Exactly one month after starting my Aristocrat Lo-Liner restoration project, I’m finally seeing some real progress and looking forward to the day she will once again roll the highways in all her vintage glory. I can’t say truthfully that I haven’t had my doubts throughout this whole process, but with the walls going up and everything fitting properly, my self confidence has received a much needed boost and I actually believe I’ll be able to complete the entire restoration within the next 3-4 weeks.
As I’ve gone along this journey, two interesting developments have presented themselves which, although positive, have certainly altered the way I’m proceeding forward with the build out. The first is an offer to buy my trailer, pending completion, for a fair amount of money. I wouldn’t clear much profit; however, there would certainly be enough of a surplus to acquire another trailer for restoration that would address two shortcomings afflicting my current camper, which are that our Lo-Liner is too small to accommodate our family of three and its interior height maxes out at 6 feet. As I’m 6′ 2″ tall, this means I have to hunch slightly when inside the camper, which doesn’t sound like much; but after a while it becomes totally annoying. The former point of holding our family of three is just as pressing, with a 14 year old boy who is at six feet, 200 pounds and still growing he is too large to sleep in the fold down bed (which I’ve removed, regardless) and probably won’t love the idea of sleeping in a tent outside while mom and dad enjoy the luxury of vintage camper awesomeness.
All that being said, I’m still mulling over selling her and upgrading to something bigger, my confidence in my ability to tackle another restoration growing with each stage I complete on my Aristocrat.
Some key points if you might be thinking of joining vintage enthusiasts and acquiring a camper of your own:
- Measure twice, cut once: this should actually be changed to, “Measure 10 times, then measure again 10 times, then cut cautiously. I have taken a measurement, walked over the my wood, and still marked it wrong. Check and recheck everything. Better still, write the measurements on the wood to be cut as you take them.
- Use screws and straps to hold things together. Most of these old campers were assembled on the cheap, with tons of staples large and small, nails, and some glue. Grab yourself some inexpensive sheet metal at your local building supply store and cut them into strips, drill holes, and use them as straps. Drill holes in them just a tad smaller than the screw heads you will use and they will go in flush.
- Do not assume all the old pieces – assuming you could save them – are correct and can’t be modified. I made some minor changes, such as the number of ceiling joists and types of wood, that will definitely improve upon the original construction and make for a sturdier, more rot-resistant vehicle.
- Work deliberately, and efficiently. Do NOT get bogged down in places that give you difficulty. I had a door frame that I installed incorrectly and got paralyzed and lost a day to thinking about it. Above all, keep moving; set a schedule of when you can work on your project and stick to it. Some days will show amazing results, while others will have you wanting to call a junk hauler. This is normal and your emotions will swing wildly until you hook it up and pull out on the road for your first camping trip. I’m still knee deep in this but am seeing a bit of sunlight coming over the horizon.