...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: August 2017

Insulation Contemplation

Insulation is an interesting topic, esp. if you have become a trailer restoration nerd like me.  It is doubly important if the intended destination for your tin residence is subject to modest temperature swings from season to season.  Quincy, California can range from 15-20 degree lows in winter to 90 degree highs in the summer.  This makes the whole insulation challenge more complicated.  So I have been reading up.  This primer has been helpful.  Give it a look.


Also, check this out: http://www.finehomebuilding.com/2009/05/01/which-rigid-insulation-should-i-choose

Also, although wikipedia won’t let me post the link, try Googling “wikipedia radiant barrier” and you will find a useful piece on the mechanics of heat transfer.

I have not yet ordered the stuff, but I am leaning towards 2″ thick rigid foam for the walls and 3″ thick for the ceiling with a Reflectix barrier on top to ward off radiant summer heat (making sure to maintain a minimum 3/4″ air baffle for maximum effectiveness).  Any other ideas out there?  I am all ears.  tomgpacea@gmail.com.

Sunday Morning Quarterback

It’s Sunday morning and a good time to reflect upon the past two weeks. Prior to them, I owned one Spartan trailer.  Now I own two.  I have already gone into the “accidentally on purpose” nature of the Spartanette purchase.  So now let’s review how a scary and uncertain decision became a good one.  To be certain,  buying something as unique and subjective (as to its value and condition) on Ebay is risky.  Pictures can be misleading, the sellers’ descriptions hyperbolic and, of course, the buyer’s willingness to be seduced by both limitless.  It is a recipe for remorse.  Then, of course, there is the reality of getting your purchase home.  It can more than double your acquisition cost.

So, for any prospective Spartan owners out there, let me offer a few valuable lessons to guide you in your purchase.

  1.  The California Spartan market is stacked against the buyer by the law of supply and demand.  These things were built in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the original purchasers tended to be scattered more densely in the midwest, Texas and Northeast.  Once purchased, these trailers tended to stay put.  Add to that Californian’s appetite for new trends (Tiny homes, vintage anything and deep pockets) and the tendency is to overprice.  There are exceptions. For example, last year I bought my ’57 IM with an extraorinarily clean body for $4,000 (delivered from Fresno for $500, also on Uship).  But in the 18 months since, I have witnessed diminishing stock on Craigslist and Ebay.  So, if you live in the West and want a Spartan, look East.
  2. Delivery options are varied and often costly, but patience can be rewarded with great deals.  I posted a want ad on both Craigslist and Uship.com to have my Spartan brought to me from Pennsylvania.  The search and bidding process took ten days.  I got quotes mostly ranging from $2,500 – 3,200, door to door.  A few of the low-ballers tended to be flaky and unrealistic.  One guy thought he could just borrow a friend’s pick-up and enjoy a leisurely drive to Cali cross-country.  We talked on the phone and he seemed legit.  Then, he called his friend and crunched the numbers (fuel cost, room and board enroute) and I never heard from him again.  Finally I got a great bid, seemingly too good to be true – $1,400.  It was on Uship.com and I was cautiously optimistic.  Talking to the bidder I learned that the trailer was to be piggy-backed on a pre-exiting box truck load coming this way.  The driver and his side-kick were young, ambitious and hungry.  The arrived within 48 hours of striking a bargain with me.  They drove non-stop.  All told, I had a 1948 Spartanette for just over $4,000 delivered, including a nice big tip, well-deserved.  The take-away?  Talk to the trailer seller and see if he/she will work with you.  As long as they don’t have to get the trailer out of their hair immediately,  be patient and a good, inexpensive delivery option may be in the offing.
  3. Paying for your purchase.  I don’t like Pay-pal. Yeah, I know they offer some security by vetting both buyers and sellers (theoretically) but they play the float game.  After trying to pay for my purchase through Paypal. the seller balked when he learned PP wouldn’t release funds for five days.  He wouldn’t let the trailer out of his hands until the cash was in ’em.  So I cancelled PP (and five days later they are still holding onto my $2 grand…bastards) and tried Western Union.  After a 30 minute process filling out forms, paying my $40 and talking to their underwriting people,  they denied the transaction citing “a rash of fraudulent purchases on Ebay”.  In the end, I went to Walmart, spent 5 minutes and $16 sending the payment store to store.  I was happy, the seller was happy and my trailer was on its way the next morning.  Lesson?  Fuck PP and WU.  I can say that, right?

It’s almost nine am, I’ve catered the last two days and it’s time to get to work on my two old beauties.  So I will leave you with a few pics offering the good and not-so-good:

Really great wood

…and appliances

Love the all-metal double kitchen sink and drainboard

These rear windows are goners

Unfortunate rubberized roof coating


From Watts to Batts

Amid all the excitement of falling trees and my rising trailer inventory, I have actually been working on Sparta.  The twelve volt circuits are all wired.  There are three of them – one running aft, one midship and the other powering the forward cabin, better known as the observation lounge (that continues to crack me up).  They are nearly balanced in terms of load and supply virtually all the lighting (interior and exterior), the various fans, the water pump and the belatedly installed water-storage tank warmers.  What remains are 2 or 3 120v circuits to supply all the A/C outlets, keeping in mind GFI in kitchen/bath, the refrigerator and possible microwave (I’m still on the fence about that).

With the relatively brief task of 120v wiring looming, it is not too early to contemplate next steps – specifically insulation.  Unlike 1957 when the choices were fiberglass, rockwool and shredded paper, now there are a plethora of insulation choices, each with their own merits.  There remains the fiberglass option, which I have already installed below the subfloor, and then the following:

  • Fiberglass Batts and Blankets. R-value: 3.0-4.0 per inch (R-13 for a 2-by-4-framed wall).  Cheapest
  • Rockwool Batts and Blankets. R-value: 4-5 per inch (R-15 for a 2-by-4-framed wall).
  • Cotton Batts (aka “Blue Jeans”) .
  • Loose-Fill Fiberglass.
  • Polyisocyanurate SIPs.
  • Foiled bubble-wrap (Reflectix)
  • Open-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam.
  • Closed-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam.  Most expensive

Whoa! So many choices! And the cost varies dramatically, from $.30 per square foot for fiberglass batt to $3.00 psf for closed-cell Poly foam.  I think we can rule out the latter, especially since professional installation is recommended.  And cost isn’t the only consideration.  Of course there is the R-factor to consider, with the higher number offering greater insulation values but also greater thickness (not much of an option for Sparta’s 2 inch wall baffles).  The other key issue is how well the insulation breathes.  If water gets in or condensation forms, some types of insulation are too impermeable and moisture has nowhere to go – creating the potential for accumulation and mold growth.  Hmmm, more research required.  In the meantime, here are a few electrical shots:

Here are the three 12v circuit wires ready to connect when the time comes

The yellow wire is 12 ga. and supplies all outlets, in this case a GFI protected kitchen circuit.

I don’t really have OCD tendencies except maybe when it comes to my use of zip-ties. I love them.


I am getting a bit nervous – no, not about the recently purchased Spartanette – but about Sparta’s well-being in light of recent tree-falls.  As reported here, this past winter was a doosy.  More rain fell than in recent memory and the trees are all laden with foliage and fruit, their branches straining under the load.  Sparta is parked under two intermingling trees, a massive walnut and a sizable plum.  My trailer is constantly peppered with falling fruit – not the most comforting of bedtime sounds.  More disturbing though, is what happened to another tree just east of me.  She lost a massive branch which could’ve crushed Sparta like a can of Coors. You can see from the photos below.  All this leads me to conclude that I best hurry up or maybe pull my trailer out from under the shade of these now menacing giants.

Bucolic but ominous

Sparta’s older little brother

Since you asked, here are a few pictures of the trailer that I have put a deposit on.  Assuming these are accurate and current, this 1948 Spartanette looks great and will require much less work than Sparta – and working, original appliances no less!

Look! Beds for June and Ward

Oooops, I did it again

I did a bad thing.  Well, maybe not bad, but probably ill-advised.  I bought another trailer.  A Spartan, naturally.  I am not exactly sure what happened.  It was all so fast.  One minute I am casually scouring the Internet for vintage trailers and the next, I am bidding on a 1948 Spartanette…in Pennsylvania, no less.  I was kind of fooling around at the time, surfing the web and lamenting via text with a fellow Spartophile* the increasing scarcity of these gems, when BOOM I am actually bidding on Ebay.  Initially it was a throw-away bid, ridiculously low and, as it turned out, below the seller’s reserve price.  So, my curiousity getting the better of me, I bid again and again, ever-upward in search of that reserve.  I found it with a bid I figured would never last.  With 3 plus days still to go, I was sure I would be out bid.  So I waited and watched, going about my business, confident that I would not be making the drive to Clearview, PA anytime soon.  Well, by yesterday afternoon my bid was still on top.  In fact, mine were the only bids registered.  How could that be?  What was I overlooking?  Had I made a terrible mistake?  These thoughts raced through my mind as I pulled my truck to the curb to watch Ebay and see if my bid remained as time elapsed.  Suddenly, at the stroke of 6:32pm PDT I received an email, “You won!”.  Holy crap…now what?  As I now type these words, it is the morning after.

There is a suffix of Greek origin called “itis”.  Wikipedia describes it as a “reference to a tendency or state of mind that is compared to a disease.”.  Commonly, it is found in medical parlance.  Like diverticulitis, for example.  It is similar to the suffix “ism” (e.g. alcoholism) which denotes a pathological condition, among other things.

When I lived in Seattle I owned a boat.  I met other boat owners, a mildly twisted breed, and became familiar with a term called “two foot-itis”, a disease whereupon you lust after a boat two feet longer than your current one.   Naturally, as boats get longer they get wider and with that girth comes more stuff – furnishings, electronics, doohikies and doodads galore.  The attendant cost increase is non-linear.   Before I pulled the trigger on a 35′ live-aboard I was spared a total manifestation of this illness by moving back to California.  Whew!

As I reflect upon this notion of itis, I realize I have suffered from other such afflictions in my life.  In high school my quasi-obsession was stereo equipment and I suppose the medical term for that was “watt-itis”, a never-ending quest for louder and more pristine fidelity.  That particular infection ended with 200 watts per channel, the shifting priorities of marriage and a minor, though noticeable, hearing loss.

I guess I should have seen coming this recently contracted case of traileritis.  It was predictable but came much sooner than practical.  I have so much more work remaining on Sparta.  How will I get this Spartanette to California?  What is her actual condition?  Where will I put it?  Details better left to the unafflicted…


*I think you can blame the 1911 Britannica for that one. Or an extreme Spartophile. –Akhilleus (talk) 07:31, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

First Circuit Success

This electrical is a lot of fun.  I have made a few mistakes but they’re reversible.  I am using my electric cooler 12v converter to power the lines and pulled the tail-lights off the back to use as testers. I bought a few shallow, plastic blue boxes but don’t really like them.  I will use salvaged switch boxes and junction boxes from here on.  I failed to mention earlier that I bought four 8-foot sections of 1 X 2 inch wood strips to use as mounts for my circuit boxes.  I purchased an  inexpensive Ryobi electric screwdriver which fits between the aluminum “studs” and it has made their installation much faster.


Electricity requires a little planning – it’s complicated, potentially expensive and a bit risky – so my plunge into this realm required some study (bought a book and went to the library)  and a game plan. The book pictured below was particularly helpful (Amazon) and the section on solar will come in handy down the road.

Watt, me worry?

As I mentioned last post, I have decided to go with 12v lines for my lighting and small appliance needs.  There will also be at least two 120v lines for bigger draws.

Two major considerations of wiring a trailer as long as Sparta are length and gauge of wire.  The power feed in my trailer was originally located at the rear as evidenced by the circuit breaker box and shore power hook up installed there. This placement required some wire runs of over 60 feet, resulting in more resistance and greater power lost in transmission.  When hooked up to a 120v mobile home site power line this may not have been as much of a concern, but for me, anticipating a battery-dependant, solar-fed life, I will have to be more parsimonious with my electricity consumption.  So I will place my power center mid-ship.  This will achieve two important things – a shorter run between my solar panels and 2 deep-cycle batteries and shorter runs for those circuits running from the batteries forward and aft of center.   Pardon the crude, fuzzy diagram below.  I couldn’t find my ruler.  This is what I am working from – definitely not up to NECA standards.

Gauge of wire is the second important consideration.  While I could have just used standard, braided lamp-cord for 12v lines, I chose, instead, to use 14 gauge solid copper wire.  This is harder to work with (it is stiff and unwieldy, comparatively speaking) but it will offer less resistance and greater efficiency for my finite power supply.

The pictures below show the specifications of LED light bulbs – a big selling point, “Lumens per Watt”,  a recycled junction box wired with new 14 ga. wire. a new, low-profile plastic switch box and the location of boxes (switch and outlets) vis-a-vis my future bed location.  That’s all for now.  I’m wired on coffee and amped up to work.

Note original “supply” source at lower left (crossed out). New supply will come in center right.