Be Wary of White.
In the market for an Airstream, or another vintage trailer? I love white too, but I’m here to ask you be wary. I will explain why.
Sure white looks beautiful on Instagram and Pinterest, from everything to fashion, to walls, to vintage trailers. But if you’re in the market to buy a truly “restored” Airstream (or any vintage travel trailer), you need to ask this critical question. What did you find in the walls?
If the owners and/or “restoration” experts cannot answer this, you may find yourself very quickly throwing up the white flag and moving on to the next ad you find.
White…the Internet’s New Black
You may be enchanted by the super lit pics of any particular vintage Airstream you find online, but are there photos of the actual restoration? Not trying to sound all horror movie pic here, but there are things going on behind the walls that you need to know about. Mainly petrified mice, frayed electrical wires and moldy, 50-year old insulation.
Despite my limited experience in the vintage trailer restoration industry, I do know one thing that I hold true. If it smells like a moldy basement, it’s a moldy basement. Even though you may see what appears to be this pristine, modern interior retake on a classic, beware. If you smell musky, well, it is musky, and it’s not gonna go away any time soon. Although you might have to differentiate between the masking of the musk through fresh white paint, lol.
Restoration is Ugly & Expensive
We went to great lengths to fully dismantle and remove the existing floors and walls and that which was contained within Alice Anne (i.e. insulation, wiring, dead rodents, etc.). I’ll happily share pics but I’m guessing by this point you get the picture.
An elitist, I am not. I just know that seeing electrical wires chewed by rodents and piles of mice feces is not what I want lurking inches away from my pillow or that of my young son’s at night, even if it is contained within 50-year old insulation and aluminum. I would never allow my family to spend the night in a dead mouse infested sarcophagus, let alone, allow a customer to buy one from me. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.
It takes A LOT of work, and money, to restore ANY vintage trailer, regardless of brand or model. But I understand how many on the Internet can make it look like an inexpensive, or even free, walk in the park. I’m here to tell you, while it’s highly rewarding, it’s none of the things I just mentioned. Not even the most expensive and fashionable comforter from Anthropologie should make you ignore what’s in between the walls.
Five Simple Questions
So here’s what I need you to ask any prospective vintage trailer seller. There are 5 simple questions.
- Can you share photos with me of the trailer’s “restoration”?
- How long did it take to “restore” the trailer?
- Did you remove the floor down to the frame; did you restore the frame & how so? Did you replace the floor; if so which parts? And related, were the axels replaced and if not, what is their age?
- Did you dismantle the walls and remove the old insulation, wiring and waste you found?
- Do you have receipts to accompany the new hardware installed in the trailer? (i.e. appliances, HVAC, plumbing, axels, wheels, tires, etc.)
If a seller cannot answer even just one of these questions honestly, you need to walk away.
There Are No Rules
Despite what you have been led to believe, restoring a vintage trailer, despite often being referred to as a “tiny home,” does not require ANY type of adherence to building code. Yes, there are vintage trailers whose interiors have been painted white, that are perfectly fine and have been properly restored. Some even up to standards of code for a traditional home. However, there are also vintage trailers, where every inch of what you see, has JUST been coated in white paint, with light fixtures, appliances and textiles replaced.
My father is a retire fireman. I have bore witness to watching just about everything burn. But I can tell you unequivocally that seeing mobile homes, travel trailers and boats catch on fire is terrifying. If trapped inside, your response time is basically irrelevant to your survival. Sad but so true.
I won’t apologize for being so blunt with my blog post. It just upsets me to no end, knowing how I see so many beautiful vintage “restored” Airstreams online that are far from beautiful under their skin. As a builder and designer, it infuriates me. And as a consumer, you should feel the same way.
You need to know the difference between “restoration” and having lipstick applied to a pig. You will thank me in the long run;)