56 Spartan Refurb

Our adventure of refurbishing our 1956 Spartan Manor into our getaway retreat in the mountains of Bryson City NC

Location: Fair Play, SC, United States

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Floor rot

Quick post to show the progress I made yesterday on the front of the trailer and the floor. If you remember from an earlier post that we found the front roadside corner of the trailer and the floor was rotted. I have removed the bad framing and then cut out the rotted floor Tuesday I will be starting the repair of the main wood frame and laying the new floor so we can keep moving forward enjoy the pics

This is a view from the curb side across the front of the trailer. It is amazing to me that after 45 years the black underlayment is still in great shape only one corner needs some help as you will see

This is a close up to the of the road side corner of the trailer.
The whole that you see is where the water tank drain would have been.
You can see the main wood frame peaking out on the side.

This was the most troubling discovery that the main wood frame had water damage.
I have come up with a repair taken from a home repair I once saw.
More about that on Tuesday when I do the repair.

TTFN, Nick

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rear of trailer repairs

Ok over the last two weeks I have removed the water damage in the back of the trailer this includes the birch panel and the wood frame. I was not happy with the way the trailer was originally put together. At the rear next to the bumper the inner birch panel and insulation was exposed to the elements so I came up with this fix.
I took a piece of aluminum flashing and attached it to the undercarriage of the trailer then wrapped it around the bottom of the trailer to form a seal to keep the road grim from soaking up into the trailer.

This is the underside of the rear trailer repair.

The cargo area in the rear of the trailer was rotted so we replaced it with new select pine and pressure treated lumber on the lower skirt

Here is a view of the new birch panel installed in the back.

I learned alot during the process and now am started on the front.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Well things are really coming along. I was able to secure a large metal building on the campus of the school we teach at. With shelter overhead I was able to start taking the skins of the trailer and get to repairing the damage.

Typical water damage in the front corners. This is the curbside front corner I was not expecting this to be as bad as it was. Glad we took the skins off to find this damage.

This picture shows the front road side corner of the trailer. The old fresh water tank was here and must of had a leak the floor and the side wall are damaged and we will replace the front lower panel the subfloor and part of the side panels to fix this area.

This is a picture of the missing/rotted frame that once held the side dinette windows in place. Both sides are like this and I can say that this is a design weakness of this trailer. the glass does not sit in a frame but is sandwiched between the wood frame and the aluminum skin. There is a seal that goes between the window and the lip of the aluminum and we will replace that but I am still trying to come up with a better design.

I try to spend at least two hours a day working on the trailer. When you start you think this is a weekends worth of work but once you get started you begin to appreciate just how long this can take. In five weeks we have spring break and we hope to have the trailer back on the road to do some test camping.

In June we will be off to Newburg MO for the first annual Yahoo Classic Shasta group rally. Hope to have the trailer 95% done and maybe a fresh paint job the interior done and a new axel. We shall see. Spring is coming and we have work to do in the orchard of SC and about 400 feet of fence to still put up. Life is never boring....... TTFN.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Design Board

We are at the point in this project that we needed to start creating our design board. A design board is simply a sample of materials shown in a way to help convey what the interior will look like when finished. This project falls under the KISS princible. Keep It Simple Stupid. As Holly reminds me often this project is not a show place but to create a functional trailer that we can enjoy on the road. We can go back later and add high end finishes and touches later. So keeping with that design principle we have decided to keep the existing Formica counter tops and kitchen table top. We will be adding a silver trim to the sides to give the counter tops a more vintage look. We will also be keeping the existing upholstery on the dinette. We choose a yellow with bumble bee detail for the main curtains. We both like Winne the Pooh. To add some character and pizzaz we are using a railroad motif material for the window over the kitchen cabinet. This is directly across from the entrance and should give some pop with out being to campy. We are replacing the existing stove/range with a three burner cook top and converting the lower space to accept a microwave or toaster oven. We will be using either a plain formaica for the lower shelve or maybe using some copper flashing from an other project to line the cook top area and the lower (microwave/toaster) shelf. We are looking at using a 12 inch square commercial grade vinyl floor tile which I will add photos of later when we make the final call. Hear is our design board as it stands right now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cabinets get a facelift

This is a great project to do over the winter.

The goal of this project is to bring new life to your drawers and cabinet doors.

Tools you will need
Screw driver
Painters tape (Blue masking tape)
Felt tip pen
Foam brushes
Foam rollers
Small painters pan
Palm orbital sander
150 grit sandpaper
220 grit sandpaper

Using the painters tape and the felt tip marker assign each cabinet door a letter and mark both the door and the opening with the letter (using the painters tape allows you to move the tag if necessary). Remove each door and drawer. Remove the pulls and either save them to reuse or keep a sample to bring with you to find new hardware. If you are reusing the hinges then mark the hinges with the letter and a number so they go back in the same place.

Work area:
We did the work in our garage.
Once all the cabinet doors are removed place them on 2X4s so you can work on them without moving them a lot. The drawers can be stood on their ends if you prefer

With 150 grit sandpaper sand the old finish down. If possible do this outside to keep the dust down in your work area.

CAUTION - The birch face is a thin layer of the wood you are refinishing just try to sand the old finish down till it is level. Try not to sand through the thin layer of birch.
Wipe down the sanded surfaces. They should be as dust free as possible.

This is were you will have to make some choices.
Marine spar varnish (this is very close to the original varnish - it is expensive).
Spar varnish from your home center. The big blue home center had spar varnish and it was 1/3 the cost of Marine grade. I am not sure if it has UV additives or not.
Polyurethane this is now the finish of choice for kitchen and baths today.

We choose to use Marine Spar varnish, mostly because of recommendations from others and the UV and solid additives that marine spar varnish contains. Since this is an item that receives abuse we wanted the toughest finish we could get.

Apply the first coat of finish. You can apply this one pretty heavy and in most cases much of it will be absorbed back into the wood. Brush/Roll the finish with the grain, against the grain, and then with the grain to work the finish into the wood.
Wait the required time to allow the stain to dry. It should not feel sticky to the touch.
Sand using 220 grit sand paper gently sand the finished surface, following the grain. Wipe pice down to remove all dust.
Apply a second coat. Make sure to do edges with this coat. This should take less time and finish.
If you notice bubbles on the surface as you apply the finish try using less pressure. If they still are present try running the roller slowly over the surface with as little pressure as possible (thanks Lydia) allow to dry to the touch
If the surface is not as smooth and glassy as you would like sand again with 220 grit sand paper with the grain
Apply a third coat of finish with the grain only. This should be the final coat.
Allow to dry for at least 24 hours before attaching hardware.

Because the temperature varied so much during this project; I am sanding the cabinet doors and applying a fourth coat.

Because of our design plan we applied a chestnut stain to the kitchen cabinet doors and drawers (we want a high contrast) before applying the first coat of varnish.

The inside of our cabinets had a dark vinyl contact paper that we dislike. I have removed the contact paper and will sand and paint the interior of the drawers an off white to make the drawers lighter inside and to help seal them. Three of the drawers had big ugly red stains under the contact paper. I am also going to try some other finishes on the inside of the cabinet doors to see how they compare. More later. Nick

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Restoration, Refurbishment, or Remodeling

I mentioned that I wanted to take a moment and clarify my position of three words. I learned about the differences in these three words while listening to the Vintage Airstream Podcast,#12


The panel of pros and guest Fred Coldwell really helped me see the differences and the subtly between the words. So my position is as follows:

  • Restoration = This is when you use only the products that were available at the time the trailer is built and only use authentic parts or appliances when replacing or repairing the trailer. This is rarely practical unless you are planning to only use the trailer as a museum piece.
  • Refurbishment = This is when you update systems to meet todays standards. This includes electrical, plumbing and appliances. This often is the only practical way to use the trailer as it was intended and that is for camping. A great example is what is called gray water. This is water that drains from a sink or other type fixture but not the toilet. In the early days of camping pre 1975,gray water was allowed to be dumped directly to the ground. Storage tanks for gray water were not necessary. Today the gray water can only be dumped in designated areas of a camp ground. So if you want to use your sink to wash dishes you most modify your trailer to capture the gray water so it can be dumped in a designated dump station..
  • Remodeling = Fred called this modernization but I feel that is misleading. It is not like refurbishment at all. Instead you gut the trailer to only the shell and the floor. Than completely redesign the trailer to meet your personal needs. I have seen vintage trailers used as makeup trailers and offices for individuals that work at various job sites. This means that the trailer is most likely not being used for camping its original purpose.

I hope this was not to confusing and helpful for anyone considering this type of project.

Stripped and ready for action

Today's update is not as sexy as it sounds. I have stripped the interior so we could evaluate the structural condition of the Shasta. As expected we found issues in the front corners with some floor damage to the left side as you face front.

The fresh water tank was located in this spot but was removed at some point leaving an exposed hole in the floor. I will need to remove the damaged area but it looks like we can replace about a 3X8 section of floor and clean all the damage up. The sub floor will need patching but I can not tell how much until I remove the floor and the skin panel up front.

Other areas of concern are the back corners and under the rear window. I include a shot of the cabinets and stove area to show what the carcass of the cabinets.Before Stripped
It is amazing to me how RV's are always concerned with weight but not wanting to sacrifice strength. When we start the design phase it is important to keep that in mind as we move forward. Tonight I will summarize the design phase and the basic questions that need to be answered when refurbishing a vintage trailer. We will probably also briefly cover the differences between a restoration, a refurbishment, and a remodel.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Shasta clean out

Spent the day doing some cleaning and removing all of the drawers from the shasta. Found an interesting book on the refrigerator, that is missing from the trailer, in one of the drawers. Found some more water damage in the front corners under the dinette seats.
I did not have my camera with me so no pictures tonight but I will catch up Tuesday when I get a chance to work on the shasta again.

I think we may build one of those metal canopy like garages to put the camper in while I remove the skins to do the structural wood repairs. That would make life much easier and allow us to use it as a garage when we are not doing restoration work. TTFN