Monday, July 28, 2008

The purchase...

We'd been tent camping for a few years and my husband had decided sleeping on the ground was no longer for him. We'd been looking at various pop up tent campers and small travel trailers, but hadn't found anything that would work for us, especially in our low, low price range. We knew we had to stay under 3000 pounds as our mini-van couldn't tow anything heavier and buying a new tow vehicle was out of the question. Most travel trailers were too heavy, pop up tent campers too cramped and we really wanted to get away from the tent atmosphere. I'd been cruising dozens of camper dealership sites and RV search sites daily for months when I came across an ad on Craigslist that sounded interesting:

TrailManor Travel Trailer - perfect for camping or hunting, $2000

It was located just two hours away. The ad went on to list all the great things a Trailmanor has - three beds, bathroom, lots of space, and very cool engineering that makes it fold up like a tackle box. If you go to you can see how it all works. I researched a bit and found that the construction of a Trailmanor is a sort of styrofoam sandwiched between aluminum inside and out, which makes it very light and strong. NEW Trailmanors use all aluminum in the framing. Older ones used some wood, and another site I'd found online described how to repair it. The owner of the site, Happytrails, was VERY helpful, and I exchanged emails with him. Unfortunately, his site disappeared when AOL shut down their "AOL Hometown" feature, and I don't know if he got a chance to move it before hand.

The camper we looked at had been parked for some years, outside. Needless to say, there was some wood rot. Optimists that we are, DH (Dear Husband, or on a bad day....erm, I'll let you fill in the blanks *G*) and I thought we could fix it. So we bought it for $1800 and towed it home.

Looks pretty good, doesn't it? Needs a little paint, maybe. Suuurrrrre. What you can't see is that every edge on the top half - the roofline, edges of the walls, along the bottom edge of the top half, is all rotted. Knowing what I know now, I can't believe it didn't fall apart towing it home. If you want to see lots of detail, clicking on the pictures will enlarge them, and they'll be HUGE.

Here's a "curb side" view". The top half of the dutch door was all rotted too. We found that out when my sister and I towed it 350 miles to Canada (before we knew the extent of the rot, of course) and the bottom trim fell off. Duct tape is a wonderful thing. You can sort of see the little "porch" DH made for me, as I didn't like the tiny step that came with the camper. The blue is part of a thick plastic barrel he cut up to do the wheel well conversion. Early TM's (TrailManor's) like ours have squared off wheel wells, which in the event of a blow out are dangerous as the bits of tire can go through the well into the camper and cause a lot of damage. Rounded ones deflect the bits down.

Inside facing the rear. Notice way up in the corners there are eye bolts and turn screws? Those were what kept the walls together when it was set up. The wooden shelf in the corner I believe was made by the previous owner, I'm pretty sure it wasn't factory. It attaches to slides bolted to the walls. The 1980's decor is pretty dated, but once we get the structural stuff fixed, I'll be doing some painting. I already replaced the dark, dark brown curtains, except the ones in the back bed. Our 15 yr. old DS (Dear Son) likes to sleep in cave-like darkness, so that's his bed.

This is the all-in-one bathroom. The floor IS the shower pan. There's a shower curtain rod (you can see it in the rear facing pic above) attached to the ceiling. There's an electrical outlet inside the cabinet, a mirror and a light. What more do you need? *G* I was very apprehensive about the toilet, which is a recirculating toilet. It has a filter that traps solids and recirculates liquids to rinse the bowl. It uses very little fresh water. I was happily surprised that it was odor free with the camping toilet chemicals and we had no trouble with it. We've yet to use the shower, usually when we camp we use the campground shower house as much as possible.

Sheesh, I really should have cleaned up a little! I plan on some upgrades to the interior. The bottom half of the walls (which are all aluminum except the bathroom which is I believe fiberglass) are printed to look like wood grain paneling, in dark, dark brown. The carpet is brown also. I'd like to paint the lower walls a lighter color and eventually replace the carpet with vinyl or laminate. Someday.

Next post, I'll start showing you the nitty gritty nuts and bolts. There will be lots of gritty, we'll be going nuts, and yes there will be bolts. Not so sure about the nitty, though. I'm pretty sure we were fresh out of nitty. Here's a little preview, the first thing we took apart:

The top half of the door. DH cut and bent to fit some aluminum tubing to replace the rotted wood we removed. Trailmanor shipped us, free of charge, what they called a repair kit. It consisted of some square aluminum tubing and some wood strips. We ended up using about four or five times what they sent, along with new bag seal, new flaps, eight or nine tubes of Liquid Nails Ultra Heavy Duty Polyurethane adhesive, several tubes of silicone caulk, a lot of stainless steel screws, clamps, more wood (cedar that we coated in sealer), some solid vinyl "wood", staples galore, and a LOT of DH's handy man know how. If it wasn't for him and his ingenuity in figuring out ways to fix things, I think I would have tossed a match on it early on. *G* DS was an invaluable help, gophering, doing demo and generally helping out. I don't know what I'd do without him. 11 yr. old DD (Dear Daughter) did some gophering and clean up also, but the bulk of the work fell to the "boys".

Next post, taking it apart. REALLY apart. It gets scary, peeps.


Aline said...

It's neat that you are rebuliding this camper. Trail Manor campers are really nice. I have one for sale if anyone is interested. Here is a link:

Overhome said...

i admire your determination! we also bought a "used" trailmanor-2005, that has been used very little.... BUT,,,, it was filthy, from just sitting... we scrubbed with brushes (including tooth brushes!) and it has shaped up really well.... we also came up with some leaks and had to fix those...

we have never camped before (EVER!), so when we took it out last wkend it was truly a learning experience! we done pretty good.. figured out the burners on the stove, didn't try the oven yet... the toilet, a recirculating one, like yours, had me about ready to push it over the mountain!... the smell was horrific! i think i fugured out what i did must have had enough water in it for the 'charge' because i didn't do the 3 gallon initially.. needless to say, it was YUCK! i kept adding the deoderizer the cleaned the whole thing out and started over.... so maybe i got it this time.... i am looking for the 'tabs' to add to new curtains i am going to make... where do i get those?
i hope you got your camper fixed up, as your post was made last year! jean