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You're following an Aristocrat

Adventures in vintage camper trailer (or caravan, if you prefer) ownership

1w ago
6.6K

There are two pieces of back-story you need to know before you hear the story of this 1966 Aristocrat Land Commander travel trailer. The first is that my wife has never been to Canada. And the second is that we have elderly dogs who don't do well in kennels.

Combine those two facts, and you come up with only one real solution: if you want to travel, and you can't leave the dogs at home, you need a smaller home to take along with you.

Leeloo, our elderly pug. Not pictured: the bacon cooking on the stove that has captured all her attention.

Leeloo, our elderly pug. Not pictured: the bacon cooking on the stove that has captured all her attention.

So knowing nothing at all about RVs, either tow-behind or self-contained, we dove in head-first and bought a tiny travel trailer, a 1974 Venture. It was all of 12 feet long, including the trailer tongue, and very cramped even for two people and two small dogs. We took a couple of trips in it, but decided almost immediately that we needed something bigger if we were going to go somewhere for more than a night or two. So we sold the Venture and kept looking.

The old rig: tiny trailer, fragile truck. Not an ideal combination.

The old rig: tiny trailer, fragile truck. Not an ideal combination.

But our tow vehicle at the time, my wife's Ford Explorer, was getting long in the tooth and was already wearing through its second transmission, so we started looking for a self-contained solution. I had the idea of a slide-in camper plus an old pickup, so that we could use the pickup for yard and garden chores when it wasn't carrying a camper. We found an 1980 Chevy C20 "Camper Special" that looked cool, but barely ran, and discovered it had a cracked head. So then we looked at several self-contained RVs, a Toyota and a couple of Dodges, but failed emissions tests and generally poor condition made those deals fall through.

Besides, we decided that what we both really liked were the old trailers from the 1950s and 60s. The pastel colors, the bright and cheery interiors, and the overall vibe of that era of travel trailer just spoke to us. We looked at a great many of them before settling on this one, an Aristocrat Land Commander, from 1966.

As soon as we saw this one, we knew it was the one. The light and airy interior, the just-right size, the mechanical simplicity, all just seemed right. It's light enough to be towed easily by my wife's new car, the replacement for the Explorer, a 2003 Infiniti QX4. I keep thinking about looking for a period-correct tow vehicle for it, some sort of old '60s station wagon maybe, but it isn't in the cards financially right now. Maybe someday.

The front half of the rig. It's just a Nissan Pathfinder in a fancy suit, but it's comfy, reliable, and an excellent tow vehicle.

The front half of the rig. It's just a Nissan Pathfinder in a fancy suit, but it's comfy, reliable, and an excellent tow vehicle.

It isn't perfect; there is some water-damaged wood inside that needs to be replaced, and I want to make some minor improvements like adding a fresh water hookup (right now it just has an tank with an electric pump) and streamlining the cobbled-together electrical system. But it's functional, and we've taken it on a few short trips already. Most recently we went for a two-night stay with some friends of ours, who have a small RV of their own: an old VW Vanagon Riviera camper, with a Subaru 2.5 liter engine in it.

They've done a ton of work to this rig, and it shows. It's a great road-trip machine.

They've done a ton of work to this rig, and it shows. It's a great road-trip machine.

The next adventure for the Land Commander (nicknamed LuCille) won't be until this fall, when we go back to the vintage trailer rally in Florence, Oregon, where we first fell in love with this style of trailer. We went last year, but the event wasn't really much fun, with all the COVID restrictions. This year, hopefully, things will be a little less tense and surreal. It's always a good turnout, of some really cool old trailers.

We still haven't gotten to Canada yet. But eventually we will. If you see us on the road, give us a wave, and if you get stuck behind us, just remember: you're following an Aristocrat.

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Comments (5)

  • I've seen some more modern campers that try to evoke that look but you just don't get the same experience with them. I love this!

      7 days ago
  • I have a 1957 Yellowstone single axle camper. Nothing modern comes close to the feel that you get from a classic camper.

      5 days ago
  • Great article, even nicer trailer, and cute pug.

    I spent a lot of my childhood in a '67 Lo-Liner belonging to my uncle, that was usually towed by either a faded yellow '67 F100 with faded "Woodruff Nursery" vintage company livery on it, or a Chevy G20 shorty Beauville cobbled together from a '74 shell, '76 engine and a bunch of '75 parts, painted C3 Corvette Donnybrook Green & titled as a '75. Great memories. Your Aristocrat's floor plan is like my uncle's.

      7 days ago
  • I've considered picking up a 60s/70s era pull behind. But then I realized, I don't camp. So it'd be for nothing more than restoring, maybe taking out once, and selling.

      6 days ago
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