The very first camper we ever owned was a 1973 Argosy. I purchased it from a relative who had it sitting in a field being used as storage. It was pretty banged up and needed some work but I was hopeful and in love with the yellow camper we were rolling home.
Rehabing the Argosy turned out to be a different reality. While there were some amazing things about the Argosy, the camper needed a complete tear down Wayne and I just did not have the know-how or the time to learn how. Wayne seems to think if we had a garage large enough for the Argosy, we would have worked on it year round. However, in hind sight I think we wanted that to be true.
We sold the Argosy a few years ago. It did get rehabed, but not by us. At times I have missed the idea of owning it. I still get weak knee’d anytime I see a vintage camper. We have gone on to own four campers since then. Wayne just rolls his eyes. Our truth is, I doubt we ever own a vintage camper again. Below is a list of reasons why I believe this to be true for us:
Safety. While vintage campers are all the rage, owning one should come after careful consideration. When I think back to us hitching up that old camper after it had sat in a field for years, not knowing the condition of the tires or the wheel bearings, I am honestly thankful we made it the hour drive home. When hauling a vintage camper, or any camper for that matter, you have your own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road to think about.
Size. Is it me, or are vintage campers small? Yes, I have seen some larger Airstream’s or Avion’s but the majority of what I see is under 20 feet. This makes them lightweight and easy to tow but it means they are just not designed for families. Children come with stuff and stuff is what they bring camping. Over time, we have learned to accommodate the younger humans in our life. Simply put we need storage; inside the camper and out.
Holding Tanks. Holding tanks are another huge difference between vintage campers and modern campers. The Argosy had a fresh water tank but no grey tank. If it had a black tank it was long ago nonoperational.The grey water just ran out onto the ground under the camper (something highly frowned upon in many parks). In order to utilize the bathroom, The Argosy had to be camping with full hookups.
There are three main conveniences of RV camping that are basic to us: a bed, an air conditioner, and a bathroom. I do not know a single person who RV camps who honestly likes waking in the middle of the night and having to walk to a shared campground bathroom. Children intensifies the need for an operable bathroom in the RV
DIY Dream or Nightmare: Some people like to tinker. For those who do like to tinker they get a lot of enjoyment out of giving new life to something long ago set aside as junk. I would guess that for these folks, their destination is their path or journey. For us every time a light stopped working, or a water leak sprung up, or the trailer brakes stopped working, or the toilet seals began to leak it was just another thing that was keeping us from our destination; camping and enjoying the great outdoors. Wayne spends a lot of time doing things to our new camper but never fixing anything that has to be fixed. I think he likes starting with a new “clean” slate. Knowing that when we hitch up things are going to work on the inside and outside of the of the trailer brings us peace of mind.
I so admire those people who rehab old campers and give them new life. I so wanted to be one of them but the reality is, I am not and I probably never will be. I am okay with that. Thanks to several RV manufactures, you do not have to rehab and old camper in order to have a retro camper. Manufacturers like; Paradise Coast, Riverside, and even Shasta RV have created or re-created new RV’s with the look and feel of retro campers with modernized with today’s convenience. I know this is the path I would take if we were purchasing a smaller camper.
Deciding between a vintage camper or a new camper is certainly a personal choice. Safety should be your first consideration.If you find a vintage camper in a field, like we did, you really should consider how long that camper has been sitting before you tow it home. Your second consideration should be your personal needs. Do you need hot water, or holding tanks, or simply is it big enough for your needs? The final consideration for you to consider is the the amount of time, effort, and money you will spend fixing the camper up for your use.