1951 Spartan Trailer restoration created significant woodworking challenges

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Project by mgb_2x posted 02-15-2010 09:39 PM 59508 views 6 times favorited 61 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I know this is not your typical LJ project but it did call on a number of my woodworking skills. These travel trailers were built by Spartan in Tulsa OK after the WWII up through the early 60s. The Spartan Aircraft company provided trainers in WWII but needed to find a new product after the war. Owned by J Paul Getty the company realized the burgeoning need for housing in light of all the vets returning home. These trailers were not technically RVs but were used as semi-permanent housing. Trailer parks sprung up everywhere, they helped a generation remain flexible while looking for work.This trailer had been used as a lake cabin in northern WI for the last 25 years, prior to that it was the home of the original owner.
When purchased the trailer was in fair condition but needed lots of attention. While there was metal working, plumbing, electrical and flooring work, the vast majority of the time was spent fixing the wood components. Imagine the effect of 60 years of variations in temperature and humidity on 1/4 inch birch plywood. Leaks in the the plumbing had destroyed much of the kitchen cabinet counter top. I had to carefully remove/replace the plywood from the back of the Formica. In other places the plywood was delaminated to the extent that I needed to carefully reglue the plys to get a stable piece. Also had challenges with the excessive wear and deterioration of doors and drawers. Once the woodworking was finished I applied a few coats of shellac. I tried to keep true to the period with 50s decor, look closely at the album covers and you may recall the great Gentleman Jim Reeves, my all time favorite artist. All in all, it was a real blast working on this trailer. Please,please, please keep me in mind if you see any of these 40/50s travel trailers sitting around your neck of the woods. Airstreams are not my cup of tea.

-- "aim small miss small" m g breedlove

61 comments so far

View SnowyRiver's profile


51529 posts in 4977 days

#1 posted 02-15-2010 09:51 PM

Wow, thats a great looking retro trailer. Great job on the interior. Got to love those old trailers.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View mcoyfrog's profile


4757 posts in 5091 days

#2 posted 02-15-2010 09:54 PM

Great job, that had to be loads of fun

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View Abbott's profile


2570 posts in 4800 days

#3 posted 02-15-2010 09:54 PM

Super nice. If a guy has never been in one of those old trailers he wouldn’t realize that there is a bunch of tricky wood work to be found there. From what I can see you really did an outstanding job with this one.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View Toughskin's profile


38 posts in 4649 days

#4 posted 02-15-2010 09:55 PM

Amazing. Terrific work.

-- Dan - Marion, Iowa - Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 4595 days

#5 posted 02-15-2010 09:56 PM

Now there’s a hobby I could get into.
I love how you kept everything 50’s. The appliances are too cool, down to the rabbit ears.
It’s great to step back to the uncomplicated past.

Great job

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4612 days

#6 posted 02-15-2010 09:59 PM

Waaaoooow what a nice/great/wonderful rebuild
I have never heard of this trailer neither seen one
but I can feel how much work there has been in this kind
of restoring and I deffently like the autside picture
that´s a buty
thank´s for sharing it with us


View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 4581 days

#7 posted 02-15-2010 10:00 PM

Ok this isn’t one of those miniatures, sitting on an astroturf covered board using forced perspective photography to look real, like was posted a while back?

Either way very nice job.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View LouJC's profile


59 posts in 4704 days

#8 posted 02-15-2010 10:03 PM

You did a fantastic job RESTORING and not just rebuilding that trailer. I know all to well how much work it is to do that, I have rebuilt a couple of other style trailers myself. I hope you get to enjoy the work you have put into this now.

-- Lou - Maine

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5596 days

#9 posted 02-15-2010 10:13 PM

This is fantastic! I love the restoration. The retro look in this is fun.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 4986 days

#10 posted 02-15-2010 10:15 PM

Wow! That is fantastic. And I have those same kitchen chairs at my cabin up in Canada! :)

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 5398 days

#11 posted 02-15-2010 10:32 PM

What & where are the rabbit ears?

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 4595 days

#12 posted 02-15-2010 10:37 PM

They are the antenna on top of the t.v.
They were coined “rabbit ears” when introduced in the early 50’s.
To get reception, you had to sometimes hang them upside down, add tin foil, or just pray to the electrical gods.
Horrible, but the only thing available.

View YorkshireStewart's profile


1130 posts in 5398 days

#13 posted 02-15-2010 10:39 PM

Thanks Jim. I’d been round and around those pictures half a dozen times; just had to ask in the end!

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

View jim C's profile

jim C

1472 posts in 4595 days

#14 posted 02-15-2010 10:46 PM

Always glad to help a mate figure out the American butchery of the Kings language. HA!

View cstrang's profile


1832 posts in 4665 days

#15 posted 02-15-2010 10:50 PM

Very nice work!

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

showing 1 through 15 of 61 comments

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