So, you want to own a classic travel trailer?

Our rebuilt, newly painted Scotty after several years languishing in our garage.

So, you want to get a classic travel trailer? Challenges on the way to a successful rebuild…

Our Scotty, towing it home from Riverside five years ago.

Owners of classic travel trailers, when asked “why?”, give these answers. “We wanted a small trailer easy to store, tow and that offers good gas mileage”. “We aged out of tent camping and wanted more comfort”. “We’ve seen these classic trailers on the road, love the retro look and thought they would be a good investment”. Or, “I wanted a project where I could build out a classic trailer to my own tastes”.

For us, it was a combination of most of those, and we already had owned two classic teardrop trailers. But we wanted a somewhat larger trailer, with standup room, interior sink and stove, a larger bed, small dinette and room for a PortaPottie – none of which were offered in tiny teardrop trailers.

Hence, a few years ago I found a 64 Serro Scotty trailer advertised in Southern California, just $1500. Scotties are classic, small trailers with almost a cult following, meeting those criteria above – and this was a good price for a decent old trailer. My trip to Riverside revealed an all-original Scotty, with some dry-rot in the back end. I negotiated to pay only $900, thinking I had found a steal requiring only a bit of repair and new paint to make a cool little camper.

After removing the aluminum skins, extent to dry-rot is fully revealed. Yikes!

To my consternation, deeper inspection upon returning to Stockton revealed a trailer with considerable more dry-rot hidden behind its aluminum skin. Probing its bones, I discovered a trailer that needed a total rebuild (Scotties were notorious for roof leaks over the years, leading to dry-rot). So, over the last several years, that’s what I, my spouse and several friends have done.

When the decision is made to do a frame-up rebuild, and after getting past the feeling “what have I gotten myself into”, my first resource was the National Serro Scotty trailer website, nationalserroscotty.org. It’s full of photographic rebuilds, how-tos and tons of resources for new and used parts. The organization also offers a network of fellow owners across the US and Canada happy to share insights and tips.

Deconstruction of an old trailer goes pretty quickly. We saved the aluminum skins, as well as the plywood sides and ceiling panels for templates and began to acquire replacement interior items. That included new Atwood stove, new small sink, interior and exterior LED lights, new custom foam for the back gaucho/bed, new dinette seat cushions, linoleum for the floor, Formica for the countertops and table top and lots of plywood, lumber, electrical components and miscellaneous hardware.

Author, sanding the trailer frame, prior to undercoating it. Dirty work.

Along the way, my spouse and I had constant bouts of despair. She had a hard time believing the dry-rotted hulk of a trailer could be made new, functional and cute. I had constant concerns that I was in over my head as to skills and energy required. Happily, with the help of Tom and Gary, two friends with marvelous woodworking and electrical skills, Susan’s decorating skills and about 800 total hours, we’ve accomplished all that.

If you’re interested, cost of the trailer and rebuild will total about $4,500. If we ever want to resell it, it’s probably worth about $7,500. To do it again, I’d look harder for a fully reconditioned trailer, rather than tackle the work myself.

End result is a cute, classic and comfortable trailer that I can tow to Yosemite and Pinnacles National Parks next week (and get about 22 miles per gallon behind my wife’s Ford Escape tow vehicle). We’re saving a bottle of champagne for our first night in our new/old little trailer, after a celebratory dinner in the Grand Yosemite Hotel!

New center cabinetry sports small sink, two-burner stove and microwave in ceiling cabinet.

You can find small classic trailers on sites like e-Bay and Craigslist; popular out west are Shasta, Scamp, Boler, Little Caesar, Corvette, Scotty and Airstream trailers. They range in size from about 13 to 25 feet in length, and a good reconditioned trailer can set you back anywhere from $7,000 to about $20,000 depending upon make and model. Bought wisely and well cared for, one can recoup the investment years later, perhaps seeing some appreciation in value. With any of these classic trailers, you’ll be snug in campgrounds, get good gas mileage getting there and be the toast of the campground!

View of front of trailer shows dinette, sitting four adults (snugly) and converts to a single bed at night.

For more information: On specific trailers, search classic trailer group’s web sites or Facebook groups; for classic trailers, go to Tin Can Tourists, tincantourists.com, for Serro Scotty Trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. For camping options on Federal or State properties, reserveamerica.com or recreation.gov.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. See you on the road!

View to the rear; in rebuilding, we stole six inches off the center cabinets and expanded the rear gaucho couch/bed to a full sized double bed. Luxury, compared to our prior teardrop trailers!

This entry was posted in Central California, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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  • Blog Author

    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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