Vintage Travel Converted to Mobile Art Gallery

Take one vintage 1966 DeCamp travel trailer in near-mint condition, combine it with a dose of creative enthusiasm and elbow grease, mix in the contemporary paintings of one artist, and you get the Happy Camper Mobile Art Gallery.

Credit: happycamperart.com
Credit: happycamperart.com

Kristina Wentzell, a fine art oil painter, was vacationing in Maine last summer when she discovered a 1966 DeCamp travel trailer for sale.

Intrigued by the sight of the robin’s egg-blue camper, Wentzell set about raising funds on Kickstarter, an online crowd-sourcing funding platform for creative projects to purchase and renovate the vintage trailer.

“Kickstarter is an online crowd-sourcing funding platform for creative projects,” she said.

“It’s open to anyone with an idea. I created a page on Kickstarter outlining my project with photos and a video and offered rewards at different pledge levels. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing funding policy, meaning you only get paid if you make your financial goal—and supporters only get charged once the goal has been met. I offered cards and paintings as rewards and used the funding to help cover some of the costs of purchasing the camper and its renovations.”

Her page on Kickstarter lists $2,655 pledged as of September 12, the date recorded for reaching the fundraising goal.

“When I first saw the camper for sale … and was kicking around the idea for a mobile gallery, I posted a photo of it on my Facebook page with a description of my idea and invited feedback. The response was huge. Folks were so excited about it, and that was when it was just an idea. Now that is it finished the response has grown exponentially,” Wentzell said.

Credit: happycamperart.com
Credit: happycamperart.com

The Kickstarter campaign covered about one half of the total expense of purchase and renovations.

The renovation process—in which the couple removed closets and appliances and saved the original birch paneling to create gallery walls illuminated by 1960s light fixtures—has preserved the mid-century modern charm of the camper, Wentzell said in a news release.

“We put a lot of energy and elbow grease into the project, doing all the construction and remodeling and sewing ourselves,” Wentzell said.

Wentzell’s idea for creating a mobile art gallery emerged from the recent and growing trend of gourmet food trucks and other mobile businesses.

“I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ways to get my art out into the world and this just seemed like the perfect avenue,” says Wentzell who also exhibits her work in fine art fairs throughout New England.

“The response to the Happy Camper has been overwhelmingly positive,” Wentzell said.

In addition to exhibiting her work throughout New England at art fairs, street festivals, retirement homes, and gallery walks, she has been showing “100 Paintings for the Holidays for $100 or Less” inside the trailer at her home studio.

“I’ve created an art gallery that is fun and approachable,” she said.

Details

Kristina Wentzell Fine Art

Credit: happycamperart.com
Credit: happycamperart.com

Kristina Wentzell has studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, in France with Parsons School of Design, and she received her BFA at the Massachusetts College of Art.

Wentzell has always been a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to marketing her work and is always looking for new ways to get her art out in the public eye. She hosts her own garden and art shows at her home, an annual 100 painting sale during the holidays, and has created “CSArt: A Year of Flowers” where she offers an art share of floral paintings in the same vein as the popular CSA farm shares.

Address: 87 Ashuelot Street, Keene, NH 03431

Phone: (603) 903-5902

Website: kristinawentzell.com

Happy Camper Mobile Art Gallery

Website: happycamperart.com

Worth Pondering…

Our happiest moments always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.

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Vintage Camping Trailers & Retro Hobby

Residents of Cleveland, Texas, Niki and Teresa Coats, have restored vintage camper trailers for much of the past five years.

Niki and Teresa Coats are restorers of vintage RVs. They have two restored RVs in their collection so far. (Credit: Vanesa Brashier/yourhoustonnews.com)

This retro hobby stems from an extreme curiosity of Teresa’s, which led to the purchase of their first travel trailer in 2007, a 1963 Little Gem, reports Your Houston News.

After years of wear and tear, this trailer required complete restoration. As a result of high humidity in the Piney Woods of East Texas, the damage appeared throughout the interior, as well as the exterior, causing new paint to be necessary in the restoration process. This restoration project took them almost an entire year to complete.

In an effort to maintain authenticity, the Coats salvaged everything that could be saved, which included most of the metal amenities.

All the wooden features were replaced with stained birch wood, while the exterior was coated with turquoise and white paint.

Teresa then opted for Historic Route 66 as a theme for the Little Gem, decorating both the interior and exterior with vintage pieces purchased specifically with this theme in mind, according to Your Houston News.

During restoration on the Little Gem, they remained on the lookout for a Shasta. Shasta travel trailers have become a favorite among campers all over the country, both for their low prices as well as for their many distinctive characteristics.

The Little Gem, the first of Niki and Teresa Coats’ vintage trailers, is decorated with a Route 66 theme for shows. (Credit: Vanesa Brashier/yourhoustonnews.com)

Built between 1941 and 2004, they were originally constructed as housing for the United States Armed Forces. One of their identifying features is the “wings,” which are located on the rear sides of the trailer. The wings were often stolen from older models, making it difficult to find a Shasta with original wings.

The Coats’ search for the Shasta finally paid off when Teresa found a 1958 Shasta AirFlyte, with the original wings, for sale online.

Upon finding it, they drove to Oklahoma City and pulled it back home. Fortunately, they were able to keep the Shasta AirFlyte almost completely original, since it was previously restored and had been very well maintained, a sharp contrast from the Little Gem.

For the Shasta, Teresa chose vintage Hawaiian as the theme and used yellow and white as the color scheme.

They are able to show off their hard work, on what Teresa often refers to as her “babies,” at vintage trailer rallies that are usually held in Central Texas, which they attend at least twice a year, Your Houston News reports.

During these rallies, a large network of vintage camper enthusiasts get together, camp, and share their experiences with each other.

While bigger rallies include competitions in which the trailers are judged, the Coats prefer smaller rallies, usually consisting of about 20 trailers in a group, where they attend solely for the experience and the people that they meet along the way.

The Coats had only to do minor work on the 1958 Shasta AirFlyte traier. The trailer is shown in the photo as the Coats stage it for shows. (Credit: Vanesa Brashier/yourhoustonnews.com)

“I really feel like we’ve rescued them,” said Teresa of the vintage trailers.

While many modern-day camper enthusiasts have added amenities such as electronics, laptops, and even cable TV, in some instances, Niki and Teresa have chosen to revive them in a way that highlights the nostalgia within. While they cannot completely go off-the-grid the way some campers can, these camping experiences help rescue them from the day-to-day grind of modern day life.

Worth Pondering…

Every river makes a journey.

Twisting and turning.

Flowing down canyons, across meadows, past cities and towns.

Joining with streams and creeks and other rivers, to eventually end in the sea.

A river is a traveler.

And as any traveler knows, some parts of a trip are more memorable than others.

—Anon

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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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Vintage Airstreams a Rolling Bit of Americana

Several times a year, Chris Hildenbrand and Jim Lane hitch a 1967 Airstream Globe Trotter trailer to their 1969 Cadillac Coupe de Ville and embark on a road trip.

Chris Hildenbrand, left, and partner Jim Lane and their original 1984 Airstream Classic. motor home. The Wheat Ridge couple owns six Airstreams. (Photo credit: Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post)
Chris Hildenbrand, left, and partner Jim Lane and their original 1984 Airstream Classic. motor home. The Wheat Ridge couple owns six Airstreams. (Photo credit: Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post)

They also own five other Airstream models in various stages of restoration.

The Wheat Ridge, Colorado, couple’s foray into mid-century American road tripping comes courtesy of a 20-foot stretch of aluminum that resembles an oversized vintage toaster, gleaming and curvaceous, reports the Denver Post.

It is a home away from home, this single-axle Airstream. It is also something of an addiction: Like thousands of other collectors, Hildenbrand and Lane devote much of their leisure time to this rolling bit of Americana.

“We call it ‘alumin-itis,’ ” Hildenbrand says of fans’ name for the feverish condition.

“And it’s catching.”

Hildenbrand is president of the Vintage Airstream Club, which hosts caravan treks and collective drive-ins. It’s one of several clubs, including the Denver chapter of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, inspired by the man known by many as the Henry Ford of travel trailers.

This harkens to the early days of Airstream, when Byam organized “caravaning” trips to Canada and Mexico, plus a Capetown-to-Cairo route in Africa and a journey in Asia that traced part of Marco Polo’s route.

Shari and Rob Davis won a best-in-show award for the restoration of their 1956 Airstream Safari travel trailer. (Photo credit: Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post)
Shari and Rob Davis won a best-in-show award for the restoration of their 1956 Airstream Safari travel trailer. (Photo credit: Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post)

Airstream trailers are revered as paradigms of industrial design, ranking with Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Hamilton Beach blenders for fusing sleekness and smarts.

“It’s an American icon,” Lane told the Denver Post.

“It’s an aerodynamic design and easy to tow.”

Early Airstreams were based on the work of Hawley Bowlus, construction supervisor on the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the plane Charles Lindbergh used for his 1927 solo hop across the Atlantic.

Airstream was created by Wally Byam, who built Masonite trailer kits in the late 1920s and bailed out Bowlus’ struggling firm several years later.

Before World War II, there were about 400 travel-trailer companies in the United States, including manufacturers of do-it-yourself kits. Airstream is the only survivor from that era.

Depending on a vintage trailer’s condition, ranging from average to fully restored, it can sell for anywhere from $4,000 to upwards of $18,000.

Lane says the most prized Airstreams were made from the early 1950s to 1968, an era when expanded leisure time and the interstate highway system were a siren call for middle-class vacationers.

Hildenbrand and Lane’s Globe Trotter model is cozy. It has two sofas and can sleep three. The small, propane-fueled kitchen has a sink and cabinets.

Forrest McClure of Aurora has two Airstreams, a 1966 Globe Trotter and a 1986 Excella.

“I’ve been into them since I was a teenager,” he says. “I remember going by a dealership and just falling in love with them. I told myself that when I was retired I’d have one. First thing you know the kids are grown, so about 10 years ago I bought one.

“If I had my druthers I would have done it a lot sooner.”

McClure likes the fact that Airstreams are well made, although his ’66 Globe Trotter needed some retrofitting to get it road worthy. “There’s no such thing as a vintage Airstream that doesn’t need work,” he concedes.

Rob and Shari Davis of Edgewater own a 1956 Airstream Safari. A couple of years ago, their restoration won them a best-in-show award at an Airstream roundup.

“They’re iconic Americana, with all the aesthetic and romance that goes with that,” Shari says.

“The great thing about these trailers is, wherever you are, you’re home.”

Airstream, maker of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, is the oldest recreational vehicle manufacturer in North America. Following founder Wally Byam’s credo, “Let’s not make changes, let’s only make improvements” Airstream has remained a timeless classic.

Related Stories

Worth Pondering…

I saw a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I saw a needle that winked its eye.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an Airstream fly.

—music and lyrics by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington, in Dumbo

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Flyte Camp: Restoring Vintage Trailers a Work of Art

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.

Flyte Camp Vintage Travel Trailer Restoration. (Credit: Steve Pierce Photography/flytecamp.com)

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.

Found in “rough shape” a complete overhaul at Flyte Camp had this 1948 Westcraft Sequoia trailer looking good as new. (Credit: flytecamp.com)

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.

Flyte Camp retored this 1950 Traveleze vintage travel trailer. (Credit: flytecamp.com)

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.”

Details

Flyte Camp

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

Website: flytecamp.com

Worth Pondering…

From wonder into wonder, existence opens.

—Lao Tzu

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Texas RV Dealership Opens Museum

They rumble through the Texas Panhandle by the thousands to get to New Mexico and Colorado, and now, recreational vehicles have their own museum, right off Interstate 27.

Traveland RV Museum encompasses up to 7,000 square feet and is home to dozens of iconic RVs. (Source: rvmuseum.net)
Traveland RV Museum encompasses up to 7,000 square feet and is home to dozens of iconic RVs. (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Jack Sisemore and his son, Trent, opened the RV Museum this spring behind their Amarillo, Texas, RV dealership, Sisemore Traveland, at 4341 Canyon Drive. It showcases RVs they have bought and lovingly restored over the years, just because they wanted to.

The museum’s free, and they won’t even try to talk you into buying an RV while you’re there, the Austin American-Statesman reported

Inside a 6,000-square-foot metal building, the RVs are staged with picnic tables and other camping paraphernalia, so that the museum has the surreal feel of an overnight trailer park — but with air conditioning.

“We’ve been restoring RVs for about 25 years,” Trent Sisemore, a former two-term Amarillo mayor, says. “We just love doing it.”

Most of these campers, trailers and motorhomes are so beautifully restored that they actually gleam, though a few have been intentionally left in the condition in which they were found (although they’ve been cleaned). About 15 of the Sisemores’ 25 vintage RVs are on display at any time.

The first RV you see when you walk in is a 1948 Flxible bus used in the 2006 Robin Williams movie “RV,” which plays in a constant loop on a TV screen near the long red-and-white bus that Trent Sisemore hunted down in a Hollywood studio.

Nearby is a 1953 Fleetwood that the Sisemores found in bad shape at a gas station 15 years ago. It took two years to restore, they say. A cute little 1936 Alma trailer had been sitting in a barn since 1955 until the Sisemores recently found and restored it. There’s also a 1937 Kozy Kamp tent trailer, one of the first built.

This 1948 Flxible bus was refitted to become Happy Max in the Robin Williams movie 'RV.' Trent Sisemore found it in Hollywood and bought it for the museum. (Source: Helen Anders/American-Statesman)
This 1948 Flxible bus was refitted to become Happy Max in the Robin Williams movie ‘RV.’ Trent Sisemore found it in Hollywood and bought it for the museum. (Source: Helen Anders/American-Statesman)

With the exception of a 1937 Elkhart Traveler, the Sisemores recently acquired, all the RVs have steps at their doors, and you’re welcome to go inside and look around. Each is staged with appropriate kitchen gadgets, books, games and other knickknacks from its period.

A 1975 Itasca — in mint condition with only about 6,000 miles on it — reminded me of the RV my parents bought after my father retired. My kids and I took a lot of trips in that one.

A 1946 Kit Manufacturing aluminum teardrop trailer is a real charmer. It’s small but efficient, with a mattress inside the trailer and a kitchen in its “trunk.” The trailer was built with Army surplus aluminum after World War II.

The RV Museum has picked up a lot of buzz among RVers, and on the day I visited, there were about a dozen people there, wandering around fairly reverentially, talking softly about their own RV experiences.

Along with RVs, the museum displays about a dozen vintage motorcycles, because Jack Sisemore loves motorcycles. His favorite is a 1952 Blue Harley.

“My father had one like it, and he gave it to my brother, who rode it all through high school,” he says.

A replica gas station in the museum is a tribute to Jack Sisemore’s career. With money he borrowed from his grandmother, he opened a Chevron station in 1963. In the ’70s, he wanted to travel with his family, so he rented an RV. He later started renting RVs to other people, and that eventually led to the opening of his own RV dealership. Now, the family’s involved in RV manufacturing as well.

Oddly, the Sisemores still find time to vacation in RVs themselves.

“I leave here usually the last Saturday in September, and I’m gone for three to 3 1/2 weeks to Maine,” Jack Sisemore says. “That’s where the majority of these things have come from. We go junkin’, I call it.”

Details

Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum

1962 Airstream (Source: rvmuseum.net)
1962 Airstream (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Admission: Free

Hours: Monday–Friday, 3:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Address: 4341 Canyon Drive, Amarillo, TX

Phone: (806) 358-4891

Website: rvmuseum.net

Related Story

Worth Pondering…

Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.

—Tennessee Williams

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Liz Taylor’s ‘Cleopatra’ Trailer Sells for $51,660

vintage travel trailer, customized as a lavish dressing room for Elizabeth Taylor during the filming of Cleopatra in 1963, has sold at auction for $51,660, WhatSellsBest.com reports.

Elizabeth Taylor customized dressing room trailer. (Credit: Premiere Props)
Elizabeth Taylor customized dressing room trailer. (Credit: Premiere Props)

According to the auction listing “Twentieth Century Fox spent a rumored $75,000 in 1960s dollars ($560,000 in today’s dollars) to build a fully customized 36-foot dressing room/trailer for the star. Designed in the theme of the Egyptian/Roman epic, the recreational vehicle was intended to keep Taylor in the true character of Cleopatra.

The 36-foot Aljo trailer features rose-colored carpeting, hand-painted ceilings, hand-painted bedroom murals, detailed crown moldings, custom makeup dresser and vanity, full columns mounted on the walls, and other columned furniture and decorative pieces.

Silk curtains hang from a semicircular runner to separate the bedroom from the living area.

The trailer also features a refrigerator and stove, as well as a bathroom, typical of a guest house or RV. This special hideaway was designed to make the star feel like the Queen of Egypt.

It is widely known that Twentieth Century Fox’s 1963 epic Cleopatra was both a troubled and devastatingly expensive production.

Vintage Mobile Dressing Room used during filming of Cleopatra in 1963. (Credit: Premiere Props)
Vintage Mobile Dressing Room used during filming of Cleopatra in 1963. (Credit: Premiere Props)

The film is infamous for nearly bankrupting the studio with its budget swelling to $44 million (equivalent to $320 million in today’s dollars). Star Elizabeth Taylor was awarded a record-setting contract of $1 million that rose to $7 million due to the delays of the production (equivalent to over $47 million today).

The studio was in particular trouble when Taylor became very ill during the early filming and was rushed to the hospital where a life-saving tracheotomy had to be performed.

The production was moved to Rome after six months as the English weather proved detrimental to her recovery, as well as being responsible for the constant deterioration of the costly sets required for the production.

During the filming Elizabeth met Richard Burton and the two began a very public affair which made the headlines worldwide.

The provenance of this fabled trailer is fascinating.

Millionaire financier and developer of the Watergate complex in Washington, DC, Nicolas Salgo, helped arrange financial backing for the film for the studio.

Once the film wrapped, Salgo negotiated with Fox to keep Elizabeth Taylor’s dressing room trailer and had it parked at his ZX Ranch in Oregon from the 1960s through 1980. Friends visiting the ranch, the largest in Oregon, would request to stay in the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton love nest—Hollywood’s version of the Lincoln Bedroom.

Once Salgo sold the ranch, he transferred ownership to his neighbor from the adjacent ranch (the current owner and consignor) who owned The Lakeview Fantastic Museum where it became part of the museum exhibit.

The trailer later was used as a guest house of his personal residence in Lake Tahoe, California before being sold at auction.

The furniture, fixtures, and curtains are all original. The other pieces currently decorating the dressing room, such as chairs, hand mirror, telephones, magazines, photographs, etc. are placed as a museum-like tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Cleopatra.

The original round bed was removed over 40 years ago and replaced with a queen-sized bed. Some areas on the walls exhibit minor moisture damage which can be easily restored; otherwise, in very good condition with original curtains and main fixtures intact.

Vintage Mobile Dressing Room used during filming of Cleopatra in 1963. (Credit: Premiere Props)
Vintage Mobile Dressing Room used during filming of Cleopatra in 1963. (Credit: Premiere Props)

The trailer has been towed recently from Northern California to Southern California and can be towed as a recreational vehicle.

It’s a wonderful and intimate Elizabeth Taylor piece, epitomizing the epic extravagance of Cleopatra—the last of the old guard Hollywood films.

Cable network Lifetime is currently filming a biopic of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Worth Pondering…

Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch
Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space.
Kingdoms are clay; our dungy earth alike
Feeds beast as man; the nobleness of life
Is to do thus; when such a mutual pair
And such a twain can do’t.

—William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, 1.1.34

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Happiness Comes in the Shape of a Teardrop Trailer

Jack Gerber, owner of Tiny Trailer, believes happiness on the open road comes in the shape of a teardrop trailer.

Since building the first Tiny Trailer in 2004, Jack Gerber discovered a passion for designing and building retro style teardrop camping trailers which he is proud of and have loads of fun using. (Source: tinytrailer.com)

The former cabinet-maker said his sleek teardrop camping trailers, handmade from the axles up, help satisfy travelers’ wanderlust in a low-cost, high-style package that are perfect road adventures, reports wenatcheeworld.com.

“These trailers were popular 60 years ago,” Gerber said. “We think their time has come again.”

His one-man company, Tiny Trailer, offers a single teardrop design that sports the retro look of the 1940s paired with 21st century amenities — a micro-heater, forced-air ventilation, electric lights, and weather-proofing — all handcrafted from modern lightweight, durable materials.

The hand-cut, anodized aluminum exterior gives his teardrops the flavor of a classic Airstream travel trailer.

“We wanted that silver-bullet aspect,” he said. “We wanted it aerodynamic. We wanted it light and strong enough to be pulled behind the family car.”

Even better, each completed trailer has the look and feel of a fine-woodworking project, Gerber told wenatcheeworld.com.

“To me, this is my art,” he said. “It’s an expression of a lifetime of making cabinets and loving to travel — all rolled into one.”

Gerber, 59, said he got his first toolbox at age 3 from his dad, a longtime Kent woodworker and cabinet shop owner, and never really looked back. “I discovered early in life that I just love to build things.”

A Tiny Trailer is a custom built retro style teardrop camping trailer professionally built with quality materials, workmanship, and attention to detail. (Source: tinytrailer.com)

By 1977, he opened his own shop and was accepting cabinet-making jobs from banks, dentist offices, and high-end homes during Puget Sound’s boom years.

Meanwhile, he and wife Annie, along with their three kids, were traveling regularly to North Central Washington to camp, hike, and visit family. By 1995, they’d decided they wanted to relocate there and found property in the Entiat Valley, upriver from Ardenvoir.

Over the next four years, they built a light-filled workshop, then a handcrafted log home, and were about to embark on the business of building teardrops when Gerber was offered what he considered a dream job — teaching wood shop at a high school in Maple Valley. He followed that dream for nearly seven years, leaving the job in 2011, reports wenatcheeworld.com.

One day, Gerber recalled, his wife walked in the door and slapped down a picture of a teardrop trailer. “She looked at me and said, ‘That’s what I want,’ said Gerber.

“So we set aside the tents, the pickup campers, the fifth-wheelers, the huge RVs that take two days to clean, and started thinking seriously about teardrops.”

Form followed function, said Gerber. He designed the trailer using a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood as the basic element. Everything about the trailer had to accommodate his 6-foot 3-inch frame. The kitchen workspace revolved around a Coleman gas stove. The chassis was long enough to secure a stainless steel Coleman ice chest.

Jack Gerber, owner of Tiny Trailer, believes happiness on the open road comes in the shape of a teardrop trailer. (Source: tinytrailer.com)

Gerber makes the teardrop trailers by himself in batches of four, with a maximum capacity of about a dozen a year. Five are currently in various stages of production.

Fans of teardrop trailers readily agree that the rolling abodes are not scaled-down RVs or travel trailers. Teardrops such as the Tiny Trailer are more like stylish, upgraded tents.

That said, there’s still plenty of room in a Tiny Trailer.

A few stats follow:

  • Length: 11 feet, 6 inches
  • Width: 5 feet, 10 inches
  • Height: 5 feet, 4 inches
  • Cabin size: 4 feet by 8 feet
  • Bunk size: 3 feet, 10 inches by 6 feet, 3 inches
  • Weight: Just under 1,000 pounds
  • Chassis: 2-inch steel tubing, 2,000-pound torsion suspension, single axle with 15-inch chrome wheels, 12-volt power supply

Details

Tiny Trailer

The Tiny Trailer is manufactured in North Central Washington State in the beautiful Entiat Valley. When you purchase a Tiny Trailer you’re buying a custom built retro style teardrop camping trailer professionally built with quality materials, workmanship, and attention to detail.

Address: 12315 Entiat River Road, Entiat, WA 98822

Phone: (509) 784-5090

Website: tinytrailer.com

Worth Pondering…
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

—Goethe

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Vintage Shasta Sits Poolside

Larry Fletcher, a welding supply salesman, spotted the Shasta near Longview, Texas.

It was just the sort of vintage travel trailer his wife, Sherry, wanted to park poolside as a cabana at their home in Richardson, north of Dallas.

After Fletcher bought the trailer, he took his time sprucing it up keeping everything close to original. He added new upholstery and polished the original birch wood interior.

“I kept it a secret for four months, and every time I went through the Longview area, I’d stop to check on the progress,” Fletcher told Dallas Morning News.

Shasta started making trailers to house members of the military in 1941 and later produced travel trailers. Originally constructed in a factory in Los Angeles, their high quality and low price made them a favorite with campers all over the western United States.

In 1958, Shasta built a production facility in Goshen, Indiana. At some point in time, Shasta trailers were produced by Shasta Industries, a division of the W.R. Grace Company. The “wings” on the rear sides were a visible identifier in the 1960s and beyond.

The name was sold to Coachmen Industries in 1976. Coachman marketed Shasta branded travel trailers until 2004. Only vintage trailers were available until 2008 when the brand was reintroduced complete with its identifying wings.

Larry Fletcher and his wife, Sherry, share memories in their renovated 1963 10-foot Shasta travel trailer. (Source: Ben Torres, Dallas Morning News)

The new trailers have updated art deco interiors and are all electric. Their features include stainless steel microwaves, stainless steel sinks, and mini blinds, hot plate cook-tops, wet baths, and cutting edge entertainment features including a 19-inch LCD television.

The vintage models are often coveted today.

Then, one Christmas night, Larry showed up at home with the 1963 10-foot travel trailer in tow.

The family heard the trailer pulling up, and everyone in the house ran outside cheering. No one was more excited than Sherry. Larry had, one more time in their marriage, made her dreams come true, Dallas Morning News reported.

Larry welcomed everyone into the petite rolling digs filled with glorious vintage details and “Coppertone Brown” mini-appliances. The Shasta was christened with a Champagne toast.

“I had the Shasta all lit up and Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore’ playing,” Larry said.

“I was so surprised,” Sherry stated. “It was the best surprise ever.”

The Fletchers love to entertain. Their collection of antique and neon signs and memorabilia surrounds the decks and pool.

Sherry is an outside sales manufacturer’s representative and owns the Pink Flamingo, a vintage clothing shop in McKinney. Her creative talents are seen in the Shasta décor.

Scalloped shelves in the trailerette are lined with flamingos and turquoise treasures to carry out the retro tropical color scheme.

1962 Shasta Airflyte (Source: vintageshasta.net)

Sitting side by side inside the Shasta with the birch wood table popped up, talking about all of the good times related to this little party shack on wheels, it’s easy to see that life is only as fun as the wagons, friends, romance and memories that you hitch up, concluded Dallas Morning News.

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Worth Pondering…
That’s Amore

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie
That’s amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you’ve had too much wine
That’s amore

When the stars make you drool
Joost-a like pasta fazool
That’s amore

Lucky fella

—lyrics by Jack Brooks and Harry Warren; sung by Dean Martin

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RV Museum Opens in Texas

The Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum recently opened to the public in Amarillo, Texas. According to a news report in the Amarillo Globe News, the museum has already attracted more than 400 visitors.

1962 Airstream (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Traveland RV Museum encompasses up to 7,000 square feet and is home to dozens of iconic RVs, including a 1936 Alma, 1937 Elkhart Traveler, 1953 Fleetwood, 1962 Airstream, and 1972 Winnebago.

“We’ve been building a museum for about 25 years and we have RVs from every decade up through the ’70s to show the progression of the RV industry,” Sisemore said. “I wanted to have something that was free, that people could come to from anywhere in the United States.”

The Sisemore’s began restoring and collecting unusual vintage recreational vehicles over 25 years ago. They have built a museum that houses many of the RVs in their collection. These include the Flxible Bus from the Movie RV, the first Itasca motor home ever built, the oldest Fleetwood in existence, and many other RVs from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.

You can step back in time, reminisce, and enjoy the progression of the RV industry from its inception till now.

1936 Alma

This trailer was a barn find 20 miles from the Alma factory. It is all-original, never restored, and looks like new. Imagine stepping back into the pre-war years inside this Alma. It literally was in a barn from 1955 until today.

1937 Elkhart Traveler

The first brand of trailer produced in Elkhart, Indiana, the RV manufacturing capital of the world. This little jewel has not been restored; it has been left in its original shape the way it was found.

1946 Tear Drop Kit

1946 Tear Drop Kit (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Restored by the restoration team 24 years ago, this trailer still looks new. Dan Polkapaila, founder of Kit Manufacturing, gave the museum his last set of fenders to restore this little beauty. Dan built these kits out of aluminum that was surplus after the war. Many of the wheels had to have the bullet holes repaired to be used.

1953 Fleetwood

Jack and Trent Sisemore found this trailer in total disrepair at a filling station 15 years ago and bought it from an 84 year-old lady that was traveling across the country. She said it was time for her to quit camping. It took the restoration team over two years to bring it back to life. This was the first year Fleetwood built travel trailers, serial number 1123.

1962 Airstream

Jack traded for this trailer back in 1988 and just restored it last year but it required little restoration. This little Bambi was always ready to go on a trip from the day it was new.

1970 Avion

This 1970 Avion pick up camper is one of the last if not the last pick up camper made by Avion. It is a one owner purchased in 1971 and is completely original.

1972 Winnegabo

This motorhome was another barn find in Amarillo. It had been in the same family since it was new. Carpet and cushions are original. It has very few miles and drives like a dream.

1974 Winnegago

Jack started renting a motorhome just like this when he had a Chevron Standard filling station. A year later that he had six rentals and started Jack Sisemore Traveland. It took two 1974 Winnebagos to build it—one from Phoenix and the other from Maine.

On a side note, Jack Sisemore Traveland is the oldest Winnebago dealer in the state of Texas. Jack started selling Winnebago products in 1978.

1975 Itasca

This is the first Itasca motorhome ever built, serial number 1, and served as a prototype for Itasca. It was in Winnebagos Welcome Center for over 20 years. It has 6000 original miles and is in brand new condition.

Details

Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum

1977 Kit Road Ranger (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Admission: Free

Hours: Monday–Friday, 3:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Address: 4341 Canyon Drive, Amarillo, TX

Phone: (806) 358-4891

Website: rvmuseum.net

Worth Pondering…
Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.

—Tennessee Williams

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