Saturday, October 13, 2012

1956 Dalton Canned Ham Restoration

Showing 1956 Dalton Canned Ham Vintage Travel Trailer Restoration
She's all done and just got a bath. 
Freshly stripped and painted with a professional enamel. This took a couple weeks to complete. I used 2 gallons of aircraft stripper because the previous owner had painted it with latex house paint and glue. The paint had to be scrubbed off with steel wool after it sat in stripper due to the glue. FYI: Stripper burns. It turned out great though.
I took off the metal and replaced the rotten and warped cedar on the sides and roof. To do a vintage trailer properly any interior panels have to be replaced by removing the metal and then the cross-members. A shoddy restoration with have new wood nailed over old wood which doesn't address any rot. Trailers are built from the inside out.

I took some rolled aluminum and covered the first vertical panel on the door due to all of the dents. Before this I filled the holes and I used epoxy to cement the panel in place. I also polished up the name plate and handles which were painted. The chrome looks great against the red don't you think.

This side door had fallen off so the old owner just screwed on some gate hinges through the metal. He also attached a gate lock to the door by smashing down the door trim. I remove both and straightened them out. I filled the holes with body filler and sanded smooth. The utility door took 5 minutes to straighten and reattach.

This is the stripped and sanded door. I scuffed all of the pinhole dents and patched the holes. The area by the door handle was especially bad and the bottom of the door was damaged. To fix this I bondoed all of the dents and my dad suggested covering the first vertical panel with new metal. I took his advice and lined up the edge of the metal with the first crease. I used epoxy to adhere it and used paint cans to apply pressure for drying. After it dried I bent the metal and epoxied the back. It turned out really nice as you can see from the next picture.

I repainted the trailer following the original pattern.I also coated the tong and installed a battery box and engineered a bottom mount propane tank holder.

I coated the frame and crank in a hammered finish xylol based paint. It is very durable and covers up imperfections well. My dad worked hard grinding the tongue down, which made the paint look great.
The old owner came to me in a yard sale and told me that he had painted it with latex house paint and glue. This actually held very well, however when you strip house paint with glue it turns into glue. This creates a bit of a problem when trying to remove. Notice the dents in front. I hammered them out and filled what I could. I also added extra cross members and new insulation to help support the front.

It took 60+ hours to prep this trailer for painting. I had to remove the glue/paint which took $80 worth of aircraft stripper. I sanded the entire outside and had to wet-sand parts of it due to an unfortunate reaction with homemade stripper. I even had to use a credit card as a sanding block to get in the grooves.
Just removing the paper after spraying. I used a high performance rustoleum paint that I applied with my HVLP gun. It worked out well but not perfect as I am not a professional painter. The primer was a metal etching primer which is needed for aluminum to adhere properly. It put on 3 coats of white and 3 coats of red. Notice that the trim is not installed. Look at the final photo. The trim really adds that vintage flare.
I sanded, primed and painted the wheels. I couldn't find the right baby moon hubcaps, so I ordered a set from which sells semi parts. they came with brackets that I riveted to the wheels. These tires came with the trailer and they are almost new. I used some tire cleaner/polish to get them nice and black.
I hammered and filled what I could, but this trailer is 56 years old. There are some dents in the metal but it turned out well. You can see in the picture that the white paint is a satin and the red is gloss. This really helps the red pop.
Kyle worked hard cleaning the windows and Ethan and Jake wet sanded the trim. They wanted some extra money and they worked hard.
The back had a couple of large dents which I hammered out and filled. The arrows are part of the original design. I believe the tail lights are off of a 50's Ford Galaxy though they fit nicely. The glass on the back had to be replaced along with 3 other windows. The fellows at Community Glass did it quickly and it cost less than $45. I always assumed glass was more expensive than plexi, however plexi would have been at least $60 for the size needed and I would have had to cut it myself. I also removed all of the old black weather stripping and replaced it. 3 of the latches had to be replaced as well, so I found a piece of galvanized rod at Coastal Farm & Ranch and fabricated them using a vice, torch, grinder and file. I could have bought new ones, but it was faster and less expensive this way. Best of all they work!
Check out the lights. I got the side lights and door light from Stan's. The door light runs off of the battery. I have also installed one 12v light inside and fitted the trailer with a new 12v pump and poly 10 gallon tank. It still has the old hand pump which works.
The interior walls were stained a darker brown over the old lacquer. This meant that instead of just sanding off the old lacquer I had to sand the wood more. Since the old plywood is a thick veneer sanding did not damage it, however it took about 60 hours of sanding. Notice the rotten wood on the sides of the window: this had to be replaced. Take note of the cabinet hardware and look at it refurbished in other pictures.
New panel in the front. What you don't see is the new cedar framing. I replaced all of the old wood and added some extra cross members for support.
Finally finished sanding. This is just before putting on the poly. The new panels have been stained. We were ready for this moment. I used over a hundred sheets of sand paper and spent over 40 hours sanding.I used a Ryobi orbital and quarter sheet sander. I usually stay away from Ryobi tools but man these guys went the distance and still work great. To keep down the dust I attached a vacuum hose to back of the sander.
This is a picture before just after staining. I put on a 3/16 sub-floor before installing the laminate. Notice the stove insert. I had removed the old plywood and installed some new stuff.
This is the first coat of poly. Watch is get darker and more brilliant.
Second coat of poly with the help of my beautiful assistant. The heat made it difficult to apply. We sanded between coats to smooth out the bumps. Melinda did the cabinet poly as well. She is amazing.
Meet the old floor. I would have saved it but it was really cracked in places. I covered it with a 3/8'' underlay and some new interlocking laminate.
I took a piece of cedar and cut it to follow the contours of the wall and floor. The flooring is a new locking laminate (sorry the brand escapes me). We were originally worried about multiple wood tones but it looks great. I added a rubber foot on the original table leg.
The new poly gives the old wood a nice honey color. The lower front panel was replaced when the metal was off. After I triumphantly came back from Lowes with a stain that matched the old wood, my wife went back worked with the pant guy for over an hour to get an actual match. Thanks Jeremy at Lowes!
The original table had a yellow laminate. I originally wanted to save it, but in my haste I cracked it just before I got it off. So I built this table out of birch plywood and red fur trim. It is coated in poly and looks awesome. I achieved the curve with a jigsaw and made it perfect with a belt sander. I bent the wood using glue and a large ratchet strap.

My son Kyle worked hard helping me sand the trailer. He is especially proud of this cabinet and I am too!! This curved cabinet did not reveal its true beauty until I put on the poly. It looked like we had over-sanded the entire thing. However, when I coated it the nice Birdseye pattern revealed itself. This picture does not do it justice. The old owner had removed the old hinges and replaced them with some ugly black ones. I used the hinges off of the two interior storage compartments for this door and replaced those with an inside mount hinge.
The rounded cabinetry looks great and the reconditioned vintage copper hardware really is a nice touch. Notice the trim on the walls. I bought a cedar 2x6 and sliced it up on the table saw. I gently rounded the edges and put a coat of stain and ply. The original trim was just strips of birch laminate that fell apart over time. The new trim (which also edges the floor) looks awesome.
These cabinets are the best part of this trailer. It is what makes it stand apart from the ash models of the 60's and newer trailers.
The wood around the hatch was destroyed and bowed in due to the weight of the cabinets. I replaced all of the 1x4 joists with 1x5's and added a couple more. The thing with these trailers is that the wood has to be put in before the ceiling joists. They are really laminated together. So I had to rebuild the sidewalls as well. Lots of work.
See the yellowish patina on the hinges. This is lacquer from someone else's slop job. I stripped the hinges and used basso to bring out the copper. Now they really shine. To maintain the nice copper they need to be waxed or they over time they will acquire a nice green/brown patina.
This is the old inverter. Though I am courageous I haven't tried to plug in this guy. The sidewall behind was rotten as well so I replaced it. Notice the light brown strip on the cabinet to the right. This is the original color and the brown is the stain.

This lower panel was too damaged to save so I replaced it. The old cushions were fine. I gave them a bath in bleach water and laundry soap. I like to let the water sit in the cushion for a while and then squeeze it out, rinse/squeeze, and let it air dry which takes a couple days so the chemicals can kill any potential smells. The original upholstery was brown and yellow.

I replaced the back panel with a new piece of birch plywood. Sanding is about to commence, though it went fast initially it took a lot of time to get the stain out from the previous owner. To check the color you can wipe the wood with mineral spirits.

I used a wire cart to let the cushions dry. I gave them a chemical bath and it took 3 days to dry.
The new and old wood look great next to each other. Melinda did a great job color matching the stain. Lowes was very helpful. They have a staining kit at the paint counter and they have tint-able stain. The curtains in the entire trailer are route 66 and the light is a vintage style light from. Stan's once again. I think the Wenatchee rule is if nobody has it Stan's does. Anyway, I wired up a rotary switch to the Stan's fixture and I attached it directly to the light. Melinda picked out the fabric and made the curtains.
I had the cushions re-upholstered with micro suede and had them embroidered with "Dalton". They are amazing. If you need an trailer upholstery I know the lady.
This bunk rolls up and will sit tight against the wall. It will hold a person and/or storage. My boys worked hard to scrub the metal trim around each window inside and out.
The custom embroidery is the perfect accent to the new upholstery. The thread used is a red sparkle.
This stove top was severely pitted from rust. I called the guys at Cascade Powder Coating in Wenatchee and they fixed it right up. We color matched the white and the top was sandblasted and coated. It still has some bumps, but it looks nice. While it was away I sanded and coated the area below the top with a high temperature paint. The burned side splash I removed and put on some aluminum sheeting for nice clean look and easy cleanup. I also replaced all of the wood on the side and behind the stove with new sheeting. It had been damaged by mice and moisture. The best part the stove top and oven work!
Even after sandblasting there was still some bumps in the metal, however it still looks great. Powder-coating is great because it is very hard and will withstand temperature up to 400 degrees. The new stove top looks great next to the new upholstery.

I left the original back-splash and counter. You can see the new stove top and side splash (kind of) I also had to reattach the sink with larger bolts and I sealed it up with silicon caulking. The counter and back-splash were both cleaned and then we used Gel-coat to give it a nicer finish.
This is the canvas bunk. It is part of the original design. I bought a piece of painters canvas to recreate this bunk. It holds me (230iiiish). It is double layered and double stitched. I also had the upholsterer put an extra 3' of canvas that can be dropped down for a privacy curtain. The pillows are custom made. They have a route 66 fabric with embroidered names of the cities on each pillow.
The top bunk pulls out to a 28'' wide bed and the couch pulls out to 48''.
This bed is spring loaded and is 38'' wide. I had the back covered in felt so it wouldn't scratch the table. Notice the copper plated hinges in the cabinet. It took 3 hours to clean all of the hardware. Though I do like aging they were coated in stain/lacquer from the old owner.
Meet the upholsterer (mom). She is a seasoned sewer and works at Andrew's Sewing and Vac in Wenatchee teaching classes among other things. She has used sewing machines her entire life (she used to make her cloths and other things). The memory of her mom (Grandma) gave her the inspiration to just do it. Grandma would just figure things out like re-upholstering couches and my mom is the same. She also did the custom embroidery work. If your looking to re-upholster your trailer it will cost around $1500-$2000.

I took this light fixture and the one underneath the front cabinets and coated them with a copper hammered finish paint. It really goes nicely with the wood. The glass on this fixture is the same and the one above the sink. This one got broken by somebodies head knocking off the metal bar from the bunk. (oops) So I went to...Stan's and bought a new glass and I bought some wire clips to hold the bars in place.
Notice the roof. It was replaced and color matched and I put on a new galvanized vent. I also sanded down the cabinetry and leveled out the countertop which has slid down over the years.


  1. Hi - I am absolutely blown away by the amount of work that you put into this - what a labor of love! It came out beautifully; you must be really proud.
    I have a 1955 Dalton that we were fortunate enough to find as a survivor that had been stored for decades. It was a total time warp inside, complete with all the original melmac dishes, bakelite radio, and vintage fans. The outside is showing its age, but inside, it looks amazing except for some water damage around the vent, which will be replaced this summer.
    There's not many of these Dalton's out there - maybe we'll see you and your beautiful trailer on the road some day!
    PS - let me know if you would like to see any pics of ours.

    1. Hi, I just picked up a 56 Dalton. Do you have photos of yours online somewhere? I'd love to see what others have done (or not done).

  2. Love this. I just found a 1961 canned ham for 600!!! I am going to see it Wed,and picking it up this weekend. You did a great job!!

  3. Very cool, I like the look of the old Dalton trailers and you nailed it on this one. Jim

  4. Wow! Love your Dalton. You did a fantastic job on it, and I enjoyed reading your blog. We are finishing up a 1957 Siesta. If you want to check out our rebuild, go to

  5. Me and my girl just bought a 1958 Dalton to fix up for her vintage boutique! Super stoked to start working on it and so glad I came across your blog as there is very little information about the dalton. Great work! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi, I just got a 56 Dalton. Would love to see photos if you have any!

  6. I bought this wonderful 1956 Dalton from Mike & I am enjoying in every way! I have had to replace the jack & seal the bottom of the trailer as I live in rural Montana & did not want a rodent problem. I named her Lola & she is a head turner for sure! I use her for fundraising as she draws a crowd...these campers are simply adorable!

    1. Hi, do you have any photos of yours? Trying to put our 56 together...

  7. I just picked up a 1957 Dalton trailer that's been an active food cart in Portland, OR since the 70s. It's in great condition, but the oven doesn't work. I'm not sure if we can get it working. Anyone know where we can get an oven that would work? Are there replacement ovens out there?

    1. Hey, do you have any photos? I'd love to see it, we just got a 56 Dalton and are having trouble finding photos of it online...

  8. Turns out the oven does work. Looking for racks and an awning.

  9. Hi, It looks like your image host no longer has your Dalton photos. Do you have an alternate host, or would you be willing to send me photos directly? I just picked up a 56 Dalton and would love to see your photos before we do our own restoration.