It’s time for an update. A lot has happened in the month or so that we’ve been working on the trailer.
A lot in the year since I first saw the little Argosy as well.
People who know me know the story but I haven’t told it to the forum yet.
I first hear of the trailer when friends called last year at this time to say they’d seen a neat old Argosy for sale in a small town front yard near Ottawa.
I drove the five hours to see the trailer the next day but in the couple more days I spent trying to figure out what I would do with it and how I’d pull it, somebody else bought it.
I was crushed but guessed my lesson was that if ever I saw a trailer this good again I had better be prepared to “pay and pull” instead of “hymn and haw”.
Last July, in Ohio on my way to Texas, I heard again from the original owner. The new guy had decided to sell the trailer, never having used it!
It was 18 days before I got back from the Texas trip but, again, I drove straight to Ottawa and this time got the Argosy 24.
It continues to be a charmed experience.
I don’t have a puller yet so the Wiltsie family moved the Argosy the 500 miles to Can Am in London, Ontario for me.
I had previously asked Andy Thompson there to quote the remodel and he eventually did. But this first trip was to have the wheels, brakes and bearings checked as well as giving me a complete report on the on-board systems.
Andy is a very nice guy but his place suffers from micro management or communication problems or something. I can’t put my finger on it but I wasn’t happy.
Examples: Andy had quoted on the ceramic toilet I wanted and advocated an electric ignition water heater as opposed to the in-line heater I thought I wanted.
When the toilet and water heater were both found to be leaking, Can Am charged $377 to “fix” the old one rather than install the $375 ceramic model quoted. To make things worse the toilet still leaked.
They also installed a regular heater instead of the electric ignition he quoted.
Andy apologized and undertook in writing to replace the items labor free if I choose to do so within 18 months.
The upshot was that I decided to have the work done at Wiltsie’s rather than sharing it.
I’m so glad for that now.
There’s no set way for a restoration or remodeling of an Airstream or Argosy it seems. Most here undertake the work themselves. Some of my favorite projects have been Barry’s sprayed white Airstream in Florida (Sneak up), Uwe’s Overlander in California and Rich Luhr’s Rolling Thunder Argosy. There are dozens of others as interesting.
The amount of knowledge and learning that gets passed along here is fascinating.
Some others use dealers and/or RV places or restoration shops.
My way may be another way and it’s deeply personal.
I don’t have the knowledge, the training or the tools to do the job myself and I’m at an age where I don’t want to invest in those things. I want to get out on the road in my trailer.
But I know what I want and that’s why it’s so good to be back home in Aylmer.
Frank Wiltsie was a small town cabinetmaker when the local Carnation Milk plant asked if he could build a couple of trucks to pick up milk cans at surrounding farms.
The result was the founding of WILTSIE TRUCK BODY in 1954
By the time I came along, both 25 years later and 25 years ago, asking Frank to build me a slick European style One Ring circus, his sons Bev and Russ were out on the factory floor.
Today, 80 year old Frank still lives next door to the plant, Bev and Russ run the place and Frank’s GRANDSONS are out on the floor!
It’s a good sized small business with a core group of about 25 craftsmen building dump trucks, snow plows, delivery vans, hoist trucks, paddy wagons, fire trucks, truck boxes and everything else you can imagine in between.
There are 25 bays with huge overhead doors and cranes, a truck sized spray tunnel, even a separate building for sand blasting.
This is not a place you would ordinarily associate with an Airstream.
But these are guys who’ve worked in sheet and stock aluminum, various woods and steel all their lives. Millions of rivets have been drilled out or bucked in here.
Some of the men were here when the circus was built and have fond stories of the time. Younger guys have grown up hearing their stories.
One of the old timers is Pat who painted the circus and who is looking forward to doing a beautiful job on the Argosy.
Phil is the other guy working on the trailer. He’s a musician who left the road for the sake of a family life and a steady paycheck.
What a wonderfully multitalented man he is. Phil may never have seen an Airstream or Argosy up close up but he intuitively understands how to take one apart, jack it up, and put it together again and what makes them so special.
Most of all Phil understands my vision and wants to see it realized.
In less than a week Phil had removed all the exterior molding and everything from the interior of the trailer, all carefully labeled and stored.
In another week, he had removed the belly pan and sanded and sand blasted the entire frame and undercarriage. Pat gave it 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of a black urethane based metal finisher. The frame looks like that of an Airstream in a showroom now.
Now we are moving into stage two, reversing things and starting to put it together again.
There will be a lot of time spent on the Internet and on the forum. We have to size and install bigger holding tanks. Supply a new toilet. Design and install a new bathroom. Learn about inverters/converters/generators. New kitchen. Etc.
Here are some photos of the project at this stage. I’ll report from time to time as we proceed.
For the three weeks before we began the remodel I stayed at the nearby Red Oak Travel Park in the old Argosy just to check out trailer life.
Red Oak was a beautiful, well-kept place that had me questioning my negative assumptions about trailer parks.
Now I’ve rented a neat place for the winter in nearby Port Bruce on Lake Erie. It’s quiet, (250 fulltime citizens), 9 minutes from the Wiltsie shop and 2 hours from my Toronto home.
The project has had a charmed life from the beginning. I’m enjoying it a lot.