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I’ve been casually talking about the vintage camper since last fall, but it’s time for you guys to meet, officially. Meet our 1946 Spartan Manor renovation project (and the name we finally gave it): Ruby’s Revival!
First, a lil’ recap:
Last fall, I had my first opportunity to visit K’s family in south Georgia and see the vintage trailer K and I had been talking about for a while. This 1946 Spartan Manor belonged to his grandfather and father as a “shop” trailer, which basically means was never outfitted for living spaces (no stove, no bathroom or plumbing, etc.). While “Airstream” is the typical term most DIYers will sling about, there are in fact different manufacturers of these older campers and ours is one that is no longer made. 1946 was actually the first year of Spartan Manors — how neat is that?
K thought it could be cool for us to “keep it in the family” and restore it, maybe even take it on the road. While we have a LONG way to go between that point and where it is currently, I finally got the opportunity to travel back down to south Georgia over the weekend and take pictures and video for a “before” post!
K and I went back to help his parents do a lot of tree cutting and cleanup. There were a TON (er, I may be speaking literally) of fallen or near-fallen trees all over their property thanks to Hurricane Michael. Many were leaning against healthy trees and several had done some significant damage to the fence dividing their property from neighbors/farms. So, we headed down Friday night and stayed until Sunday afternoon to help.
If you saw my stories on Instagram, you already caught a lot of the progress we made. I’ll present that in another post though, because I got video too, but there are so many pictures of the vintage camper alone that it’s too much for one post. That, plus I feel like I’ve been waiting a LOT longer to share this restoration project with you, and I can’t wait anymore!
I asked you guys a while back for help with the name, so I should probably start there. At first, I really loved the idea of naming it “Dottie” after my spirited Granny, who once had her own camper and traveled all over the U.S. with it; it was one of her most cherished memories, and you already know how attached I was to her. But K also had a family member he wanted to name the camper after, and given that it’s his family’s trailer (even though the trailer belongs to us both, now), it made the “family name” argument kind of moot.
So, we nixed that for something that sounded vintage enough but had no specific connection, and something that could be turned into a project-sounding name. You guys came up with some great ones, and I so appreciate that! We went through the whole list and Ruby was pretty much the only name we could both agree on. So, Ruby’s Revival it is!
It seemed appropriate that we should take a group “before” photo to look back on, so we did that first (and of course, with Charlie and Stella):
Going forward, this will be a special category on the blog dedicated just to the camper, so you can find that page here:
I’ll also be creating a video series and playlist dedicated to the larger chapters of this makeover and posting that over on YouTube. You can find all of those episodes on a dedicated page here on the blog as well as subscribe over on my channel!
Despite the storm damage around nearly every part of the property, both K’s parents’ house and the camper were spared.
It was kind of surreal to see how many trees had fallen away from the old camper trailer. We got very lucky! We haven’t quite worked out the easiest way to extract it with all of the trees in every direction, but all in due time.
It looks like a lot of crud, of course. And it IS. But it’s also going to look amazing when we get it polished up! We’ve been doing a good deal of research, so I’m pretty much going to hold my breath for months hoping it all falls into place.
I showed you a photo of the exterior before, so this is the big thing for this post! The interior cabin! It’s significantly more cleaned out than the last time I saw it, so I got a really good image in my head of its potential (I talk about a few design ideas in the video below).
If I had been able to get these shots before Halloween, it would have been totally appropriate to post this in October. It’s downright spooky.
But, despite all of the scary parts, leaks, and water damage, a lot of it is original, and we’re chomping at the bit to start gutting and create an entirely new layout. Bedroom, kitchen, shower/toilet, living area, and more!
Vintage Camper “Before” Video Tour
We also took video footage, so you’ll get to know K a little more as we walk around the interior and talk about the camper’s history and plans.
This is going to be a huge undertaking, and until we get wheels on it and find a place to park it closer to us, progress will be painfully slow. I have no idea if we’ll be able to find replacement parts for missing components or where to begin with our research (we’re kind of googling EVERYthing right now, searching through eBay and Craigslist and such to see how rare/often parts come up for sale, etc.!). But we’re going to cross our fingers, toes, eyes, and whatever else to make it happen. I imagine it will be a significant financial investment, so progress will of course depend on how much income the blog might generate to sink back into finding RV parts, repairs, appliances, and the like. The purchase list is LONG, babaaay!
I hope you enjoyed the tour! Now that you’ve seen the whole thing, what do you think we should do to hang on to something old? We’re going to rip out most of the inside (or all of it), and I want to save a piece of the old and use it in a small piece of art or something to bring with us if and when we finally hit the road. Maybe even make a second piece for K’s parents, too. Any old RV communities you know of on Facebook we should join? Thanks in advance.
We’re restoring a 1946 vintage camper called a Spartan Manor. It belonged to K’s grandfather and has been sitting in the woods untouched for more than 30 years. Can we bring her back to life? Check out the video series and see for yourself!
Maybe interior hardware, like drawer pulls, hinges, wall hooks, etc. Daniel of Manhattan Nest is always saving that stuff, and then it shows up in a new spot later, cleaned of rust ant paint.
That’s what I was thinking, too! The old cabinet handles would be great to keep.
Take a removed wood cabinet door. Strip it, cut to approximate rectangle and inscribe whatever you wish. After my divorce and selling the homestead my oldest and her husband made a beautiful sign for me that said “Home is where you are”. It became and still is a reminder about the people in my life without boundaries.
Great idea, thanks Deborah!
Please save the “sign” that reads “Used Sew Blades” with the “A” added in above. That is my favorite! I bet there is a good story or laugh behind it!
I’ve got to believe it’s K’s dad who wrote that as a kid or something. It’s charming.
I think it would neat if you saved the “used sew blades”. Maybe trim it down and frame it up, for a little wall art. It is a link to the past life of the trailer.
Yesssss, I love this! My husband and I are actually in the middle of selling our house and renovating a 2000 Winnebago Adventurer to live in and travel full time (*with* our two big fluffy dogs!) so I am all about this! Our Winnebago doesn’t need quiiiite as much work as your trailer but it’s still so much fun! I have so many ideas spinning in my head and hate that I can’t work at a super super human pace, haha. But I love thinking of ways to make everything both beautiful and functional (or even multi functional) since this 32’ motorhome is gojng to be our actual home.
Anyways! Sorry for the novel. I don’t have a blog just yet but am starting to post more about the motorhome on Instagram if you’re interested. My username is nestandshell.
I’ll look your username up! I’m eager to learn how we’re going to make this happen.
One of the drawer fronts or maybe several could be used to mount art or photos, or center part of drawer fronts could be cut away to make real art or photos frames. And you must do something with that license plate!
So what Make is Ruby?
Spartan Manor. I’m not 100% on the exact year, but we think 1946.
Sarah, my name is Ren…we have a 1948 Spartan Manor 25’ that we are also in the process of renovating. Check the door frame of your driver side door for a plate at about chest height. It should have a serial number that has the year in it. Excited for you to join the Spartan family. It’s a lot of work, especially if you go the 100%, but worth it in the end. Turns heads everywhere you go for sure. There are two great FB groups of Spartan renovators if you ever have questions or are looking for spare parts and pieces. Good luck! Excited to see it progress!
Hi Ren! Would you mind sending me an invite to the FB groups or telling me the names of the Spartan groups? I’d love to share my project with them and start getting involved with anyone locally (currently looking for a good storage option while we work on it, so connecting with others will probably be very important for us this year!). Thanks so much!
If any of the wood is thick enough to sand down and engrave you could make matching cutting boards for use in camper and parents house inscribed with last name and established date. Or use the old hardware on stained boards to make them into serving trays.
Considering the previous use (workshop, so lots of chemicals) and that most of the wood inside is plywood, I don’t think any of it would be reusable for anything that could be considered “food grade”… but reusing the hardware is definitely at the top of my list for things to try to save!
Incredible project and I look forward to seeing you progress. Happy Thanksgiving from Canada.
We have 2 Spartans, a 1951 36 ft. Royal Spartenette named Honey and a 1951 38 ft.Imperial Mansion. It took us 3 years to renovate Honey to her original condition Birchwood interior which has a beautiful honey patina. Haven’t started on the Imperial yet. Planning on taking our first trip soon south to escape Colorado winter. GOOD LUCK RENOVATING !
If you pass through the Atlanta area, reach out to us and we’d love to do dinner or something to pick your brains on how you renovated Honey / are planning to renovate the Imperial. We have so much to learn!
Would love to see photos.
I love tearing my house apart as well, we just finished our kitchen. Taking hammers to those ugly cabinets felt so good!
Anyway, sorry, this looks like it’s going to be fun! I can’t wait to see the progress.
*Oh, my sister’s name is Dottie lol*
Haha, say hi to Dottie for me then! That name will always have a special place in the hearts of my family. And congrats on your kitchen remodel! I’m sure the relief from having it done is well deserved.
Hi! Im so excited to see what you guys do with this camper! It will be do worth all the labor in the and! My husband and I are doing the same thing right now with an 82 Silver Streak. We have actually completely broken the camper in to 2 pieces (body off the trailer) and are rebuilding from the base up because there was SO much that to the trailer part of it. So much work but I wouldnt have it any other way! It looks like you have similar front windows to what we have, which are honestly what drew me to our heap of junk haha. We ended up being able to save a lot of the cabinets and metal trim, plus a really amazing baroque medicine cabinet to put back in. We will be living in it fulltime when we are done. If you’d like to see it, we are on IG @homebehindus. Do you have an IG for your reno? If so, I’d LOVE to follow it! Last thing, sorry for the novel, but your little blog photo with the paint on the face is so cute!
Haha, thanks Janelle! You can find me on Instagram at @uglyducklingDIY. Looking for your account right now! So glad to find other people doing these renos who we might be able to learn something from. Good luck on the rest of your renovation!
Just joined your blog and so happy I found it. You both have a lot of work cut out for you with the Spartan Trailer but it will be so worth it in the end. I am just like your granny Sarah, and I camp and travel with my little dog Buddy through out the summer months here in Canada. Hopefully, heading to the US next summer. I purchased a pop up camper a couple of years ago and renovated her right down to the bones but recently in the fall decided to purchased a new Bullet Premier Crossover 1800 travel trailer, since I am getting on in years and needed something that would not take me 3 hours to set up and take down on my own. My sister is happy as well as my Mom as they were always concerned about me traveling and staying in a camper with only canvas to protect you. I never worried about it.
It will be so much fun watching your blog as you renovate Ruby. I love seeing what others do as I know what it was like for my own journey when renovating the pop up camper.
Thanks so much for sharing, Wendy! If you ever have pictures of your travels, I’m working on an upcoming blog post where K and I are both going through old family photos to see if we can find camper pics (my grandparents loved their motor home, so it’s really fun to look back through that stuff). If you’d want to share the photos from your previous renovation, I’d love to share them in that post.
Absolutely Sarah. Where can I send them to?
send them to contact (at) uglyduckling house (dot) com (I have to write it like that because apparently it makes it harder for bots to read?).
YIKES ! what a project , but oh the reward when you can see the finish line . I can’t wait to see your progress. I love the name Ruby , ( its moms middle name) . As a fellow visionary and hobby builder , I would say your ” making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear ” : ) something I’ve done all my life , whether it be homes or campers , ( or relationships , ha , ha, ha. ) . Best of luck , Annie
Thanks so much Annie! We should be making our next update later this month, so hopefully I’ll have more progress to show in February! I’m so excited for the weather to start warming up so it’s not such a chore to work on her. :)
I’ve been meaning to tell you about this woman on Facebook (that I accidentally came across) who has also restored a vintage travel trailer…but I keep forgetting. Anyway here’s the link to her Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/malisa.narvaiz] (the posts are public), hopefully it will be a help and inspiration for working on “Ruby”. Oh by the way, she named her trailer, “Bertha”. :)
Thanks so much for sending! I’ll check it out!
You could keep one of the cabinet doors, turn it into a tray, and use the old hardware for handles. Some nice saying painted on the tray about the beauty of change would be a great reminder of this journey.
Love that idea, Jo! Thank you for sharing.
I like the Low Clearance sign. The black and white, and the font…design inspiration! Good luck & best wishes on the reno!
Thanks so much Julie!
Those windows! Especially the curved one up front! Good luck on your endeavor; glad she’ll be saved from destruction. Excited to follow.
Thanks Cathy! Our next trip will be next weekend so we should have an update soon!
That old license plate would look amazing inside, I love the low clearance and “sew” sign as well!
Maybe there’s a good idea for combining a few into an art piece (if not for the inside of the camper, but for home). Thanks!
Love the project you have undertaken. I’m looking forward to following your progress.
My wife & I picked up a 1987 Vanguard motor home for $3000… once we got it home I got looking a little deeper and had a few “oh dear” moments. Should be fun though. I’ll have to share.
I love your idea of repurposing some of the material if you can.
You guys are an inspiration
Thanks so much Craig! Yours is a lot newer than mine but I’m sure it will be neat (I’m googling the images of a 1987 as we speak!). Good luck on your project!
oh definitely newer by about 40 years I think. for the age of yours its amazing to see very little water damage inside. Thats awesome really. I’ll send some before and after pics. We wanted something we could pull a horse trailer with and camp comfortably off the ground. My wife coined it perfectly, “we want a cabin on wheels not a house on wheels”. I have a few mechanical things and semi structural things to address. Otherwise it will be good.
Most definitely a 1946 Spartan Manor. First production year by J Paul Getty, the world’s richest man at that time. Your three front windows have square corners: they were rounded off sometime in late 1946; our 1946 Manor has the rounded window corners. Its serial number [manufacturers used the serial number prior to initiation of Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) system in 1954] is 25-46-3207. Translated: 25 [25’ long including tongue length]; 46 [1946 production year]; 3207 [3,207th trailer produced; that number likely includes Spartan Manor models and Spartan Spartanettes]. You found you had a 12” tongue, which led to frequent damages to the trailer front and tow vehicle rear in tight turns; a good project is to find an expert welder who can cut off that tongue, and weld on a longer tongue. My guess is, that our Manor, having rounded windows, was built in the last month or two of 1946: karma, since my birthdate is 18 November 1946.
Yes, the tongue is super short! We definitely hope to/plan to redo that and extend it. It will also give us a spot for more updated power/propane to use inside the camper once that’s done (we’ve seen it on other updated trailers and taken note!).