Vintage Camper Restorers Agree: There's No Trailer Trash Here!

For some, restoring vintage camper trailers like this one is part hobby, part addiction.  (Laura Klivans/KQED)

LINCOLN (Placer County) -- Paul Lacitinola is standing near a white-and-yellow 1959 Shasta camper trailer. It’s one of about 18 restored trailers he and his wife own.

“I like to say that I’m a collector,” Lacitinola says, “but my wife would tell you that I’m a hoarder. Addiction, hobby -- it is a strange group.”

Lacintinola publishes “Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine,” and is the self-proclaimed “King of Campers.” The camper crowd craves old trailers with brand names like Airstream, Shasta and DeVille. In their day, these little homes on wheels were the very symbol of post-World War II success.

lacitinola
Paul Lacitinola stands next to his 1959 Shasta trailer.

One vintage promotional ad for Airstream plays up “the beautiful contemporary kitchen, complete with range, oven and refrigerator-freezer. No matter where you are you will eat like a gourmet. You can bake biscuits high in the Canadian Rockies. Or enjoy plenty of ice cubes where you're traveling in the desert.”

Maybe. But by today’s standards these “tiny houses” on wheels are cute, but cramped. That doesn’t stop Rachel Harp and her husband, Joel, from collecting and restoring them at their shop in the Placer County town of Lincoln (pop. 46,431).

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“I've been working on and restoring trailers for 41 years,” says Harp. And if Lactinola is the “King of Campers,” she might as well be the Queen. She’s always looking out for the next project.

“When I personally look for a trailer, unfortunately, I wish I could tell you I look for something that was in really good shape and needed no work,” Harp says. “But to be honest with you, when I look at it, if it’s cute, I probably get it."

Like Lacitinola, Harp describes her hobby as an addiction.

“Some of ’em I want because they’re little, some of ’em I want because they’re rare, some of ’em I want because they’re big. But lately it’s been because they had a toilet and a shower,” she laughs.

Lacitinola says the best part of his hobby is the “hunt” for something special.

“There's so many different kinds and shapes and sizes,” Lacitinola says. “There were brands popping up in the '50s and '60s when this was popular. Just brand after brand maybe only made a limited amount of trailers before they went out of business, but there were just so many different ones. And each one is unique, and each one is interesting. “

Lacitinola is a big fan of the "canned ham" style of camper, with its curved metal roofs and pop-out back windows.

Camper trailer fans love a good meetup or “rally” to share their latest finds.

 “A rally is like a circus,” says Harp. “We have potluck, we have ice cream, we have root beer floats. It's the whole shebang. All those things you wanted to do when you were a kid, we get to do now. “

So who owns these vintage campers? Rachel Harp's answer surprises me a bit.

paul and rachel
Paul Lacitinola and Rachel Harp are the self-proclaimed king and queen of vintage camper trailers.

“I would say that this industry is more geared by women than any other industry I’ve seen,” Harp notes. “Because these are rolling little dollhouses, and they want to fix them up and they want to go do their thing and have their happy hour and have fun."

This weekend Rachel and her husband will be kicking back relaxing in Lincoln. But Paul Lacitinola will be showcasing that yellow-and-white 1959 Shasta camper trailer at the Fourth of July parade in the town of Galt, just south of Sacramento.

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