By Tony Barthel
Many of the RVs I review here fit into a mold or are very defined by their category. Others… not so much. One of the RVs that is really something different is the Relic custom trailer. These are custom built in very small numbers in South Prairie, Washington, by Jayne Barocela and her team.
The Relic is, in many ways, just that. It’s actually built of a single fiberglass shell using molds Jayne actually stumbled across that were created in 1960 by a high school welding teacher.
It seems that the welding teacher, known only as Roy, designed the trailer and began the manufacturing process. For whatever reason, he abandoned the idea after two original trailers were made. He put everything, including those trailers, into storage in 1963.
Half a century later, a new owner was cleaning out the storage facility and posted the trailers, molds and all the other components in an ad. Jayne saw the ad while browsing through vintage trailer advertisements. When she contacted the owner of the storage facility, they already had several interested people. Jayne talked him into letting her buy the lot, and thus Relic trailers was started.
It took a 53’ semi tractor trailer along with a flat bed trailer to haul the contents of the storage facility from Michigan to Washington, where the trailers are manufactured to this day.
Jayne was already into restoring vintage trailers and shared a love of all things vintage with her husband, Brian. But becoming an RV manufacturer was a whole different enterprise. Not only did she have to learn about the manufacturing process, but also about the rules and regulations for towed vehicles.
Relic custom trailers
So what is a Relic custom trailer? It’s a small, very mid-century box that’s only 12’ 6” in overall length. Rather than have a series of very specific floor plans, each Relic trailer is built in cooperation with the customer.
A Relic trailer can be outfitted with new or vintage components including lighting and more. You can get modern RV windows or the jalousie windows you would have seen on vintage RVs. The interior is masterfully crafted from wood – giving the whole thing a retro feel.
That vintage style is probably most defined by the custom taillights. To me, they look like the bullet taillights I had on my ’59 Cadillac Eldorado. This is not by accident – but they are a modern interpretation of the design featuring LEDs.
As you might expect in such a diminutive enclosure, the interior of a Relic custom trailer isn’t going to open up to feature massive open spaces and such. But there are a good number of options for the prospective owner.
There are three layouts for the rear of the trailer. These include a full bed with cabinets on one side, two twin-sized beds or a U-shaped lounge that turns into a king-sized bed.
Up front, your options are a kitchen/counter straight across the front, or another counter that makes an “L” turn for additional space. You could choose a bunk bed as might typically be found in a vintage trailer where the backrest flips up to become the upper berth. Or you could opt for a kitchenette with a wet bath.
You can chose from just a simple trailer with no water facilities at all. Or you can choose one that has all the amenities, including gray and black tanks. There are actually a lot of choices.
The Relic custom trailer customer
But who I can see taking to these are those who love vintage cars. You could easily tow one of these behind a vintage car and nobody would look askew at you when you rolled into a car show. While I’ve seen RVs that are a nod to vintage style, few actually pull off the illusion. The modern windows and other components give the age of the vehicle away immediately.
The cabinets and interiors of the Relic are designed with 1960s aesthetics in mind and include hand-crafted solid wood cabinets. Countertop options include vintage-inspired Formica with aluminum trim.
Properly equipped, you wouldn’t know the Relic custom trailer isn’t a vintage trailer – and a very, very stylish one at that. But it’s also one that Jayne describes as a legacy trailer. The entire fiberglass shell being one piece means you’re not so concerned about things like water intrusion or seams failing.
“Water is everywhere and a constant for us in the Pacific Northwest.” Yes, it is.
But to the point of being a legacy trailer, “We don’t use any disposable materials” in the construction of the trailers, says Jayne. Having torn apart vintage trailers in restoration projects, she has seen how they were built and what the failure points are and where they are strong.
“Repairing and restoring authentic vintage has taught us a lot about how things used to be done.”
However, for anyone who has restored a vintage RV, you know that whatever the cost you anticipated, double that. Whatever the issues you expect to encounter, triple that. That teeny water spot is going to turn into a month of woodworking once you remove the wall panel.
Being able to have a brand-new trailer that really does embody vintage style might be a really good option for anyone who appreciates that kind of thing. This is also for someone that doesn’t want a two-month project that really goes five years and occupies the entire garage for that entire time. Not that I know anything about that.
Depending on your own style of camping, this could be a very unique choice, particularly if you appreciate the styling of a vintage trailer. But where I see this as being a highlight is for vintage car enthusiasts who could tow one of these behind their vintage cars to car shows and use it as a place to hang out during the show.
Having had a 1964 Corvair Corvan camper, one of the best things about that was that while others at the car show had to sit outside in their lawn chairs in the sun, I had a dinette and table and cooler inside the van and a comfortable seat to enjoy. Having a Relic trailer would accomplish the same thing and, at about 1,000 lbs., just about any vintage car could tow one of these.
Of course, anything this cool that’s also well built isn’t going to be cheap. But I’ve seen vintage cars with paint jobs that cost more than the $25,000-$40,000 it’ll cost you to have one of these made. That price varies based on one’s choices and can include modern amenities or even vintage items. Floor plan choices and building materials will affect the final price, of course. Oh, and speaking of paint jobs, while you can get a Relic in any of five standard colors, Jayne said she’ll also match the paint color of your tow vehicle if you choose.
You can win a Relic in a raffle for the Hold You Foundation courtesy of Girl Camper magazine. Here are the details.
I interviewed Relic Trailers founder Jayne Barocela for the StressLess Camping podcast, which you can hear here.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.
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