Hello, I was looking to restore a camper from the 80’s. I love the ugly colors and it reminds me of my childhood. The thing I notice is it seems most people are not restoring these, it seems to be older models?
Why? Are they less desirable and less profitable or it it due to the difficulty in restoration ?
Are there pitfalls when restoring a 80’s travel trailer?
Mainly because they're less desirable. Basically the same reasoning that people restore 60s American cars but not 80s imports.
Profit? Nobody does this for profits.
That said, if it's what you want, go for it. There's plenty of knowledge here that applies to all campers. Heck I'm building an early 90s camper into an oversized ham clone. There's less resources for some parts but there is an abundance of others for newer campers. The mechanical stuff got mostly standardized and is readily available. Cosmetic stuff is harder to come by.
People come here for a variety of reasons. Some have a love of vintage or mid-century things. Some come here because they are crafts people who want to save something and make it heir own. Some just like to restore something that was going to be trash and revitalize it and bring it back to life. Some restore them and want to make a buck - though anyone who has undertaken a genuine restoration knows that we don’t do it for the money because if you average out your time to dollar return, it’s really not much. There is a certain accomplishment that comes from restoring a trailer.
After the 60’s a lot of trailers lost the natural wood paneling like birch and Japanese Maple - Woods that bring a calming and warm glow to a small space. Dark wood paneling came into vogue in the 70’s and particle board replaced hard wood for cabinets. Paricle board is easily weakened when it gets wet. Just not as durable as hardwoods. For me IMHO, anyway, the warmth and coziness of trailers was lost as we progressed into the 80’s and beyond. In essence the character was lost. However, like you, there are those, that prefer those types of trailers and that’s fine. Whatever floats your boat.
Last Edit: Jan 23, 2021 7:10:45 GMT -8 by Teachndad
"I get that queasy how in the hell will this thing ever go back together feeling.” - PT
I was wondering about the particle board because I heard it mentioned ....so there isn’t really any MDF in the framing...it’s the cabinets and panels etc.?.
From looking at some of the post it seems like framing is a challenge I’m guessing It should be easier to find one from the 80’s with not as much wood rot in the frame as opposed to looking at ones that are 20 years older from the 60’s..
I ave lots of questions, but first, a comment. Any work you do to a 1980s trailer will have to be a labor of love. Manufacturers just didn’t put character, or quality materials into most trailers in the 80s. They could look real glitzy, but like pretty much everything else in the 80s, most of that was superficial. Of the seven decades I’ve been around, the 80s were my least favorite. But our kids grew up then, and I know they have fond memories of the time.
If you can stretch your budget and do it right, you could turn an 80s box (complete with rectangular tail lights) into something wonderful. Those “ugly” colors can, when done right, make a small area both cozy and lively. The boxy bodies can be more flexible in how they’re set up. There’s no reason ou can’t do a real upgrade. That faux wood paneling? Make it real wood. Stain it any way you want. If you’re really handy or have the bucks and a friend who does carpentry, change out the particleboard cabinets for real wood, too.
Almost all of us here have changed a thing or two in our campers. There are probably only a handful of ham style trailers that are original down to the curtains. Our ham style Shasta Compact will never be in a museum, but its unmistakably mid-century and functions beautifully in the 2020s.
So do what you want, just know you will spend twice as much time and three times as much money as you thought you would. And best of luck, we are here for you!!
Bah Hamlet! You old timers are a bunch of crumudgeons. Personally I liked the 80s. Big hair is still one of my favorite things.
Mingo, there's a town that I used to frequent called Mingo Junction, just wondered if there was a connection there.
As for Hamlets points about the quality of materials in the 80s stuff, she's right. So, depending on your area, it miht be easier to find an older camper in better shape, while they leaked just like newer ones, the fact that they were real wood instead of glued sawdust means that leaks weren't as damaging.
And, as far as camper construction goes, cabinets and wall paneling ARE the framing. They're the components that add the most strength to the camper.Real plywood is much better material for this than glued sawdust.
And I guess the word restore needs some clarification, are you intending to bring it back to showroom condition? Or do you have plans to change the layout? Basically what are you hoping to end up with?