The vintage camp trailers that were gathered for a rally last month at this park bordering the Snake River in Glenns Ferry “all tell their own story,” Les Blair said.
“And if they don’t,” Watt “Orbie” Mungall countered, “they’re in the wrong place.”
Blair and Mungall participated in the rally hosted by Idaho’s segment of the Rollin’ Oldies Vintage Trailers, a “loosely organized group” of folks who own camp trailers produced before 1980 or newer models made to look like the classics.
ROVT was founded in Dallas, Ore., in 2007. Idaho is the first state to form its own sub-group, with Marilyn and Bret Peoples of Caldwell serving as Idaho Wagon Masters. They have three rallies planned this year with a fourth likely to be added.
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About 40 trailers and motorhomes participated in the Three Island Crossing event, which featured a blue-ribbon country fair theme.
The first Idaho event, in September 2014, included 12 trailers.
“It’s mostly nostalgia,” said Jerry Kwiatkowski, who founded the ROVT group with his wife Linda. “It’s like the old cars. They hit their peak and waned down because of a lack of them available. Well, trailers haven’t hit their peak yet. They’re gaining more and more popularity.”
Kwiatkowski, who visited the Idaho group for the first time at last month’s event, bought his first vintage trailer after enduring multiple problems with his newer fifth-wheel trailer. He bought that vintage trailer — a 1964 Kencraft — for $400.
“It looked like a dumpy thing,” he said. “I spent two years restoring it because I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m a mechanic, not a woodworker.”
At the first ROVT rally, he put a for-sale sign on the trailer with a price of $2,600. It sold.
Two years later, the buyers re-sold the trailer for $5,000.
Kwiatkowski is two and a half years into his fifth trailer rehab. He also is working on a 1955 Chevy Nomad wagon.
“Now the big thing is people are buying the old cars to go with the old trailers,” Kwiatkowski said. “I keep telling these people: ‘Watch for these old cars. Watch for these old trucks. Get them married. That’s money in the bank when you get ready to sell.’ ”
The Peopleses have a motorhome and two trailers. Blair, of Fruitland, has three trailers and a pickup camper.
“It’s like a car habit,” Marilyn Peoples said. “You get one and then you want another one. But it’s whether you have enough room to park them all.”
She sold her 1954 Rainbow to neighbor Susan Villanueva, who adores her tiny trailer.
“I got super lucky,” Villanueva said. “I would always see the little trailers and I thought they were so cool. There are people who like more modern things. I’m not one of them. The rustier the better. I like things to look their age.”
And to many, that age looks much better than the shiny, new models coming out of today’s factories.
“They have style to them,” Marilyn said. “The big boxes are very functional. That’s what we call (new trailers). But these have history to them. There’s a lot of unique stuff in them. They are all designed a little different.”
Mungall, who lives in Willard, Utah, and is the Northwest rep for the national Tin Can Tourists group, enjoys the “camaraderie of people who know quality.”
“Most of these are just real materials,” he said.
Mungall brought one of the most beautiful trailers to the rally: a 1952 Silver Streak Clipper with an aluminum shell.
He purchased the trailer in the early 2000s for $1,200. It had been sitting alongside a highway for sale for 12 years.
“Back in the early ’90s, these things were considered ugly,” Mungall said.
Now they’re treasured collectibles.
The market for vintage trailers hasn’t overheated in Idaho yet, but in some states they are difficult to find and the prices can get prohibitive, the vintage-trailer enthusiasts say.
A restored trailer in the 12- to 15-foot range likely will cost more than $5,000 in Idaho.
Even the trailers in need of an overhaul aren’t cheap anymore.
“You used to be able to buy one for a hundred bucks,” Kwiatkowski said. “Now you’re lucky if you can find them for right around $2,000 or $3,000 — for a project.”
Some restored trailers go for as much as $40,000-plus, Linda Kwiatkowski said.
“The ’50s and ’60s are getting hard to find,” Marilyn Peoples said. “So people are coming up into the ’70s now because they’re a little easier to find but they are cool, too.”
Idaho’s ROVT group grows somewhat through trailer envy. Others see trailers in the neighborhood or attend the open houses at the rallies and decide they want one, too.
One of the ROVT traditions is open/closed signs in the windows of the RVs. If they’re open, that means they’re available to be toured.
Some visitors already own trailers and want tips on restoring them.
“When I bought that trailer over there, it was a total wreck,” Blair said, indicating his beautifully redone trailer nicknamed “Suite P.” “It can be overwhelming.”
Rallies cost $10. There are no membership dues for the group.
Organizers like to say newcomers enter as strangers and “leave feeling like family.”
“We’re all a little quirky because we like the vintage stuff,” Marilyn said. “... It’s almost like a family reunion atmosphere at a rally.”
Upcoming ROVT rallies
May 13-15: Rivers Edge RV Park, Wilder
June 10-12: Swiftwater RV Park, White Bird