Vintage Camper Renovation | These 5 Brands Are Worth Your Effort
Are you considering a vintage camper renovation? If so, today we’re sharing five brands that are worth your time and energy.
Whether renovating is a passion project or a money maker, choosing the right make and model is essential.
We’ve renovated two different campers – a 1985 Fiber Stream and a 1979 Airstream Argosy. Both had uniquely different challenges. Parts availability, initial cost, resale value and online resources are important issues to consider.
Let’s dive in!
You probably knew this already. Vintage Airstreams command a high price! This is good and bad. It means you’ll be able to sell your renovated Airstream for a pretty penny. However, even the guts are expensive.
Speaking of the guts. Airstreams are 90% aluminum. They can last generations. You may need to replace the floor, piping and wires – but the shell can be brought back to life.
It’s also very easy to find vintage Airstream parts. But, like all things Airstream, the parts are expensive.
Lastly, you can find ample online resources for any part of the renovation process. Airstream Forums is a great place to start.
Burro’s are pint size, molded fiberglass trailers. These single axle units are extremely light weight.
According to Tin Can Tourist, “Burro Travel Trailers were manufactured in Iowa from 1978 to 1986 and in California from 1998 to 2001. They are no longer in business, although the website remains accessible.”
There are two big advantages to renovating a Burro.
The fiberglass shell can stand the test of time, is easy to paint and keeps rotting wood to a minimum.
Secondly, a renovated, small fiberglass camper can be sold for a premium price. So many outdoor enthusiasts want small, functional units (with style).
If you can find a gutted Burro, you should be able to buy it for a good price and flip it for a profit.
Scotty camper trailers are pretty iconic. The “canned ham” exterior style is classic 1960s.
Price is the biggest benefit when renovating a Scotty. You can usually buy an old, beat up unit for next-to-nothing. The problem…you’ll probably find rot everywhere.
Fear not though. Rebuilding the wall framing is pretty easy and inexpensive, albeit time consuming.
The exterior skins hold up well over time and can be brought back to life by polishing or painting.
Spartans, like Airstream, are made primarily of aluminum. They have huge, trademark front windows and lots of shine.
However, Spartans are notoriously large. This can be an issue when towing. In our opinion, if you renovate a Spartan, it would be best used as a stationary AirBnB rental.
In 1959, when the company shut down, the largest trailer they manufactured was 10 feet wide by 50 feet long.
Finding parts can be a challenge. Quite often you can use Airstream parts as substitutions.
5. Volkswagen Westfalia
Normally we wouldn’t recommend buying a camper with a vintage engine. However, Volkswagens are just too cool! Additionally, the engines are relatively easy to work on and find parts for.
Volkswagen Westfalias retain their value well. While it might be expensive to buy an old, used one…a renovated camper van can be sold for a premium.
Go West says, “if you already own a Vanagon and want it to be reliable and safe, you need to budget at least $30K to have it thoroughly gone through by a shop that understands these vehicles and approaches the task with a holistic, system-based mindset. If you don’t already own one, you need to add that to the cost of the model you desire, which can vary from $0 to $30K, depending on the year and model.”
The Best FREE Camping in the USA
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you haven’t tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.
The later Vanagon Westphalia van campers had a terrible water jacketed “H”-4 engine. Most failed due to use of non-compatible coolant, leading to loss of coolant. VW parts and CARB approval have existed for a decade to replace these engines with in line 4 motors from the Golf series. VW stopped supporting the WasserBoxer engine years ago, and stopped selling this motor in all markets other than the US market after 2 years. Conversion is relatively easy using the mounting parts for the diesel engine offered. Cost: about $5K to replace the motor. Benefits: 20% more power, 20% better fuel economy, double or triple the engine life. Bruce Parker [More information should you be interested.]
We have 2 Spartan trailers and have totally renovated both to original. We boondock in our 1951 36 ft. Royal Spartenette and tow with our 1980 Dodge. Interior is all Birchwood, no plastic. Spartans are very rare as they were the best trailers available and I believe Airstream bought the company in the 60’s . They are made of aircraft aluminum by the Spartan aircraft company contracted by John Paul Getty after he quit making planes for WWII. They only made a few thousand a year compared to thousands made by other companies. We love our Spartan we named Honey because the Birchwood interior glows like honey.