Words and Photos by Lisa Mora
As much as I love my vintage trailer and all its cool retro features, there are some vintage parts that do not withstand the test of time quite as well as others.
I am a firm believer in utilizing modern technology in terms of functionality and practicality when it comes to replacing parts of our vintage trailers that no longer serve us well or are in need of replacing anyway. In my 1949 Crown “Rosie the Riveted” I have tried to keep as much of the old original features as possible. She still bears her original 1940’s riveted aluminum sheet siding, but the front to back sheeting has been replaced with new aluminum, as she had quite a few dents and patches that had been added to her over the years. The internal cabinetry is pretty much as it was when she was built, but I did reconfigure the bed structure to create a bigger RV Full sized bed at the rear and a super comfy custom-made 8-inch Tochta mattress, because when you’ve been driving all day in an old car like I do, you need to have a good night’s sleep! The old furnace has been removed to make a larger wardrobe (to hang all my pretty dresses in) but it still looks like a vintage trailer should and that is the way I like it. Once question I often get asked is: “Where is the potty?” which I think is funny when I only have a ten-foot trailer, but I do carry a small Thetford Porta-Potty under the front dinette seat for those times when I am dry camping.
One feature that I had found a bit limiting was the old original icebox. Although I had it restored and powder coated in red, I found that not many places stock those big ice blocks they used to use in iceboxes anymore. I used to freeze gallon bottles of water to use in it, but then even they would defrost after one day of driving in the desert, and I had no way of re-freezing them. I do a lot of very long road trips in my 1953 Hudson Hornet towing my 12-foot “Rosie” and I need to carry medicine that has to be kept refrigerated, so it was a case of “out with the old and in with the new”.
The “new” is my perfectly sized Norcold 306x fridge/freezer. It is the smallest unit that Thetford supplies and just right for my 10-feet of internal space, but I still had to remove a drawer that had been above the old icebox to fit it. It works great and I just love it. The fact that I can also freeze ice packs or keep frozen blueberries for my green smoothies whilst on the road feels like the ultimate in luxury to me.
I have to give thanks to my dear friend and ad sales man (who also happens to be a bit of a whizz trailer restorer and teardrop builder) for undertaking the task of getting Rosie ready for the big install. It was quite a mission, as we had to re-install the propane that I had previously removed when I got rid of the original furnace and gas cooktop in favor of electric ones.
We chose to go with a set of two smaller propane tanks to reduce extra weight in the tongue as much as possible. Ray also installed a new electrical box to the battery pack so that the fridge works even whilst I am driving. I also got A1 Auto Repairs in Roseburg, Oregon to run wire from the alternator on my Hudson to the hitch plug so that the battery is being continually charged as I drive as well as when I am plugged in to shore power. Awesome!
The scariest part of the installation process for me was watching Ray slice holes into my old original aluminum siding to make room for the necessary inlet and outlet vents for when the fridge runs on propane. Although these vents were originally white plastic, I bought a can of silver paint from the hardware and taped off the area around them and sprayed them so they now blend in a bit better with the surrounding aluminum. A small price to pay as far as aesthetics go, in favor of the absolute convenience of having a fridge that is always working I‘d say.
When I first turned my Norcold fridge on the thing that amazed me the most is that it is absolutely silent. “Is it even working?” I wondered. But when the ice tray was frozen solid the next day I realized it was working just fine!
The Norcold comes with a plain insulated front door with room for any insert you wish to put in to match your décor. I got Umpqua Sheet Metal in Roseburg to cut me a piece to fit and they pressed a bit of a design into it for me right then and there for no extra charge. Total cost $15. I then took the metal sheet over to Dan’s Powder Coating also in Roseburg with the door from the old ice box and got him to color match it to the same “Fire Engine” red. Two days later it was ready. Total cost $40. The total cost of the installation with new propane tanks and connections, the electrical box and wiring with all parts and labor was about $750 but that was only because everything had to be done from scratch and it was quite a big process. Thanks Ray!
We had a bit of a challenge getting it through the front door as these old trailers often were built around the fridges, if they had them, as the doors are very narrow, but with a little bit of trimming of the plastic edging and removal of the door and a lot of huffing, puffing, grunting and pushing by Ray and I we just managed to squeeze it in. Happy happy, joy joy!
Now my fridge is in and working I am a very happy camper indeed! I have put a plaque that was given to me just above it that says: “This is my happy place”, because now I am so self-sufficient, it really is!
Note: Lisa is a regular contributor to Rollin' On TV. You can also receive a 10% discount on her Vintage Trailer Magazine by using the code ROTV during purchase. Learn more about Vintage Trailer Magazine here.