Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

A fool and his money are soon parted-out.

Happy Friday.  I have enjoyed a couple days off to work on Sparta and am about to launch into another weekend of cooking and feeding the hungry hoards that sweep, like locusts, into Sonoma County this time of year.  I consider this a vital public service and like to think that the sustenance I provide will mitigate the effects of our primary export, grape-based intoxicants.  So before I attend to making this a safer place for the next few days, I thought I might discuss trailer security.

One of the revelations learned from this project is just how much people are willing to pay for Spartan trailers that haven’t been produced for well over 50 years.  The reason for this is pretty straightforward.  The first Spartan shown below I just pulled off Ebay and it is selling for $3,400.  The second, culled from the same source, is selling for $85,000.  Now, call me Captain Obvious, but why do you suppose that is?  Three things – parts, materials and skilled labor.

3400 spartan

This can be had for $3,400. Almost exactly what it sold for originally

85,000 Spartan

This shiny beauty is yours for $85,000. Granted, it is a longer model.

Materials like wood paneling, flooring, appliances, etc. are variable in cost depending on the source and quality and the skilled (or semi-demi in my case) labor is a value only you can quantify. Parts, however, are only available in a limited market and are typically very expensive. They are quite rare but they are out there.  Places like http://www,vintagecampers.com  and Vintage Trailer Supply are great places to start, as is the aforementioned Ebay.  But these will cost you thanks to the immutable laws of supply and demand.  Take, for example, a door latch.  Once made by the Theodore Bargman Co. in Detroit, MI, the mechanism for opening and locking both doors on my ’57 Imperial Mansion is very valuable.  The item in question, the L-66 lock set is not available at either of the above vintage trailer websites.  I could only find various parts and components of the lock set I might need.  I did find on Ebay a complete L-66 latch for $499.99 (don’t you just love “charm pricing”?), but it was a slightly newer model than mine and lacked the art-deco flourishes.

sparta door latch Pictured at left are my two lock sets which I have removed, cleaned and oiled.  I have opened up the latch on the left to reveal the inner workings and, if you look closely, you might notice that the latch bolt is broken.  That is the vital piece that extends from the latch into the door frame and it is so often missing or broken in these old lock-sets that Vintage Trailer Supply has decided to fabricate and sell them for a very reasonable $19.49.  I recently ordered one of these bolts and two lock/key cylinders which should arrive shortly.  God willing, that is all I will need to get these locks working and securing my precious Sparta.

The point of all this blathering on about locks and parts is two-fold: First, if you set out to buy a vintage trailer, check the small details before settling on a price with the seller.  Things like locks, latches, fixtures, windows, crank knobs, doors, lamp shades and a host of other original and rare parts can set you back big time if they are broken or missing on your intended purchase.  So factor that in before writing a check.  I bought my trailer in haste and, truthfully, ignorance and I’m just lucky most of Sparta’s hardware is present and functioning.  Second, The sum total of the value of removable parts may well exceed, in the after-market, what you paid for your entire trailer.  For example, a 13″ X 28″ window, commonly found on Spartans built between 1956-60, can be purchased at Vintage Campers for $90 each.  With 20+ windows in my Imperial Mansion, many of which are larger and more expensive, they alone could set you back over $2k if you had to replace them.  This is where trailer security comes in.

There comes a time in the life of any trailer restoration when your dulled, rat-infested eyesore becomes a thing of emerging beauty and, potentially, a target for thieves.  All twenty plus windows in Sparta are removable and most simply by swinging them out, up and away from the frames.  In ten minutes, a thief could walk away with thousands of dollars worth of windows, among other things.  I would posit that the time to secure your project is sooner rather than later.  Don’t wait until your trailer is nearly finished and worth, potentially, tens of thousands of dollars.  Secure it now.

Because of the broken door locks, I have had to jury-rig (not to be confused with jury tampering) my trailer security.

sparta temp lock

A slick $20 cable lock for the two doors routed through the opening where the latch has been temporarily removed.

So the doors are secured with the cable-lock pictured to the left and motion-activated spotlights and alarms purchased at Harbor Freight for under $30 each.

Also, when you leave your trailer, don’t just lock the doors.  Lock every window from the inside with the small latches present.

Clearly, these are all deterrents and will not stop a professional and determined thief, but I think they will foil or, at least, discourage a “smash and grab” amateur trying to support a drug habit.  We shall see.  It’s too bad that this is the state of the world, but an ounce of prevention, as they say…

 

 

sparta keys

A couple new parts and keys and BINGO, she’s locked up tight as a drum.

Postscript (6/29/16) – Yeah!  I got my lock-bolt and key cylinders from Vintage Trailer Supply and installed them today.  Bueno.

 

sparta motion detector

Motion activated security light.

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