Friday, November 9, 2001

Enjoyment of things nostalgic has taken a new form in America, and it’s brought to us by our Canadian friends. The Twister, by Fifties Trailers Inc., is a precise reproduction of a classic oval-shaped travel-trailer design that dates to as early as the late 1940s, and it’s very popular.
Rod and Gerry Hagelund, brothers involved in the vintage auto hobby, observed the camping gear used by friends at rod runs and rallies. A love for RVing and travel inspired them to start repairing and rebuilding some vintage trailers for themselves and their hot-rod-owning friends or customers. One thing led to another, and the brothers were soon building brand-new vintage trailers.
The Twister measures just over 15 feet long, 6 feet 4 inches wide and a trim 6 feet 2 inches tall. It comes standard with a single axle, propane-powered appliances, 6 gallons of fresh water capacity, 2.6 gallons of LP gas, a 1.7-cubic-foot refrigerator and 30-amp alternator. Taking a cue from the vintage trailers, most floor plans are based on a forward dinette, master bed out back, a streetside galley and curbside refrigerator and closet or Porta Potti storage.
Many smaller cars, minivans, small pickups and sport utility vehicles can haul the Twister, which weighs in at 1,800 pounds empty and has a 2,860-pound gross vehicle weight rating. That leaves about 490 pounds of payload capacity, which is about right for a rig of this size.
Thus far, the trailer description could cover the same general features as any downsized recreational vehicle available today. The difference is in the details, and as any person serious about the car restoration hobby can attest, the details make the difference.
The Hagelunds started by dissecting and studying several vintage trailers. They looked at what was good and bad about the early models and resolved to improve on every area.
A window from a vintage trailer was removed, disassembled, measured and sent to a contemporary window manufacturer for exact reproduction.
The brothers searched around among the sheet metal suppliers and fabricators and located one that still had, in a dusty corner of a warehouse, the original forming rollers used to shape the fluted aluminum siding from the original trailers. This discovery led to a stock of original-style siding.
Further searching led to vintage taillights and clearance lights, original-style aluminum-edge trim, door handles, hinges and the like. Simple black steel wheels, wide white-sidewall tires and chrome baby moon hubcaps complete the visual package, as does the silver paint applied to the trailer tongue and frame up front. A simple vintage paint job completes the catchy exterior image.
The effect doesn’t stop with the exterior. A hand-built wood-framed screen door starts the interior effect and is pure nostalgia as you swing it wide to enter. Whenever possible, the same accurate vintage materials are used throughout the Twister’s interior. The funky 1950s-style drapery fabric came from a supplier to a major theme park chain and accurately reflects the trailer’s intended era.
Clear stains finish the all-wood birch and maple interior, which includes the curved wood birch interior paneling finished with brass escutcheon pins. Easy-rolling drawer glides, chrome vintage cabinet hardware, gold-flecked countertop laminates trimmed with metal molding, all-hardwood cabinets and vintage sheet flooring add nostalgically to the quality interior.
From my youth, I distinctly recall an icebox lined with heavy galvanized steel. The Twister includes a modern RV-style refrigerator and 12-volt power system, along with shore power connectable via a 30-amp cord. Likewise, the commonly used LP-gas lamp with its fragile mantle an item I replaced as needed in my family’s trailer. The Twister uses the safer 12-volt DC and 120-volt AC lighting.
While the vintage materials were researched and selected for accuracy, the Twister was built to complete modern standards for strength, safety and durability. The steel chassis is topped with wood-framed floor, walls and roof and insulated with fiberglass. Electric brakes are standard, as are LP-gas and smoke detectors along with a fire extinguisher.
Because of limited water, LP gas and storage capacities, this trailer would be most useful for short trips. Alternately, it could serve well as a part-time camping spot during a long trip that also took advantage of hotels.
The Twister is not inexpensive, at roughly $13,800 base suggested retail price, but like many hand-built specialty items, it’s worth the extra cost. And for RVers looking for a bit of nostalgia in their camping adventures, there’s nothing else like it.
For complete information about the Twister, contact Fifties Trailers, 2070 Concord Ave., Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, V3K5S9, or call 604/724-8488, or visit

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