Twister 15'

December 1, 2000
Filed under Trailer Reviews

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A lot of today’s RVers started their camping “careers” in one of the tiny single-axle
trailers built during the late 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Due to the efforts of Fifties Trailers
Inc., RVers can now relive a bit of those early, simpler days in a brand-new Twister
1950s-style reproduction trailer. The company is headed up by Gerry and Rod Hagelund, and
they’ve combined their love for restoring vintage automobiles and camping and applied their
special talents to manufacturing what is arguably the most interesting new/old trailer on
the RV market. The duo has remained as true as possible to the original classic design and
materials used in the era’s trailers while including upgraded appliances and components
that meet today’s strict code standards. The 15-foot Twister can also be hauled by many of
today’s downsized vehicles, or it can be towed by antique cars or trucks with modest
engines. It weighs approximately 1,800 pounds wet, and with a 2,370-pound gross vehicle
weight rating (gvwr) it has approximately 570 pounds of cargo capacity. The Hagelund
brothers had been interested in camping and old cars for many years and rebuilt a couple of
vintage trailers to tow behind their classic cars. Friends started bringing them other old
trailers to be rebuilt, so the brothers perceived a possible market for a quality-built
1950s-style reproduction trailer. They looked at what typically failed on the early
trailers, such as roof leaks, damaged walls and the like, and rolled these details into the
construction equation. The result is the Twister, the first of its kind in today’s modern
RV industry. A steel frame with modern leaf-spring suspension and electric-brake running
gear is the basis for the Twister. The walls and roof are wood-framed, with polystyrene
insulation throughout. A company was located to produce the classic-style rolled and fluted
aluminum exterior skin, and the roof and front and rear walls are covered with a single
22-foot-long piece of aluminum. According to Rod Hagelund, “No seams means no leaks.”
Automotive-style paint is applied to the exterior and is available in four standard
finishes — green, blue, red and yellow — as well as many custom-color combinations, such
as flames, to match those on a custom-painted tow vehicle. Samples of the
original-equipment windows with the top hinges and notched adjustment support arms were
disassembled and used as patterns for a company which then fabricated all new parts for the
Twisters. The entry door and storage compartment doors are handbuilt, just as on the
original trailers, as is the wood-framed screen door. It’s an expensive technique but
necessary to maintain the unit’s historic accuracy. Generic-looking stainless-steel
taillights and bumblebee-hive marker lamps along with Baby Moon hubcaps and black or wide
white-sidewall tires further enhance the trailer’s look of exterior authenticity. Inside,
the Twister has a familiar old floorplan pulled directly from its predecessors. Packed into
its 6-foot 6-inch-wide, 13-foot-long rounded body, which totals 15 feet 6 inches including
the coupler, are a 54×76-inch full-size bed aft, a front-end dinette that folds down into a
40×76-inch bed, a streetside galley with three-burner stove and sink plus a curbside
wardrobe with refrigerator and storage drawers. “No plastic, particle board or cheap
materials are used in a Twister” explains company literature. The interior is sheathed in
birch or maple veneer 1/8-inch plywood and the cabinets are built with hardwood framing and
birch or maple-veneer plywood exteriors. All hardware is vintage-style, as is the curtain
and upholstery fabric, which is reproduced following the original vintage patterns. Those
familiar with the old trailers will recognize the gold-fleck Formica-style countertops,
metal edging and the original-finish “Battleship” style vinyl flooring. A look inside the
Twister is a step back in time. From the curved-wood ceiling, fastened with small
round-headed escutcheon pins, to the simple cabinets and throwback-patterned curtains and
cracked ice vinyl upholstery, the Twister brings back memories of childhood camping and
other adventures. It’s lacking the distinct smell of a propane-fired lamp as used in many
early trailers, but the natural-finish hand-rubbed Danish oil on the plywood brings its own
essence of antiquity. The company starts the interior finish with two coats of a
fire-retardant treatment that gives the unit’s interior a “B” burn rating of 50 or less,
well below the “200 or less” requirement for a new RV. The Twister is not fully
self-contained. It has a 6-gallon freshwater tank that gravity-feeds a faucet above the
sink, and a second faucet can be pressurized via attachment to a campground water supply.
There are no holding tanks; gray water is drained to a suitable receptacle or dump station
via a second external hose connection. Our feature trailer had a closet to accommodate a
Porta-Potti, and a closet with a permanently installed toilet is included in another
floorplan. Climate control is provided via an optional Dometic “Kool Kat” 12,000-BTU
heat-pump-type system that provides both air-conditioning and heating. An LP-gas furnace is
optionally available. A company spokesman emphasized that many items can be modified and
options can be added to the trailer, within reason, so custom work is very easy for Fifties
Trailers. At $13,800, the Twister isn’t the cheapest trailer on the block for its size, but
it’s probably one of the best built and as a hand-built specialized niche market product,
it seems fairly priced. Use of a non-self-contained RV may not appeal to some, but many may
well look at it as a return to the basics. Those who find a fold-down tent trailer
perfectly accommodating should find the Twister an interesting alternative, and antique car
or truck owners looking for a suitable RV to match to their rigs may likewise feel the
Twister is a perfect companion. In any case, the Twister is a delightful blast from the
past. Fifties Trailers Inc., 2070 Concord Avenue, Coquitlam, British Columbia V3K 5S9;
(604) 855-3766; www.fiftiestrailers.com

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