I stepped into the trailer restoration world a couple of years back, when I impulsively bought a 13 ft Glendale trailer. That experience did not turn out very well... it was a proverbial "tin can of worms", lots of troubles, and a huge learning curve on what it takes to properly restore vintage trailer.
Somewhere along the way I fell in love, with amber tinted woodwork, and mid century kitchens, so when this very original Golden Falcon came available I decided to take the plunge into a slightly bigger, much older trailer with more potential.
This is the photo (above) from the kijii ad. He was asking $1600 and told me there were 20 people in line waiting for it. I offered $2000 and he moved me to the top of his list.
I bought her in the winter. She had been stored under a Gazebo type roof in a trailer park for 30 years, and so has much less body damage, and interior damage than one would expect of a trailer of this vintage. I am still trying to determine her age, but it is looking to be very early 1960's. Some of her interior features are earlier in style than any I have seen in other Golden Falcons. Perhaps I will find a clue somewhere inside. Here are a couple of photos of how I found her.
Refrigerator and Bathroom Door
The lower kitchen cabinets are missing, as is the stove and sink. Fortunately I have an extra stove and sink from another trailer at hand, and the old cabinet doors were left sitting on the bed. So I will only need to reconstruct the lower cabinet.
Rear bunks and the doors for the missing kitchen cabinet.
Storage Closet next to the fridge.
The closet area will be converted to shelves for our clothes, and I will also run the air conditioner ducting through the back corner of the closet so that it can exit out by the ceiling. She is scheduled to be moved into our auto dealership this weekend, and will remain there through her complete makeover. I'll talk about her needed repairs in my next blog.
Monday, 18 April 2016
And so it begins...This week we got the Golden Falcon moved into her new home in Murray's auto dealership.
This will allow me to work on it all year round.
Front of Trailer Rear of Trailer
When you do a full restoration on a vintage trailer, all of the aluminum skin has to come off at some point to inspect the framing, repair any rot, and run any extra wiring you are hoping to add.
I spent a day removing the upper double bunk which was keeping the trailer closed in visually, and which needed to go, as we will not be bringing any children with us in this trailer. (I hope my kids are reading this... lol) As well as this I removed the mahogany cabinet doors and hardware. Every loose piece of a vintage trailer must be put in a ziplock bag and labeled, so you know how to find them and put them back. You can see the pile beginning on the back bench.
There are many cute 1960’s details all through this trailer!
I found a photo from a friend in my Glendale trailer group of what the original kitchen should look like in the trailer. So I will be re-creating this along with the drop leaf counter.
I am also going to try and re-create the starburst glitter counters using epoxy and gold glitter and confetti stars, as these counters are no longer available.
I also just bought this cool old pump with starbursts on it. This means that with the original simple systems in this trailer you boil water to do your dishes, and there is no hot water option. I don't intend to change this as I enjoy the simplicity of camping like this.
Here is the original serial number tag off of the trailer. I wish it had a date, but so far the only thing I have been able to determine from comparing this tag to other people who have Golden Falcons, (who know the age of their trailers) is that it is pretty early 1960’s. Maybe 1961 or 1962. Golden Falcons started to roll out in 1961, so it is not earlier than that.
My next task will be to start peeling back the skins on this tin can trailer!
Monday, 25 April 2016
Starting the skin removal...
This was my first day of stripping down the trailer. All of the aluminum skin needs to be removed from the frame so that I can assess the damage, and make repairs etc. Most of the screws on the trailer are 1/4 inch hex, and my dad gave me a special drill bit to remove them. However once in a while I would find a 3 or 4 inch screw that the previous owner had tried to use for repair.
When you take the aluminum skin off of a vintage trailer, the first step is to remove the trim along the edge, also called the j-rail. This sits over a layer of putty, that was used to seal the seams. On a trailer this old, the putty is degraded and dried out. It is no wonder these old trailers have water damage.
I won't know the extent of the damage until I remove all the skin, but it is likely there is some.
Once the j-rails were off, I cleaned the putty off of the inside, carefully labeled them and then scraped all the old goop off of the edge of the trailer. You can see a close up here of the seams after the rail is off. There was even one small spot on the trailer (seen here below) where the aluminum had a small piece missing under the j-rail.
You can imagine how easy it is to damage the interior if any water gets past that. I will be very carefully sealing that hole on the reassembly.
By the end of the day, I had all of the rails off, the sides scraped and the front window guard removed.
There are many trims, hatches and covers on the outside that must be removed and categorized.
Thursday, 7 July 2016
Removing the Windows
I have progressed to the point where all of the windows are out. I try and take the time to remove as much putty as possible from each window so that there will be less work later in the process and I do not find myself chipping off hardened goop.
I find it best to use a putty knife to scrape out all of the goop and then clean it with paint thinner. I will clean it again down the road before attaching new putty table during the re-install.
This is a very boring stretch of the reno. Pretty much just removing windows, and exterior trim one inch a a time.
I also have had to learn to remove something called "twisty nails" which are round headed nails that are twisted into the wood and do not come out easily. I ruined a small section of aluminum in the trunk area, until one of my advisors told me to order "VAMPLIERS"... yes thats right, it sounds like vampire. They are special pliers that grab nails when they are flush and pull them out.
These photos are the aluminum I damaged before ordering the VAMPLIERS. Fortunately it is in an inconspicuous place.
You can order VAMPLIERS on amazon.com. They will pull out any nail or screw thats really stuck in close.
Here are some of the tools I use for stripping down the trailer. The Vampliers are the little ones at the front.
You will notice I have a number of small pry bars, small hammer, and small vice grips. I find these smaller size tools helpful to get into the spaces I am reaching into.
Other favourite tools are a set of welders players which are two flat pieces of metal used to pry back or straighten out aluminum as I go. And the tool used most often is a flat screwdriver which I ground a cut into so that it is easy to get under the edge of the old screws and staples.
I have learned to take a lot of photos while rehabbing the trailer. I find weird things that the factory builders did like plugging the top of the door trim with putty. I need to remember that for the reassembly. I have only posted about 10% of my photos in this blog.
Here are a few photos of what I am seeing at this point of the teardown. You can see the edge where the j-rail is off and the seams meet. I can also see some rotted wood beginning to appear under the edges of the skin as I open it up. This shows how deceiving it can be to buy a trailer that has no visible water damage. I knew upfront from my experiences in rehabbing these trailers that there would be rot under the skin so I am not deterred.
Friday, 12 August 2016
Restoration vrs. Preservation when you have a unique trailer...
Here is a little history of my trailer and my thinking behind what I am doing.
I have been on an interesting journey with my Golden Falcon since I got it. I have found out that a Golden Falcon Trailer is to Canada what the Shasta is in the USA. It was an iconic, Canadian trailer. The luxury model in the tin-can ranks. Not an airstream, but not a standard camper either. They were proudly "Made in Canada" and there are very few intact and unchanged vintage models left. In addition as I have done research on my trailer, it is looking like I may have a "prototype" or very early model.
I have learned all of this while trying to establish what antique or art dealers call the "provenance" or history of my trailer. It started out with me having a mystery refrigerator brand that none of the other Glendale owner's had in their trailer, and which no one else had seen in a travel trailer. It's called an LEC Regis Bognor. I even tried Tim Heinz and the TCT crowd to try and find someone with the same fridge. No takers.
So, after some research, I realized why no other North American trailers had this fridge... it was from England. Then, after more research, I found out that the family who started the Glendale Trailer company were from England. And after a bit more research I realized that there were a few differences between my trailer and the Golden Falcons others were working on...
There were no running lights on the roof (everyone seems to have them but me and one or two other very early Golden Falcon's out there), and of course as mentioned I have the weird fridge.
My assumption is that when they started the Golden Falcon line, (in 1961) at first they ordered the refrigerators from England from a company they were familiar with, and then once they took off, within a year or so all the Golden Falcon's have Dometic refrigerators. Or perhaps it was custom ordered with this type of fridge?
They also started without running lights of the roof and added them later. So this helps me to date my trailer to be no earlier that 1961, when Golden Falcon was launched, and before 1963 when I see running lights and dometic refrigerators show up on them. So it appears I have a somewhat unique early model Golden Falcon.
So all that to say that I have started to feel a bit of responsibility to make my restoration correct, and honoring to the original model and the history of the company. I feel like I am preserving a piece of Canadian history.
How does this translate to my restoration?
I'm not 100% sure, but it is starting to effect all the decisions I am making on the restoration, and I would like it, that when people see my finished trailer, they feel like they have a good idea of what an original Glendale Golden Falcon looked like.
So, I am having the original decals reproduced, and trying to keep the original look of the exterior. Although on this early model, thus far the original paint job is unknown, later ones had metallic gold sections on them, so I will be have to be creative if I want to recreate that. One unique element on the trailer is the gold drip rail and counter trim used throughout. I will definitely do what I need to keep the gold, as after all it is a “Golden” falcon.
I am unable at this point to find any brochure showing original fabric options, although the photos of other early Golden Falcons seem to show gold brocade such as one would have in a fancy dining room. However, as much as I want to honour the original design, I do not feel that gold brocade fabric is a good fit for camping. So I am going to use red fabric with white piping as a Canadiana theme and focus on design elements used around 1959-1961. This will include wide tufted buttons on the gaucho and booth cushions, and pinch pleated drapes with atomic style patterns.
This will allow me to restore the Golden Falcon as a proudly Canadian update.
Attached below is a letter I received from a reader who knew the owner of the Glendale Trailer Company Reg. Thorn. He was able to solve the mystery of the fridge and running lights for me. Here is what he had to say..
Reg Thorn, the founder of Glendale would be proud of your restoration project! I met Reg in 1986 when I was doing a college business project on Glendale. Reg came to Canada in 48 with his wife, baby son and best friend from Landover England to seek new opportunities for the Caravan industry that he had pioneered with the two different companies that he had operated between the early 30's to 1948. In 1950 he began Glendale Mobile Homes on the Glendale Curve in London Ontario. In 1961 he purchased the rights to the "Golden Falcon" name from Harry Mc Guiness who began his company here in Canada back in the 40's. Reg could see the potential of the Golden Falcon name to help double the number of his dealerships here in Canada. Originally he built mobile homes and then in the late 50's began making travel trailers know as the Glendette, which in French would mean mini Glendale. In 61 he quickly began making the Golden Falcon which was to be styled differently to the Glendette. The Golden Falcon brand took off and became the better seller of the two lines. There are still a number of them still in use here from the 60's. When Reg came over from England he brought his knowledge and contacts from the English Caravan Industry. This resulted in the English Fridge in your unit. Dometic came to North America from Sweden in the early 60's. Reg decided to partner with this new supplier as many other trailer mfg were doing the same. Also during the 60's legislation governing production of these units was just beginning which would have resulted in running lights on later 60 units being built compared to your introductory year model. Reg owned and operated Glendale between 1950 until he sold it to Morgan Firestone. Glendale during Reg's time became the largest producer of mobile homes and RV's in Canada with up to 10 different plants from coast to coast. He even started a factory in 69 located in the "Land Down Under" Australia. All the best on the Restoration of your Golden Falcon. Sadly, Glendale RV closed it's doors Jan 2010 due to the last economic downturn. Regards; Lou Hammill, a Glendale Enthusiast since 1977.
Monday, 6 March 2017
My trailer is down to the bones.
I did very little work on my trailer for several months, due to the busyness of life, and have more recently dived back into the reno. The trailer restoration guru's who are coaching me through my project, had told me that ideally all of the aluminum should come off of the trailer including the roof. This would allow me to truly identify all water damage and rot, and it also allows me to update the electrical and plumbing systems with new wire, pipes etc. So my trailer is now naked, and looking her age!
In order to safely store the pieces of skin which were up to 17 feet long, I built a wooden crib about 12 inches tall by 18 feet long so store them. I did not want to risk anyone accidentally stepping on my trailer skin and trims.
I tried to layer the trim in the order I removed it. Every piece is marked with a description.
In addition to this, I ended up deciding to replace the roof as there was so much tar on it that I do not believe it was a good candidate to keep. The previous owners had poured roofing tar all over the roof and after about a week of scrapping, I decided to work smarter rather than harder. My friend Brenda found me a place locally who provide roofing for semi-trailers who can sell me a new piece of aluminum skin for the roof. The new roof will only cost about $300.00 and will guarantee there are no leaks to worry me.
You should always lay a couple of boards across the roof when you are up there so that your weight does not damage the aluminum.
Here are some photos of the rest of the tear down. The water damage is now fully apparent.
Sunday, 16 April 2017
Restoring the framing, one piece at a time.
The restoration continues with the rotted framing boards being removed one at a time, and new wood inserted into the same spot. I have started with the curb side sill boards, (the boards at the bottom of the wall) and I will work my way slowly around, finishing back at the front.
The technique to remove the old wood requires me to have some coal miner in my blood, as I have to use my multi-tool and chip some of the lengths out, one bit at a time. One surprise that I had was when I removed the lower front sill, behind it was another whole other layer of rotted sill that was bolted to the frame. So Golden Falcons have a double sill.
So I had to dig both layers out, and then had to cut new boards and re-bolt the inner one to the metal frame under the trailer. Lot's of patience required. It was a lot of work. But... It feels good to know that there is no hidden rot and once she is back on the road, I will not have to worry about instability or leaks.
This is the first section I am working on. You can see that the bottom edge sill is rotted all around the door. I cut out this rotted wood with my multi-tool.
There are moments in the restoration where it’s such a mess, and so pulled apart that you feel a bit lost and like you may not be able to put it back together.
This is a close up picture of the hole on the side of the trailer where I removed the rot. You can see the steel frame and wooden cross member that I will need to reattach to. People have asked how I know where to attach everything. I personally just put it back together exactly the way it was originally. I write notes to myself along the side of the trailer to help me remember important things, and I work slowly and methodically.
In order to cut new pieces and reattach them onto the existing frame. You will need a tool called a keg jig. I just have the basic one and it works great. It drills pocket holes into new boards and allows you to attach them to the old ones. I strongly suggest buying the clamp in the left hand photo in addition to the basic kreg jig kit. I found it really helped me to attach the jig to the boards and is worth the extra money.
While working on the rot along the curb side, I also found some rot under the entrance door. After removing a section of flooring plywood, I discovered that the framing had broken underneath from the pressure and weight of people standing on the step. So I had to tow in some new boards with the kreg-jig and close it back up. I beefed it up a bit so that it will have no trouble holding the replacement step.You can see the patch in blue plywood in the next photo.
In this photo you can see all the new framing on the curb-side including a new door frame and the rot around the entrance floor totally repaired.
Monday, 12 June 2017
More Rot, and New Systems.
I am slowly working my way around my trailer. The good news is that the curb side has all new framing and skirting wherever needed.
The bad news is that the rear of the trailer and the street side is really rotted. All the way to about 10 inches inward along the floor and back street side. This necessitates me removing the floor all the way back to the first "non-rotted" stringer along the street side. I started cutting back until I found solid wood. This revealed a row of rotted cross braces that would have eventually caused the trailer to come off of the frame. This is why it is so important to do a proper restoration and remove all the rot, even in the framing. Otherwise you end up pouring a lot of money into something that will not last long.
This photo above shows the rear street side of the trailer. The back trunk would be to the left of the photo. You can see here that the framing has rotted and broken off to about ten inches in. The fresh 2x3 you see at the top of the photo is the new exterior frame board that will bolt to the steel frame. I will use this board as an anchor point to attach the repair boards. I do not want to have to remove the whole rear floor.
In the photo below you can see my "fix" and how I tied the repair boards into the existing rotted stringers.
Here (above) you are looking down onto the repairs from the street-side wall. You can see that I have sandwiched the broken stringers between new framing boards that extend under the repair area. I have used a kreg-jig to tie everything together, and to attach the new skirt boards and frame on the street side.
Here (above) is a photo of the repaired floor, looking in from the rear of the trailer.
On a more positive note, I just picked up all new tanks for my trailer. I decided to add a 10 gallon grey tank under the sink, a new 16 gallon fresh water tank to replace the old galvanized one, plus a new black tank. The black tank in there is fibreglass and had weird old cast iron plumbing, so we decided to replace the tank and the plumbing while the trailer is open and gutted. I'll be really happy about this down the road. All new plumbing is easier to install then trying to make 60 year old plumbing work. Included in the photo is a "New Old Stock" Vintage Catalytic heater I found on eBay as my trailer was missing the furnace and I did not want to pay $700 for a new furnace, or buy an unreliable old one. As well, a 1950's electric space heater for when we have shore power.
The water tanks were a great deal. $34.00 (U.S.). Available on Amazon by Class A Customs, who gave me great customer service. I was a little dubious about buying these, at such a low price and a couple of reviewers had indicated they were not that thick, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but they are very thick and sturdy. Here is the link if you are looking for them. I bought a 10 gallon and a 16 gallon for $34.00 each. They come pre-made with threaded entrances and exits for your pipes to attach to.
Monday, 18 December 2017
Rebuilding the back end
There is always some good news and some bad news when you buy a vintage trailer. The good news on mine is that it was really original on the inside, and the skin was in great shape. The bad news was the frame rot. The trailer looked great from the outside, but once it was opened up there was lots of rotten wood in the framing that needed replacing. The most intimidating section for me to replace was the rear section because of some weird angles and also the fact that it was so rotten compared to the sides. So I was very nervous about being able to replicate it.
So I did a couple of smart things. I created an exact cardboard pattern of the boards, before the rear skin was off. I also took lots of measurements and checked the angles of all the boards as some were not sitting flat, but were angled.
These close up photos show the seriousness of the rot.
As you can see, at one point the entire rear framing collapsed, so I was very thankful that I had created some patterns. As I stated I also took meticulous measurements and made notes right on the trailer so that I would not forget anything important.
This was the scary view once the rotted framing was removed. There was no turning back at this point!
So piece by piece it came back together. Notice the angled rectangle, drawn onto the back corner board, (below) which I built off of my pattern. I had noticed when disassembling the trailer that this cross member was angled. Don't miss this important detail if you are restoring a Golden Falcon. It’s important to take lots of notes on details like this so that you can put things back together properly. I have been working on my project for several years so if I don’t mark it down and make patterns it’s easy to forget. You can see here that the angle for the cross brace was very odd. We think this was done to keep water from sitting on the sill, but if I had not made a pattern of the wood and the angle, I would have been guessing at it and had a problem refitting the skin.
I also dry fitted the rear window to confirm that everything fits, as I don't want any surprises down the road
In this photo above you can also see that I have added in the rear seat-back inside the trailer. I moved it right back against the framing which gained me 4 extra inches of bed space (Almost a queen bed) which is awesome in a vintage trailer.
In this shot you can see where I have come around the corner to the street side with my repairs, replacing the rotted window wood, and framing in a hatch for our new air conditioner which we will install on a drawer slide.
Monday March 5th 2018
Almost finished the rot repair
After a six month break from trailer repair, due to my son's wedding and a number of major events I was involved in, I am now back into the restoration full bore.
I am almost finished with the outside rot repair. Last year this time I started on the front curbside corner, and now I am on the front street side (opposite) corner having come full circle.
This week I completed the sills and skirts on the street side and learned how to create a "sistered" joint where I cut out the rot from one long 2x6 and inserted a fresh piece of wood. This is the first time I have done a sistered joint like this, but I was motivated to do it this way as the only rot on this joint was at the bottom and I did not want to damage the wood higher up in my attempts to remove it. Here is what I did...
First I took a paper pattern off of the curb side which did not have any damage. I was fortunate that this was intact. If I did not have this, I would have had to try and create a pattern off of the skin, which is not an easy task. If I was doing a skin pattern I would have done that previously when the skin was still on one of the sides. Make sure you inspect the rot carefully before pulling all your skins, so you can make any necessary patterns at that time.
After cutting out the rotted section along my "step" lines, I transfered this onto the pattern and cut a new piece of wood to attach to it.
The new pice of wood was cut out with a jig saw and fitted into place. I used a keg-jig to create a set of holes to attach the new piece to the existing framing. I also used construction adhesive between the wood and the trailer paneling and between each section of the joint I had created
You can see I have also added a cross brace in this photo (below) which shows the completed street side rot repairs. The gaping hole in the side of the trailer is where the refrigerator leaked, and rotted out that whole section of siding and framing. I have repaired the framing from the outside and will replace the rotted wall once I start on the inside.
Monday March 19th 2019, Time to finish the front.
I took the front of the trailer apart in two sections. I was trying to save the upper half of the birch around the windows. In the photo (below) there is a close up of the questionable section.
So I opened it up halfway, but it was too fragile and I did not want to have leaks down the road. So I ended up opening up the whole front from the window ledge down. Once again, lots of measurements were taken, to reproduce the original pattern.
The new sections of birch paneling were cut to size at the wood store for me, and then attached to the frame of the trailer in two pieces. The panels met in the centre of the cross bar that you can see in the previous photo. I made a careful line on there to make sure things went back exactly as they were. Once the 1/8 panels are stapled onto the frame, these cross braces (2x2) are added in the same spots as previously.
Here is a close up photo below where you can see that I have placed everything back in the original position, and where you can see the keg-jig holes around the window opening.
This is how the trailer looks on the inside with the new wood. The weird light coloured area on the left wall is a place where the original veneer was damaged, which I will deal with in the future.
Once the front was closed back in it was time to add the curbing, which is the last step in the exterior wood repair. I had boards ripped down to exact size so they would match the original.
The dark colour you see on the wood is not rot, it's just some water staining on the exterior. All rot has been cut out and replaced at this point. It is a good idea to pre-drill your screws when doing curbing as you are working along a curve and it helps to get them in straight and with ease.
You can see here the new cuts or "kerfs" as they are called that I made into the wood so it will bend along the curve. This is the front and back street sides in the following two photos. The front and rear wood repairs are now finished and closed in.
Here are a couple of shots of the trailer where you can see the completed work. We had to move the trailer to a new warehouse for me to finish it. Any dark wood that you see is simply water stained. It is not rot.
The strapping you see in the photo was simply to hold everything in place while we moved the trailer.
Starting the interior
The interior work will include stripping the old finish and reglazing it, sanding down the cabinet doors and glossing them, rewiring the lamps, laying a floor, and getting the plumbing and propane systems back in function. The first order of business was to pull out the old black tank and put in a new one. I was able to find the right size tank from Icon industries here in Manitoba. I could have left the old black tank in, but did not want to risk a leak from sewage, and the old system looked obsolete. The photo below shows the existing drain under the trailer.
I started the work on the bathroom by removing the wall between the refrigerator section and the bathroom. There was a dead space of about 4 inches, and I decided to capture this for the bathroom and add a tiny little sink for hand washing.
You can see the old tank/step in the photo.
After removing the old fiberglass tank, I dropped in the new black one and extended the floor framing into the refrigerator area. This will give good support for both the refrigerator and the area where you stand in the bathroom.
New plywood has been installed over the toilet and vent hole. Now the new wall can be built between the bathroom and fridge. The vent pipe will go up the wall.