Driving a road
to simpler times
WALK THROUGH THE GLEAMING DOOR of a well-restored aluminum
travel trailer from the 1950s and you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a time
portal. One second you’re in the Information Age, the next you’re still in the
Atomic Age with Beaver Cleaver.
The nostalgia, charm and function of vintage trailers hold a curiously
intense appeal for a growing number of enthusiasts. At rallies, such as those
organized through the Southwest Vintage Camper Association ( www.swvca.com), it’s not uncommon
to see young people with multiple body piercings and tattoos mingling with World War II
veterans. Their common passion for vintage
trailers brings them together.
According to Doug Keister, author of Ready to Roll: A Celebration of the
Classic American Travel Trailer (Penguin Books, 2003), which profiles the
rising popularity of vintage trailers, travel trailers built between the 1930s and
the 1960s seem to mentally connect people with a simpler, more secure time.
“People in their 20s and 30s are into the retro aspect of these trailers,”
explains Keister. They want to experience a part of America’s culture they’ve
only seen in glimpses on old television shows. For older enthusiasts, the old
trailers bring back fond memories.
Dax Downey, a Costco member who lives in Oroville, California,
says he loves all things vintage. In 2003 he completely restored a
1953 travel trailer himself. “It was in rough shape, which is why I was
able to buy it for only $700,” he says. Using all his free time, Downey
repaired and replaced everything from the tires and axles to the
aluminum exterior and upgraded the wiring.
Not all vintage trailer fans are do-it-yourselfers, however. The
rising popularity of vintage trailers keeps businesses such as Vintage
Vacations ( www.vintage-vacations.com), in Anaheim, California,
and Iowa Boys ( www.iowaboys.com), in North Hollywood, California, busy restoring them.
“Most of my clients aren’t interested in ‘correct restorations,’ ” says Vintage Vacations’ Craig Dorsey. “They like the
vintage look but also want a completely modernized inside.”
These touches may include flat-screen televisions with surround sound, modern appliances, freshwater and sewage
tanks and solar-powered inverters that power everything.
Then there’s the old-school trailer crowd. Many of Iowa Boys’ customers
get into vintage trailers through their love of old cars. They buy vintage trailers
as an accessory for their hot rods. They take the car and trailer to shows
because they match. And, on the practical side, a trailer is a perfect place to
take a rest or get out of the summer’s heat.
Whether they’re old-school, modernized or a mix of the two, vintage trailers
transport enthusiasts back to quieter, more easygoing days.—Will Fifield
Dax and Betsey
Downey travel back
to simpler times with
Dixie, their restored
1953 travel trailer.