1985 Casita 13' Renovation - Fiberglass RV



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Old 01-14-2019, 11:10 AM   #1
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Name: Matthew
Trailer: Casita
KS
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1985 Casita 13' Renovation

I am new to the world of fiberglass trailers, but not new trailering, vintage trailers, or trailer restoration. I have been excited to see the enthusiasm of the following for these trailers, and hope to glean a little knowledge as well as share the experience of restoring this trailer.

I picked it up last summer for my mother at a very reasonable price, with the understanding that we could then afford to put a little money and some elbow grease into it and have a very nice trailer.

So far during the initial taking apart of the interior and assessing the scope of the project, I have been pleasantly surprised at how simple and practical these trailers are to use and work on. I have been working on old Airstreams and Spartans, and a significant restoration of this little trailer is an order of magnitude less than those. My parts budgets are usually $25-35K, and this is less than $2000.

The intent with this trailer is to start by restoring it back to the mostly original capability and condition, and then make a few selected upgrades for comfort and convenience.

A few shots of the trailer during recovery and to show the layout.

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Old 01-14-2019, 11:27 AM   #2
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Some initial questions

Some pictures of the demolition of the interior. Just shocked to see how simple this is: wall construction, wiring, insulation, flooring. The fiberglass shell makes a lot of things easier. It is always interesting to see how these come apart and try to figure what the designer had in mind when putting it together.

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A few initial questions as I work on the plan for putting this thing back together:

1) I need to replace the window in the back. A previous owner butchered the frame putting in a window mounted A/C. I am a little concerned because the current window follows the contour of the rear radius of the trailer. Itís approximately 48Ē x 18Ē, and I donít need an exact replacement or ever the exact size, but what might be the best source for a replacement?

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2) This brings me to the second issue. The A/C was mounted in the back window, which seems unstable, fragile, caused significant leaks, restricts visibility and generally looks like hell. What is the possibility of putting a unit on the roof in this era? I donít think it looks like it has sufficient structural strength to support it. I am sure it wonít much cooling power beyond the smallest available unit, but even those are 80-90 lbs.

3) I would like to spruce up the fiberglass cabinets and furniture. Is there any recommended technique for patching existing holes other than a traditional fiberglass repair kit? And what paint or gelcoat would be recommended? I would like to find something I can spray on. I was planning on a marine topside paint for the exterior, but am open to suggestions.

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4) Electrics are my achilles heel. This has no convertor or fuse panel that I have found yet. It doesnít appear to have a water pump to go from the fresh water tank to the faucet, or a water heater. Has anyone has had luck running a water heater or pump without adding a convertor? Otherwise, I may need to look at battery and convertor additions.

5) The narrow strips of OSB attached to the walls that hold up the dinette bench and front couch structure are water damaged, mostly dissolved, and need replaced. I was pulling it off by hand with little more pressure than the weight of my hand. Is there a good technique for replacing these? They seem to be only glued to a bit of fiberglass turned out 90 degrees from the wall, which seems fragile. I am thinking of gluing a block of wood to the wall below the replacement wood strips to provide additional support and reinforcing with fiberglass, but am open to suggestions.

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Thanks in advance for any help. I am a very methodical planner for these projects. I am still doing some basic clean up tasks, such as removing the three-inch moat of silicon around the roof vent. I expect to start work in earnest in late March based on my schedule and when funds will be available in the budget. I like to document heavily for my other trailers for a number of reasons. This trailer looks like fun ahead and I am busily reading as much as possible on the subject.
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Old 01-14-2019, 11:56 AM   #3
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With the age of this year Casita and itís condition have you thought about just getting all new windows? Youíre pulling all the carpet off also right?
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Old 01-14-2019, 06:15 PM   #4
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Matthew, I'm in the process now of a total rework of a 1991 Casita. I've spent the last several days digging for information here and subscribing to threads that cover a lot of the stuff you mentioned. I have read, refer back to these threads more than others I have found as they seem to be the most comprehensive. I'm sure there are more, but these have helped me the most.

I'll keep an eye on your progress as well. Good luck!
David

Rookie vs. 1990 Casita (Project Thread)

Rebuild of 1988 Casita 16

Redo 86 Casita-Repost by request

Why these links are named like this is a mystery to me, but they take you where you need to go.
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:20 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by brian m. View Post
With the age of this year Casita and it’s condition have you thought about just getting all new windows? You’re pulling all the carpet off also right?
Except for the rear window, the other window frames are just fine, and the seals/gaskets and glazing bead appear to be available. I am also concerned that due to the radius nature of the windows, that new ones would not be available that would fit. Putting a flat window in a radiused curve is problematic for a trailer, especially a fiberglass type that could fatigue and break down the resin and fibers.

I would rather find a new (old stock) frame in good condition of the same type for the rear window. Failing that, I will need to fabricate some aluminum brackets out of small angle aluminum and find some suitable window gaskets that will allow me to seal it with a replacement piece of plexiglass. I am confident that I can do this, but it would look better with a proper unaltered frame.

The only modification I may make to the windows otherwise it to replace the blind rivets with machine bolts. Blind rivets are by nature not water tight, and buck rivets would be difficult with the wall covering. One of the beauties of these fiberglass trailers is that they are naturally water-tight and I want to take advantage of and reinforce that characteristic.

For the carpet, I would prefer to leave the visible original carpet in place if we can clean it. Removing the rotted subfloor and portions of the carpet that were hidden removed nearly all of the smell. I very much don't want to try to replicate the exact cutting patterns of the carpet to match the compound formed curves of the shell. I will if necessary, but will try to avoid it. Behind the furniture, I will put in foam foil insulation that I think will insulate better and won't smell or hold moisture. But we haven't made a final decision on the greater part of the carpet.
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:27 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by cdwebb View Post
Matthew, I'm in the process now of a total rework of a 1991 Casita. I've spent the last several days digging for information here and subscribing to threads that cover a lot of the stuff you mentioned. I have read, refer back to these threads more than others I have found as they seem to be the most comprehensive. I'm sure there are more, but these have helped me the most.

I'll keep an eye on your progress as well. Good luck!
David

Rookie vs. 1990 Casita (Project Thread)

Rebuild of 1988 Casita 16

Redo 86 Casita-Repost by request

Why these links are named like this is a mystery to me, but they take you where you need to go.
Thanks David. I had seen one of these, but these are super helpful. It would be difficult to quantify the number or restoration threads and blogs I have read before working on previous trailer projects. Suffice to say that I enjoy being methodical and have gathered a lot of information.
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:36 AM   #7
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Update to questions

One other update:

I spoke with the factory, and they confirmed that the roof was insufficient to support the weight of an A/C. I just can't believe putting a unit in the front or rear window was a legitimate option. There seems to be a dearth of threads related to this.

When we put one in, I am looking a a portable unit in the lower half of the closet, drawing air through a vent to the curbside that will need to be added, and pushing air out about waist high in the center of the trailer.

This still begs the question of the electricals. Not sure how to power the A/C or potential water heater or pump without converter or distribution panel. It's also unclear how anything 12V was getting power when the trailer was not plugged into a tow vehicle.

Thanks again in advance!
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:57 AM   #8
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Scamp reinforces for roof A/C by laying in additional fiberglass mat on the ceiling. Since you’ve got everything apart that could be an option. For even more support glass in some thin ribs that span the trolley roof.

Casita does (or did, in the case of the now-discontinued 13' model) a front floor installation of a window-type A/C. They put in the center of the front gaucho on standards and at the bottom of the front curbside closet on deluxe models. That’s another option.

Roof A/C gives better cooling, so if you’ll be in hot, humid places that might be best.

Window A/C is cheaper but less effective, and it can be tricky to get air flow and drainage right. You’ll have to cut vents in the shell. It preserves the clean profile and aerodynamics and transmits less noise and vibration to the shell.

There is also the mini-split type of system. Don't know that much about them myself, but there is at least on thread on its use in a small molded trailer with installation details.
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Old 01-16-2019, 10:00 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
Scamp reinforces for roof A/C by laying in additional fiberglass mat on the ceiling. Since youíve got everything apart that could be an option. For even more support glass in some thin ribs that span the trolley roof.

Casita does (or did, in the case of the now-discontinued 13' model) a front floor installation of a window-type A/C. They put in the center of the front gaucho on standards and at the bottom of the front curbside closet on deluxe models. Thatís another option.

Roof A/C gives better cooling, so if youíll be in hot, humid places that might be best.

Window A/C is cheaper but less effective, and it can be tricky to get air flow and drainage right. Youíll have to cut vents in the shell. It preserves the clean profile and aerodynamics and transmits less noise and vibration to the shell.

There is also the mini-split type of system. Don't know that much about them myself, but there is at least on thread on its use in a small molded trailer with installation details.
Thanks Jon. I would be interested in seeing how the AC went into the front. I have seen a number of portable units in cabinets and closets at vintage trailer rallies in canned hams and the like. I have an aversion cutting a hole in the side of aluminum, and especially now a fiberglass trailer that is similar to my aversion to lost appendages from my body, but will do so if we need to.

I have looking into split unit extensively, and neither of the two types I have seen will work. They are both just too big and clunky and would need to sit outside with one part and take up too much volume on the inside.

I still need to figure out the electrical to ensure that the trailer's system can handle the demand. I am not sure if I have figured out how the interior lights are getting 12V power or if they are, or should be.
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:35 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Streambrewer View Post
Thanks Jon. I would be interested in seeing how the AC went into the front. I have seen a number of portable units in cabinets and closets at vintage trailer rallies in canned hams and the like. I have an aversion cutting a hole in the side of aluminum, and especially now a fiberglass trailer that is similar to my aversion to lost appendages from my body, but will do so if we need to.

One big difference from cutting a hole in aluminum, FG is a slew easier to repair . If you should cut it out for AC save the panel.
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Old 01-24-2019, 05:02 PM   #11
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Casita 13 Renovation

I too acquired a 83 Casita 13 that was nasty and broken, if fact they were throwing it away. I gutted it, frame off restoration, fixed cracks and holes in fiberglass, cut out , strengthened and raised the roof, added a large moonroof above the bed.
I removed all the interior and re-build in birch with oak frames. Here are some pics.
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Old 01-24-2019, 05:11 PM   #12
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Front a/c

I saw other Casitas with the front Mounted A/C. I put mine in the front right corner just inside the door. The exhaust vent goes out the front and the side in the air intake so it wonít overheat. Itís a 5000 BTU unit from Walmart they cost about $150 and it works great. I replaced all the wiring in the trailer and put a breaker box in to not have any of the electrical issues
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Old 01-24-2019, 09:09 PM   #13
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Windows

As for my windows, many were already broken so I removed all of them and cleaned and polish the frames. I was able to get some pieces for the side slider windows but for the front and back I just went and bought Lexan or plexiglass and put solid windows in the front and rear.
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:16 PM   #14
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I saw other Casitas with the front Mounted A/C. I put mine in the front right corner just inside the door. The exhaust vent goes out the front and the side in the air intake so it wonít overheat. Itís a 5000 BTU unit from Walmart they cost about $150 and it works great. I replaced all the wiring in the trailer and put a breaker box in to not have any of the electrical issues
Al, I never cease to be impressed by the creativity and quality of work people put into their trailers, and this is impressive by any standard.

Any designer or engineer will tell you that there are constraints and trade-offs. One of mine is that this trailer is not my own but my mom's and I have some limitations based upon that. If it were my own, I would imitate your redesign of the floorplan in a heartbeat. And I may get to make some adjustments down the road.

I may just use the idea of the A/C up front. If you have any other pictures of the set up, I would appreciate it.

I am also curious for more details on your breaker box. Don't know if you have pictures there, but I would also appreciate a better idea of what you did. I haven't figure out how this thing is running 12V power inside, unless it just isn't when not hooked up to the tow vehicle. Did you use a converter?

I have been working on my 1955 Airstream electrics, but this Casita is an entirely different animal, mostly in a good way.
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