The end of summer finally sees us undertaking a much needed restoration of our little 1964 Aristocrat Lo-Liner camper/trailer. We acquired it three summers ago via our friend Joe – aka The Secondhand Answer Man, who found her sitting in a garage in the north end of the San Fernando Valley, for $600.00. Since then, we’ve taken several trips, including a few to vintage trailer rallies as far as Pismo Beach, and some friends even towed it to Burning Man last summer for a christening of playa dust.
Alas, a nagging door closing problem finally resulted in removal of the door and frame, which revealed a great deal of rot throughout the entire front left corner, the result of an accident suffered by the previous owner, which caused said corner to drop almost 2 inches and compromise the integrity of the top skin. This resulted in water leaking in over a period of years, dropping the door to the point of almost falling off during our most recent trip. Of course, as I peeled back the outer skin hoping beyond hope that the damage was contained to the area around the door, Murphy’s law kicked in and further exploration revealed severe problems over the entire structure. What was supposed to be a day of shoring up a simple door frame has now become a major rebuild of the entire trailer, including the interior, plumbing, and electrical systems that could take weeks, if not months.
Step One: Demolition
Let me just say that if I never have to remove another staple in this or subsequent lifetimes that’ll be just fine by me. While taking off all the aluminum trim and windows was a simple matter of unscrewing a series of small hexagonal screws with a power tool, the entire outer skin of our camper is held together with hundreds of tiny (rusting) staples that require prying out one by one with a small screwdriver, most breaking along the way and needing to be pulled out piece by piece with needle nosed pliers. Even worse is that the work is meticulous enough to prevent the use of gloves, meaning my hands got a nice collection of cuts and bruises by the time I had pulled out enough staples to get outer shell completely off. I had to be very careful not to tear the skin as it will need to be put back on at the very end and I’d rather not have to hunt down a sheet metal shop to remake it from scratch – probably at great expense.
The outer shell finally removed, I could get at the underlying wooden frame and inspect it for further damage. There was evidence of water infiltration at each corner and parts of the plywood flooring. The kitchen cabinetry was completely out of alignment, so I removed it all, including the stove/oven, sink, and ice box. I plan to replace the ice box with a working refrigerator, but I can reuse the stove and probably salvage the sink and plumbing. From there, I moved on to the sleeping area and pulled the bed brackets, which looked to have been modified at some point in our Lo-Liner’s life span. I also pulled out the cheap carpet covering the original linoleum, now disintegrated from water seeping underneath, and I could see that the side wall had separated from the trailer’s base (daylight showed through). At this point, the Sunday evening darkness halted further work and was forced to leave the remainder of my tear down for another day.
To be continued…