RV vintage

Vintage Trailer Rally on the River in Brownsville, OR with Jeff Johston

Jeff Johnston here for “RVing Today.” We’re in beautiful Brownsville, Oregon, Gateway to Recreation, in the Willamette Valley, at the Rally on the River Vintage Trailer Rally. This event is designed for pre-1984 RVs of all kinds, trailers, even a truck camper or two, maybe even a motor home or two. And what you see here at this event is nothing short of astounding. The things that the owners have done with rebuilding these guys, decorating the land– the campsites to match the trailer vintage and so on, it’s really a wonderful fun part of the RV hobby. And you may be wondering what does the Seattle Space Needle have to do with vintage trailers? Well, stick around a few minutes and we’ll show you.

The vintage RV, part of our RVing community, is growing like crazy. The 2022 Rally on the River drew about 105 trailers and more than 300 people for this annual event, the first in-person in a few years due to COVID.

Dana Murray: I think what I like most about the rallies is the sense of family. So even though you’re not related to most of the people here, it feels like family. And when someone needs something, everyone pitches in to help. For example, I was at a rally and someone had locked her keys in her Silver Streak, so a guy went around to all the Silver Streaks and said, “Bring your keys, we’re gonna see if we can get in.” They couldn’t get in that way, so he said, “Do we have a small child?” And so, they went through the window and then they unlocked the door and everyone cheered and so it’s that kind of thing where everyone pitches in to help. We do pot lucks or we’ll do a breakfast. But mostly, you sit around a nice fire pit or propane fire and we chat and we get acquainted with each other again, ’cause sometimes it’s been, like, a year.
So, yeah, a lot of it is the social aspect and making that connection and feeling like you have family and friends here.

Jeff: Thanks to new suppliers of reproduction parts and a broadening network of shops and individuals working on vintage tin, it’s becoming easier to do a full restoration on a vintage trailer.  It’s still a lot of work, but more fans of all skill levels can now take part. The restored trailers are fascinating and amazing to see, and it’s the people stories connected with them that are the most interesting.

Jodi Johnson: So here we were, coming to Rally on the River and we have a 17-foot Silver Streak and we were looking for a larger one to take our grandchildren out with us so that we’d have more room and space for them. And we show up here and, lo and behold, here we have this one for sale. And so, this one will be going home with us.

Janet Mekech: This is a 1964 Kit Companion, and when I got this, I decided, unbeknownst to my daughter, that I was gonna fix it and doll it up for her. It happened to have everything that she liked in it, and we have a few collectibles and we love sharing it with our children. My daughter and myself did the work on the trailer. We painted the outside images. I painted the inside. Well, she helped me with the outside images, not knowing she was gonna be getting it as a birthday present.

Jeff: As at most RV rallies, we ran in to some interesting vendors on site. Scott Scrizzer: We are looking at ’50s, ’60s era radios and they are old tabletops that have been converted from regular radios to actual being Bluetooth speakers, and so there’s no radio connectivity anymore. It’s all through your phone or MP3 player and, basically, they all operate like they would a radio. You turn ’em on with a switch and you’ll find it on your phone and then you–whatever music that you have on your phone will come through the speaker. Instead of being
dust collectors, they are–they’re speakers that play any music you want them to. That has evolved into the drive-in speakers and these are from the ’50s. Some of ’em are from the ’40s. And same concept: they all operate as a Bluetooth speaker. They’re 100% portable so you can take ’em anywhere you want and listen to your music, car shows, rallies, your home, your backyard.

Jeff: An awning is a must during summer camping trips. LeAnne Symonds: Hi, I’m the owner of Gingergirl Vintage Awnings and I specialize in custom awnings for vintage campers and I like to work with very fun patterns, paisleys, and geometrics, and fringe and pom-poms, and I am able to do from a 2-panel awning which is about 9-feet-wide to up to a 3 -panel which it goes to about a 14- or 15-foot awning. And they do come with a storage bag, and I also make awnings for the front rock guard and I do tire covers and tent covers and all matching, so it really sets off the vintage camper.

Jeff: Pam was happy to find a camper who enjoyed dispensing delicious margaritas, a welcome break on this hot day.

Teardrop trailers were an early RV style that helped shape the RVs we have today. It’s not often you see a driver’s-side entry door on today’s RVs. Even a fold-down trailer of the right age is qualified for a spot at the rally. Duke Bossanova: We’re looking at a 1975 Apache Hardside. They only made these for a few years, obviously in the ’70s. Prior to that, they made soft sides which are your traditional tent trailer pop-ups. They were made in the Midwest, and so they’re not super common out here on the West Coast, but very much sought after and you can check ’em out on Facebook with the Apache Group if you just look up Apaches.

Well, we found this trailer up in Vancouver, Washington. The gentleman who had it purchased it in 1975 and in 1981 put it into a heated trailer unit and stored it on his property,  So it had not been out since 1981, so when we came and got it, it still had all the original tags on it. The paper on the side of it had never even been washed off from the original sale of it. So this thing was all original when we got it 3 years ago. So we’ve had to do some work on it because even time damages things and there’s a lot of plastic which is mostly PVC on this, actually, not fiberglass as most people think.

Jeff: You remember how we mentioned the Seattle Space Needle before the break? We chatted with a pro to learn its place in the vintage trailer realm. David Northcraft: Okay, so in 1962, the Seattle World’s Fair was underway and Glen Gordon who was the owner of Aloha Trailers at the time, decided that he wanted to build a trailer that kind of matched the space-age theme of the World’s Fair, and so he came up with the design of this trailer. He built 200 of these trailers and he took several of them up to the World’s Fair and he sold them, he put them on gas station lots, and he rented them as rooms because the hotels were all full. So, this trailer with its rounded front windows, its whale tail in the back, and its kind of cosmic paint scheme, matched the whole theme of the space age, you know, for the World’s Fair. Originally, there was 200 of these trailers built. There’s about 14, 15, that we know of that are survivors right now, 7 of them have been restored, and 6 of them are here today, all together. This is the first time that they’re all together, maybe since they were on the factory floor.

Doug Johnson: Okay, this 1962 Aloha 22-footer, what we refer to as the Seattle World’s Fair edition and of the 15 survivors, there’s 7 that are still on– that have been fully restored and are now back on the road. This was a full restoration, meaning we had to take it clear down to
the steel frame and axle. We put new brakes and built it brand new all the way back up from the subfloor. New wall structure, new interior panels, new exterior skin. Well, actually, in lieu of a dinette up front, which it did have originally, we chose to–because we built this trailer for comfort, my wife and I hoped to travel the country in this trailer, so we introduced a few changes, one being some swivel chairs up front. Again, for comfort. Little more comfortable than the old-fashioned dinette. And then the kitchen quite stock, really didn’t do anything in particular with that. Moving further back in the trailer, the bedroom area, yeah, we– it’s a three-quarter full bed. And then, even further back, we’ve got a full bathroom in the trailer. And one deviation from stock, the purists will probably scold me for this, but there is a heated floor in this bathroom.

Cynthia Russell: All right, so this trailer was built in Van Nuys, California, after World War II from Aero Flyte which was a World War II
manufacturing airplane and they were looking for something to do with their aluminum employees and so they began to build trailers. They began to build these kinds of trailers. The design is great, but they built them so expensive, $4,000, which was a house after–right after World War II, so not many people purchased them and they went out of business after 2 years. So there are only 2 years’ worth of these trailers around. And Flyte Camp restored this for us. We tried to keep as much original to the trailer as we could so all of
the facings on the cabinets, the wood is original. The tops of the cabinets, the wood is original. The hardware is original. The kitchen section is certainly original and unique to the kitchen, there’s a headboard that’s round and beautiful, original to the trailer. And we like to dry camp, so we had them install some wiring so we could do the Go Power solar. 

Jeff: We had a great time at this year’s Rally on the River and encourage you to check out the vintage trailer events and the fun people
involved with them.