1951 Kit Royal Custom travel trailer
I found this classic online for $500, tucked away on property overlooking a lake in Northern California. The trailer had been resting in place for 63 years, small trees growing around it – bought new, parked and never moved. The new owner of the property wanted it removed to build a garage. After buying brand new tires for the trailer at $500, seller requirement if this 27’ trailer was to “roll” off his property, I told him I was going to fix up and keep this old beauty. He then offered it to me for free – that works!
Vintage trailers can be a lucrative business (I move a handful each year); of course you need to be careful. They can become money pits if you do not have a plan and follow through. For this trailer the price seemed right – FREE.
Soon after, I had it appraised in its current condition and the value was around $3000. A quick sale within 48 hours to a motivated buyer (the only ones I sell to) without fixing anything would have brought a very profitable return. But there was something special about it – I have always wanted a larger canned ham type and I fell madly in love with it (never do that). It will become my new mobile office, marketing and display trailer and motel for select trips when I’m on the road.
Classic trailers have an appeal that new and replica trailers cannot offer. Some of its nostalgic features that wooed me over were the tomato soup colored counter top, the twin moon mirrors in the living room, light fixtures and furnace, near perfect wood screen doors, beautiful two-drawer night stand and large coved bedroom entrance. More than half of the interior wood was untouched, not a scratch on it and drawers and cabinets working like they would right from the factory. The manufactures certificate with gold stamp was still attached to the inside of a cabinet door.
Other parts had experienced severe water damage and will need extensive repair right down to the frame and exterior skin. The aluminum siding is in fantastic shape, and the wave theme paint design can be brought back to full color life. Wheel skirts will be buffed out, moon caps sand blasted and repainted. Not one window is broken and all operate perfectly. I will add upgrades that enhance the use but not detract from the originality.
This is an older, larger travel trailer, and when it was made real toilets were installed, connecting directly to a sewer line – no holding tanks included. Because of this, it was considered a park model, to be lived in, not to be taken on camping trips. However, the absence of large and heavy bottom-mounted black-water holding tanks can be an advantage. I’m not going to concern myself with having to hook up to a nearby sewer outlet. I love green technology. Nowadays, it’s not only simple but wise to consider and use dry flush (waste) systems, eliminating weight, having to carry extra water and freeing up space.
From around $40 to $600, there are a number of quality portable toilets that provide a smart solution to this needed convenience. You can get no odor, no mess, sanitary units that are easy to store, setup and use – with no water or electricity needed. It’s better for the environment, too. Since I am looking to haul this beauty around to my seminars, workshops and shows, I will need to install a smaller, grey water tank that can be used for shower and sink waste water. A small fresh water tank and pump will be installed – I am good for the weekend! One thing I will do without hesitation, remove all old steel water and sewer lines. Hundreds of pounds of weight will be eliminated through upgrading with superior and lighter ABS.
The trailer is in line waiting its turn to be called in for restoration. I am working with a very reputable company, family owned and operated. An estimate has been conducted and the time line to do the work will take approximately one year. A full and complete restoration will be conducted – frame, axles and brakes, leaf springs, hitch, lighting, interior, roof, exterior skin/paint/buff/polish, plumbing, systems and utilities. I am allowed to help out whenever I want. That is something I like. They are completely OK with me hanging around and helping out when I want. I do have an attention to detail, having grown up in an auto restoration shop, so I know I will handle some high visibility interior work.
Here are the returns I would seek if I were to sell this trailer, as a vintage flip project:
First choice: Cash sale, sell asap after purchase, advertise up to 400 mi away – starting sale price $3,900, delivery available with fee. After two weeks if still for sale, lower price $500. After 4 weeks if still no sale, lower to $3,000 and hold. Goal – clear $2,500+
Second choice: Restore, to keep, but always have for sale. Budget is $7,500 for restoration. Sale price to motivated buyer is $15,000-$20,000.
This will be the most important restoration project I will have conducted. I am not going to rush, as that only makes waste and creates mistakes, resulting in more money invested. This will be a show piece, a useable trailer for housing and a trailer for demonstration. The money will have been well spent and more than recouped.
- Billy O'Nair