The Gory Details:
My first camper – a 1969 Nomad. I bought it in 2006 before I’d ever looked at a camper forum or even knew what vintage was. When I got it home, I put it in the barn and thought that I’d clean it up a little and definitely change out the curtains.
The more I cleaned, the worse it got – until I had cleaned it up all the way down to the frame.
I had enough sense to keep the door and windows and a few other things, but I hauled the majority of the old camper off to the dump. I thought that I knew for a fact that I’d never have any use for a red stove, hood and fridge, so off to the dump they went. The aluminum siding and roof – off to the dump with that, too. I mean, they used to put aluminum siding on houses, how expensive could it be to re-side a little camper? Today’s lesson: keep everything – I sure would like to have that red stove, fridge and range hood back.
So, the demolition phase was over. That didn’t take long and didn’t cost a lot; at least not on the front end. I cut the bumper off and gave the frame a good cleaning and painted it with some left-over Rustoleum. While I was at it, I cleaned and painted the axle and rebuilt the suspension. The hubs and drums were in good re-usable condition, but since I wasn’t familiar with trailer brakes, I replaced them with new ones from Dexter.
I rebuilt the floor in a similar manner that it had been done originally, except that I used half lap joints instead of butt joints and I used 1.5” of insulation to fill the voids instead of the tissue paper thin insulation. The top deck has ½” plywood on it and the underside is covered in a product called ThermoPly. They had overlapped the underbelly sheeting; I joined it at the framing and sealed it with rubber weatherproofing tape. I also primed and painted the perimeter edges and the wheel wells.
The wall framing went pretty quickly, also. I didn’t have the original aluminum to re-use so I wasn’t obligated to rebuild to the original shape.
The original wall framing used 2×2’s, but they had been notched for wire runs, so they had a built in weak spot making them no better than 1×2’s.They used butt joints with a nail or two at the joints. It seemed flimsy for something that was going to be bouncing down the highway.
I rebuilt the walls using lap joints, tennons, glue and screws and then I glued and stapled the birch plywood to the framing. It’s a pretty sturdy unit and well insulated with 1 ½” of isocyanurate foam insulation.
One day, I found a 1947 (un-restorable) Spartan carcass on Craigslist and decided to re-skin the Nomad with it. I did buy new aluminum for the top, front and back.
I cut the aluminum off of the Spartan with a grinder and tried to keep the sheets as large and fully intact as possible. The Spartan was riveted construction, but I was attaching it to wood framing, so I used stainless steel nails and screws. I put aluminum drip edge (like you put at on the roof to kick the water away from your fascia) at the bottom of my framing so that water wouldn’t migrate up onto the floor or framing and then attached my bottom sheet of aluminum. I was able to have only one horizontal overlap joint that I sealed and screwed – using the same layout for the screws that Spartan had used for the rivets – that was a lot of screws. Each screw got a shot of Parrbond sealant in the hole before the screw went in. At the front, back and roof seams, I tabbed and bent the aluminum over before attaching it. When the front, rear and roof aluminum went on, it was bent over the sidewalls and the gutter rail was put over that… so it has a double overlap with trim over the joint.
Once the aluminum was on, I was good to go on finishing the interior. I didn’t put in any gas appliances, so I didn’t run any gas lines on the camper. I didn’t put in any 12 volt service either, but the 110 volt electrical is all new with a 30 amp main breaker and 3 – 15 amp breakers that are arc fault and ground fault protected. The plumbing is super simple with a fresh water inlet and drain outlet located under the trailer.
May 19th 2015 update: I put the Nomad on craigslist and it sold on day two. I hated to see it go, but it has gone to a good home in Charleston, SC and it’ll get a lot more use.
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