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Amazing 20-year dream 1935 Bowlus restoration is completed

In the current issue of the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine, we featured two of Monte Osborne’s vintage vehicles: his King slide-in camper and his rare 1935 Bowlus Road Chief. Anna Scribner of Flyte Camp shared the following builder’s notes about this trailer’s restoration.

Once the 1935 Bowlus Road Chief arrived at Flyte Camp, our direction was to seal up the exterior while maintaining the original patina of the trailer. Some 20 years earlier, Monte had already completed the metal work on the coach’s body. Flyte Camp was tasked with crafting an interior worthy of the rare prewar trailer.

1935 Bowlus
20 years ago, Monte had the exterior panel work done, which allowed plenty of time for the replacement panels to patina and blend in with the original panels.

Getting started

We began with cleaning up and painting the original interior tube framing. Wood spars were built to hold the insulation and attach interior skin and cabinetry. Especially challenging were the spars spanning the ceiling. They all needed to be laminated to make the bend from one side of the trailer to the other side. The trailer was rewired and insulated. New Marmoleum flooring was installed, along with a new aluminum freshwater tank and all plumbing to the original hand pump in the kitchen.

1935 Bowlus
The most challenging part of the build was working with the existing slide windows

Challenges

According to Dan, one of our restoration techs here at Flyte Camp, the most challenging part of the build for him was working with the existing slide windows. “You really had to fight the windows to get them to move. The window hardware would break before the glass would slide.” Getting the windows to function correctly involves taking the windows down to the bare sill and rebuilding them completely with felt channels. We fabricated new window pulls in aluminum. We built and installed new aluminum porthole windows in the upper kitchen area.

Monte opted to go with a combination of Birch and Mahogany for the interior skin, walls, and wood cabinetry pieces, in a gloss finish. The trailer moved to the wood shop.

The woodwork in the Bowlus

The cabinetry itself, including the bed, couch, and dinette pedestals, along with the dresser, were all originally made and framed in aluminum. For Dan, this was the most enjoyable part of the build. “We had all of the templates, so recreating that was fun!” Although, “the dresser framing was fairly sophisticated metal work and reconstructing them was exacting.”

For Dave, our “Woodworker Extraordinaire,” the biggest challenge had to be working with all of the compound curves of this trailer. “The rear of the trailer where all of the skin came together to a point was grain matched, and there was no tolerance for mistakes, despite all of the compound curves.” The trim was quite an undertaking due to all of the curves of the trailer. The rear window trim curved in several different directions. “With the square windows, you were working with a flat plane in the front, but the back had to match the trailer’s curvature.” Dave trimmed the vent windows and portholes in one solid piece of mahogany.

Flyte Camp had to make sure and do this rare trailer justice.

The interior

For Justin, the biggest challenge overall was “Making sure we did the trailer justice.” Original Bowlus light fixtures were replicated, along with hardware throughout, including the dinette table leg.

European Art Deco fabric was chosen in a bold pattern, so neutral draperies fabrics were used.

New upholstery and window coverings completed the build. European Art Deco fabric was chosen in a bold pattern, so we used restraint in choosing neutral draperies. We’ve collaborated with Monte on a few projects, and we wanted to deliver a platform worthy of displaying his extensive collection of vintage memorabilia. Of course, high-quality materials and finishing always play an important role.

Monte has an extensive collection of vintage memorabilia to outfit this trailer with period-correct gear.

“This restoration has been many years in the making for Monte, and we feel appreciative that we were able to take part in bringing a 20-year dream to completion for him.“ —The Flyte Camp Team. Written by Anna Scribner.

About the Author: Paul Lacitinola and his wife, Caroline, have published the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine for ten years. The Lacitinolas also host The Trailerfest Vintage Trailer Rallies and the CampNation Expo. They have authored two books on vintage trailering and are advocates for the hobby from coast to coast.

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Drew
14 days ago

Beautiful work! Flyte Camp is a wonderful place- It would be great to visit some time.

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