Vintage travel trailers, vintage campers and other retro style things always put a smile on my face and fill my heart with pure joy. Lot's of joy! It might be because I was born in the vintage era (yes I'm that "young"), or purely because everything "retro old school" just happens to look so damn cool.
Well whatever the reason, the retro life style has a huge community of vintage camper enthusiasts, restoring and rebuilding old trailers and campers around the world. Everyone has the right to live and express their own creativity and this is just one of the outlets to do so. And for many, old school is just a lot more creative and exiting than the brand new state of the art design.
Vintage travel trailers look super cool coupled up on a vintage vehicle. It can either be a motorcycle, car, truck, van or camper van. A bit less cool is coupling up to a newer vehicle of any type, but the composition is still very stylish.
You have a choice of four different types vintage travel trailers. All the models listed below can either be real vintage models or brand new retro design replicas with modern technology. Any of these are of course available in modern day versions as well.
When my wife and I started traveling around with our young twins, the lack of storage room in our VW camper became more than obvious. I could endlessly pack and re-pack, desperately trying to fit everything inside the van without everything being crammed, but
whatever I did, it was always a no-go situation. A camping trip over the weekend in one camping site is one thing, but three or four weeks worth of travel moving from one place to another just threw me over the edge.
Now I knew this particular issue was coming sooner or later and that I need to deal with it. Packing and re-packing for every overnight stay just to get the bed done in our camper van became a nightmare and on top of all that, all our camping gear had to stay out for the night. Our camping chairs and table, the awning plus various other bits and pieces would be just fine without the rain or morning dew. But that's not always the case on a journey that long.
The roof box or a a cargo box in the back of the van have limited capacity and are quite awkward to load. After months of thinking and researching, the mini cargo trailer became an obvious solution to all our problems. So I went out and came back with the smallest utility trailer that I could get and "bang", all our storage problems where solved in no time.
Vintage cargo trailers are quite rare but definitely look awesome coupled up with any vintage vehicle. Even if your drive is not vintage at all, old school utility trailers with all wood panels and a tarpaulin on top look great. And they will solve most of your storage problems plus you can use them to haul anything else back home.
If you're really looking for vintage, well then I suggest you keep an eye on sites like Craigslist (US) or Mobile.de (EU). You can also build one yourself using one of the many existing chassis. And I would kindly appreciate any other suggestions from your side in the comments section just below this article.
These beautifully streamlined campers with a timeless design are in my opinion the close as you can get to vintage travel trailers. Not only that they look like from the 1930's but their first public appearance actually happened around that time. They remained popular until the 1960's and made a comeback in the 1990's when people started to share information on the internet, old teardrop trailer building plans included.
You're down to four choices here. Search around for a real vintage model or get a newer one (used or new). There are quite a few manufacturers out there with customized trailers for every taste. On top of all that a few of them will let you have the kit version of the trailer, meaning that you get to finish it off and customize all by yourself.
The last thing you can do is build your own vintage travel trailer. There are more than enough blueprints and ideas around the internet and if you have some craftsman skills, tools and enough time this just might be the perfect project for you.
Vintage pop ups or tent trailers are actually extremely rare and hard to find. The only reason I mention them is because of a couple of pictures I run across and the fact that I do occasionally see them on the road.
What I did find is teardrop trailers that also come with a tent in a special pop up version, therefore a lighter and even smaller version of the already light and manoeuvrable teardrops. Definitely one of the lightest and practical vintage travel trailers.
Vintage travel trailers are the next best thing to camper vans once you seriously consider travel and camping. This type of tin can home on wheels originates back to the Romani people or better known as the Gypsies back in Europe who spent most of their lives in horse drawn caravans. Things haven't changed much since and many Romani keep on living in newer caravans and motorhomes.
Most of vintage travel trailers currently on the road date back to the 1950's and onward. They come in compact size and very basic equipment or larger and fully equipped homes on wheels such as the Airstream with a kitchen galley, bathroom, AC unit and a heater. However, whatever the equipment and unless you just found a fully restored trailer that's on sale, there will be some restoration work to do.
United States, Australia and New Zealand are lands where you can locate most of them. By browsing the net it becomes more then obvious that the craze for vintage campers comes from here. That's not to say that individuals from other countries don't have the touch to do so, but these countries have a highly developed glamping and camping community running the show with shiny vintage travel trailers from another time.
Now you're probably looking out for vintage travel trailers only to travel, go camping or participate and enjoy various Rallies, where a group of like minded individuals joins the crowd and even gets all dressed up retro style... Super, just do it if that's what you're looking for.
However, there are many other ways of putting these old cans to use and even make a living out of it. Each and every one of us has a passion for something that you can share with other people on this planet. That is after all the soul purpose of our being here.
So if you know how to cook great food or make excellent homemade recipe ice cream go for it. Do you have the skills to knit some fabulous clothing, well what's stopping you. Our universe gives us everything we need to have, all you need to do is step out from the crowd, do something with passion and share it with others.
As Kara Rosenlund from Australia says: "I celebrate my love for authenticity and adventure through my photography, styling and traveling wares retail experience."
Kara and her husband, Timothy, restored their vintage 1956 Franklin Caravan and nicknamed it Frankie. They travel through Australia and sell well curated vintage items. If you are not located in Australia you could also buy their items thought their online shop Travelling Wares.
If you're the travel and adventure type, Base Camp from Bonn in Germany has an awesome overnight stay for you. Here's what they offer:
"You are just about to enter the coolest place in the world - well, at least people say that's what it is. But find out for yourself: 16 vintage caravans, two night sleepers, two Airstreams and quite a few other oddities to stay for the night - beautifully arranged at our indoor campground. What do you think? Ain't that much better than your regular hostel? For sure it is."
This is absolutely one of my favorites. Re-using an old TV studio and vintage campers for an overnight stay...brilliant!
The above are merely a couple of ideas out of many others that people continuously come up with. With terminated dedication and some team work just about anything can be achieved if you put your mind to it. Remember that vintage travel trailers are appealing to the eye...
In order to find the vintage camper of your dreams you will have to do some research on your own. A quick browsing session showed me a number of websites, publications (books and magazines) and forums all about vintage travel trailers throughout the world. For a quick start, America uses Craigslist, Europe relies mostly on German Mobile.de and just to give a hint, Australia and New Zealand both have excellent looking magazines based on the topic.
Now lets get one thing straight here. In the world of vintage vans, Volkswagen campers have been on the top of the list for decades now and the trailer community is no different. So the equation is quite simple from this perspective. The higher the demand, the higher the prices.
You can get a real bargain for a few thousand Euros or Dollars on a trailer of your choice but the rest will depend on your budget. You will have to restore the tin sooner or later. This can be done as a partial restoration or a complete rebuild where the prices go all the way up in tens of thousands, depending on how far you wish to go with the restoration project.
Any vehicle that had survived the hardships of time and weather for decades will most likely have some issues that you will need to fix or maybe even run away from. So before you go out, these are the 10 most common things to look for when buying a vintage trailer.
Hauling any trailer behind your vehicle needs some previous experience. It's not exactly rocket science, but you do need to learn how to properly hook and unhook, including the 12V power connection and the safety chain if you have one, how to make wide turns so your trailer doesn't hit anything on the way and how to back up which seems to be the hardest part of all for many.
One thing you need to do properly before hitting the road is balancing the payload of your trailer once you load it up with all your camping gear. Excessive gear in the back of your tin can will lift up the rear end of your driving vehicle and placing all your gear in the front of your trailer will lift up the front end of the towing vehicle. Either way, you'll loose traction while driving and your car, van or truck will begin to sway around at higher speeds, which will consequently put in danger you and others sharing the same road.
The golden rule here is keeping the gross weight on the tow hitch around around 70kg (154lbs). Spreading your gear evenly throughout the trailer is the only way to keep both vehicles in perfect balance while driving.
Don't underestimate the gross weight of your trailer and the towing capacity of you vehicle. Even if the figures are within limits, towing a trailer is a lot easier on a flat road, then towing one on mountain roads. A bit of extra power will be more than a bliss in this case!
Whatever type of vintage trailer you might choose according to your needs, a few essential camper accessories are a must for any camping trip, short or long. This is some of the gear that you should always carry in your vintage travel trailer or any other type of camping vehicle:
I always keep some of the basic essentials in a large tool box located at the storage compartment. A roll of indispensable silver tape, a flashlight and a pair of sturdy gloves, camping shovel and a small axe, a 50 meter power cable for AC/DC hook up and a tool box with everything needed for minor repairs on the road. Don't forget an extra spare tire for the trailer.
You can also print out and add some of your own favorites on this camping check list that I always keep handy. It saves me a lot of time and trouble before hitting the road!
Well so much for vintage travel trailers and using them for many various reasons and different needs. If you have one and use it regularly, please let me know about it and share it with the rest of us.