You see an old ’50s-era travel trailer sitting forgotten in a field somewhere and wonder what it would be like to fix it up and have your own mobile vacation home.
That’s the dream, anyway.
In reality, restoring that vintage travel trailer could turn into a money-sucking nightmare once you realize all that needs to be done—it needs to be gutted, stripped, rewired, rebuilt, re-skinned, and repainted before it’s ready to hit the road. Throw in new tires, propane, cabinetry, any number of hardware fixes and you might be thinking a motel sounds pretty good.
But 39-year-old Justin Scribner of Bend, Oregon is undaunted by such challenges, reports OregonLive.com.
A former flooring contractor who fell in love with restoring vintage trailers about 15 year ago when he bought one on a whim, Scribner now counts among his clients an Oscar-winning sound engineer, a top executive at Ralph Lauren, and a luxury hotelier in New York.
Scribner has turned the expensive hobby of fixing up mid-century travel trailers into a lucrative and internationally recognized business called Flyte Camp (named for their first trailer, the Shasta Airflyte).
And while ’50s and ’60s Airstreams have received considerable attention in the vintage RV world, Scribner and his crew at Flyte Camp have a penchant for the lesser-known travel trailers from the ’30s through the ’50s.
For Scribner, and many other collectors around the world, the trailers are nothing less than works of art.
“It was 100 percent craftsmanship back then,” he says. “They were done by hand, and it didn’t matter how long it took. They were true craftsmen and finish woodworkers. They were experimenting through all those years and there was so much limitless change. The bottom line was to make people happy.”
“We have a lot of trailer owners who buy something out in the field” or online, Scribner told OregonLive.com, “and literally get halfway through tearing the thing apart and panic. People don’t always understand how these things were built in the factory.”
Restoring vintage trailers is not for the fainthearted.
That’s one reason Flyte Camp is in high demand and quickly earning a reputation as one of the best vintage RV restoration shops in the United States. Customers as far away as Hong Kong and Chile are shipping their coaches to Scribner’s shop, where the painstaking, factory-fresh level of craftsmanship captured the attention of the Travel Channel show “Extreme RVs.”
Another, featuring a 1948 Spartan Manor, has been filming since May and is expected to wrap in July; that episode is set to run in the summer of 2013.
The Travel Channel will also begin filming a pilot episode for a reality show on the Flyte Camp vintage trailer restoration process in a couple of weeks. They will follow Scribner on “the hunt,” the retrieval trips, and throughout the restorations of various trailers.
Scribner and his wife, Anna, who runs the business side of things, say they now field about 100 calls and emails per week about vintage trailers.
“It’s not easy to get back to everybody because we are trying to work at the same time,” Scribner says. “But it’s amazing to us how many people are getting into this.”
Today, Flyte Camp employs six people and operates out of a 7,000-square-foot shop. At any given time crews are working on six or seven trailers with old-time brand names like Westwood, Westcraft, Anderson, and Curtis Wright.
All interior design work, metal fabrication, frame work, window, flooring, plumbing, electrical, and propane work are done on site. Upholstery and exterior paint are outsourced, Scribner says.
Typically, a restoration involves removing the metal shell, taking out the old electrical system, assessing the wood frame and the interior paneling (usually Douglas fir and/or birch but sometimes mahogany). If there is water damage or rot, the crew will sometimes strip everything down to the frame and start from scratch.
Scribner says he’s happy to be an integral part of what he sees as a growing trend.
“People are putting their money into this so that their family has something they can share together. That’s what this is about for us. Our love for vintage trailers and saving something old is something that will never go away.”
Flyte Camp is a full service restoration shop located in Bend, Oregon.
They have a 6,000 square foot facility, for woodworking, appliance restoration, plumbing, electrical, and running systems with a new 1000 square foot annex for body work and polishing, along with a large fenced storage lot.
They have a seven person crew, experienced in every aspect of building and design, plus several skilled subcontractors that they work closely with.
Address: 170 SE 9th St., Bend, OR 97702 (by appointment only)
Phone: (541) 639-6141
From wonder into wonder, existence opens.