Glamping with Myrtle
Myrtle, a vintage 1964 Travco motorhome, gives owners Capri Rasmussen and Jason Auch the chance to do a little glamping in true '60s styleby Gail Jansen-Kesslar
When Capri Rasmussen was only 12 years old, she purchased her first antique, a 1950s pottery cat mug belonging to a larger set of Japanese cat-related pottery items called Shafford. It was a purchase that would set her on a path of collecting (she now has 80 Shafford pieces) and that began her lifelong love of all things vintage.
And while Rasmussen had never given any thought to buying a vintage motorhome, a random spotting of a Travco motorhome soon set her on the path to finding one of her own. In 2008, she saw a 1964 Travco motorhome online—in a vibrant blue colour—for sale in Montana. She bought it and christened it Myrtle, because like a turtle, Rasmussen takes her house with her.
“When we decided to purchase her, we envisioned her as a mobile cabin to take camping, or 'glamping,' as I like to call it," said Rasmussen, "glamorous camping with all the vintage comforts of home.”
Though the glamping, as Rasmussen soon found out, would have to be put on hold until a few renovations were taken care of—OK, maybe more than a few.
From floor to ceiling
Ripping out 75 per cent of the floor—right down to the frame—Rasmussen and her husband, Jason Auch, put in all new plywood and topped it with new vinyl tiles. They also replaced about half the wood veneer walls and stained them to match the existing wood.
Renovations that soon followed included new insulation, new ceiling tiles, new front seats, welded reinforced metal plates under the front seats, new flooring in the cab area, new drawers and cupboards in the kitchen and closet (thanks to assistance from Auch’s father), a new mattress, a complete solar power system, a new water tank and new electrical wiring. In the mechanical area, the pair installed a new starter, new ignition, new wiper motors and arms, new exhaust, new tires, new shocks and a new exhaust manifold; as well, they had the brake system rebuilt and tuned up the engine.
They also installed a brand new windshield and pulled out all the windows and resealed them.
“We’ve done extensive renovations,” admitted Rasmussen. “When you pull out one thing, you inevitably find something else that needs to be fixed. These old vehicles become a labour of love.”
In this case, it was a love that took up nearly every spare weekend the couple could manage to pour into her for nearly two years.
Going retro with the renos
Rasmussen and Auch wanted to stay true to Myrtle's 1964 origins rather than redecorating with more modern materials, so, when they weren't working on Myrtle’s renovations, the couple turned their love of garage saling and thrift store shopping into opportunities to look for iconic Myrtle pieces. One great find was a vintage orange vinyl couch that doubles as an extra sleeping space; they also found period vintage dishes, pots and linens to complete their 1964-style vibe.
And while Myrtle does presently run with her original engine components, the Rasmussen and Auch’s wish list of still-to-do renovations includes rebuilding her 318 poly engine.
“We found a vintage six-pack intake and carburetor on eBay that we’d like to install,” said Rasmussen, “and we’re also searching for a rim for the spare tire.”
It’s a parts list that seems to never end, and one that at times can prove difficult to find, especially when there’s no current part number for what they’re looking for—a difficulty that has the pair often looking to Napa, online sites and some salvage yards for the necessary pieces.
“The Dodge 318 poly engine existed in a few vehicles, so parts are out there,” said Rasmussen. “In fact, one day I was complaining at a parts store about needing a new exhaust manifold and the clerk happened to have an old one off of his old Dodge truck, which he sold to me. It is best to ask other owners where they have found specific parts. Some parts, such as new windshields, are very expensive. Parts for the 'home' area generally come from the hardware store and have been custom built as necessary. We have also collected some helpful vintage automotive books and brochures that provide valuable information when searching for parts or how to repair things.”
Sharing the love
This information can be found on Myrtle’s blog and new Facebook page; these are designed to give those who just love all things vintage—and those looking specifically for the Travco—both the eye candy and the information they need.
Today, with most of the hard work and elbow grease behind them, Rasmussen and Auch are looking forward to glamping Myrtle-style at some of their favourite spots, especially Waterton Lakes National Park. They’re also looking forward to the day they can expand their repertoire of vintage vehicle show and shines, like the one they attended in September 2011. Rasmussen said they've found these to be a great way to meet others who share their passion for vintage RVs.
Because Myrtle turns heads wherever she goes and people are always so curious about her, Rasmussen said they eventually had to have business cards made up for her; the cards have her photo, blog website address and all her basic information on them.
“People give us the thumbs-up when we are on the highway," said Rasmussen."They take photos. We've seen many folks peeking in the windows when we are walking back to her, and lots of people want to take a tour inside, which we generally accommodate."
Currently neither Rasmussen nor Auch plan to search out another vehicle to restore; having spent the time, energy and necessary money on Myrtle, they’d now like to just enjoy her. But at the same time, they haven’t totally discounted the idea either.
“We don’t have any plans,” said Rasmussen, “but sometimes these things find us.”