Restoring the Shiny Hiney & Other Vintage Trailers

Spend a few miles of road time following this vintage travel trailerand you’ll soon see why it’s nicknamed “The Shiny Hiney.”

Orbie Mungall stands outside his 24-foot 1965 Barth travel trailer at his home in Willard, Oregon. (Source: Kera Williams/Standard-Examiner)

The glare off the silver aluminum exterior is nearly blinding, explains Orbie Mungall having spent countless hours polishing the 1947 Boles Aero to its glowing state. Mungall also refers to his old-style round-shaped trailer as “The Spud” or “The Canned Ham,” reports the (Ogden, Oregon) Standard Examiner.

Whatever they’re called, classic trailers from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s are rolling back into popularity.

“They’re more artsy than your new trailers now … they have a character, a style,” says Mungall who likes nothing better than to clean the trailers out, shine them up, and get them back on the road again.

Mungall has seven trailers on his one-acre home site, ranging from another 1947 Boles Aero now being restored inside his new workshop, to a 1952 homemade trailer created from a kit by a family living just up the street.

A retired seismographer, Mungall picked up his first vintage trailer, the 12-foot Boles Aero, in 1995. His second purchase was a 1952 Silver Streak Clipper, a missile-shaped trailer he found for sale alongside a road in Nebraska, the Standard Examiner reports.

“It looks like something out of ‘Buck Rogers,’ ” Mungall says, standing outside the 22-foot trailer nicknamed “The Wedge.”

Orbie Mungall’s 1947 Boles Aero sits in his yard in Willard. (Source: Kera Williams/Standard-Examiner)

“The front and back are identical; it just has that alien look.”

The Silver Streak is a relative of the well-known Airstream: “It’s very aerodynamic; all these guys (who created them) were aircraft engineers so they thought aerodynamics,” Mungall says.

Across the yard sits a 1965 Barth, a 24-foot long trailer that Mungall says was “top of the line” in its day, even equipped with a full porcelain bathtub.

Inside the 1947 Boles Aero, Mungall points out such vintage touches as the birch wood cabinetry and the old-fashioned-looking white icebox.

Carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills are needed to tackle a fix-up job on these old trailers, Mungall says.

Some of the techniques are learned by trial and error, like exactly which type of polish to use to get the exterior to shine like a mirror. Aircraft-grade polish turns out to be the thing that gives the best results, but Mungall says, “I’ve spent maybe 300 hours learning the wrong way.”

Yes, the restoration is a slow process, but Mungall quips, “I’m a Southerner, I’ve got patience — I can sit and listen to my beard grow.”

The price tag on Mungall’s trailer purchases runs from $600 to $1,500. Although he has kept his restored pieces, some models might sell for as much as $13,500 in the United States, or up to $37,000 in Europe.

“The Europeans have a fetish about Western cowboys, mountain man relics and now, vintage trailers,” he says.

Anywhere he takes his vintage collectibles — a campground or a stop at the grocery store — Mungall says the trailers attract curious onlookers, reports the Standard Examiner.

Mungall and his wife, Mary Jane, camp in their vintage trailers with what some might see as an old-style approach. They like to stick to the back roads — “You can’t see (the world) at 80 miles per hour,” Mungall says — “and they set up camp to play cards, read books or “talk to each other, by golly.”

In contrast, many folks nowadays don’t seem to camp to get away from home, Mungall says.

“They camp to see how much home they can take with them,” with their generators and portable DVD players and the like. Why, if someone were to give Mungall the key to a brand-new monster motor home, he says he’d take it out and put the thing up for sale.

Orbie Mungall’s shiny 22-foot 1952 Silverstreak Clipper travel trailer — complete with pink flamingos — sits in the yard of his Willard home. (Source: Kera Williams/Standard-Examiner)

“These new ones serve a purpose — but not my purpose,” he says.

As he travels, Mungall says he enjoys meeting people and seeing their reactions to his rolling pieces of nostalgia.

“If that gets them back to camping or something, all the better,” he says, “Get them away from the push buttons and videos.”

And if those folks were to acquire a “Canned Ham” or “Shiny Hiney” of their own, that would be fine by Mungall, too.

After all, he says, as he walks through his trailer collection, “These are keepers.”

Worth Pondering…

The ultimate camping trip was the Lewis and Clark expedition.

—Dave Barry

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