From the Mag: Classic in the Front, Party in the Back

As a kid, I grew up taking family vacations in a trailer. The UK can be cold, wet and damp; nevertheless, I have fond memories of those carefree simple times.

Maybe that’s what attracts people of all ages to the burgeoning vintage trailer scene.

Lately I’ve seen them all over the freeways, but only when I followed a nice 1963 Chevy truck loaded with two-wheelers towing an aluminum Airstream can to Bonelli Park in California did I discover just how big the scene really is. There were dozens of vintage trailers, and almost as many classic cars and trucks towing them.

I make the point because it means that, like racers, these enthusiastic families typically own a fleet of four, five or even more vehicles, making them excellent customers.

Add-On & Go

The trailers themselves may not offer huge potential for the conventional aftermarket shop as we know it, but there are opportunities. For example, located in San Diego is Southern California Vintage Trailer (SCVT), a shop that can restore your trailer or find you a trailer to have restored. They say, by phone, Skype or in person, they’ll guide you through the restoration process, from design and spec to build.

By their nature, trailers are compact, and, like tiny houses, they need careful planning to maximize the use of available space. I examined one trailer that had an open-plan toilet that might be a little too much for people who like their privacy. Hence the need for thoughtful preparation if a total makeover is planned.

SCVT quotes construction budgets from $3,500 to $6,000 per linear foot—yes, per foot—making the restoration of a 16-foot trailer around $56,000 to $96,000—not an unsubstantial amount.

I point this out because there might be businesses out there that have an under-utilized shop and/or staff and this could be profitable work, albeit somewhat specialized.

Besides full restoration shops that are located across the country in places as far and wide as Brainerd, Minnesota, Townsend, Montana and Panama City, Florida, there are also numerous companies that supply trailer components, from aluminum to awnings, solar systems tires and wheels, plus all the requisite furnishings, fixtures and fittings. I even found Vintage Trailer Gaskets in Walnut, California that specializes in, well, gaskets and associated products for doors and windows.

There’s a boot camp for learning about restoration techniques operated by Caroline and Paul Lacitinola, who also publish Vintage Camper Trailers magazine.

Hand in hand with the trailers goes a requirement for vintage furniture and props to add to the nostalgia. Obviously, these aren’t items necessarily distributed through the automotive aftermarket, but occasionally things such as vintage coolers, bicycles including electrics, signage and even furniture might pop up as part of your inventory or could be something easily acquired to make a customer happy. It’s all about customer service.

Click here to read the full article in the September issue of THE SHOP

Tony Thacker

Born in England, Tony Thacker is an accredited automotive journalist, author and book publisher, and served as marketing director at the famed SO-CAL Speed Shop. Read his column regularly in THE SHOP magazine.

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