After struggling with laying out a pattern of (seemingly) randomly placed floor tiles in the Spartan Manor, I came up with this.  I think it’s a winner.  Now, waiting on the correct color red tiles (these are too pink) and I’ll get them glued down.  Then, on to paneling and cabinetry.  It’s gonna be cool.



I thought I’d be writing about having the new flooring installed in the Manor, but, the red tiles (which would be where the white ones are) we ordered turned out to be a weird shade of pinkish magenta, so, another carton of tiles was ordered and we’re waiting on those.  So, hurry up and wait.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and I can get it done this week on my days off.

Instead, I’ll talk a little about last weekends Tin Can Tourist Fall Rally in Milford, MI.  Kim and I left Wednesday about 6:30, a day earlier than we’d planned, and got there just about dark.  We had a great weekend of reuniting with old friends, hanging out, and surprisingly little looking at old trailers.  In fact, going through my photos, I took pictures of exactly two.  One, our friends Jake and Tami’s ’48 Spartan Manor, which makes me regret not having ours done, or maybe even regretting selling the ’46, hence, the work being done on ours, and the other a very rare “Holiday House”, the Holy Grail of sticks and staples late ’50’s canned hams.


Jake and Tami’s trailer was a 3 month thrash build from a gutted shell, which included the stripping of the original interior, complete new floors, running gear, custom interior, glass, insulation, wiring etc.  In other words, a total, frame up rebuild, which was completed the night before a cross-country family vacation with their two young daughters.  Jake is a high energy hot rodder, the quality of the build is incredible, and the trailer works flawlessly for them, right out of the box.  That little truck is another of Jake’s builds, his daily driver, built from swap meet parts, a thrashed S-10, and a rusty Sierra pickup that donated its heart to the project.  Nice work, Jake!

The Holiday House belongs to another friend, Dawn, who has several other vintage trailer builds under her belt, and she’s building this herself as well.  It’s an unfinished project as yet, but she’s already replaced the skin, much of the front framing and she’s now working on renovating the interior.  These trailers are unusually wide, in fact, they’re a shade over 8′, which makes them very roomy, and the panoramic windows really open up the trailer to the outdoors.  It’s a great trailer, I can’t wait to see how Dawn finishes up the interior.


We had a wedding on Friday, so missed that days fun, but we made up for it the rest of the weekend.  The highlight may have been impromptu downhill rides on Jake’s (new) blue poly waste tank, which was pressed into duty as Soapbox derby racer.  We quit sometime around midnight on Saturday, figuring that since nobody had been hurt (a miracle) and the cops hadn’t shown up, we should quit while we were ahead.

The weekend, and the camping season, came to a close when we pulled out on Monday, having spent an extra night at Camp Dearborn to watch the lunar eclipse with some of our friends.   We sadly packed up and pulled out, heading home for overdue laundry, lawn-care, bill paying, and the usual household chores we escaped for the weekend,


The trip home was smooth, until the wagon uncharacteristically sputtered and quit about 20 miles from home.  When we left Camp Dearborn, we both remembered filling the car with gas in Milford before Sunday, but we forgot about the trip across the state and back for our nieces wedding, and the car really did not have a full tank.  An embarassing call to Hagarty Insurance’s Road Service line had a tow truck with a can of gas, and we were back on the road.  Maybe figuring out why the gas gauge doesn’t work would be a good winter project?


So, all that’s left of this seasons camping and travel is winterizing the campers, tucking them in for the long winter, and getting the Spartan done for next summer so I don’t feel bad when Jake rolls up with theirs!  Stay tuned for progress on the ’47, the T’bird, the Rivi, and the ’34 (if I can squeeze it into the shop).  It’s gonna be a busy winter!

Put a big “DONE” stamp on the Spartan floor, it’s wrapped up.  I found another soft spot on the street side, ahead of the wheel well, this was replaced in the same manner as the other bad spots, and the underlayment is down, covering all the scars.It feels good to have this part of the job done, even though it’s a small part, it’s the basis on which the rest of the restoration sets.  We ordered a carton of red VCT 12×12’s to mix in with the vintage 9×9’s, I’ll cut them down to the same size.  The primary color is green/grey, with black and the red to be mixed in, probably randomly, but we’ll lay out a couple different options.

I also got the rest of the Kimsul insulation cleaned out, so it now smells like new wood and construction adhesive, not rotten old cellulose!



IMG_6062I promised my wife I wouldn’t work on the ’34 Roadster until I had the Manor done, so, in order to get that out of the way, I’ve been working on the ’47 Spartan Manor.  I’ve got it up by the garage, the interior is stripped, the old, deteriorated Kimsul insulation is (mostly) gone, and the floor repairs are done.  The original 5/8″ plywood floor was delaminated in front of both doors, and soft under the curb side rear window.  I found the drain tube plugged in that, which explains the damaged floor.

A 4×8 sheet of 3/4 exterior grade plywood was enough to do all the needed repairs.  I went to the new Menards store in Kalamazoo this morning and bought 7 sheets of 1/4″ underlayment, and 17b sheets of really pretty birch 1/4″ plywood. The underlayment will go on the original floor to give me a clean, level, smooth surface to put the vintage 9×9 asphalt floor tiles on, and the birch will do the walls and cabinets.

Looks great, it’s fun to get started on it!



A friend who lives in California emailed me the other day, inquiring whether I was OK, as he hadn’t heard from me, and hadn’t posted anything here for a while.  I assured him I’m doing fine, in fact, busier than ever, adding to the already crowded project list.  More on that in a bit.

The big news of this past summer is that Kim and I sold our ’48 Pontiac convertible.  This car has been a part of our family since 1974, before we got married.  In fact, Kim was opposed to my buying it, since we were  both in college, and a wedding was on the horizon.  Of course, I bought it anyway.



Since getting the Diamond T finished, we haven’t been driving the car, it’s been setting in the garage, sort of covered, for three years.  It’s not that we didn’t like it, but I thought it needed some changes, and having built the car three times in over 40 years, I wasn’t enthused about the thought of rebuilding it again.  Our friends Brandon and Liz, fellow Tin Can Tourists members, learned we had the car, and after some conversation and couple of visits, we agreed to sell it to them.  I put a new battery in it, dusted it off, had a sticking front brake caliper replaced, and the car left our driveway with someone else behind the wheel for the first time in 41 years.  They’ve been busy putting their own personal stamp on it, enjoying using it to pull their vintage Trotwood trailer.  We’re happy to see the car being used and loved, not slowly going to seed in the garage.


Of course, the empty space in the garage, and the sudden positive balance in the checking account was not destined to last very long.  I’d been talking about building a ’27 Highboy roadster for several years, and began now to look for a body and frame.  I talked to several friends, looked again at the beautiful little black ’27, the Frank Mack car, at the Gilmore Museum, and decided a ’27 wasn’t going to work for me in my old age.  I’d seen a ’31 on ’32 rails this summer, and thought maybe a Brookville body on ’32 rails would do, and started adding up the bits.  The totals soon added to more than I’d gotten for the convert, and was getting a little discouraged, when I saw an ad on the HAMB classifieds for a ’34 roadster, pretty complete minus the engine and transmission.  I called the owner, we had a good conversation, I told him I’d get back with him.

Discussing it with Kim, her concern was that I’d suddenly switched gears from the ’27 she’d been hearing (incessantly) about, to this new idea, a bigger, heavier, open car.  I assured her it’d be more suitable for us at this stage in our lives (the stage of needing to be relatively comfortable).  She gave a green light, I called the guy in Connecticut, Bill, back, we made a deal and two days later, by dad Rex, 91 years old, and I were in the Diamond T with the trailer tagging along, on the way to get a roadster.

We drove the 802 miles in one day, leaving at 6 am, arriving at Bill’s house at 10 pm.  Steady construction although Pennsylvania and New York slowed us, but we had no trouble at all.  The next morning we looked over the parts and pieces of the disassembled car, and I was happy with what I saw.  It had been a finished car in the 70’s and 80’s, running a blown flathead, and was featured in Street Rodder magazine in ’83.  Of course I have this issue, and even remembered the feature once I saw the car.  Now wearing a quickie coat of black swap-meet primer over the original burgundy paint, it still has the original lettering “Flying Flathead” on the tail pan.  IMG_6952

imageIncluded in the pile of parts are the original top and upholstery.  The flathead and original chassis are long missing, the cars builder had decided he wanted a coupe, and pulled the glass body, an early Gibbons body I think, and sold it.  Bill had bought it after it changed hands a couple of times, built a new frame, accumulated all the chassis parts to make it a roller, and for some reason, perhaps because like me has three other projects going already, offered it for sale.

Dad and I took two days to drive home after loading (almost) all the parts into the enclosed trailer.  We stopped halfway in Pennsylvania, and headed out early the next day, getting home at 2:30.  I was a little worried about the long drive in the cramped cab of the truck, but dad enjoyed the drive, and even though he’s never been a “car guy” seems enthusiastic and supportive of the project.  He remembers ’34 Fords as being sporty looking cars of his youth, so that may be part of it.

imageTwo weeks later, I haven’t yet unloaded, or even fully inventoried what all I have, mainly because I know if I get it out of the trailer, I’ll be drawn to work on it rather than the T’bird and the Spartan trailer, so, it’s still in the trailer.  I’m excited though, and have located a 700R transmission for the (tired) 350 Chevy I have in the garage, decorated with vintage Cal Custom finned aluminum valve covers and an Offy dual quad intake with two new Edelbrock carbs.  Aside from wiring, I have, I think, everything I need to put the car together.  The dropped front axle we’d left under Bill’s bench, I remembered it in the middle of the night on the way home, he shipped to me.  We’d kicked it out of the way rolling the body and chassis out.

image image IMG_6928
In other news, I’ve started stripping the interior of the ’47 Spartan Manor in the back yard.  From Brandon and Liz we have some vintage 9×9 floor tiles in a nice gray/green, and some black and red to sprinkle in at random.  I want to get the floor repaired, there a couple of soft spots under windows in the rear, and flooring down before cold weather.  Once the floor is in, and the new front windows in, the trailer becomes its own workshop, and the goal is to have the wiring, plumbing, walls and cabinetry in by spring.  Once that’s done, finishing the interior and polishing can be done by next summers camping season.

We had the boat out this summer, and found its leaking so badly that the pumps can no longer keep up.  In fact, in a two-day period in the water without being used, the battery had run down and it wouldn’t start.  Underway, the rear pump was overwhelmed, and water filled the bilge to the floor.  The problem turns out to be a loose rudder post, due to decades of over tightening the bolts and pulling them into the wood, and a bad chine plank, which I’d short planked 26 years ago.  It’s so soft I could push my finger through it (I could, but didn’t).  So, it needs to have a new bottom, which is going to have to wait until other things get done.IMG_6951

Speaking of getting things done, I finally have primer on the Thunderbird.  I had planned on having it in color by now, but summer came and went working on the car at all.  It really looks good all one color, even grey primer, and I’m enthused again.  Now the tedious job of block sanding, re-priming, blocking, guide coating, re-priming before color goes on.  And, what colors to pick?  We’ll see, we’ll see…eblackdesign_1_13 IMG_6953 IMG_6954Kim’s Riviera may be on hiatus, but we have big plans for it as too, so, keep checking in, and keep reminding me to keep up with the blog so you’ll know I’m OK!

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Last night I drove the Diamond T out to the State Park to have dinner with my wife (we’re camping, it’s a “working” holiday, so I was only going for dinner, having to work today).  When I left the house, something in the front of the Diamond T made a “clunk” noise, but I was backing over the edge of the garage’s cement pad and didn’t think much of it at the time, and drove to the campground with out a care.

We got in the truck to go to a local pub, when I backed up to leave our campsite, that same “clunk”, but again, rough ground, bumpy, turning, no worries.

We got to the rangers station and Kim said, “I smell anti-freeze”.  I had just noticed it too, and looked at the temp gauge which was about 260.

Not good.

I went to turn into a small parking area, and the steering wheel turned almost 3/4 of a turn before anything meaningful really happened.
“This is BAD”, I said as we finally turned in and stopped.

Getting out and looking under revealed a waterfall of coolant from the radiator, and the steering idler had come apart, letting the center link drop down and forward, hitting the bottom tank of the radiator, punching a hole in the plastic tank.  It would steer going forward, so we made a big U turn in the parking lot and got back to the main visitors lot.  I called Hagarety Insurance’s road service number, and soon a roll back was loading my prized possession up and hauling it home.

There’s a new radiator in the garage already, and I’ll have to pull the grill shell to swap the radiator, but it could have been worse. Nobody hurt, the truck isn’t bent, and I learned to tighten all the bolts in the steering…

imageYou’ll recall last weeks adventure retrieving the Spartanette trailer, and that under the mess and debris, the better if looked, and smelled.  After three days of scrubbing, bleaching, throwing out more and more stuff, I finally got to the trailers “bones”, and it was amazingly good.  So good, I was tempted to keep it.  We have some family property up north, and have talked for some time about getting a large vintage trailer to park in the big pines next to a beautiful little pond.  As tempting as this was,  one more project didn’t seem like good idea.   Kim and I agreed we’d both be worried about leaving a classic trailer unattended for fear of vandalism or theft.  Besides, for what we’d spend restoring this Spartanette, we could have a site cleared, electric brought in and drive a shallow well, and take the Manor up.

So I mentioned it on the Tin Can Tourists Facebook page.

i was inundated with responses, and a fellow TCT member from Indiana bought it. I had a friend from high school and fellow hot rodder and trailer enthusiast standing in the driveway looking at and drooling while I sealed the deal on the phone, and a list of people who said they wanted it if either of those folks passed.  That’s the way to sell something!

It ultimately cleaned up very well, with only very minor work needed.  The paneling is BEAUTIFUL, no water damage under any of the windows, the varnish still gleams.  No rot, the only damage anywhere is the cabinet above the sink and a ceiling panel where water leaked in through holes in the skin from an awning rail long removed.  The ceiling will be easy, the joist is not rotted, just a firing strip attached to it that the paneling attaches to (the seam and the joist didn’t line up, so it was had a firing strip added to meet the paneling seam) and the paneling can even be saved.  The cabinet repair will be a little challenging, but there’s enough left of the beautiful curved front to cut the bad off, put a new flat bottom piece on a narrow trim strip.  It’ll look like it was supposed to be that way.  We kept the Dixie stove and fridge, replaced the fridge with a great but smaller Marvel that I kept beer in, and the Dixie stove that had been damaged in transport here breaking all the knobs.  I left the cool, and very rare Bargman  door latches and handles (even though we need them for our Manor), the beautiful glass tail light lenses and stainless bezels, and the two marker lights that were still on it when we got home from Ionia.  I figured those items would be needed by a new owner to make the trailer worth restoring.   Our friend Mike at Sierra Custom Interiors is going to have the fridge converted to an RV gas/electric unit, so we got we want and the trailer is going to get the restoration it deserves.

Everybody wins!


Time capsule cupboard.

Time capsule cupboard.

Cool Dixie stove.

Cool Dixie stove.

Frigidaire fridge by GM to be converted RV gas/electric unit.

Frigidaire fridge by GM to be converted RV gas/electric unit.

I hated to leave these Bargman handles and latches, they're made of unobtainium.

I hated to leave these Bargman handles and latches, they’re made of unobtainium.