Boler shopping tips? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-03-2014, 09:50 PM   #1
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
Posts: 95
Boler shopping tips?

So I came across a '76 Boler for sale not too far away and am going to look at it this weekend. Current owner has had it five years and doesn't know anything about whether the axle was ever replaced. They appear to have done some cosmetic stuff like recover cushions and add new ones where they were missing, and put in new flooring (need to find out what they did there I know). It is mostly original from the looks of it, as far as kitchen and dinette, and the bunk beds. He said original fridge doesn't work, he was told propane systems work when he bought it but he has never used the propane stove or furnace (doesn't trust propane in a trailer for some reason) so can't attest to that. I would have that professionally tested. He said the electric system works, but I would guess that it would need rewiring if that has never been done. I am not sure what else to look for here, as I am not a mechanic or anything close to it. I did look at the checklist on this site, which is great, but I am wondering if the Boler owners out there might give me more specific things to look for.

It does not have brakes, so I am factoring in the cost of a new axle with brakes. So aside from that, electric, and the propane system, I guess the main remaining issue is the frame integrity, right? If I were to crawl around under this thing, what, specifically, should I look for regarding frame damage and the like? Any other pointers, especially regarding what might be under the flooring? Asking price is $4000. Any help much appreciate, as always!
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Old 02-04-2014, 06:04 AM   #2
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Vicki, be sure to download, print and take the Buyer's Check List with you when you go shopping for any used trailer.

Best of luck!
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Old 02-04-2014, 07:14 AM   #3
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
Posts: 95
Thanks Donna, I do have that downloaded. It is super helpful as a checklist, but does not help as far as identifying how to check out a frame.

After doing some more searching on frame issues for older trailers, I may reconsider looking at vintage trailers. It seems that a an old frame that looks fine upon visual inspection can still break apart while you are driving down the highway. I don't think I have it in me to be worrying about that. Plus, this particular trailer has been fitted with a hitch to carry a motorbike, so who knows what kind of strain that put on the frame, which I did not realize was so delicate in a Boler to begin with.

I am handy when it comes to simple things, like cosmetically fixing up the interior, but I am not going to be DIYing the bigger mechanical stuff. From a financial perspective, it seems like if I spend $4000 on this (or similar) trailer, then have an axle with brakes added ($750), have it rewired ($500-800), propane checked and fixed ($50-700), refrigerator fixed or replaced ($100-500), rusted tongue sandblasted (guessing $200-300), who knows about leaking windows ($500), and possible total frame replacement ($1700), I should probably just buy a new trailer for a thousand or two more that has everything I want and that I won't have to worry about so much. The costs above are estimates based on what I read here, but they seem about right, right?
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Old 02-04-2014, 09:24 AM   #4
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Trailer: 1972 boler American and 1979 Trillium 4500
Ontario
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Nice to see someone is doing their homework on what to look for and the value of replacements. That should give you some wiggle room for negotiating. I laugh at the people that come up to my door and offer $1500 never asking about the axle or propane.
As for the frame, you can search FGRV for where the weak spots are. Typically where the frame bends under the front bunk and where the frame is cut for the door. Uneven tire wear may give you an indication of a bigger problem.

You can check the frame with a flashlight (visual) and a small hammer (percussion). Lightly tap the frame every few inches and listen for the sounds. Weak spots will sound differently, think of your doctor tapping your chest or back while listening.
The wiring is fairly basic in a boler, no reason you could not do most if not all of it yourself. Even if it is to only string the wires and have someone connect them for you.
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Old 02-04-2014, 11:06 AM   #5
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
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Thanks Roy. If the wiring is that basic, my dad could probably do it. I decide to go look at it, I will try that with the frame. I am not sure I trust myself to know what to look for, though. And in reality, if the frame has never been shored up or replaced, I would likely want to do that anyway, just for the peace of mind. So I would be factoring that into the price, and just making sure that the frame was good enough for me to tow it to wherever I would get the frame replaced.

Anyone know somewhere trustworthy in the Northeast with experience working on these trailers? I am not sure whether to call an auto mechanic, rv place, or what. I suspect I might need some of both - - auto mechanic for the frame, and rv place for propane, etc.
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Old 02-04-2014, 01:14 PM   #6
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Name: Gina
Trailer: 1975 Boler
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Electric is pretty basic.Make sure to check tires as well. I've noticed a lot of people running 175/80/R13s for more clearance. Check for a spare too. I got lucky with my Boler I bought last month. Retired couple and garage kept for nearly 20 years. Hardly used slept in it only a handful of times. He used the Boler as a prop piece for his classic car. I paid in your "ballpark" but he let me test out the propane heater, fridge, propane stove. He was a very nice guy and wanted it to go to someone that would love the trailer as well. PM for any questions.
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Old 02-04-2014, 02:23 PM   #7
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I always prefer if it is the original gel coat as opposed to a poor paint job that you are going to spend a lot of time sorting out.
Also if you buy one where all the metal trim and windows has been painted poorly it is a major job to restore it back to original - I made that mistake once, never again!
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Old 02-04-2014, 04:46 PM   #8
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
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Aznative you did get lucky. The current owner of the one I am looking at has only had it a few years and never used the propane. I am not comfortable testing it myself. Kootenaigirl, it does have original gel coat. Not sure on condition. And window trim appears to be unpainted.

These are all helpful tips, thanks! Still not sure on the frame issue. I don't even know how to find someone who I could rely on to shore it up or replace it reliably. I doubt very much that it has ever been done, and it seems like it should be done proactively, even if everything looks ok. Some scary stories on this forum about boler owners' frames breaking on the road, despite recent inspection with no signs of trouble.
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Old 02-04-2014, 08:38 PM   #9
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Ya buy used, you take your chances! There are horror stories for certain, and there are stories of people who own trailers that are decades old with no problems. Reading Norm&Ginnys problems with their frame on the Scamp might scare off some want-to-be owners. ONLY YOU can decide what level of comfort you are willing to face. If you want NO PROBLEMS and a warranty... look to buy new (of any brand, any build).

Sorry, but that's reality....
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Old 02-04-2014, 08:57 PM   #10
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Name: bob
Trailer: 1984 u-haul ct13; 1996 Casita 17 Spirit Deluxe; 1946 Modernistic teardrop
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I've seen a couple instances where people bought some old trailer, only to have it turn into a money pit because they couldn't do the work themselves. One ended up nice after thousands of dollars were spent on it, but resulting in more spent than it was worth. The other one had thousands spent and it's still not useable. Not mine, but looks like I'll be working on it just to help out the owner. She also had problems finding anyone that would work on it. I've also talked to some sellers that had no clue about what they had, or if it did have any problems because they don't know how to look for them. How about that one year old Scamp 13 near Albany NY. That's a couple hour ride from most points in CT and not old enough to have problems.
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Old 02-04-2014, 09:42 PM   #11
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
Posts: 95
I am going to call a few places and see if i can find someone to do frame work if necessary, or even replace the frame, before I go look at it. Bob, I did look at that trailer. I was hoping it would work out but it didn't, for reasons I can't get into here. Would you mind sharing what the major problems were that ended up costing thousands? I thought I had thought of everything, but maybe I haven't. What do you think a generally restored Boler 1300 should be worth?
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Old 02-04-2014, 10:36 PM   #12
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Trailer: 1984 u-haul ct13; 1996 Casita 17 Spirit Deluxe; 1946 Modernistic teardrop
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Both trailers I'm referring to are Uhauls. One was sent out for fiberglass work, electrical work, and a professional paint job. Looks nice. The person using it is a friend of the owner and showed me some of the receipts. Said the owner would like to sell but figures he could never recover his investment. The other trailer I haven't seen yet, but the owner has taken it to a couple places for work that has not been satisfactory. I'm not sure of the details. I may get involved with some repairs on it. My point being; many sellers aren't aware of problems with what they are selling, and buyers find out too late that problems exist. Our Uhaul needed more work than I expected, but since we paid $2000, and I can do all the work myself, we still have a decent camper at an investment of around $3000 or so. If I had to pay someone to do all the repairs it would not have been worth it. Generally restored Boler, I'm not familiar with them, never seen one, so can't comment on value. But restored can be a debatable term, I would call restored to mean everything repaired or replaced and in like new condition. Others may call a trailer that's cleaned up, good tires, new upholstery, frame painted, in other words made to look nice, and call it restored. Boler owners can advise you better, I just don't want to see you jump into something and have it turn into a disaster. Or it may be a great deal. Would be great if someone with fiberglass trailer experience could go with you. At this time we are camping in the not so sunny south but at least avoiding the snow.
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Old 02-05-2014, 08:28 AM   #13
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Name: Roy
Trailer: 1972 boler American and 1979 Trillium 4500
Ontario
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Something to keep in mind while you are looking. Sometimes it is easier to fix up an original trailer than refix someones fixes. As for pricing, it varies by geographic zone and season. You can get an idea from both the archives here and Greg's site, links follow:
Classified Archives - Fiberglass RV
Molded Fiberglass Trailers | Fiberglass RV's For Sale
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Old 02-05-2014, 12:53 PM   #14
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
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I found a welder who is willing and able, works on and builds trailers. $75/hour, does that sound reasonable? So I am thinking I might be able to make this work, depending on condition when I get there. Will bring checklist and do my best to check things out, except propane, I will just assume that system needs fixing since it hasn't been used in five years. Don't want to test that myself!
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Old 02-05-2014, 01:16 PM   #15
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Name: RogerDat
Trailer: 77 Scamp 13
Michigan
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Any decent trailer shop that does welding could do the frame work. If the metal is rotted from the inside it will as someone pointed out sound bad if tapped with a metal object. Weld joints not cracked and reasonably solid frame and one can reinforce stress points without any need for expense of a totally new frame.

Checking out the propane system is routine maintenance so you might find more spider nests, or leaks on an old one but even new your going to need to check fittings for leaks with soapy water pretty soon.

On the electric if it ain't broke you can't fix it so this expense is easy to know up front. Plug trailer in and see if stuff works, cheap AC plug tester from big box hardware store and a spare light bulb or two. Same for the trailer lights, if they work it only becomes an expense if you want to do the work.

Sand blast the tongue? You can hit that with a small electric sander and wire brush on a drill, then paint with foam brush or rattle can. Paint protects metal and metal only needs to be clean enough for the paint to stick. Decent paint job will look fine on bumper or tongue, it doesn't need to be painted as "fine" as a car or Harley chopper to look good.

Scuffed tire wear or less than approx. 3 inch clearance above wheel to the wheel well are good guideline for "need" an axle or not. Measure your fist then see how your fist fits above the tire. At this age it should be expected a new axle will be required but the question is does it need it right away or is it OK for a year or two of use. Axle done is solid investment that adds value.

Current seller can't say what works and what does not, if you decided to sell it and having used it can say, fridge works, propane all works and axle is only 3 yrs. old it enhances the value, enough to get a good return on the investment somewhat depends on purchase price and market value of one in known good condition. Check out those links from Roy so you know what is a fair offer and how much room you have for adding value from your investments.

Not going to get a "new" 36 year old camper anymore than you are going to get a "new" 1976 Mustang but both can be pretty cool to own.

Question I think you really need to ask is where is your comfort level. Does it all have to be done over to "new" condition for you to feel confident using it, or if it still works are you comfortable with the knowledge something might need repair at some point?

What do you personally have to spend to use and enjoy is the bottom line.
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Old 02-05-2014, 01:36 PM   #16
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Trailer: 77 Scamp 13
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Originally Posted by VicCT View Post
I found a welder who is willing and able, works on and builds trailers. $75/hour, does that sound reasonable? So I am thinking I might be able to make this work, depending on condition when I get there. Will bring checklist and do my best to check things out, except propane, I will just assume that system needs fixing since it hasn't been used in five years. Don't want to test that myself!
$75 is a fair labor rate, especially for an experienced person that knows how to design a good reinforcement approach. Propane system of trailer itself is just copper tubing, each appliance is it's own thing that works or does not work. Tank -> Regulator -> lines -> appliance.

And those propane lines are in sections with a "T" at each appliance, not much to go wrong except having the T connection work loose. EXCEPT for getting water in the lines, typically from storing with no propane tank connected and the end of the copper tube not covered. Water collects in the low spot (typically where tubing goes into the trailer) Then water freezes and splits the copper tube. So good to examine the propane line where it enters the trailer or any other low point you find for that tubing.

Still a fairly simple repair that any plumber should be able to do.
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Old 02-05-2014, 02:46 PM   #17
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
Posts: 95
Roger, I can't tell you how helpful this was. When you don't have experience in what to look for, it is so helpful to have concrete advice like "So good to examine the propane line where it enters the trailer or any other low point you find for that tubing."

If the frame does not need replacing, I will just grind down the rust on the tongue and paint it. Good thought. I've done that on my wrought iron railings. Either way I probably need a new axle, as the Boler currently does not have electric brakes and I would be adding them. I figure if I can keep my spending under $2500, I can keep it within a reasonable value. It has new tires and propane tank, but I will check them. The known "must do's" are brakes, probably axle, and check propane lines and furnace and necessary repairs to that. Fridge does not work but I could live without one for awhile, have it checked out for what the problem is and either get it fixed or keep my eyes peeled for a deal on a new or used one. Other probable things are shoring up the frame, electric stuff I could maybe do myself (although do the lines run behind the insulation?), install a fantastic fan to replace current basic vent fan (I might be able to handle this myself too), and check for window leaks, which I won't be able to do in the middle of winter here. I will look for telltale excess caulking and signs of leakage, though.

Thanks everyone, any more specific advice on what to look for is most appreciated. I have been reading through all of the posts on restoration as well.
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Old 02-05-2014, 04:54 PM   #18
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Trailer: 77 Scamp 13
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....."So good to examine the propane line where it enters the trailer or any other low point you find for that tubing.".....
You want to guess how I found that one out?

I thought of one other thing, leaking water always finds the floor and then an opening to drain from, often around the edges or maybe where propane line or wire go through the floor. So a good strong flashlight used to check the floor under cabinets, seating, closets, all around the edges of the camper is a good place to check. Look for discoloration and check if wood has become soft, plywood layers have started to separate or sounds oddly soft and dull when thumped with a knuckle when compared to solid floor.

If you can check floor from underneath pay extra attention near the door, door can leak and wood floor probably takes the most pounding right where people step in.

I totally agree on adding electric brakes if you change an axle. Smart way to go.

If trailer currently has 4 bolt rims expect to need new rims too when you change the axle. Common 13 inch (and most trailer rims and axles) are now 5 bolt. You may also need a bolt on adapter for the spare tire if going from 4 bolt to 5 bolt rims because the holes in 5 bolt rim won't line up with the spare tire bolts/hanger for a 4 bolt rim if that was original. No big deal welding shop can crank adapter out, probably in an hour or less, and possibly brace off of the rear bumper too for some added strength supporting the spare. At least on a Scamp it's possible to go that route. After having gone through a lot of hassle to stay with 4 bolt on mine when I replaced the axle I don't advise it, if I had a do over I would go with the common 5 bolt solution outlined above. Even at the expense of 3 new rims.

3 way fridge runs off of heat so could have burned out electric heating element and it might still work on propane heat source, or vice versa. Google and search the forum for "Burping a fridge" before replacing it. A lot of these fridges take a long time (hours) to get cold, possibly original owner ran it for an hour or two and thought it was broken when it was not.

Good Luck, hope it works out.
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Old 02-06-2014, 08:22 PM   #19
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Trailer: 1972 boler American and 1979 Trillium 4500
Ontario
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After having gone through a lot of hassle to stay with 4 bolt on mine when I replaced the axle I don't advise it, if I had a do over I would go with the common 5 bolt solution outlined above. Even at the expense of 3 new rims.
Keep your eye out for sales. Tires mounted on rims can often be found for less than the tires alone.
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:55 PM   #20
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Name: Vicki
Trailer: Scamp 13, 2015 Nissan Frontier SE
Connecticut
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Just an update - - I did not buy the Boler, but someone who looked after me apparently did, as it is no longer listed. More work was needed than I anticipated. Still looking! Thanks for the help everyone.
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