We picked up a new Airstream project trailer yesterday. We’ve been down this road before, of course; the 1963 GlobeTrotter we retrieved from Tacoma, Washington in 2003 was an excuse for Melissa and I to bond after a tough year in our marriage. At that point I hadn’t learned much about the process of taking these apart and rebuilding them, and when it began to feel like we were in over our heads, we cheerfully sold it (for a profit, I might add) in order to buy our next trailer.
The second was of course our beautiful current GlobeTrotter: a 1962 time capsule that is almost too original, if that’s possible. We found ourselves hesitating to change anything inside, and after a very cozy five weeks traveling to California and back in 2009, we decided a 16 foot body probably isn’t the best solution for two adults and a pair of 75 lb. dogs. Even if it was a couple hundred pounds more, we theorized, a full time bedroom and more space for the greyhounds to stretch out in was worth it.
Which brings us to our newest baby; a 1954 Safari in great shape, discovered last weekend on northern Michigan’s Craigslist after we decided to really begin looking back around Easter. Typically for us, it wasn’t as simple as just picking it up; another guy bought it out from under us me. Two days later, he had second thoughts and because I’d had the foresight to ask the seller to include my phone number with the sale… one week after I lost it – I got it!
Now, to clarify the condition being in “great shape”, what I mean is that the exterior is in great shape, other than a tear in a rear corner which was patched long ago.
The inside is, well, original to put it kindly. Having been painted at least twice (first turquoise, and currently a sunny yellow) and sporting a spongey floor that demands to be addressed — oh, and that all too familiar musty library smell — we’re realistically looking at nothing less than a full renovation on this one. This time, however, we know what we’re getting into and can tackle this project with confidence.
Note that I used the word renovation, not restoration. There’ve been some incredible restorations of Airstreams, and I’ve always admired a good ole’ authentic refresh. One couple I know worked nearly four years to make their old Safari better than when it left the factory. We, on the other hand, aren’t likely to follow that plan. While no final decision have been made yet, we may abandon much of the existing layout, taking advantage of our wall of windows in a different way by moving things around a bit.
It may not be a popular decision among people who see the progress over at the Airstream forums, as this is a bit of a rare bird, with its kitchen and bathroom clustered inside the front end cap. It’s a very interesting and unusual design – especially if one has spent lots of time inside trailers with a more common floor plan. However, with Melissa’s design skills we’ll also bring in newer fabrics, sleek modern appliances, and lots of new cabinetry I think we can still create something that respects the history of the brand, and visually complements the lines of the trailer while adding some of the functionality that we desire. We’ll win no awards for authenticity, but I don’t believe that’s a realistic goal for every trailer saved from an overgrown field.
I love the history and heritage that comes with old things – you Abridgers knows that – but I think when you make choices solely to be historically accurate, you run the risk of becoming a docent in a rolling museum, a museum which may not fit the way you prefer to live. There will no sock darning demonstrations, or reruns of Our Miss Brooks on a tiny black and white set in this trailer. Instead, it’ll (hopefully) be our own refined, tasteful interpretation of what Airstreaming should be.
So stay tuned for this one.
As usual, I’ve left lots of current events out of this post. For example, we’re putting our condo on the market after fixing it up all winter long… the family members being married off (one of my sibs this month, one of Melissa’s in July, and my youngest sis becoming engaged just yesterday). And of course there’s the usual activites: Melissa’s design work for clients, which has been resulting in some lovely ‘after’ photos as of late… and I’ve been in the garage letterpress printing. It’s great practicing – like last spring – on family members, and designing and printing invites a few weeks ago was a pretty fun and smooth process this time around.
I’ll leave it at that for now, Abridgers. Until next time, here are some additional photos of the Safari.