I found a 1956 Shasta 1500 tucked away in the woods in small town, SC – about 20 miles away from where I live.
The front window, fridge, stove, and wheels were missing. I had to use temporary spare tires to get it home.
I started on this project about the middle of May by gutting the interior and repairing everything as I took it out. As far as the cabinets, what wasn’t rotten was stained and dis-colored, so after stripping off the old paint, I repaired and rebuilt what I needed to and painted everything.
I soaked all of the hinges, latches and even the old trim screws in brake fluid to release the coats of paint from them. After a few days in the fluid, they cleaned up nicely.
I rebuilt the kitchen cabinet for a dorm fridge where the stove would have gone and added more counter space. If a gas cook top is ever needed, it could still be dropped into the counter top.
The wood on the front and rear corners crumbled when I took the aluminum off. All four corners below the windows were rotten. The 1×3 “framing” was more like scabbed together nailing strips.
Keeping any of the original framing was not an option for me. I put three sheets of paneling down on my garage floor and laid the aluminum skins on them. I traced the outline and all the openings.
I did the Shasta framing in the same fashion that I did the Nomad and Torpedo…lap joints, pocket screws, biscuits, more screws and lots of glue… and they are self-supporting.
After I had both side walls framed up and everything lined up with the original framing, I took my sawzall to the old walls and started pulling the floor to work on the frame and suspension.
I put a wire brush cup on my side grinder and cleaned up the frame and axle, got a coat of primer and paint on everything and waited on my new springs, U-bolts, brakes and grease seals. I also removed the jack from the frame and took it apart to refurbish & got new ball bearing at the bicycle shop for 50 cents apiece.
I used ½” plywood without the Celotex for my floor. I replaced half of the stringers on the frame and bought all new grade 8 bolts to attach the floor to the frame. Everything got several coats of paint. I re-used the old metal from the wheel wells, but put all new wood on them. I put ¼” plywood underlayment on top so that I had a good base for the tile.
Setting the walls went pretty quickly, since I had pre-built them in my garage.
Once the walls were up and braced, I started putting in the front cabinets. I prefinished the birch plywood for the front, back and ceiling before I installed it. With the bench fronts scribed to the curvature of the side walls, the birch plywood made the bend without too much of a fight. Having the upper cabinet in place gave me some structure to bend the second piece of paneling around.
After I had 3 ceiling panels installed, I started hanging the upper kitchen cabinets and then the kitchen base cabinet went in. It went in through the back of the trailer before the rear wall was framed.
I built a new curbside cabinet because the original one had been so badly hacked up. With the ceiling panels in place, I was able to build it to fit tight to the ceiling. I made it a little shallower at 18” deep for more center isle room and added a countertop area and a spot for an A/C. I used poplar because I liked the way it stained up to match the birch plywood.
Here’s a picture of the bed framing. I built a box under the bed to support the middle of the frame. I added framing under the rear of the bed for support and to strengthen the back wall of the camper.
Falling off of a ladder (cleaning gutters) and fracturing a couple of vertebrae really slowed me down this fall (2013), but I’m back at it again. I glued the pink rigid foam insulation on and covered the camper in housewrap, taping all the joints, corners and openings with rubberized flashing. After I got the two top side pieces of aluminum back on, I was able to re-install the roof aluminum.
I had to reproduce the door threshold. I took a leftover piece of aluminum, measured, marked, and cut it. I made the bends with a rubber mallet, some clamps and an old piece of angle iron.
For my air conditioner, I decided to enclose it high up inside the wardrobe cabinet. The only visible part is the interior front (evaporator side).
The A/C sits in a drip pan and the inside of the cabinet is insulated and lined with aluminum to protect the wood. The electrical outlet is inside the cabinet. I isolated the condenser cooling air intake side from the hot exhaust side with aluminum panels to improve the air flows and prevent air mixing.
For the part that is normally outside, the condenser cooling air will come in through a vent that I cut into the roof. The hot/humid exhaust air will blow out through a louvered vent that I cut into the side of the camper.
AC update… on our first trip out, we went to Florida and ran the air conditioner pretty much non-stop for a week and had no issues what so ever.
The old Shasta has her stripes back and is prepped for paint.
For the paint, I used Valspar Rust Armor from Lowes. It’s an enamel paint like Rustoleum, but it can be tinted, so you can choose from a lot of different colors. I put two coats of color on – thinned 12% with mineral spirits – and applied it with a brush and roller, sanding between coats. Total cost – about $100 for a new paint job. The Z stripe is bare aluminum – not paint.
Here’s what the paint color looks like out in the sun.
You might notice a few things that aren’t original to a 1956 Shasta. I used a jalousie window in the front because the original one was missing. I added amber beehive marker lights to the front, front and back reflectors, an air conditioner with added vents, a door grab handle and a metal Shasta emblem, and – oh yea, wings.
My 110 volt wiring is complete. It’s all on the interior of the trailer, not inside the walls. I did it this way so that I didn’t have to notch out the 1×2 framing, I didn’t interfere with the insulation, and I didn’t take the chance of hitting it with a nail or screw after it was inaccessible. The wiring runs are mostly inside of the cabinets behind drawers or protected by false shelves.
I cut down a shower curtain pole to run the wiring from the upper kitchen cabinets down to the sink base cabinet and I used two metal surface mounted boxes with metal raceway for the wiring that I couldn’t conceal.
The circuit protection is a huge upgrade from the original ceramic fuse block (that’s the original fuse block sitting there between the outlet and the power cord).
I used a 100 amp 6 space 12 circuit Square D load center with a 30 amp main breaker and 4 – 15 amp circuits. It’s located just inside the roadside rear hatch. (picture of my under bed storage area)
Now that the wiring is finished, I can call the kitchen complete, too. The only built in appliance is the electric only dorm fridge. We carry a hot plate, an electric frying pan and a coffee pot, but we do most of the cooking outside.
It’s hard to see, but I made the backsplash out of aluminum. It goes with the aluminum air conditioner surround and the sliding doors in the dinette upper cabinet.
I used the scalloped pattern from the dinette cabinet to make a valence that hides the kitchen light and my wiring runs. I made another one to fill the empty space above the fridge.
You can see how I made the cushions here: “Dinette Cushions”
I built a screen door for it. See: “Shasta Screen Door”
We took our maiden voyage to Florida and everything worked great.
Here’s the link: “Maiden Voyage”
Here are some specifics:
Length taillight to trailer hitch: 14’ 6”
Trailer width – Outside: 78.5” Inside: 76″
Tongue weight – 240 pounds
Coupler ball size: 2”
Wheels: 15”x 5”, 5 lug on 4 ½”, Center hole = 2 5/8”
Dust cap: 1 31/32″ (1.967) threaded
Outer bearing: #09067 = .75″ id
Inner bearing: #15123 = 1.25″ id
Grease seal: National 6362 which is an obsolete part number – the “best fit” number is National 440265 or SKF 16811, NAPA 16811
Axle: 1.5” square tube