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Monday, September 29, 2014

Buck Rivet Report: Under Construction

In January of 2012 I bought two Spartan Royal Mansions, 31 foot long mobile homes built by the Spartan Aircraft Company. One was a 1951 model at a North Florida second hand store about 50 miles away. It was missing an entire axle. It was not in good shape. I paid $900 for it. 

The other was a 1949 one about 150 miles away in the Florida panhandle. I paid $2000 for it. It had both axles and seemed structurally sound despite a lot of bullet holes. It had been kept under a pole barn. Unfortunately the man that bought it to restore tried an acid wash on the skin and made it look terrible. It will have to be completely polished to make it nice. I had the men that brought it put it in my shed and I haven't touched it.

1949 Spartan Royal Mansion on delivery day. Partial acid wash means it needs a complete polish.
They backed it into my shed. It sits there to this day, untouched.
I had a backhoe come out and build a ramp up to the old slab where my childhood home burned down in 1984. Then the people from 50 miles away on backroads delivered the 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion. They pulled it up the ramp, disconnected the trailer hitch, and drove away across the brick front porch, breaking the steps. Worth it. This Spartan came with one of two axles, and the wheel on the right side was only held on with 2 lug nuts. I am constantly amazed by the bravery/stupidity of the locals when it comes to mechanics.
1951 Spartan Royal Mansion on delivery day, January 2012.
The inside of the 1951 looks salvageable, but on close inspection it's very nasty. I saved
most of the cabinets in the shed just in case. (In case anybody wants them? You can have.)
 I ended up reusing only one cabinet in the whole thing. And I had to paint it inside and out,
even the part against the wall to cover the stink of old plywood and mouse piss.
Here's the 1951 after I finished the exterior in 2013.
Here's the interior the day I finished putting down the floor. That black cabinet at the front
is the one I reused. I call that part up there the melon, like whales and dolphins.
The Beachton Buck Rivet Report is going to be my documentation of how I converted this old trailer into a permanent structure, serving as my laundry room and lab. I took thousands of photos as I worked. I will create posts for each logical step and fill out the blog and probably release it all at once. Blogger requires you to work live, so if you see stuff appear and disappear, trust it will all get organized at the end. I have to publish things to test how it works.

Start at the beginning and click Newer Post at the bottom to go to the next step in the restoration.

And if I get my energy back enough to start working on the Shed Spartan I will document it here as I go along.

Happy Riveting!
Barbara aka Beachton

Decide to Buy

After looking at these two dilapidated old trailers I had to decide what to do. I had enough money saved up to buy them. I had a place to put them. But I knew it would be a hell of a lot of work to fix them. It was just so compelling that there were TWO of them. My research showed that there is a market for these things fixed up just like when they were new, same as cars. This doesn't actually appeal to me at all. I like things customized to how I want to use them. I am not the target customer of a young family starting out after a World War.

But because there are two I can combine the original parts from both of them to get one that has all the trappings of the original Spartan. And the other one I can modify however I want to. Somehow preserving all the parts to be used on the other one made me feel ok about trashing the other one.

I emailed both the sellers and said I'd take the Spartans. I mailed the man in Blountstown a check for $500 as a downpayment and to cover delivery.

Then I had to clean up my shed. Here's where I wanted to put the Spartan.
Before. That stack of 1x6 T&G pine is bigger than it looks.
I will use all of it up in the Spartan project.
Where the stuff went when I moved it.
This used sheet metal I was saving got put out in the woods.
I need to just take it to the recyclers.
Clean empty half a shed. Ready for a Spartan!

While I'd been out of town in Austin for a year and a half
my skylight in the shed started leaking.
So I replaced it. (Paint cans for weight while silicone cures)
The 1949 Spartan, the one in better shape, came from 70 miles away on January 22.

I won't see this side again for a while.
My shed is obviously bigger than my house too but
that never seems to bother me. The way things are.
This Spartan is still exactly where they parked it. The men that brought it helped me jack it up with a floor jack and put concrete blocks and chunks of wood under it, just stuff I had around. They took away one wheel they'd put on it temporarily for the trip. I paid them the rest of their money in cash on delivery. I think it was probably $1900 total for the Shed Spartan.

It is sort of a problem that it's only got three wheels. My mechanic in Tallahassee is on a mission to find me a fourth one that will fit. The Shed Spartan has the same hub as an old Ford. It takes a wheel with 5 x 5" spacing with a 4" center hole and 4 windows. It takes bolts instead of having threaded studs sticking out. The other Spartan was like a Chevrolet or Toyota, 6 x 5 1/2". I don't know why Spartan changed the hubs and wheels between '49 and '51.

For the other one I drove to Havana to take a check in person. I gave her $1040 to cover having somebody tow it to my house. It only had to go 20 miles on two lane backroads through rural Florida and Georgia. When I went to pay for the Spartan I got a better look at some of the things I was confused about from my subsequent research. Like, why did it only have two wheels with the other Royal Mansion had 4?
This explains it. The second axle was there and is just... not anymore. The Seller swore she could tow it like that.
Here's the one remaining axle 
I also managed to snatch the front door open to look at the
serial number of this one.
Can you believe I went ahead and wrote a check for this? Admittedly I was pretty anxious about it from January 14th to January 25th when it was delivered.

More in the next post about how I got ready for the delivery of the 1951 Spartan.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shopping: 1949 Royal Mansion

The other Spartan for sale in my local Craigslist area was in Blountstown, FL. I used to drive through there all the time when I worked for FDEP Beaches. It's on the Appalachicola River. It's a nice drive, so I arranged to go see it the next day.

First look at the second Spartan.

After looking at the first Spartan I did some research. These only came with two axles.
Not sure why the first one only had two wheels. So I was looking at this part more closely.
I'm curious what is going on underneath. I failed to get this view of the first one. 

This one has obvious jack points and the frame looks good.
The skin underneath and insulation is compromised, of course.
It all has to go.
By comparison to the first Spartan I can see this front ceiling panel is not original.
They just skinned right over the vent. That's sloppy.
This delaminated paneling isn't even the original stuff. More brown painted aluminum.
This sconce isn't as cool as on the other one.

OK, now they aren't even trying. Dinette trashed in both of them. Good thing I don't care.
This roll down window actually worked.

The only working window handle out of four in two Spartans.

I was so interested in the broken off window handle I didn't notice that the actual window
was broken and replaced with plexiglass.
I found the window crank. Turns out to not matter based on what is broken.

These switches are intriguing. Why the pull style? More than two positions?

The bathroom wall isn't trashed. Can't see through the floor. Bonus.

That's the original sink and shower controls. Once again no toilet tank lid. 
This kitchen light fixture with the switch right next to it makes sense. Brown painted aluminum again. 
This cabinet looks fine. Why was the one in the first Spartan so disgusting? 
I guess this is some kind of ventilation system for the stove. I don't think this one was ever used.

Dovetailed drawers

Look at this oak corner where it transitions from a curve to square. That's lovely.

I don't remember where this light is.

Here's how the hinge works for the screen door. There was only one screen door between
the two Spartans that would have had two each originally. 
My research after looking at the first Spartan taught me to look for the serial number
information inside the front door frame. Same as the vital information on my car.
The middle two numbers are the year. This was built in 1949.
I didn't see it on the first one because I couldn't get the front door open.

I confirmed on that this is a Royal Mansion serial number for 1949. Weight 5200 lbs, original price $4681.27, which is $42,345.78 adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollars.

Decal ghost on this one too, but no graffiti.

This one has round rear lights. They look amazing.

The gasket around the window is shot. 

The cool light lens is gone. This one only has 1 out of 4.
The other has 3 out of 4. It's missing the one this one has.

This Spartan has a lot of bullet holes. Exit wounds.

I can imagine how I could patch this with a single rivet, gutter seal, and two aluminum
patches, one on the inside, one on the outside.

The tongue on this one doesn't look as good as the other one. Which is unfortunate.
Nothing about the first Spartan looked like it is roadworthy.

Shopping: 1951 Royal Mansion

In January 2012 I was talking to a friend online about trailers. This friend is in Austin, where trailers are trendy and cool. He'd toyed with the idea of getting a vintage trailer to live in. I wondered if we should pick up a trailer in the Florida Panhandle where they aren't cool, fix it up, and take it to Austin where it would be appreciated. He said to search for Spartans. His research showed them to be wide and roomy inside. Miraculously I found two of them on Craigslist in my local area.

I went to look at one the very next day. It was at a junk shop in Havana, FL.
January 13, 2012: My first look at a Spartan Royal Mansion
This looks bad, but I can imagine it patched. Not a barrier to purchase.
The window hardware and screens are rusty. Not the most air tight situation.
These lights are really cool.
The rear lights are nice too, but somebody stuck this aftermarket crap on underneath. I can get rid of that.
Nice license plate light. The rusty part has to go.
First look in the back door. It's at a junk shop. Of course there's a random bathtub in here.
The paneling looks delaminated and sad.
Interesting curved wall and door to the bathroom.
I can see the floor is going to need to be completely replaced.
Seeing straight though to the ground isn't right.
Period appropriate 5 gallon per flush toilet. Of course the lid is missing.
The window and light fixture in the bathroom are not filling me with joy.

This fan cover is cool though. Looks like the radiation warning symbol.
What even happened to this refrigerator?
Why is this cabinet so gross? Nice shape though.
View from the front door. I'm not concerned about the curled flooring since I
already know the whole floor has to be redone from scratch. 
Interesting little closet, wall sconce. Too bad they painted
the aluminum window surrounds dark brown.
The ceiling at the front looks fine. Not like the delaminated mess at the back.  Wonder what happened back there?
Nice of them to do their graffiti in pencil. Pretty sure that will buff right out.
Somebody stuck a cigarette butt in this puncture? People are disgusting.
Towing apparatus looks pretty good.
I went home to think this over.