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DIY Vintage Hardside Travel Trailer
Build a Home of a Thousand Addresses

Photo and cutaway diagram of a vintage hardsided travel trailer built from vintage 1947 plans
DIY Vintage Travel Trailer Plans
Build this Vintage 
Camping Trailer
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Home built 1947 travel trailer with bathroom.
All facilities for housekeeping are built into this trailer, which is 7 1/2 by 17 by 6 ft. 4 in. inside and sleeps four comfortably. Any car will easily tow it and an all-steel chassis and rugged framework permit it to roll along safely over the roughest roads.

By Hi Sibley

SHORT enough to park easily and take through any kind of traffic, the house trailer in Fig. 1 will take care of four comfortably whether it be a weekend trip,a vacation or an extended tour of the country. Neat appearance and a compact yet roomy interior have been obtained without difficult compound curves or complicated carpentry - just a strong framework set on a welded, all-steel chassis of angle iron, Fig. 10.

Cutaway illustration of the interior and exterior of a DIY travel trailer.
 Before starting work on the chassis or frame, you should acquire all inside equipment, Fig. 2, and then build the structure to fit, retaining overall outside dimensions.
Illustration of a vintage travel trailer on a beach.
Illustration of a vintage travel trailer on a lake in the mountains.
Illustration of a vintage travel trailer on the bank a forest stream.
The bill of materials, Fig. 5, lists major items.

Dimensions are given in Figs. 3 and 4. Angle beams 1/4 by 2 in. are welded crosswise under the main frame, which is a 3-in. steel channel having a plate welded to the open side to form a strong box beam as indicated in Sec. B-B, Fig. 4. Forward ends are brought together in a vee and further strengthened with two 1 1/4-in. angle irons and a triangular plate, which is welded across the end. Mountings for the spring shackles are welded to the angle beams, which also are boxed for a length of 18 in. by welding on a second angle as indicated in detail A of Fig. 4. Ten-leaf springs 1/4 by 1 3/4 by 34 in. are used. When tightening the bolts in the spring eyes draw up the nuts snugly and then release them half a turn. This will prevent them from binding.

Next come the floor joists, which are 2 by 3-in. stock set on edge to be the same height as the steel main frame. They are bolted to the cross beams as in Sec. B-B, and the heads countersunk. Several makes of axles will be suitable. The one used in the original trailer was tubular with a 2-in. drop. Type of brakes used is a matter of choice but they should be installed according the manufacturer's recommendations. However, if electric brakes are used, anchor the cable along the axle as well as the frame with steel clips welded on as in Fig. 6.
Blueprints of the coach and chassis of a 17 foot vintage 1947 DIY travel trailer.
The three floor joists are indicated by dot-dash lines in Fig. 4. Note that one joist is off center 48 in. from the left side to permit using a full-width plywood panel here. The plywood floor, which is 3/4 in. thick, is glued to the joists and further secured with countersunk screws. Both ends of the floor extend beyond the joists, making a total of 17 ft. 1 in. This is to fill 1/2-in. gaps in the ends caused by channel iron framing.
Bill of materials for a vintage build it yourself travel trailer.
Connecting the electric brakes on a vintage travel trailer.
All of the wooden framing is 2 by 2-in. stock, S4S (surfaced all four sides), and every joint is glued.

Before starting the frame, the windows, vent and door should be obtained so that suitable openings can be allowed. End windows are identical and the four in the sides
Frame construction details for a 17 foot travel trailer.
are of the same size, 18 by 24 in. Dimensions for the left and right sides of the framing are shown in Fig. 3.

Welding a vintage travel trailer chassis.
Dimensions for the front and rear are given in Fig. 9. Cross members of the window openings are glued and screwed with 1/4 by 4-in. lag screws. Other horizontal members are glued and toenailed where necessary. They are located so that a 4-ft. panel of tempered, hard-pressed board will meet on the center line. All studs are bolted at the bottom to the floor joists and at the top through the channel frame previously installed.
Completed frame of a 17 foot DIY travel trailer.
Horizontal members are then placed. Note the blocking on top and bottom of the channel frame. This is to serve as nailing strips for the plywood walls on the inside and hard-pressed board on the outside of the double walls as well as the roof. Blocking for the curved upper corners is band sawed from 2-in. material. Fig. 11 shows this blocking in place.
Installing the exterior skin on a travel trailer.
The door frame is rabbeted 1/2 in. as indicated in Sec. A-A, Fig. 3. Along the bottom of the sides, blocking is installed between studs where shown: between some of them the nailing piece must set on top of the angle beam, Fig. 7.

Curved nailing pieces are installed in the wheel wells to hold the upper flange of the fenders, which are of galvanized sheet iron, the lower edges being bent to form a flange as well as an extension, which comes below the floor to carry off water. There also is a flange on the outside curved section. Fig. 8 shows the completed fender.

Four jacks are hung on brackets welded to the chassis and when not in use swing up and are screwed against a hanger.
Templates with dimensions for the exterior skin panels for a vintage camping trailer.
From now on, with the trailer framing done, construction begins to go along much faster. For outside sheathing 1/8-in. hard pressed board was used on the original trailer, but if this is not available, 1/4-in. waterproof plywood is a satisfactory substitute.

Stainless steel dividing strips first are installed on the studs where the panels will join, also at the roof joints, Figs. 12 and 13. Install moldings as in the sectional views, Fig. 13.

Apply casein glue to all contacting surfaces of the wood framing and begin installation with the bottom panels. fastening with 1-in. No. 7 nickel plated oval head screws run down over flush faced washers. Screws should be spaced 6 to 8 in. apart, depending on the location. Both ends of the trailer are paneled alike except that on the forward end the material is cut away to admit the steel drawbar frame. Metal bearing plates are attached over the frame members with heavy screws as shown in the front view, Fig. 13.
Installing the corner moulding on a vintage travel trailer.
On the roof. calking compound is applied liberally to the dividing strips as well as over the oval head screws and washers. Panels are cut and fitted as in the top view, Fig. 13. At the curved ends the material should be bent down gradually, screws beingdriven in on both sides as the bending proceeds. After the roof has been applied, stainless steel corner strips are installed as in Fig. 14.

All metal sash and frames fitted with screens are used. This type of window is shown in Fig. 15. Side windows are the same size, 18 by 24 in., but those on the ends are 18 by 33 in. Before the windows are permanently installed it's a good idea to do the paint job. Color combinations are a matter of choice, of course, but blue and light gray make a pleasing two-tone job. On the original trailer body, the blue was masked at the window
Installing a window in a vintage DIY travel trailer.
sills all around and the balance, including the roof, was made a light gray. Use a top-grade outdoor enamel and apply with a spray gun as in Fig. 16. Wheel disks, chassis and the sash and frames are black.

Before installing inside paneling, the trailer should be wired as in Fig. 18. If you are not experienced in this work, have it done by a licensed electrician. Wiring diagram is given in Fig. 17. Note that all cables are carried under the floor, as the channel frame does not permit going over the ceiling.
Painting a vintage travel trailer.
When 110-volt current is unavailable for illumination, it is possible to use 6-volt current from the car battery. To do this, substitute 6-volt bulbs for the 110-volt ones. These are available with bases that will fit the regular 110-volt sockets. Then provide some means of connecting an extension cord to the car battery or circuit and plug it into the 110-volt circuit. Don't forget to change bulbs before using 110-volt current. If an electric refrigerator is to be used, wiring must be calculated accordingly.
AC and DC wiring diagram for a vintage home build travel trailer.
After the wiring is completed and tested, the job is ready for the insulation of walls and ceiling. Automotive insulating material of the quilted type is cut to fit snugly in the spaces between framing, Fig. 19. Tacks hold the edges in place so that they do not lap over the frame pieces.
Installing 110 VAC wiring in a vintage travel trailer prior to installing the interior panels.
A ready-made ventilator is reasonable in cost and easy to install. Simply spread calking compound around the edges of the opening and screw the flanges of the frame down on top of the roof. Edges of the lid or cover come well down over the frame to prevent rain or dust from being blown in. The ventilator is fitted with a copper screen and an operating mechanism consisting of a worm gear and crank.
Insulating the walls and ceiling of a travel trailer.
Birch plywood, 1/4-in. thick, makes the finest interior paneling, but fir plywood of the same thickness can be used. Before installing, locate nailing strips on the ceiling and walls as shown in Fig. 9. These are especially important in the curved sections of the ceiling. Begin with the ceiling paneling first, the panels being cut as in Fig. 20. Note that the curved panels come down to the top of the windows and are notched at the ends to allow the center to come down flush with the sides of the windows as in the end view, Fig. 20.
Templates with dimensions for the plywood interior panels for a travel trailer.
The grain should run horizontally on these pieces. Layout of panels for the left wall is shown in Fig. 20.

On this side cut out for the electric outlets and the cable which comes through the wall over the sink. On the right wall cut out the paneling for two lights flanking the door and one light and an outlet near the rear window. Joints on the interior walls and ceiling are covered with 1/4 by 1-in. hardwood strips.
Rear view of a travel trailer showing the brake, running and clearance lights.
The door is of double-wall construction with insulation between as in Fig. 22. The inside is covered with 1/4-in. plywood and the outside with 1/8-in. hard pressed board edged with a molding to match the wall.
Detailed plans with dimensions for a travel trailer exterior door.
An auto-type door catch and handle is installed on the center cross member.
The glass panel is set between the outside paneling and the inside molding and the joint is filled with calking compound. A drip molding is installed above the door and molding is nailed to the jamb on the inside as in the horizontal cross section.
To finish up, semicircular pieces of hard-pressed board, Fig. 20, are screwed over the wheel wells. Fig. 21 shows a rear view of the finished trailer with lights, windows and wheel covers in place.

Numerous built-in features to make this trailer livable include a stove, a kitchenette with sink, icebox and wall cabinets, and a wardrobe and toilet.
Floor plan with dimensions for a vintage 17 foot travel trailer.
A dining nook at the front folds into a bed for two and a studio couch at the rear serves as a settee and sleeps two comfortably.

After completing the trailer proper, you are ready for the various built-in features which make it livable.

Arrangements are shown in the floor plan, Fig. 22 and Fig. 2, the forward end serving as a dining room, and the rear end as a bedroom with a studio couch that folds out to make a double bed. In between, on the right side, are a toilet and wardrobe, and on the left side akitchenette, complete with four-burner bottled-gas range, a sink with cabinets below and cupboards above, and an icebox under the forward end.
Details for a travel trailer sink and drain installation.
The gas tank is mounted on the frame extension forward, outside the living quarters. Under no circumstances is it permissible to locate the tank inside, and in installing the gas line great care should be taken so that the copper tubing is not kinked with the hazard of cracking, and as few connections made as possible. Use the proper type of regulator for the tank you select and run as much of the gas line as possible under the floor.

Installation of the tank used in the original trailer is shown in Fig. 22, the legs being bolted to the angles across the V of the frame extension. General layout of the left side of the trailer is shown in Fig. 27 with the kitchenette dimensions given in full. Further construction details on the kitchenette are given in Fig. 24.

An exceptionally long drainboard is provided and, with the range at one side at the end, this will be found more convenient than in the average house trailer. Throughout, the kitchenette unit has been built and finished with exceptional care.
Side view of the completed Home of a Thousand Addresses travel trailer.
Cupboard doors, being built of two panels of plywood glued together, will not warp, and the back wall is cleaned easily, being of imitation tile. This attractive material is secured to the plywood by daubing on tile cement every four inches and pressing the tileboard against it. The same type of stainless-steel molding as used on the vertical joints outside is used on joints of the tileboard.
Construction details and layout of a travel trailer kitchen.
A fluorescent light unit is installed just above the sink to cast a pleasing glow over the entire work surface. The latter is covered with 30-lb. felt, Fig. 25, and special drainboard linoleum, Fig. 26, and bound with stainless steel molding. A narrow strip of the linoleum is installed along the front and end of the drainboard, and bordered with molding.
Installing travel trailer countertops.
Details of sink installation are given in Fig. 23. First the sink is set in the opening cut in the plywood top and the felt laid up to the edges of it in cement. Next a stainless-steel strip with rolled edge is lapped over the rim of the sink and nailed in place.
Completed kitchen with icebox in a vintage travel trailer.
The corners are cut at 45 deg. Then the linoleum is cut to fit right up to the roll of the metal strip and cemented to the felt, after which edges are bound with stainless steel molding. Note that the rolled edge molding is laid in mastic to render a watertight joint.
For drainboard use, select a linoleum that does not have a burlap backing.

Such material is undesirable because if any water seeps under it, each burlap strand serves as a wick to carry the moisture all through the fabric by capillary attraction.

The water system is illustrated in Fig. 23, and is connected to the local supply through copper tubing. The builder carries extra tubing for this purpose. It can be disconnected when on the road. The drainage is carried out through garden hose, and when parked for an extended time a hole is dug in the ground and a drain tile set in it for a miniature cesspool.
Left side elevation view of a vintage 17 foot travel trailer.
Arrangement of the icebox drain is also given, the small amount of waste water merely dripping onto the ground below the trailer. Arrangement of the right-hand side of the trailer is shown in Figs. 31 and 32. Much of the partition work can be built of 1/4-in. plywood left over from paneling the inside, and reinforced with battens at top and bottom and in corners. In this case 3/4 by 1 1/4-in. pieces were used, with quarter-round molding on the floor and ceiling. Incidentally, joints of plywood on interior walls are concealed with 1/4 by 1-in. strips.
Plans with dimensions for a travel trailer dinette.
The chemical toilet is a trim enameled one with a "tank" for charcoal to absorb odors, and sets over one end of the wheel housing. It requires no installation beyond screwing to the floor.

A shelf and clothes pole are provided for the wardrobe adjoining the toilet Note that the wardrobe is built over most of the wheel housing, which does not interfere with garments hung there.
Vintage travel trailer dinette folded to make a bed.
Travel trailer dinette table set for dinner.
Wardrobe and toilet doors are identical, except that the latter has a handle on each side. Both are equipped with friction catches. The doors are made from a single panel of 3/8-in. plywood with battens of scrap 1/4-in. plywood on the inside, secured with casein glue and small screws, Fig. 32. They are hung on offset hinges.
Right side elevation view of a vintage 17 foot travel trailer.
The folding table with Pullman-type seats, Fig. 30, will comfortably accommodate four adults and is within easy serving distance of the kitchenette. Framing of the seats is built as indicated in Fig. 28. The folding table is made to drop down between the Pullman seats, the cushions of which are laid over it to form an extra bed, Fig. 29. The top is built of 1/4-in. plywood over a frame of 3/4 by 2-in. material. The corner near the icebox, detail A, is rounded to permit easier access to the seat. The under frame around the curve is scroll sawed. Two angle brackets in sockets support the table on the forward wall, and a folding leg Is provided at the other end, fitting in a floor socket or slot, detail B. To make a bed, the top is simply lifted out of the end supports and the leg folded under and then. placed on cleats on the fronts of the Pullman seats.
Construction details for the wardrobe and toilet room of a vintage travel trailer.
A dresser, Fig. 33, is built against the wall just back of the stove. At the right a panel door opens into a shallow compartment for general storage, and also gives access to the gas line into the stove.

On the left are two drawers and a door hinged at the bottom for a soiled laundry compartment. This is deeper than the right-side compartment, extending back under the sink drainboard and over one end of the wheel housing.

Drawers are made in the conventional manner and are fitted with plastic handles, as are all other drawers and doors inside the trailer. The medicine chest is a standard item with glass shelves and a mirror on the door. It is installed flush with the wall, and is flanked with small shelves as illustrated.
Construction details of a bathroom vanity of a vintage travel trailer.
In the final finishing of the interior, see that all joints are covered with battens. In the original, 1/4 by 1-in. strips were used, and in the upper curved corners 1/4-in. plywood with the exposed grain crosswise was used, allowing bending to that radius.

Standard venetian blinds manufactured for trailer use are hung over all the windows and, with the natural finish of the wood, give a very pleasing effect. A manufactured doorstep is a convenience, as it folds up and slides back under the body when traveling.
Illustration of a women using a travel trailer vanity.
Many owners provide their trailers with pressure water systems independent of any outside source in a camp, thus enabling them to have water available regardless of where they park. Usually, this is done by installing a tank either under the trailer or someplace inside it and then providing fittings so it can be filled from outside the trailer and pressure applied with a tire pump or an air hose. Connections can be provided at the sink to use either the tank or an outside source of water supply.

For sake of safety, obtain the best hitch possible and acquaint yourself with and obey all laws pertaining to trailers in states in which you intend to use yours.

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