1978 Ventura Project - Fiberglass RV
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Old 08-10-2022, 06:00 PM   #1
Junior Member
 
Name: Warren
Trailer: Ventura
California
Posts: 5
1978 Ventura Project

Hello! I joined this forum years ago and have been quietly lurking in the sidelines while working on my trailer. I’m proud to introduce you to our 1978 Ventura: “Cautious Optimism”. As we turned each corner in the project, we were cautiously optimistic that our ideas might work - the name just fell into place.

I bought this partially finished trailer without knowing that, among other issues, the previous owner had used screws that were too long when installing the ceiling - essentially turning the roof into Swiss cheese. His project sat, as did the water the cheese-roof let in, and the shell did a great job restricting water from leaking out the bottom. Once we discovered this, the project snowballed and we decided to essentially start from scratch: gut everything, lift the shell off the frame and start over.

My dad (and mom) became interested in the trailer, which proved essential to ever finishing it. My dad put more hours than I did into it and my mom helped wherever she could.

From the purchase date to its first use was just under 4 years. We bought a house in between, which I blame for taking my attention away from the trailer to complete home renovations.

Frame:

The shell was held onto the frame with 6 large bolts. These were easily undone and we used a floor jack and some cleverly cut lumber lift the shell off the frame. Once the frame was exposed, we removed the damaged water tank and sanded it down to bare metal with an angle grinder and flap disk. The entire frame was coated with bed-liner prior to lowering the shell back on the frame.

One of our splurge items was the tongue box from Harbour Freight. It happily holds our battery, jacks, scrap wood, window cover supports, and toolbag.

The axle was in good shape, so after some bearing work and new tires, it pulls very nicely. There are no trailer brakes, so if we ever replace the axle, this is something I would consider (although it is still very lightweight).

Shell:

The belly band was in salvageable shape, but I was inspired by a post on this site to remove it and glass the two clamshells together. I do like how the belly band added some interest, so I plan on painting a line or adding something to break up with boring single colour.

Rather than try and find each individual hole in the roof, we opted to cover the entire thing with another layer or fibreglass. The roof isn’t the smoothest, but it’s watertight and no-one ever sees it.

The entire shell was sanded and painted with a roller.

The door was damaged and beyond repair (despite apparent previous attempts). It was incredibly difficult finding a door with the same dimensions, so we ended up buying a used door off someone parting out their camper and cutting it down to fit. My dad spent an unbelievable amount of time on this, but it turned out very well.

The window cover was ugly but in okay shape. We cut some plexiglass to fit and slid it into the existing cover, giving it a nice, smooth surface. I looked into getting the plexiglass vinyl wrapped, but opted to paint it and save $300. When opened, the cover is supported by 2 pieces of angle steel that were cut to fit into exiting holes in the window frame. Brackets were added to the cover to accept the other end of the steel, and seems to work well.


Structure:

The roof had sagged which seems to be a common issue with these trailers. We made a jig to mimic the contour of the roof shape once it was propped up from inside. I had done some research about wood bending, but didn’t want to try any steam or moisture methods. We ended up using two 1/2” thick boards and cutting multiple kerf cuts across them so they would bend easier. Once bent into position, we laminated the two boards together with wood glue and clamped them in place for over 24 hours. The wood held its shape and when installed, eliminated the roof sag.

The floor was partially rotten and was replaced with new plywood. Everything else was in pretty sound shape and remained original.

One piece of glass was cracked and easily replaced from a local glass shop. Multiple window cranks needed some TLC, but all the windows now open and close smoothly.

Insulation:

I stumbled across a local yurt manufacturer that was throwing away cut off scraps of Reflectix. I took all the scraps they had that day and they kindly saved more for me, so I never spent a dime on insulation. My mom carefully cut and layered the pieces of insulation into place prior to the walls going in.

Lighting/Electrical:

We put too many lights in our trailer. This was all new to us, and we didn’t want it to be too dim, but many of our lights never get used.

That said, I really like all the lights we chose. Everything was off Amazon and the low-profile design of the ceiling lights allow me (6’ tall) to still stand in the trailer. The wall sconces emit a nice warm light and our exterior light fits the bill as well.

All lights are LED.

All the wiring is new. My dad did a great job of running new 12v and 120v wiring. He loomed whatever he could and was very particular about getting it just right. We wired a 120v plug on the exterior of the trailer near the door which has gotten a ton of use in our short time with it so far.

One of our splurge items was a MaxxFan. I have no experience with the Fantastic Fan, but I love the MaxxFan. It moves a ton of air and kept us relatively cool while camping in 40*C weather.

Our fridge is a bar fridge that only runs off 110v. We’ll just use our cooler if we don’t have a site with power.

Walls/Cabinets:

The walls are 1/4” plywood. I bought pre-finished birch plywood so that the walls would have a warm wood, almost sauna-esque feel to it.

The cabinets are 1/2” plywood, reinforced by 2x4s in the bench seating and 2x2s in the closet and kitchen divider.

The woodwork was challenging but fun and rewarding. Each piece was measured, but cut proud and scribed to fit. Nothing in this trailer is square!

In the end, I opted to paint everything white. I may have over-estimated my abilities and needed the paint to hide wood filler, etc.

Our countertop and shelves are made of Baltic Birch. My wife wanted a waterfall style counter and I think it turned out really nice.



Plumbing:

We opted for a really simple set-up for drinking water. One removable 6 gallon jug that supplies fresh water to the hand pump and one removable 6 gallon jug to accept the grey water. Both jugs need to be filled/emptied manually, but for most of the camping we do, this is more than enough. All of our cooking/dishwashing is done outside anyways.

Our sink is a salad bowl with a hole cut in the bottom and a drain added.

There is no gas in the trailer.

We bought a small portable toilet that fits into the closet during travel and sits on the floor while we’re set up.


Finishes:

We had a lightly used Ikea futon that we didn’t need anymore. It was comfortable enough, so we bought a second Ikea futon mattress and used an electric knife to cut cushions from both mattresses. So far we’ve spent 2 weeks sleeping on the beds with no complaints. We made a slightly larger bed at 48” wide.

We bought some blackout curtains that seemed to go with our colour palette and my mom cut them to fit each window.

We hired out the upholstery for our cushion covers, and are eagerly awaiting their completion. I think the beds will be set up for the majority of use anyways, but we’ll see.

We used leftover vinyl plank from our basement reno and it looks/feels great.

We opted not to have an awning. Partly because I’m nervous about putting extra holes in the shell, partly because we planned on buying a 10’x10’ canopy to bring with us. I love the portability of the canopy, but do wish there was something to fill the gap between the trailer and canopy when we’re set up.

I found a vintage wheel cover that was still in its original packaging at a garage sale. Best $10 I ever spent.

Baskets, mirror and doormat were all purchased from Ikea after careful measuring.


I’m sure I’m missing some things, but that about covers it. Really happy with how it turned out and looking forward to making lots of memories with it. It was more work than we planned on, but was a fun family project.

I have a photo album I just added, but I'm not sure if I can link it to this post.
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thedubler is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-11-2022, 09:16 AM   #2
Senior Member
 
Name: bill
Trailer: 2013 Escape 19
The Mountains of North Carolina
Posts: 4,046
Registry
Idea for you, I used automotive body side moulding to keep the "look" of the belly band on my Trillium, after I removed the original belly band and fiberglassed the joint.
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thrifty bill is offline   Reply With Quote
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