1964 Aristocrat Lo-Liner Restoration – Part 2

20130818_122009 In part one of my ongoing restoration project (involving our 1964 Aristocrat Lo-Liner camper/trailer), I discovered that simple fixes on 50 year old things are rarely that; and unfortunately what I hoped would be a repair confined to one corner of the camper turned out to reveal damage throughout the entire structure. This had me peeling off the outer aluminum skin piece by piece (held in place by about a million rusty staples), pulling out the entire kitchen area in the front, and removing the bed supports which had pulled away from the outer walls. Once exposed, I discovered wood rot along almost the entire bottom half and undersides, with further damage up each corner to the ceiling.

This pervasive water intrusion caused me to make the difficult decision to abandon any preconceived notions of saving, well, anything, and go forward with gutting the entire vehicle; cabinets, flooring, walls, wiring… everything. So, with oscillating tool in hand, I sliced, diced, whacked, and bludgeoned the interior until it was an empty shell, the flooring stripped bare of its old linoleum and everything else in a pile of rubble in my our driveway. My hands are now full of bandages and I had several bouts of self-doubt, but once the final cabinet was extracted, I breathed a sigh of relief that I could now at least see what I was up against.

2013-08-24 18.50.33

Logically, I thought, the first order of business was to assess what, if anything, I could salvage/save. The water rot was mostly confined to the corners, specifically at the top and bottom portions. The flooring plywood was in decent shape, with decay mostly in the aforementioned corners, which I figured I could easily cut out in sections and replaced with new wood. The wall framing was still like new, but 1″x 2″ pine boards are pretty cheap, so I wasn’t too worried about ditching the old ones. Likewise, the copper piping for propane and water showed no signs of wear, and the wiring looked to have been replaced along the way as it looked good upon close inspection. The entire front face (and top inside kitchen cabinet) was in great condition and I could easily reuse it without worry. The roof, though probably not beyond saving, will alas have to be removed as I wish to replace the ceiling panels and would cause harm to the joists when pulling out all the nails. The top aluminum skin, thankfully, is in perfect condition and can easily be cleaned and repainted to look like new.

kitchenbasebeforeandafterSo, on a perfect, sunny Sunday I started the process of building as opposed to destroying at last. I used my small oscillating tool (dubbed “super tool” by myself and fellow trailer enthusiast Joe Anzai), attached the wood cutting blade, and sliced out a section of the floor near the wheel well and inserted a new piece cut from some scrap wood given to me at Home Depot. I then rebuilt the kitchen cabinet base, using the old one as a template, and it fit right into place without a hitch. I considered this a HUGE win; basically everything forward of the door entry is dependent on this single assembly, and from it I can now re-attach the front (I’m not replacing anything but the back panel) and front/side panels easily. In fact, once the new floor panels are in place, I could even begin installing the kitchen cabinets and appliances. Given all the times I’ve questioned my sanity during this process, it was satisfying to finally see progress.

Stay tuned for part three!

4 thoughts on “1964 Aristocrat Lo-Liner Restoration – Part 2

  1. Hi ! We have a 1958 Aloha spam-can up in Seattle ! got it from someone in the neighborhood who was switching to a ex-school bus to move south & go to Burning Man with more space ! $500.–, plus re-welding the hitch to frame, re-sealing aluminum seams on the roof, some oak plywood + oak trim where water damage happened. Using Penefin Marine Grade oil on the interior wood — then letting air out for DAYS. Need slip covers made for the cotton-ticking cushions / mattresses. Disconnected all 110 V house power wiring — that stuff is scary ! We go with the original propane lights, propane stove, and will sometime try the propane oven ( while still in the driveway + with fire extinguisher in hand … .) -Mark

    • Mark, that rocks!!! I’m almost ready to post again with my Aristocrat nearly completed. We already committed ourselves to taking it to Burning Man this summer, as well as a few vintage trailer rallies between now and then. We may also try to go from here in SoCal all the way up to Vancouver to visit family, but that will depend on whether or not we can find a suitable car to tow it all those miles. We’re looking into a used Honda Odyssey, which has a decent amount of power and plenty of room to store gear we don’t want to keep in the camper. Can you please send me pics?

  2. Recently purchased a 1969 Aristocrat land commander, similar to yours but not exactly. I too am planning nearly if not a total wood replacement. I had some questions –

    Do you have any pictures of how the walls should look when complete, before the skin goes back on? I haven’t really figured out how they should attach to the floor. It looks like there is exposed wood at the bottom of the walls, on the side facing towards the trailer, below the trailer floor, if that makes sense. Is this normal? The walls of this one have already been rebuilt once and I don’t trust the original as a pattern. Mine was redone with 3/4 inch plywood walls which are heavy and rotten in many places besides. I was considering using plywood CDX for the exposed wood areas, if it is normal to have exposed wood areas as I described above.

    Is it indeed possible to take out the floor in pieces and replace sections? I would really prefer replacing the entire floor if it isn’t so so terrible of a job. What on earth holds the floor up? There is a metal pan underneath my rig the whole way, between the axle and floor bottom, and I’m not particularly interested in removing that to seem what is going on, but I guess I might have to. Essentially I need to know if I replace small bits of the floor, that they are supported somehow.

    Has anybody had any luck with rot -proof structural members, such as a pergo floor, or steel or plastic studs instead of the 3/4 inch (true dimension) wood. Or can you recommend a wood treatment that is non-toxic to the applicator. And finally what method do you use to seal everything when done? I’ve heard to use putty and stay away from silicone, but that’s all I know.

    Also I was curious what insulation people are using between the wood pieces.

    Thanks, please reply as soon as you can, I begin demo this evening.

    • Hey Matt, let me take each issue separately.

      1. The floor. Mine was rotted toward the front, but fine in the back. However, when I tried to replace just sections it became more labor intensive than simply removing the whole thing and laying down new 3/4″ plywood. If you watch the first couple of videos I put up (you can find them all on YouTube), everything collapsed from rot and I was left with ONLY the floor and nothing else. Hence, it was easy to replace and bolt in. You will have to scrape off any old Linoleum or whatever flooring was there before, but I’m assuming you are going to replace the floor anyway. Pergo works fine, as does bamboo; however, if you want to give it a vintage feel, go with Linoleum squares, which can be bought fairly cheaply at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot.

      2. The walls. Mine were originally done in 1×2″ pine, which I upgraded to poplar. Not only is poplar more straight and less susceptible to warping, it’s much stronger and you won’t find yourself over drilling your screws through it. In between the gaps, I insulated with two-sided foam board, which you cut to fit using a heating blade (Harbor Freight for $15.00). Make sure you install the birch paneling or whatever you decide upon for your walls and ceiling prior to putting in your cabinets, seating, etc. Varnish everything beforehand as well. The more prep you do the less hassles you’ll run into. The skin goes on after you are satisfied with the interior walls and then you can do all the finishing work from there. Obviously, try fitting your windows into their positions before committing to the skin and clamp your skin sections into place to make sure they fit; you don’t want to screw them down and discover you came up short (or long) as you make your way down.

      3. Rot-proofing. I simply covered everything wooden with Thompson’s Water Seal, then bought that black spray-on latex stuff from AutoZone and coated the entire underside metal framing. I then laid a layer of painter’s plastic over the whole thing – roof and all – and put the skin back on. When I doused it with a hose there weren’t any leaks and, luckily, I live in Southern California where we get very little rain. I imagine this thing will last another 40-50 years if the axles and bearings hold up (I found spares just in case).

      Please feel free to take this into e-mail territory and we can exchange pictures. My e-mail address is idenchasy@gmail.com .

Leave a Reply