The “canned ham” is one of the quintessential styles of American travel trailer. It was a dominate design from the late ’40s to the ’70s.
Most of them were wood framed with aluminum siding, making them good candidates for renovation, since the skin can often be saved, used as a template and reapplied to a fresh wood skeleton.
This ’63 Avalon camper features a classic “canned ham” profile.
That’s what made this camper from craigslist an interesting share. In the photos, taken by the DIY rebuilder, you can see several steps of the restoration process. This project used some cool ideas that will be useful to anyone looking to rebuild a classic like this 1963 Avalon. Let’s take a look.
New framing fitted inside the original aluminum shell.
First, always tear out anything that looks like it needs it. Unless the camper has been well preserved under cover and has no interior water damage, you’ll probably need to gut it down to the shell.
Any moisture that has gotten inside the envelope has done damage inside the walls, especially if it’s visible in the interior. By leaving this wood rot, you can lock in decades of mold and mildew that may make you sick, or continue to rot your trailer.
Doors and windows can be hard to replace, finding them intact is best.
This renovation started with a gutting, then had new plywood cut and fit inside the aluminum shell. Rather than the cutdown 2×4 frames that many campers get, the builder went with full sized 2x4s. There is a trade off here, strength is gained, but so is weight, making this trailer a little heavier to tow.
These built-in bunk platforms help to maximize the interior living space.
Make sure your trailers frame can support whatever weight you put on it. They added a layer of pink insulation board inside the frame against the aluminum that will help a lot in keeping the trailer warm – or cool – depending on needs.
Here you can see the exterior aluminum before paneling and insulation have been added.
Plywood bench top ready for the piano hinge to be installed.
Most trailers are built with lightweight wall panels made of heavy cardboard or hardboard (such as Masonite). This adds to the “trailer” feel that makes RVs feel cheap.
This renovator moved away from that to a tongue and groove siding. It gives the trailer a cabin feel, provides some insulation – especially from noise – and makes the construction a lot stronger.
Tongue and groove paneling inside the camper.
See the broken window in back? Glass is easy to replace – frames, not so much.
The small space is best served by built-in furniture pieces for dining, sleeping and storage. The benches haven’t been completed, but that’s great for getting ideas because you can see the open framework.
The benches here are well built, with strong 2×4 frames that also leave a lot of interior space for storing your gear.
The tops are cut from plywood. You can see a long piece of piano hinge ready to install to create a “lift top” on one of the benches. This is a simple and inexpensive way to add usable storage.
The heat in this trailer will come from this electric fireplace.
Finally, they have added something that I am surprised you don’t see more in RV renovations, an electric fireplace. While this is not ideal for off-grid camping, it’s great for RV parks and campgrounds where 120 volt electric hookups are available.
It also adds a lot of ambiance and will easily heat the entire space. The only drawback is that it takes quite a bit of floorspace, but there are models that need less depth than the one pictured here.
Buying a trailer at this level of renovation would be a great place for a DIY-lover to start. A lot of the hard work is done, but there would still be enough room for you to leave your mark.