How can a voyage on the Orient Express inspire someone to create a custom vintage trailer? This 1954 Boles-Aero Montecito was originally purchased new in Burbank, California, where it was manufactured. It was immediately shipped to its new owners, a ranching family in Wyoming. It was lightly used and then parked in a barn until given to the last remaining ranch hand as part of his severance pay when the farm was sold. The ranch hand towed it to Paris, Texas, and sold it to a man who restored Airstreams for a hobby. After starting the restoration on the Boles, the gentleman decided to sell it.
Dave and Billie O’Neel bought the Boles in 2015. Much to the dismay of their neighbors, Dave and Billie parked their new purchase in their backyard and spent some time with it to come up with a restoration plan. They decided they wanted all the modern amenities that new camper trailers have but they wanted it to look vintage, so they settled on a floorplan that was not original to their trailer but was a blend of the three floorplans available to Boles-Aero in 1954. They added a bathroom and moved the orientation of the bed. My favorite feature of this trailer was a narrative of its history that played on a loop.
In 1986, Dave and Billie O’Neel opened their business in Little Rock, Arkansas. Billie ordered Victoria Magazine to have in the waiting area. In one of the issues, there was a spread on the reopening of The Orient Express Train—a long-distance passenger train through Europe created in 1883. Knowing they could not afford the trip abroad did not hinder Billie’s desire to learn more. She went ahead and sent for the information. She held onto that information and her dream for more than 20 years. For their 25th Wedding Anniversary, the O’Neels were able to take The Orient Express from Venice to Paris. They loved it and didn’t want to leave.
If you want something done right…
After two different restoration shops attempted and failed to restore their trailer, the O’Neels rolled up their sleeves, and with some advice and help from a carpenter friend, got to work doing the restoration themselves. Recalling their dream vacation aboard The Orient Express, Dave and Billie decided that they wanted to recreate this ambiance in their vintage trailer. They named their trailer “Wolfi,” after their cabin steward who saw to their every need while aboard the train. Remaining friends after their trip, Wolfi was able to assist the O’Neels in acquiring the same china and stemware on The Orient Express for them to use in their trailer.
The interior of the Boles is inspired by the look of the dining cars found on the train, including the etched glass sliding door and the use of Sorrento inlaid wood.
After two years of hard work and countless hours, Dave and Billie achieved their dream. Billie said Wolfi looks exactly like the original drawings she made while sitting in the trailer in her backyard. They are now on the road enjoying their trailer and sharing it with others as they have traveled from coast to coast aboard their own Orient Express. This Trailer was also featured in the book Vintage Camper Trailer Rallies.
Do It Yourself
If you want to restore a vintage trailer, VCT Boot Camp is for all dreamers and admirers of vintage camper trailers. Beginners are welcome! This learning experience is a combination of intensive classroom learning and demonstrations. VCT Boot Camp is an opportunity to meet with industry pros. Many of them make their living in the hobby. These professionals are willing to share their expertise with you. You will be a part of a network of fellow restorers! Not experienced? No need to be—this event is for both novice and experienced restorers.
ALSO BY PAUL
- Gorgeous 1962 Streamline Countess has vintage style but modern amenities
- Found inside a barn, this perfectly preserved RV is an amazing 1955 time capsule
- Why would a gift basket company build these trailers?
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 VCT Boot Camp Restoration Learning Experience. They have authored two books on vintage trailering and are advocates for the hobby from coast to coast.
That is amazing! Makes me wish I were younger and able. We renovated a few in our day, but no one was doing the “themed” renovations back then. (In fact, these are likely the campers we owned! lol)
Somehow, the kitchen looks more like my Granny’s– cute but not quite keeping tempo with the other amazing rooms!
All in all, it is a beautiful work of art. (So glad they didn’t paint the walls!!)
I have been following Billie O’Neel on Facebook for years! She is an awesome person. Such clever ideas.