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Old 07-18-2004, 11:55 PM   #1
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1961 16' Bambi
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Rivet On the road again: Vintage travel trailers, owners ready to roll

Sunday, July 18, 2004
By Terri Finch Hamilton
The Grand Rapids Press

They call them "silver palaces" and "canned hams" and when you traveled in these babies, you were really camping.

They have teeny stove burners Barbie would love, sleek gleaming ice boxes and nifty niches where you eat supper, fold down the table, then hit the hay.

One even has an intercom that connects the trailer with the antique roadster that hauls it. Pull over, Homer -- the kids need a break.

Vintage travel trailers are hot, and not just when they're parked at Death Valley National Park in July.

Haul a 1963 Bambi Airstream or a 1957 Shasta into a campground, and campers will follow you to your site like ants to a picnic basket.

"Nostalgia is a big part of it," says Forrest Bone, head of Tin Can Tourists, a Milford-based national club for owners of all types of vintage campers.

"People camped in a trailer with Grandma, and they want to duplicate that trailer, that experience," he says.

These "trailerites," as they're called, won't blink at driving cross-country to snag a vintage rig. Some rally hop from one trailer shindig to the next, happily inspecting each other's beautifully buffed aluminum skins and custom-made dinette cushions.

"With this kind of camping, without the modern amenities, people aren't in their trailers at 7 at night watching TV. They're out and about, making friends, renewing acquaintances," says Bone, 61, a retired teacher who owns four vintage rigs and lives in one of them.

"Plus, in a lot of cases, you're saving 'em," Bone says. "Some of these trailers could easily have been dragged away to a scrap heap."

The vintage Airstreams are so in demand that Airstream decided to issue a new line of retro-styled trailers, with classic looks outside and modern conveniences inside.

Die-hard trailerites poo poo the new ones, with their flat-screen TVs and high-end stereos.

Give 'em a comfortable bed that doubles as a dinette, a couple of stove burners and a sink they can fit their hands in, and they're good to go.

What's the allure of a camper 40, 50, even 68 years old?

Let's find out. Watch your step. See you on page J4.
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