some factors Spartans and aluminum frame trailers will bring more, cause they're just more durable, you know, like your airstreams and your streamlines and your silver streaks and, and those, they're just a more durable going down the road, you know, they're not going to wiggle apart like, like a, a wooden frame trailer may have more of a propensity to, so yeah, all of those things. And. They're just worth what people will pay for them.Stuart Doing Stuff:
I'm looking at one and and I see a lot that are in your price range So the ones i'm pulling out are more exceptions, so don't get scared There are exceptions on there, yes, there there are exceptions i'm looking at one that is marked as sold it is a 1935 Is it a bolus road chief vintage travel trailer fully restored? This thing's amazing It's sold the asking price on this. I don't know if that's the sole price 175 000 Yeah, this thing looks like a spaceship, man. This is really cool.Vintage Camper Trailers:
Yes. And, and so that bolus did sell in that range. I don't know what the final price was, but that's a professional builder with. Lots of credentials and a bolus is literally, uh, for most people in this hobby, that one of the Holy Grail trailers, I mean, there's a handful of them, um, they're highly sought after that one in particular. Um, I saw it being built and it was literally. Fabricated better than brand new, but with all original styling and really just a massive attention to detail. And, and this builder has a reputation that they demand, you know, a higher price. And I, I do know that they wouldn't have sold that trailer if they didn't get awful close to that price though.Stuart Doing Stuff:
I mean, it's on the, uh, vintage camper trailers website on the classified section. If you want to look at these photos and we can probably link it into the show notes, but yeah, I'm just going through these pictures, man. This thing is gorgeous. It's absolutely. Yes, it is.Vintage Camper Trailers:
And it's like, it's honestly better in person. I mean, it's, it's the pictures are nice. That was at our big rally in San Dimas last year where they took those, but yeah, it's, it's a stunning trailer and all of their trailers are, I mean, that's the type of quality they build.Stuart Doing Stuff:
Yeah. I, I, I. I have a, a friend, two of 'em, as a matter of fact, that went out and this might not be considered vintage and it's definitely not a trailer, but there's only, I think they researched probably only a dozen left in the world. They picked up these, uh, it's a rev con. Okay. And I don't know if you're familiar with them. Absolutely. You know, and, and I remember we were, we were at an event and they, the two of them, we were all talking and they're like, we should have a rev con reunion rally. And it's like, It's it right here. The only two that are, you know, that are running in the United States are both right here, right now, you know, and, and so it's interesting to see as we move maybe into the next decade as those, I think they were built in the eighties, you know, tack on another decade of ages. Those are the ones that, that are considered older, more vintage, still on the road, still up and running.Vintage Camper Trailers:
Yeah, and and motorhomes we have a little forgiveness for and I think revcons even dated back into the 70s, but we have Um, like at our san dimas rally, we have a whole section of the gmc rvs those big tandem axle gmcs um, and they're mid 70s and Yeah, they they continue to build some pretty cool. Uh, rvs even a little later into the 70s and 80s that still kind of have a Classic vibe to him. And the next issue of the magazine, we have a 72 Barth, which is a neat brick RV that a guy redid. Yeah, we love, I mean, we're Vintage Camper Trailers is the name, but we like the RVs and the vans and stuff just as much.Stuart Doing Stuff:
There's a trend growing on Airbnb for unique, uh, kind of things, and I've heard of people buying these vintage trailers and putting them just on their land. Maybe they have two or three or five or whatever acres, and they just put these trailers on the land and they're renting them out overnight for hundreds of dollars a night. Are you familiar with any of those?Vintage Camper Trailers:
Uh have stayed in several of them. Um just gave away packages at our event last weekend for uh, free two night stays for a couple of them procure trailers for some of them and um, Yeah, it's a it's a huge deal people love it. I love it when we travel we try to find one and I've stayed in them around the country and we've seen uh, wedding venues With six or eight trailers out there that the bridal party can stay in. And then they have the weddings on their grounds. There's campgrounds that offer multiple vintage trailers for overnight stays. Yeah. People, you know, people like that connection with the old stuff and it is great eye candy. I mean, I'm sure a lot of people that subscribe to our magazine have no intention of owning a vintage trailer per se, but, but, but they're fun to look at.Stuart Doing Stuff:
You have a lot of followers on social media, mostly because of the images, and it is really just cool to scroll through all of these and look at Things that I've never seen in real life, but just go, wow, those are, are so amazing. What are your social handles? If people wanted to go and check those out?Vintage Camper Trailers:
It's all vintage camper trailers. So vintage camper trailers. com at vintage camper trailers on Instagram and Facebook. And then we have groups and things under the same name. So yeah, we're pretty easy to find. Everything's accessible through the main website. Of course.Stuart Doing StuffS:
I'm just looking at some of these. What are your personal favorites?Vintage Camper Trailers:
I, I would have to say that, uh, number one, I like unique stuff. We've really, we just became empty nesters. So, we've kind of reduced our big collection down to something more manageable so we can travel more. Our main trailer... is a 1955 Spartan and I'm really a Spartan guy, probably I would say at heart. And then we've got the original trailer we ever bought, which was a 1962 DeVille. We bought a Shasta from the original family that we've stayed in contact with. For 15 years since we bought it. And so some of those pieces we'll never get rid of. We've got a vagabond, a 48 vagabond that we'll never get rid of. And, and then I have a handful of what I think are just neat little unique, really rare tent type trailers. So they're easy to store. They're small, they're good for displays and stuff. And, and, and they're very unique, but I didn't say the short answer to the question is I'm kind of a Spartan guy. I like the Spartan trailers.Stuart Doing Stuff:
So on these rallies, you talk about like, I love looking at the photos, but like you said earlier, you got to see these things in person. So if I want to come to these rallies, but I don't want to camp or I I've got other things, can I, do you just, do you do day passes or is there a fee or how does that work?Vintage Camper Trailers:
Our, our rallies are like most, and I would check with every rally because there could be variations, but typically our drill is on Saturday. From 10 a. m. until 2 p. m. You can walk in and look around like you were at a car show and most of the owners will certainly engage with you and answer questions and many, many will let you into their trailers to look around. There's always trailers for sale to at rallies. And if you are looking to possibly get into the hobby, I would strongly recommend that you walk into a few trailers and get a sense of the space. Some have taller roofs, some have rounded walls, some have straight walls. I would try to get a sense for the space and what you really want. Don't just go buy something because it's the first thing you see on Craigslist and, and you gotta have it because it might not be the best trailer for you. If you go walk in and out of a few and get a sense for the space. I think you're better off. So yeah, at our rallies and most rallies, I would say there is some open house period where you can just come in and look around and talk to people.Stuart Doing Stuff:
You know, I think that's the same advice that we give to people looking to buy a new trailer nowadays. You have to go and see them or rent one or, or go to one of these little lots where you can stay in a vintage one overnight and make your pros and cons list, you know, cause no one. Camps and RVs the same way and so you got to find something that meets your needsVintage Camper Trailers:
I would also add just as an aside if you are gonna buy something free isn't necessarily here Bet, you know spend as much as you can afford to spend to get something that's more decent and campable because Sometimes free is free for a reason, and unless you just get real lucky, you're better off spending a little more money to get something that's usable that you can kind of finish. Unless you've got great skills and you're just gonna do a real awesome restoration, they can be a lot of work. I would think that it's the same amount of work possibly as a, uh, as restoring an old car, but you don't have the motor, which is a huge expense in restoring classic cars. Yeah, and that's why I restore trailers. I love hot rods. I have some, but they cost me a fortune because I don't like doing mechanical work. I muddle through some of it, but most of it I have to pay for. And so I got, that's part of why I got into doing trailers, but if you're at all handy and can screw and glue stuff together, honestly, you can figure out how to fix the trailer. They're not that complicated. So, um, you take them apart, you see how they're built. Chances are you're going to build it better than it was ever built originally. Just putting it back together because they really were thrown together quickly. It's amazing. They last as long as they did.Stuart Doing Stuff:
And especially the older ones, they don't have the kind of tech that the new RVs and the new trailers have out there with the touchscreens and all the, and all that wiring tech.Vintage Camper Trailers:
At best you might have an extension cord that turns on a light and powers two plugs, you know, I mean there is no tech For people again wanting to try and take a look at your awesome photos following on social or subscribe to your magazine Tell people one more time how people can get in touch with you Vintage camper trailers.com or Instagram and Facebook at vintage camper trailers.Stuart Doing Stuff:
Well, I'm gonna try and make it a point to get out to one of your rallies sometimes good if I'm in the area, because it just sounds like a whole bunch of fun. Real, and, and, and healthy, safe, family friendly, fun too, you know? Yeah. Where you can kind of take a look back and, and be a little nostalgic on stuff.Vintage Camper Trailers:
And there's a lot of characters there that you can talk to. So we have some pretty eclectic folks in our, in our. CrowdStuart Doing Stuff:
that's awesome all right paul thank you so much for joining us today on the rv dreaming podcast i'm going to go and make sure i subscribe to your instagram i make sure everyone else does that too all right super thank you thanks for listening to the rv dreaming podcast if you like what you heard and you got something out of this episode please take a moment and leave us a review on apple podcast or spotify it really helps us get more exposure and it helps you More people just like you thrive on the road. So until next time, enjoy your travels, make them safe, make them fun, and make them memorable. This is RV Dreaming. Start here. Go anywhere. We'll see you in the next episode. Thanks for listening to the RV Dreaming podcast. See the action on Instagram. Steward doing stuff. Hear about it on the podcast. Be sure to subscribe. We'll see you in the next episode.