1973 Compact Jr - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-22-2009, 01:57 PM   #1
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Name: Dana
Trailer: 1973 Compact Jr
California
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I was all prepared to lasso a Burro and found this Compact Jr just before the noose settled over the Burro's head.

The Burro was (and still is) in Denver, and really is a taller trailer than what I wanted. But the price was right and the condition more than satisfactory. But I was really concerned about my 4-cylindar Camry pulling something as tall as the Burro in high altitudes and figured that I would come back via Santa Fe to avoid the steep high-altitude grades. All told, it was going to be a 5-day process picking up the Burro and at a rather awkward time for me.

The Compact Jr was in Turlock, a 6 1/2hr drive from home, and not nearly as tall as the Burro when in towing mode. The trailer is in much worse shape than the Burro, but much cheaper and easier to get to, as well as better-suited to the towing capabilities of my Camry.

When I saw the ad appear on this board, I fired off a private message asking for pictures and price. I also checked for ads on craigslist in the Modesto area -- no ads. I thought this was a little bizarre -- surely the seller would want maximum exposure to get maximum price.

Randy A replied with this single picture he had taken camping:

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It obviously has some challenges -- bent bumper, broken window in rear door, and who knows what else that's not in view. However, Randy said he was thinking of under $1000, so I should come take a look and see what it was worth to me. We agreed to meet at 4pm the following day (Monday, May 18) and he promised not to sell it before I got there.

I had some concerns about being enticed to some out-of-the-way spot and being relieved of my money, so I checked Google satellite and streetview, and also did a white pages lookup of Randy's name and address. Google pointed to an alfalfa field, which didn't seem too promising, but also said the address was approximate. While I had Randy on the phone I had him describe the location of his house and I found it about 300' from where Google thought it was. The description matched what I saw, and I could see a small brown trailer in the back -- not enough detail to confim it was a pop-top, but certainly consistent with one. All in all, things matched well and I was pretty certain I would be OK. But just on the chance that I wasn't, I gave my wife the phone number of the local police department and told her I would call her on the cell phone just as I was arriving, and would leave it on the whole time I was there. That way if she heard things were going bad she could call for help immediately.

I arrived at the appointed time and had called my wife so we could discuss the trailer's condition, features, and so on -- that worked really quite well. Randy had the top up and I could see various splits were held together with wide black tape -- the same kind of tape he had used on the broken window in the door. There obviously had been water in the trailer because the steel parts, like parts of the cooktop and heater were rusty. But overall it mainly seemed worn with age but not really abused. Unlike Francene's trailer, it had only a 110v refer, which was a minus in my book, but it also didn't look to me that I'd have to do a full frame-off rebuild before using the trailer. Randy asked for $900 and that's what I paid him, even though I knew I needed tires immediately, the heater didn't work, the pop-up had lost its arch, there was no table, the window was broken, etc. The cooktop worked, and the frame seemed solid although the paint had long ago dried, shrunk, and cracked, making for spiderweb rust lines. The bearings were OK but the tires, even though they had lots of tread, were much too old and were cracking longitudinally along the tread.

The thing I kick myself about is that I didn't take a picture of Randy and his trailer before I drove off. But I was in a hurry to get new tires before everything closed for the day.

A mile down the road I stopped to chek things over -- the hitch hadn't been closed properly, but the tires and hubs weren't overheating -- they were hot but that's because the day was hot!

I used my wife's cellphone to take the picture and didn't realise where the lens was, so I have my fingers in the picture:

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Old 05-22-2009, 02:59 PM   #2
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Name: Dana
Trailer: 1973 Compact Jr
California
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Lost in Los Banos

I was trying to get to Los Banos before 6pm because Randy said there was an RV place there where I could get new tires. I got there at 6:05pm and didn't know where the RV place was, so I figured I had missed my chance.

Bobbie Mayer and I had communicated before the trip and she asked me to stop by on my way home so we could look at each other's trailers. So I called her to tell her I was still about 90 minutes away from her place, needed tires, and would she like to join me for dinner somewhere in Fresno when I got there. She had already eaten, so we settled down to talking about where to get tires. She told me of a discount tire place in Fresno if I wanted to stay over, or better yet, I could park at the Walmart there overnight and get tires in the morning! I was just dialling the number she gave me when she called back to report there was a Walmart in Los Banos and maybe the Auto Center was still open. She gave me the number to call.

I called the Los Banos Walmart and learned the tire center was open until 7pm -- it was now 6:20. I got the directions and they said they were pretty far out of town. How far? Oh, 4 or 6 miles or so. So I drove out 120 until I was definitely in the sticks, and decided I must have gone the wrong direction. I called again, confirmed I was at the wrong end of town (why do people have such a hard time with east or west?), and got the directions as well as several landmarks just before the store. Look for Target and Lowes, she said.

So I drove back through town (lotsa signals, most of them red), see the Target, see Lowes, and another large building with no discernable sign far from the highway but up ahead there's only fields, miles to the next intersection, and a left-turn pocket right here. I made the left turn, drove back to the large building and it was the Walmart! Yea! Of course it was now 7:15pm.

I drove to the tire department and saw to my joy there were still people working there. So I park, walk over and ask can they sell me some tires and mount them for me tonight. "Yes!" (mood swing up!) I point to the trailer and am told they cannot do trailers. (Mood swing down) Why not? They didn't have a proper jack. If I take off the wheels then can you do it? Yes (another mood reversal) I take off one wheel and walk over with it. At that point a different guy snags me and tells me he needs to check if they have something appropriate in stock. (mood swings to uh-oh)

He checks stock -- no matching trailer tire. (mood swing down) He has premounted tires on wheels, (mood swing up) but it turns out their 13" wheels with 4-lug pattern has the wrong size pilot hole (the center hole that goes over the hub) (mood swing down). They have automobile tires that would fit but are not allowed to mount on a trailer. Ah! he says, I know of someone who will mount these for you, but it will cost $60 extra because it's after hours. (mood swing up) So I get the business name, phone number, and buy two auto tires for $75.

I go to the "other place" and had expected to see someone there -- no one there. I call the number but can only leave a message. It's getting dark, I'm very hungry, and I'm stuck there across the street from a shopping center with all kinds of food places (restaurants seems a little too high-falutin' a term) offering comestibles for my growling stomach.

So I call a few more times, and as I call once more I get an incoming call from the guy I'm trying to reach. I don't know my wife's cell phone so I muff picking it up, but I call right back and he answers (mood swing up!!!) I'm having a hard time hearing him (hiway 120 is a highway, after all) and understanding him (accent as well as the fact he's yelling into the phone and it's distorting badly). When I say "What?" he yells louder making the distortion even worse.

I agree to the $60 surcharge and he say he'll xmflsdndgsg over. I guess that means either he or someone else is coming, so that's good.

Half an hour later he shows up and tells me he called me three times, why didn't I answer. I look at the phone and he's right -- 3 missed calls. I hadn't heard it at all because of all the traffic. He tells me that it's going to cost me $60 cash to open the door, and another $40 to mount the two tires, $100 cash total. Is that OK? Not what I expected and I say so, but I say OK.

He opens the door and tells me to move the trailer to a specific spot which requires the car to drive over the sidewalk and off the curb. Camry's are not noted for having high clearance, so I check the curb height carefully, which annoys him. That's his problem, not mine, I say to myself.

I get the trailer close to where he wants and he takes off a wheel and removes the old tire. Do I want new valve stems? Of course -- How much? $10 each. Yipe!! When I grumble he tells me "Hey, I'm just making a wage like everyone else!" I decide to keep my mouth shut because I have no choice. But this is an all-cash deal, no receipts, so we know none of this is being reported as a sale or income. Pretty sweet for him!

He did know his job, did good work on the trailer, my wallet, and my short hairs.

I finally was ready to leave at 9:05pm, just after the food places had all shut down for the night (mood swings to awwww).
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Old 05-22-2009, 07:25 PM   #3
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Dana,
Some adventure just to get your trailer! Hope the problem areas can all be fixed to your satisfaction. Welcome to the Compact clan.

Tom Trostel

http://s293.photobucket.com/albums/mm41/to...mview=slideshow
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Old 05-22-2009, 08:45 PM   #4
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Name: Dana
Trailer: 1973 Compact Jr
California
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Hi Tom, thanks for the welcome!

I had perused your slideshow before -- it was one of the reasons I was looking for a Compact Jr, Campster, or something similar.

I have a question: what do the screws that attach the front and side windows really bite into -- the fiberglass shell or the wood window frames on the inside? I ask because the windows should be pulled out in order to reseal them. I would like to replace the window frames at the same time and if they're just for show I can use anything, but if they are actually part of the structure I'll have to be more careful in my selection.

Thanks!
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Old 05-22-2009, 09:00 PM   #5
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I hadn't heard the story! I'm glad you got the tires- I should have told you where the Walmart was but I might have gotten you just as lost and then it would be my fault, so maybe just as well.

Bobbie
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:24 PM   #6
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Quote:
I have a question: what do the screws that attach the front and side windows really bite into -- the fiberglass shell or [b]the wood window frames on the inside?
In my Compact Jr. the wood window frames were structural because they used wood screws to mount the windows.

Having said that, you might consider pop-riveting the windows to the fiberglass and do away with the wood frames altogether.
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:52 PM   #7
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Thanks for the info Frederick!
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Old 05-23-2009, 07:00 AM   #8
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Frederick is correct. The screws sandwich the outer aluminum window frame to the inner soft wood frame. My windows were waterproof when purchased but the screws were rusted and ugly. The inside window frame had yellowed and was also ugly. I replaced all the wood screws with zinc plated ones and after 5 years of ownership they still look good. I painted the inside wood with enamel the color of the walls. I thought about replacing the inside wood with oak but haven't yet. I moved on to other projects.

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Old 05-23-2009, 01:58 PM   #9
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I believe the wood also is there to add rigidity to the sides.... On my rebuild, I just happened to stumble ( ) on some nice mahogany to use... I used SS screws, the type known as truss heads, as the have a larger head and also do not stick out far. (since I live in Eastern WA, I do not worry about the conflict between alum and SS) Larry
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Old 05-23-2009, 11:19 PM   #10
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Congratulations, Dana! Finally you found a Compact. The Camry towed without a hitch, right? Not bad for a 4 cyl.

Enjoyed your story; you write very well. I used to live in So Cal and could picture your descriptions. Sorry you had such a harried, frustrating journey, though. At least you got home safely.

Enjoy your new project! The Compacts are neat little trailers.

Best,
Fran
'74 Compact II
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Old 05-25-2009, 11:05 PM   #11
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Dana,
Welcome, If you ever get really south in California (San Diego), Drop me a line and we will compare.



Linda
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Old 05-25-2009, 11:19 PM   #12
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WOW Dana, sounds like quite an adventure! I sympathize with you, had to put new tires on my trailer myself a few weeks ago, but my experience went much smoother... (Pops knows the local tire shop guys, that good old boy sort of thing, you know?) Still, it's never fun when stuff comes up unexpectedly...

Welcome to the 'family' though, and keep posting as you fix up/mod your rig, with plenty of pics for all of us 'lurkers' to look at, K? I find it interesting that your trailer has a heater, since mine doesn't. From what I understand, that's one of the few options mine doesn't have, so I'm curious to know more about how and where it's installed.

Anyway, welcome, and good luck in your future with your fun little rig!

Joe
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Old 05-26-2009, 11:50 PM   #13
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Name: Dana
Trailer: 1973 Compact Jr
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Thanks for the welcome and tips, everyone.

Tom, I'll have to replace the inside wood window frames because they are rotted -- water came in between the aluminum window frame and the fiberglass once the putty dried out many years ago. I have ordered some butyl putty tape and will pick up some oak and redo the windows. Oh yeah, I'll have to scrape off the silicon rubber that was put on after the PO discovered the leaks.

Francene, the 4-cylindar Camry really wasn't all that happy towing the trailer on I-5 and especially on Highway 41 just outside of Kettleman City. That grade gave me the choice of going 50mph or better but at 4800rpm or more, or 47mph at 3200rpm. Fortunately it was a weeknight so there was no one behind me and I could go as slowly as I liked.

When I got to the coast I experimented a little and learned that on level ground at sea level, the Camry was happy at 57mph but at 62mph it wasn't. That's fine for level ground, but doesn't leave me any headroom for going up grades.

Overall I got 15mpg on the way back as compared to the normal 24mpg going up to Turlock.

I do look forward to travelling in the 4-Corners area and along the Mogollon Rim, which means I'll be at 7,000-8,000 feet elevation. If the Camry is struggling with grades at sea level it most definitely won't like the thin high-altitude air. So I'm beginning to look for a replacement tug, but only after my wife and I try out the trailer on a few local trips and decide this is something we really want to do.

Tomorrow morning I go to the DMV to get the registration changed and to a local welder to put on more reasonable safety chains.

Joseph, the heater is installed at floor level below the cooktop. The owner said he had not tried it, and I doubt that it works. What I want more than a heater is a gas refrigerator -- by all appearances the trailer came with an ice box and the owner replaced that with a 110v dorm-type mini-fridge. I say that because there is no evidence of the vents needed for a gas refrigerator. Anyway, where I'm going there's no 110v, and I'm definitely not taking a generator!
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Old 05-27-2009, 02:21 AM   #14
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Great posts, Dana! Thanks for this entertaining (for those of us who didn't have to LIVE it) account of your shopping trip and return trek!
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