Vintage RVs: Canned Hams, Shiny Hineys & Tin Cans

Vintage trailers continue their popularity among today’s RVers. There is a certain charm and nostalgia with vintage trailers that you can’t find with new recreational vehicles.

The Tin Can Tourists heated tin cans of food on gasoline stoves by the roadside.

The Tin Can Tourists heated tin cans of food on gasoline stoves by the roadside

Nostalgia is tops on the list of reasons folks are attracted to vintage trailers. When they were kids, they went camping in something similar, so it brings back memories for those people.

And don’t forget the decorating. From kitschy pink flamingos to leopard spots to Route 66 memorabilia, folks love to make their trailers look different from everybody else’s.

The rolling homes were small: a bed, kitchen, and dinette in one room. Over the decades they expanded into today’s large-sized RVs, but there’s an increasing demand for the older trailers.

These vintage models are often called Canned Hams, Shiny Hineys, or Tin Cans. Whatever they’re called, classic trailers from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s are rolling back into popularity.

These vintage boxes on wheels are more artsy than your new trailers now, have a character, and a style.

This '60 Airstream Traveler has been completely restored. (Credit:

This ’60 Airstream Traveler has been completely restored. (Credit:

When travel trailers first started roaming American roads in the 1920s their owners were called Tin Can Tourists because they heated tin cans of food on gasoline stoves by the roadside.

The Tin Can Tourists formed the first camping club in the United States, holding their inaugural rally in Florida in 1919 and growing to 150,000 members by the mid-1930s. They had an initiation; an official song, “The More We Get Together;” and a secret handshake.

Women gather from across the country to camp out and many bring their vintage campers. They call themselves Sisters on the FlyFounded in 1999, Sisters on the Fly has grown from three members to nearly 4,500 worldwide including in Canada, England, and Australia, in addition to the United States.

The Get’away Gals, a group of women from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, gather for camping trips once a month in their tricked-out vintage trailers.

Vintage style in tiny packages, teardrop trailers, around since the 1930s, are seeing a boom in popularity. Teardrops are streamlined, compact, lightweight travel trailers, which get their name from its teardrop profile. They usually range from 4 to 6 feet in width, 8 to 10 feet in length, and 4 to 5 feet in height, and have sleeping space for two adults and a basic kitchen in the rear.

In recent years, vintage trailers have been renovated into mobile store fronts, mobile eco-homes, mobile art galleries (Happy Camper Mobile Art Gallery), mobile gourmet coffee shops (Cadillac Coffee), a mobile distillery (2 Gingers Irish Whiskey), and a bargain clothing store (Buffalo Exchange).

Have you considered a vintage trailer? People around the country are restoring and refurbishing vintage trailers in unique ways and women are finding them particularly appealing.

Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

Vistabule Teardrop Trailer

Restoration is a slow, time-consuming process. Carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills are needed to tackle a fix-up job on these old trailers. Always start at the top and work down. One panel at a time. Persistence, perseverance, and determination will get you to the end.

But, restoring vintage trailers is not for the fainthearted. That’s one reason Flyte Camp (Bend, Oregon) is in high demand and quickly earning a reputation as one of the best vintage RV restoration shops in the U.S.

Retro Trailer Design (Glenwood Springs, Colorado) recreates vintage travel trailers reminiscent of the canned hams of the 1950s and 1960s.

Hofmann Architecture (Santa Barbara, California) takes vintage trailers and brings them back to life through custom design based on the owner’s preference.

Mintage Airstreams (Missoula, Montana) is dedicated to restoring classic Airstreams. From the initial design to the finished product, each custom-made Airstream is designed to accommodate each customer’s personal preferences.

Russian River Vintage Travel Trailers (Guerneville, California) re-designs the interiors of Airstreams and other campers. Prices for restored vintage Airstreams vary wildly, depending on the age, the condition of the exterior shell, and the extent of the interior design.

1939 Charles Lindbergh Travel Trailer Up for Auction

1939 Charles Lindbergh Travel Trailer Up for Auction

Is the iconic Airstream a bit too passé for your tastes?

The 1939 Charles Lindbergh Travel Trailer is up for auction. Designed in San Carlos, California, by an engineer of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, this trailer was custom-built for famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, hence  its name.

Buying this legend’s trailer, however, won’t come easy on the wallet. The 1939 Lindbergh travel trailer is expected to fetch anywhere from $150,000-200,000. The 1939 Charles Lindbergh Travel Trailer is part of the Maranello Rosso Collection that will be auctioned at the 17th annual Bonhams Quail Lodge Auction in Carmel, California, August 15.

Worth Pondering…

As I read, and thought, and stared at my stuff around me, I slowly realized a simple truth. The amount of freedom in my life was inversely proportional to the amount of stuff I had.

—Emily Fagen’s blog, Road Less Traveled

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