dennis@dennismclain.com
Home
My Little Camper

I found this frame on Craigslist from an early pop-up camper. Just the frame and the springs, wheels and hitch.

I have always wanted to have a retro camper and I looked for one for several years. I talked to a guy who was restoring one and soon realized that all of the early campers or almost all of them had a wood sub-frame. And in most cases when you find one the frame is toast and needs to be redone. In the end you will have as much investment in the frame as most of the rest of the camper. So... I found this frame and decided to just make my own.

I started with a steel 1" square 1/16" wall tubing. Weighs about .08 of a pound per foot. Took about 250 feet of tubing so the weight was acceptable.

The outside is covered with .063" aluminum. It is much thicker than the Airstream but will not dent nearly as easily as the Airstreams.
One of my criteria when I started was to build as much of this as I could. So the hinges, doors, handles, are all fabricated.

I also wanted to paint it myself. I wanted the top to be polished aluminum and the bottom painted.
I used Ace Hardware rattle can paint. I found a paint that goes on extremely well and covers nicely. The two things with using a stray can. First, you cannot cover big areas. I blocked off about two foot sections for each pass. I took the rear doors off as well as the entry door. I followed the rivet lines for the breaks. The other thing with spray can paint is that it is much softer than automotive paint. You need to apply about 4 or 5 coats allowing it to tack up between coats. Sometimes that is just a few seconds up to several minutes.

I was painting this thing in weather that was over 100 degrees (this is Arizona) so it dried quickly.

The one thing I did not expect was the roof. It needs to be sealed so I painted it with primer and then with a cream colored paint. Looked terrible. I then painted it with aluminum paint and bam! Came out great. I was really surprised!

The inside is straight out of Lowe's and Home Depot.

Had a couple of misfires so I wasted maybe $200 on materials I did not use. Things like masonite.
The walls are all insulated. I screwed wood strips to the metal frame so I could rivet to the metal on the outside and then screw to the wood on the inside.

All of the aluminum trim was fabricated out of flat except for the trim on the table. I did buy the table posts from the RV supply store. Wasn't worth the effort.

There is storage under both side seating which are also beds. The table will drop down and fill the hole for additional sleeping. Should be good for two adults or 12 small children that don't fight. We will find out this summer.

Most of the signs are all retro but there are a couple that are original.

I had no idea how much it costs to build something like this. I thought I would have a couple of grand and about two months invested. Wrong!

Try seven months and close to five grand. That is with the generator. It is wired for 110 for shore power and 12v for lights. It has a microwave, coffee pot and a port-a-potty. And running water. All very simple.

Because of the small tires, I have one spare mounted on the back but two more in the cargo space.