There is no doubt that one of the key features of vintage trailers is their craftsmanship and quality of products/materials. Later in this post I will talk about what we do to maintain our cabinetry so well, but first, a little history and photos.
The Avion Coach Company spared no expense when manufacturing their signature aluminum trailers prior to the late 1970’s. Given the price tag at the time, these beauties were high end, luxury trailers. It was after that time that the company was sold to the Fleetwood RV company and incrementally over subsequent years the quality and craftsmanship started to wane. For more history about the Avion Corporation we highly recommend purchasing Bob Muncy’s book shown here. There is a link to how to purchase on our resources page.
Our 1973 is considered by many articles we have seen to be in the “perfect window years” of style, amenities and design of the Avion Coach Company. Truthfully, many prefer the pre-1973 models which have more rounded, Airstream-type styling (photo below left) with more front/rear fan panels—but in 1973 when they changed to our “breadloaf” front and rear (ours at photo below right) you gained some really valuable headspace and storage inside and more room to move about in the rear bathroom.
One of the things however that did not change during these pre- late 70’s years and even into the 80’s at least was the superb quality of their use of real wood and excellent craftsmanship of their cabinetry. Real hinges on drawers, metal tracks and wheels. Full length piano hinges on all tall cabinets and closet doors are all standard. Our LaGrande model has the extra French Provincial molding and flourish handle pulls (our kitchen cabinet below). The more basic, entry level trailer, The Travelcader, and Sportsman models had plain fronts and simple pulls.
Now owners of Avion’s are tasked with maintaining the condition of these beautiful wood cabinets. Some have chosen to paint over the stained finish-perhaps because of worn, dried out condition of their trailer, others because there is a growing preference especially among Millennials to have a crisp, bright, clean look so white or pale grey painted cabinets seem to be the rage. Below is a great beautiful example of a more “modern 21st century look” recently put on one of our Avion Facebook forums. It is a very, very nice look but not one that we would feel comfy in for any full time living. It always amazes me how varied style interiors each Avion owner does with their trailer. We are all starting with basically the same bones!
For us traditionalists, we relish the mellowed wood stain of our cabinets and do all we can to ensure they stay that way. Look at the difference! Only you can decide for your personal style which you prefer!
Now, about keeping up this stained cabinetry.
Each spring, we wipe over all of the wood cabinetry, closet doors inside and out with “Restor-A-Finish” oil by a company called Howard. Here is the link to it on Amazon, but they also have other colors available too like Cherry and others. One can has now lasted me two complete seasons. I did go over the cabinets this fall again because we had used the trailer more this season and they just seemed to need a bit more. We purchased this Restor-A-Finish can at our local large Antique Co-op Shop (Glenwood Antiques in Queensbury, NY) and it is something that many antique dealers use routinely on furniture. It does come in a variety of stain colors and we found that the Maple-Pine was the closest match to our cabinets. The Avion Corp. did offer a few different finish colors so some interiors are going to be different than ours, lighter, or darker. The wood is birch with beautiful grain as you can see from our photos.
I use an old Tee shirt or other smooth rag to apply the oil. Careful…it is quite thin and runny!
It does go on somewhat oily but that is fine and over a day or two it penetrates in and rejuvenates the wood. There is no need to go back over it with a dry cloth. Let the oil soak in. What I do like is that it does NOT leave a sticky film like some other furniture oils do. The smell is not bad and it does wash off your hands fairly easy with a scrubby but I do try to wear rubber gloves when applying it because it will stain your fingernails a bit for a time afterwards.
I like that it is a little shiny when being applied because it allows me to more easily see where i have daubed and where I have not. I have also used this same restorer if we had a scratch accidentally onto a cabinet door or trim piece. It covers it beautifully!
Here is a perfect photo to show the treated cabinet on left, and not-yet-treated on right:
In conclusion, we would highly recommend Restor-A-Finish for refurbishing your wood stained cabinetry and maintaining its vibrancy and condition by using it at least annually. We have seen photos of Avion and other RV interiors where the cabinets were not treated regularly and what happens is that they get brittle, chip, peel and look washed out and faded.
So please give treat your wood cabinets to a luscious spa treatment to keep them in beautiful condition always!
In June of 2018 our “Pewter Palace” got a new set of “clothes! Our original main awning fabric had been replaced by the trailer’s most recent owner about 7 years ago. He had purchased a Carefree brand, vinyl awning (see below right photo) which for us was too dark and the color scheme and design was not vintage looking enough for our taste.
The main awning hardware was still the original Carefree equipment (1973) as well and functioning fine. The side and rear bath windows of our Avion had never had their own awnings and we really wanted to add them to our rig for the following reasons:
Positives about Window awnings…..
Keeps the interior of your trailer cooler by preventing sun from streaming in during hot weather.
Lessons the fading of your interior fabrics (curtains, bedspreads, dinette cushions, etc.).
Provides the ability to open windows even in most rain or drizzle, thereby affording continued air flow through trailer.
Look downright awesome! and we think add to the vintage homelike feel.
Why switch to Zipdee all the way around?Because we were going to install window awnings for the first time, the logical choice was Zipdee based on their reputation for quality, outstanding customer service and for the fact that during certain production years the Avion Corporation did install Zipdee awning systems on the trailers on the assembly line. Also, the Zipdee Corporation is still going strong and has not varied their design to much over the decades and they continue to produce older parts so you can always get them. Carefree stopped making these bent arm model awning systems many moons ago and in fact our original 1973 hardware is very hard to find and in demand by folks who need parts or are purists and want the original for their period rig. Lastly, since we were putting on window awnings we wanted everything to match from the hardware to the “software” of the awning fabric itself. When we considered removing our old vinyl awning fabric, the cost to have a new one made out of our new Sunbrella material–between labor and materials it just did not make sense. Not to mention the fact that we have read horror stories of lay folks like us trying to switch out awning materials themselves. It is not easy and requires at least three strong individuals to manage this feat. We were not going there!
The ordering process: We looked on the Zipdee Awning website which is expansive and offers some great information about ordering, history, parts, installs, how to videos and more. (see links in this blog for some of these pages) but also they have a very good variety of Sunbrella patio awning fabrics to pick from. You WANT to get specific patio awning material because it is going to hold up to wind, rain, rot and fade issues and the elements of weather far better than any lesser grade or household canvas awnings would.
We wanted a color scheme that would compliment our Bavarian feel and predominate colors of deep red, hunter green and spikes of Dresden blue and yellow. Wholla!!! We found just what we wanted in their “vintage fabric” list by choosing their (#4751) Hemlock Tweed Fancy. Honestly, if my memory serves me correctly, my paternal grandmother had this very same stripe on her camp chairs at her circa 1940’s lake cottage in South Jersey when I was a little girl. It brought back a flurry of wonderful summertime memories. So that was it, hands down! We had to laugh when Chuck Cayo called us to say that the awning had been delivered and he described it as “wow its really bright and looks like a Mexican blanket”! Once we explained our Bavarian/German color scheme and motif he understood since there is still a lot of German influence to be found in Michigan for sure (hunter green and deep red are very traditional German/Bavarian colors and seen on many chalets and houses in Europe)!
Adding more shaded living space: Chuck actually did the ordering and install process for us so we cannot comment much on that other than we also gave instructions that we wanted to have the longest awning possible (given the curvature of Avion’s front and rear) on our curbside main awning. Our existing awning was a tad short and we knew we could go at least two feet longer which would provide just that much more space underneath the awning for a picnic table in case of hot or rainy weather besides our camp chairs and side table, etc. The longer awning also ensures that the curbside bedroom window is fully protected from rain and sun and can be opened and never worry about a rain soaked bed (on my side of course!) Our new awning is 19′ 6 3/4″ long–we gained nearly 3 feet over our Carefree system! Score another reason to replace!
The Zipdee awning has proven itself to be a real winner! It is lighter in weight which is always key with Avion’s since they do tend to be far heavier than other trailers of their size. This is because of the quality construction, beefy frame, solid wood cabinetry and construction techniques. We are not knocking that…this is one of the key reasons why we chose an Avion in the first place…but it does bring with it issues of needing to really be mindful of how much you are loading into the rig. Even if your tow vehicle can handle it, your Avion was not made to transport an elephant!
Rear Bath Window Awning System– Our rear window is far more useful too now! As those who own Avion’s know, the rear bath models have a sliding window (others are crank out awning-style) and so without an awning in place you had to close that window even if the slighted hint of rain was coming so that the interior cabinetry etc. did not get wet. The window is slightly tipped so that the bottom of the window is out a little more than the top due to the design of the overall body (at the mid-belt area the trailers actually are at their widest). So this window was essentially a “water catcher”. With the rear awning system, once you deploy that awning, you can fully keep your rear bath window completely slid open. NOTE: in our ordering spec’s we also told Chuck to order as long a rear awning as possible to extend as far beyond the rear window frame sides as possible, again to provide more shade and protection from rain driving in.
The rear awning hardware system is slightly different than the side windows or main awning. It does not get the “hook in ” system for the strap like others. This hardware actually has small lightweight swing arms that set in place into the awning bracket arms to fix the awning in place. This is necessary again, due to how the body of the Avion is designed. This awning, like the others has a self wrapping metal cover to protect it when rolled up (really nice!) and is very easy to deploy and put small arms in place. You can see them mid-way down each of the side arms.
One Minor Complaint…..One thing we have noticed is that it appears Zipdee really should have centered the stripes on this rear awning. In other words, there should have been a few inches of green on the left side and on the right. We will be showing this to Zipdee and get their feedback on this. To many folks this may not be an issue, but as a one time Art Major, it drives me nuts! The other awnings are fine, so perhaps this was a end of the bolt or a lazy day issue at Zipdee that day!
Zipdee Customer Service: is outstanding! When we arrived at Cayo to pick up our Avion, Chuck had not ordered the center support bar. Kevin was sure that due to length of awning we needed that. Chuck found a used one in his shop that worked for the short term and to his credit and in 90+ degree weather did install on the spot. But when we did our first camping trip we realized it actually was too short and came unhitched at the slighted breeze that lifted the awning a bit. So obviously it was not going to do what it is intended to do which is to help stabilize the awning and add additional support to the awning arms. So we called Zipdee right from the campsite. Did photos with a tape measure and they sent us the correct one within one day. Chuck also had not installed the one safety clip which does come with the main awning ayatem. So they included one of those with complete instructions on install of both of them. Kevin will most likely do this project on his own- seems simple enough for us to do. Through it all, the customer service folks at Zipdee have been friendly and outstanding to work with. Our entire awning system is Model AV2. Here is the tag which remains on the main awning for reference for any future need. Zipdee needs this # for any orders.
Pennant Embellishments: When we were attending the Tin Can Tourist Rally last fall and also in many Vintage Camping magazines, etc. we review I noticed that many folks were using fabric pennants as a way to embellish their vintage-ness! So over this past early spring I got to work creating our pennants for the Pewter Palace. I used a bunch of fabrics that I had already, some given to me by a German friend in Lake George, Margit Herzog, and a German linen table cloth that I had purchased on Ebay that had German people and town shields. To create a little continuity I also purchased the yellow fabric to create a bit of color pop! This was an easy project. I made my own triangular pattern, sewed them on two sides, turned, pressed then set into a full length strip of Wrights, double fold bias tape quilt binding in red. The tape is .875″ wide x 3 yards long. I used one 3 yard length for across the rock guard front of trailer, then 2 of the 3 yard strings for along awning length. I was tickled pink when a fellow modern RVer (with a huge 5th Wheel) came over to our camp one morning that we were at Jellystone RV park with grandkids over July 4th and complimented on the pennants and said she loved them and they have inspired her to make some for her awning because hers is so plain. VBG! Also, the next day, the owner of the campground mentioned to Kevin that he loved the pennants and that “back in the day” when he was just starting out in RVing that everyone had fabric pennants on their trailers. He loved the nostalgia look! Yeah again! You will see from the photos that I simply used the same (conference name badge clips) to hold up the pennants to the awning edge- then tucked in my fairy light string like I always do to hold everything together.
Clips to hold my solar fairy lights and homemade fabric pennants: I use a tip gotten from Airstream Vlogger Courtney Adcock (www.AStreaminLife.com). She recommends purchasing a bag of the plastic and aligator clips that are used at conferences to clip through a name badge. I have ordered them really cheaply from Amazon and they work great. And they are FAR cheaper than the clips that are sold at most RV supply places. As of this posting, the link above has them on Amazon for 150 of them for under $15. A Deal! Best thing is that if you have to take down your awning in a hurry, e.g. storm or wind coming in quick) you can pull these off in a flash compared to the ones that slip into your awning track. IMPORTANT NOTE--Zipdee awnings DO NOT have that internal open track (Carefree does) for the more traditional light clips to slide in. That also means you cannot insert any of those LED light strips either. So purchase some of these badge clips and hang from them! I have used them now for two years and they still look new.
So here is a shot of the “finished” new set of clothes for our baby! She looks so happy! We love them and hope you consider Zipdee as an awning choice as many, many Avion and Airstreamers do. (Zipdee is the brand that Airstream uses for all of their trailers so if you do have a problem on the road, any AS dealer will be able to fix for you!)
PS: The only two other things to add to her “wardrobe” –the first is we will be making up tire skirts in the Hemlock Tweed Fancy to snap in place covering the tires from sun and so we are not looking at them when sitting under awning. The other one is that once we go full time living on our Avion, we plan to purchase an “add a room” system to put up on the main awning when we are staying more than a week or two in one location. This additional screened in space will allow us to extend our 24/7 living space and create a spare bedroom if need be for visitors. More on that as it develops….that’s a blog for another day!
Anyone who has done even a modest amount of Avion researching has stumbled across the term “Travelcade” or “Travelcaders” on more than one occasion. But what is this term all about?
Why do some of our vintage trailers have large circular Travelcade stickers (and ID # numbers) and some do not?
WHAT WAS THE TRAVELCADE CLUB?
In brief, the Avion corporation started an “Avion owners fan club” if you will of Avion owners who liked to get together and host large and regional rallies with their trailers. The term Travelcade was used as the name of these gatherings and the people who attended were called “Travelcaders”. Belonging to the membership club was optional for Avion owners and hence that is why some Avion trailers do not have ID #’s and others do. Bob Muncy’s book goes into great detail about the Travelcade club and is a must read. Additional information about owners/#’s can be found at Dr. G’s website and others.
Sadly, after the Avion production was sold to the Fleetwood Corp, the club began allowing owners of any type of Fleetwood RV into the fold. This created a homogenization of the camaraderie which was ultimately perhaps led to the demise of the Avion portion of the club. (also, originally the Avion Corp provided funds to host rallies, Fleetwood did not continue that tradition and began charging members). Thankfully we have branches of the Silver Avion Fellowship around the country that are doing their best to keep that kind of owner gatherings and camaraderie going!
Vintage photo of a Travelcade gathering-note the knitted caps with the official “Travelcade” patch on them! (yes—we have TWO of these originals!) See our previous blog post for more photos of original Travelcade swag we have purchased and proudly wear when we are at Tin Can Tourist rallies and the annual Silver Avion Fellowship rallies which are held today!
The member number was applied to your trailer (facing the trailer on streetside front and back) so that when you rolled into an event the spotters at registration could identify you quickly AND there were large membership directories printed and published so you could easily find friends, locals to your state, etc. by those numbers on their rigs.
TRAVELCADE CAPS AND SEW ON PATCHES:
From time to time you can find an official original travelcade cap for sale on Ebay. That is where we found ours which were being sold by a gentleman who grew up with his parents Avioning at many big rallies (over 500 Avions or more!). He was also parting with some other Travelcade swag which we gladly purchased and love to wear at rallies! Here is Kevin sporting his cap!
You will see they are slightly different than our originals but at $6 each they are great to have to sew on your own windbreaker or baseball cap.
FYI- we have seen original photos of men wearing official “Avion Pith” helmets at the original rallies (makes sense as many where held in Florida where heat had to be a huge issue!). The pith helmets were traditional white. We have yet to find any of those for sale.
TRAVELCADE MEMBER ID NUMBERS:
Our original numbers are still in very good condition (perhaps at some point one of the three prior owners did replace them but they are the original numbers. You can tell this because there is no ghost images other than those numbers we have) and at some point, when we find someone with a directory from the New England Unit we will be able to verify once again our original owners name and home address back in the day.
The best place to find out the history of the Travelcade club is to visit Dr. G’s website. He has a comprehensive online story about it as well as a list of Travelcade members (I believe original owners with their member ID #s) and also current Avion owners. The lists are not comprehensive by any means, nor, i think kept too current. That would be a daunting task for anyone. I know, for example, we have asked to be added quite a while back but this has yet to happen. Nevertheless, its a great resource and the story of the Travelcade club is told well. So sit back, visit the site and enjoy reading!
Want to see some original Avion Travelcade event brochures and ephemera? click here!
OFFICIAL TRAVELCADE TRAILER STICKER EMBLEMS
If your Avion does not have any Travelcade stickers, or originals are in bad shape and you want to replace them, here is a link to a fellow who sells them on Ebay. The price is reasonable enough and we have ordered from him with very good results. The stickers came promptly and are of good quality. So stay tuned on their life expectancy!
Again, not everyone will have these SECURITY UNIT stickers to the right of their entry door above the handle. These Avion owners, from what we understand were often times police or security officers in their “day jobs” or were very involved with the organizing group of volunteers for the Travelcade rallies. These rallies were huge and could exceed 500 trailers so an amount of decorum, safety and management had to be maintained. Our trailer does have such a sticker and again, for purposes of anyone who was attending the rallie (from young children to adults) you would be able to quickly locate a safety person to assist you if you got lost, or needed medical or safety help. We understand that some of these folks primary functions was during load in and load out days where hundreds of trailers needed to be parked and maneuvered. We are not aware of any reproductions of these stickers currently being made and that is really kind of neat for us…we are proud to have ours in such perfect condition for an original (most likely from the late 70’s-80’s)-our original intact and on our trailer is pictured below.
Many thanks to fellow Avion owner Sherry Holmes Kinzey (PA) who just posted this photo of memorabilia found in her parent’s Avion. Obviously those who were part of the Avion security were also issued a badge to wear! (photo by Sherry Holmes Kinzey)
More travelcade nostalgia–pictures from Travelcade rallies in the 60’s-80’s….enjoy! If I recall correctly, we took these photos from archives at the RV & Manufactured Homes National Museum in IN.
Hope to see you at an upcoming Tin Can Tourist or Silver Avion Fellowship Rally (which is basically the modern day equivalent of the Travelcade clubs).
There are currently Silver Avion Fellowship clubs based in Texas, Arkansas and Michigan. All host rallies and welcome fellow Avion owners to attend. The easiest way to find them is via a search on Facebook!
Clearly anyone who owns an Avion understands that they are historic preservationists in the most fundamental sense. Not only do they maintain, restore and covet their aluminum beauty…they also USE it as it was intended to be used—for enjoying the outdoors, sheltering from weather and creating memories with loved ones and dear friends. If they did not revere history and love nostalgia they would own a modern cardboard box, flat top trailer with little to no personality and certainly not built for the longevity that the Avions can boast to this day. (our Avion turned 45 years old this year-2018, and I challenge any modern box campers to be on the road in excellent running order in 45 years!).
NOTE: at the end of this blog post I have a list of resources for reproduction items talked about throughout this post. Enjoy!
Almost monthly, there are questions about, or seekers of information on the various medallions, decals, numbers and company markers on the trailers.
In this article I will attempt to answer many of the questions and in some cases provide some current links to where some of these items (or reproductions of same) may still be obtained today. Also included are links to other websites where directories of the Travelcade member ID # may still be looked up. Sadly, currently no one source of all those numbers exist so the hunt is on and if someone would eventually scan and post the books in an archive it would be like winning the lottery for a lot of us! More about that in a subsection below.
Lets start at the beginning…the birth so to speak when an Avion was coming off of the assembly line.
As a side note, see our post about our trip to Benton Harbor MI in April 2018 to see a video of the plant that still exists but now is a cheese factory.
Avion Coach Company Medallions and Logo Markers:
These logo medallions from what we have seen were almost always painted red. Today many look like a pale/faded tomato red, but from what we understand a deep true red was more similar to its original color. Over time, the colors have faded. This is the same with the rub rail- that vinyl strip that slides into a channel that goes around the trailers mid-belly in two layers with a shiner (non-anodized) strip in between them (at least on the years surrounding our years of production. In the 80-90’s the colors for Avions turned more to using blues and black. You can see that along the way one of the three previous owners of our trailer replaced the rub rail with black which is very common to see these days. The rub rail material is not easily found in the right size. Resource list at end of this post. Some people have taken to painting the rub rail vinyl back to red, or from faded black to black. It can be done, but I have seen them and to me it looks a bit like a cob job. Perhaps if you were to actually remove the vinyl and spray paint it it might be better—but no way am i promising you will ever get that rub rail back in the channels again very easily!
As another side note to the company medallions, above is the dealership plate from where our 1973 Avion was originally sold from. This dealership does not exist anymore but we have located where it was through old news clippings and at the time surely it was on the outskirts of Dearborn Heights in a rural area– but now that address is smack dab in the middle of a very built up almost urban environment. Our little lady did not travel that far from her birth place to be purchased for the first time. Many Avion’s also still have their original dealer emblem on them. Again, its all about nostalgia for us and we wear it proudly.
Below is our LaGrande “model” medallion which appears on both sides of the trailer to the rear-basically even with where the bathroom is located (at least with 70’s models). Early Avion photos (50’s-60’s) we have seen do not appear to have these though there were some model names. See second photo below for placement. Many of these model plates that we have seen are, like ours is pitted. They are stainless but age, and in our case, being kept in Florida near the ocean in the winters for many years has caused the pitting. If a rig has been kept under cover or in a garage these emblems may be in far nicer condition. The background is dappled/textured a bit and supposed to be painted all flat black. Only the raised lettering is supposed to be shiny. The “Travelcade” models (a wee bit of a step down, basic model of Avion) also have them in the same locations. It is not advisable to remove these unless you really know what you are doing. (again, this was before our baby had her first bath!)
HOW CAN I TELL HOW OLD MY AVION IS AND HOW LONG IT IS? In the photo below you will see the vehicle details on the orange plate that was afixed to the trailer upon completion at the Avion assembly line plant. This is not our trailer but you can see and tell the year, month, and production # as well as the model style “LaGrande”.
These plates are very important when looking at purchasing a new to you Avion or for reference for a rig you currently own. Hopefully you still have one on your trailer. This one is located just to the right of the door entry. This is also where ours is, however there is another plate on the streetside as well that also has important trailer information and should be documented.
There is an excellent resource website maintained by “DR G”, Dr. Don Gradeless that is a treasure trove of manuals (PDF by year) you can download or view, info regarding Avion specs and also early rosters of some Travelcade member units.
Here is how to read the numbers (see image below)- this stands for trailers made at least in the 1970’s that we know and cannot attest to how earlier or later models may be marked.
SERIAL NUMBER 75-L-28043
1975 production year L = LaGrande Model 28 = foot length043 = 43rd trailer made that year.
Trailer Travelcade Member ID Numbers and Units:
I will be including a whole separate blog post about the history of the “Travelcade” membership club because it really was cool! But for purpose of this post, I refer to the wonderful Avion history book written by Robert Muncy (link to purchase here) entitled SILVER AVIONS AND CAYOS. Muncy writes that the Travelcade club of Avion owners got its start in 1959 and had its highest rendezvous turn out of 818 Avions in Coldwater MI in 1970. Please see my future post about the Travelcaders and their club soon!
The photo below is our Avion, our “Pewter Palace” as we call her with her original Travelcade ID numbers and geographical unit emblem. Not all Avion owners joined this optional club and so if you do not see any type of stickers like this (front and rear streetside is where they should be) then the owners did not partake. Benefits of the club included a printed newsletter, attendance at rendezvous (FL, MI, WI) and the ability to order and wear some of the truly awesome “Travelcader Swag” like earings, jackets, knitted caps, pith helmets, bolo ties and more….remember….this IS the 1960-70’s!! See some of the swag we have gotten so far in this previous post or on our Avion Swag post page.
Our trailer’s second owner was from CT and therefore was part of the New England Unit which sadly no longer exists. In fact, the whole “Travelcade” club and movement died out after the corporation sold to the Fleetwood RV company in the 80’s. Happily, a diehard group have resurged the zeal for hosting rallies of Avions again and now there is are very active “Sliver Avion Fellowship ” units based in MI, TX and more recently one started in Arkansas. The trend and desire to all get together again is growing each year as is the popularity of owning one of these classic, well-built beauties. We attended the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart MI in the summer of 2017 and had a blast with over 25 Avions of all designs, lengths and styles present. The MI group, I believe is the one who got the whole Fellowship rolling again. Search Facebook for The Silver Avion Fellowship and ask to join. There is a similar named fb site for the event too. I believe that black numbers and letters were the standard issue of these rigs. People attending the Travelcade official rallies back in the day would register with their trailer number. There were published member directories for each year and geographical unit. If you are lucky, someone at one of today’s Fellowship Rallies may come with one and you can look up your original Travelcade member’s name, address, etc. On occasion someone will also post out on one of the Avion FB pages that they have access to one of the books , or you can post out on the Avion Owners facebook pages that you are seeking a “look up” for the numbers on your rig. Folks are more than happy to help find this nostalgic piece of history out for a fellow Avion owner.
As you can see by our membership number—our trailer owner’s were the 14229 members enrolled. WOW!
Below these emblems, or on the curbside somewhere near the front side panel, some Avions also have a vertical list with smaller letters of the location and date of EACH Travelcade Rendezvous that they had attended. It is an amazing story for your Avion and we highly recommend that you LEAVE it, or if needed get repro stickers if some of the letters or dates are worn off. Some trailers only have a shadow (left from fading of the finish) on their rigs. Again—this is a badge of honor that should be maintained in our opinion and we know many other Avioners agree. So please keep them visible! We wish we had some but perhaps our owners were more interested in just reading the member newsletter than traveling south. We do know they took our trailer to Alaska twice though!
If you look very closely below you will see under the “pie slices” a discolored area on the body. In the right light, you can see EACH of the rendezvous that this trailer has been to. It was quite amazing and yes—a badge of honor we are happy to see they have kept even though the actual black letters are long gone. Those letters were issued to you when you arrived at the Travelcade Rendezvous. Today’s Silver Avion Fellowship Rally we attended in MI is reissuing these once again and we will put it on our trailer once we get our clear coating done by Chuck Cayo this spring.
Below are some resources for items mentioned above. Please do remember to check back to my blog often as I will be adding an entire post about the Travelcaders and club which will include some vintage photos of rallies, people wearing Travelcade swag and more… including where to buy reproduction Travelcade Large Member Stickers like what is on the front and rear of our rig (we have purchased new ones to replace our very faded and worn out ones)
CURRENT RESOURCES THAT WE ARE AWARE OF:
(these were viable at date of this post, sorry if no longer active) Please contact me if you find new or other sources!!
(1) Chuck Cayo (above) keeps black in stock most of the time.
(2) Others have used sources found on Airstream (gasp!) forums, recently someone used vinyl stripping found on a website that sells it for lawn chairs. He said it worked well. I got some samples, nice colors but is very thick and not sure how well it will last with temp changes/extremes of full timing plus would be really hard to insert in because it is flat, not curved and very stiff. They said do it on a sunny warm day, and use a heat gun to soften and insert- perhaps with a putty knife to help tuck into track gutter.
(4) Travelcade Member ID #’s and Units: This is a very recent link that I found posted on one of the handful of Avion facebook pages that i belong to. So far, I believe the folks who have ordered from her have had a positive experience. Mind you, you must have a steady hand to apply these…or take the letters and numbers to a professional sign shop or automotive detailer who does this kind of thing and have them apply them! As mentioned, so far, we have only seen black letters on originals but I believe some current owners are using red for their numbers. I guess its a matter of choice.
As always, I hope you have enjoyed this post and gotten some “take aways” from it. I would love to hear your feedback, or if you have other sources for the items discussed above or anything to do with Avions. Its all about helping each other to preserve and enjoy our beloved Avions as much as we call.
We look forward to meeting fellow Avioners on the road in days ahead….till then…
The city of Elkhart, Indiana may not mean anything to someone who has never owned or camped in an RV. However, for those of us who have fully ingested the “bug” Elkhart, Indiana is the RV Manufacturing capital of the WORLD! No kidding!! Really! In this blog post I include many links that bring this history of RVing to life!
Here is a sneak peak of the RV/MH Hall of Fame exhibit area! See more links below!
For decades upon decades countless brand name RV manufacturers have set up their company production lines in and around the Elkhart area. If you visit, you can plan to take a factory tour if you want too but check ahead because they are only offered at certain factories on certain days of the week and times. Because of this, a multitude of outsourcing smaller manufacturing businesses have populated the area producing everything possible for those large brands like Fleetwood, Winnebago, Forrest River, Thor, etc. Things like smaller plants that make the windows, the cushions, the hitches, the extruded plastic AC covers, electrical and plumbing fixtures. It was comical being at a stop light and seeing flatbed trailers stacked with 15 shower stalls, trailer frames, stacks of windows being rolled down the road to finish off someones new trailer or motorhome! The majority of all the RV’s from tiny pods to large 45 foot diesel pusher Class A’s are made in Elkhart.
SO–it is no coincidence that the RV & Manufactured Homes Hall of Fame is located in Elkhart, easily seen and reached by Interstate 80. Don’t get me started on why the MH does not stand for Motor Home…but it actually stands for Manufactured Houses which to some degree is also represented in this museum (especially a small MH outside the building that is open for a tour- more of a sales pitch for the builder than anything I feel) . I suspect it was during lean years of funding for the museum that they had to expand their scope to include manufactured houses into the museum’s mission. It is just my humble opinion, but doing this inclusion of manufactured homes into an RV museum was a disservice to the tens of thousands of RV owners whose homes (whether part time or full time) are truly on “wheels”. Manufactured homes may be indeed built on an assembly line like an RV but by no means do they function nor are intended to be moved from spot to spot weekly, seasonally or for that matter ever…once put on their foundations.
Neverthless, when we were venturing to our very first (and not to be our last for sure!) Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart in the summer of 2017 we made the pilgrimage to the Hall of Fame and enthusiastically became Life Members! (Actually this was more a fiscal decision than anything because they made it easy to justify a Life Membership versus us just paying for admission to the two of us for the day–a difference of about $10 if i remember correctly. So now we can go anytime we want!)
Here is a link to the museum’s website so you can do your own “touring”!! WE DO encourage you to visit this museum, support its livelihood and share with your friends. Its exhibits truly do paint an accurate and colorful vision into the thread of our own Americana!
One of the reasons, we justify for return visits is that the museum was in the process of expanding their parking area to the north of the building and supposedly this will allow for even more boondocking (or limited hookups) for the RV family of which we are a part of and supposedly special events, perhaps even themed rallies (by year of RV or brand perhaps?!!). On the second floor of the museum is an archive library which although very unorganized by Library Science codes (our librarian friend Robin Stiles would throw a fit the way someone has tried to organize their collection–NOT!)we did find quite a treasure trove of Avion files including manuals, advertising pieces, etc. The archive section of hanging files is fairly easy to use- someone thankfully put those in alpha order so at least the “A”s were easy enough to find. As for the stacks..not so much–we scratched our head for a half hour trying to figure out what method someone had employed to categorize the shelves and shelves of RV manuals, books, how to guides and more…to no avail. Sadly, there was no volunteers present in the library that day either- perhaps that could have helped. BTW- in our exit survey we did comment that we highly recommended they tap a college intern who was studying Library Sciences or a retired librarian who would get in there and reorganize the stack system so that folks could find things. Even if they did not go by Dewey Decimal system…alphabetical like the hanging file folders would have been better. And then please…label the shelves or areas! Ok enough of my rant, I should talk, my files at home are not much better!
For the purpose of this blog post, i am going to literally add in all the photos we took while on tour at the museum into a flip book on our website at some point-but it is time consuming (so will be perhaps a 2019 winter project). For now, here is a great link to the exhibit area of the museum. The photos are arranged by vehicle type so will be pretty easy for you to scour and select. Check out the other link below which actually lists by rig their complete inventory with description and photo. We spent over 4 fours and really enjoyed going in and out of many of the vintage trailers and RV’s of all types, names, shapes and sizes. Some homemade, some “state of the art” when produced in the 1920’s, 30’s, -70’s.
At some point, when I have time—I am also going to include a “flip book” of the Avion brochures and sales pieces that we found that were right around our rig’s year which is 1973 onto the resources page of our http://www.ThePewterPalace.com website for easy access anytime. For some reason (maybe the Avion Coach Corp was feeling a fiscal pinch in 1973) we have a hard time finding that particular year or even 1975 brochures, etc.
Interestingly enough, this was also the year (1973) that the Avion Coach Company made the most significant change to their body style and design. So you would have thought this would have been a major push to new marketing. The transition between the front and rear sections from ’72 to ’73 is very noticeable. It went from the more traditional fan sections of aluminum nose to the more “bread loaf” style like ours is with only three sections. You will see the difference immediately in the photos below..
PRE-1973 AVION Nose and Rear construction:
Below is our 1973 with NEW AVION design rolled out that same year (affectionately called the “breadloaf” style) design which afforded more interior headroom, less seams that can leak too!
Not only was this a major exterior change visually, but it also greatly opened up the living space in the nose and rear bathroom areas extending headroom on both sides. When we were at our Silver Avion Fellowship Rally going inside the 1960-early 70’s models you can really tell. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some purists who love the earlier styles and while we do love them too as they are truly the classic look…we appreciate the bit wide open more space of ours especially since we will be living in ours full time when we retire. When you are dealing with less than 200 sq. feet of living space on a full time basis—every square inch of floor and head space counts. I would also go so far as to say, anyone who is over 6′ tall would definitely want the newer (tongue in cheek, ours is 45 years old this year!) style affording more headroom and less a feel you have to crouch to get into your dinette area.
(our 1973 Avion, dubbbed “The Pewter Palace” in winter storage in Queensbury, NY for the LONG winter of 2017-2018)
So back to our trip to the RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum. Surely, for anyone interested in “vintage” anything, this is a great place to visit. Also, if you own a vintage Shasta, Scotty, Winnebago, Bolus, Silver Streak, Airstreams or any of the other dozens out there, you will want to visit this mecca of motor and non-motor recreation vehicles.
Spend some time in the archive library to find and take photos (no they do not have a place to pay for copies to be made either—zheesh!) with your cell phone or camera. Fellow RV’ers and the actual manufactures or collectors of such ephemera have been very generous in donating volumes of great stuff to peruse through–so please do check it would when visiting and leave yourself enough time…and storage space for photos on your camera.
Enjoy and hope to bump into you someday at the RV Hall of Fame! If you are an RV hobbyist or depend on your RV full time to keep a roof (albeit mobile one) over your head—please support this museum and its mission in any way that you can. This is a core part of our American History experience and the American experiment!
We have taken the plunge and are jumping in head first to the vintage camping subculture…and have joined the national “Tin Can Tourists” camping club. This group has been around since 1919 and is going strong. There is a northeast chapter who hold rallies and events in Pa, NY and sometimes New England states. This year, there is a one in early June in Forestville NY, not too far from us…and we hope to get there.
Video from a TCT Rally in upstate NY, Seneca Lake area in Sept 2016
The Tin Can Tourist website is a treasure trove of information and their resource list alone of links to vendors, information, how to documents, etc is phenomenal and they also sell some kitchy t-shirts and stuff too on their site.
If you are looking to find vintage camper events across the USA this is one of the best resources to use. Even if you are not a member, but perhaps are considering purchasing a vintage camper, most TCT rallys and events do have some posted public hours where you can come in, tour some of the ones on the open house tours, talk to owners and yes…we see from photos that there are many in fact that may have a for sale sign on them…so you could just end up becoming an “official tin can owner” yourself that day!
Tin Can Tourist membership is open to anyone with a vintage trailer or motorhome. There are lots of Airstreams, Avions, Scotty Campers, VW Van poptops, GMC motorhomes, and all sorts of unusual and rare rigs too. Some events where judging contests (optional if you want to participate) do require the rig be at least 25 years or older….no prob for us….our Pewter Palace is 44 years young this year!