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Get Inside the Iconic Compact Vintage Travel Trailer of the 1960s
Explore a vintage travel-trailer icon that brings a wave and a thumbs-up on every trip—our 1963 Shasta Compact Travel Trailer. 12.5 feet of beautiful birch interiors, packed with amenities and topped with wings. What is more delightful to behold than the little canned ham, with its colorful paint combinations and speedy stripe, tripping along a modern highway almost mocking its own lazy pace?
We know; as we've been camping in our little 1963 Compact darling "the Hideaway"— with its cheery yellow bottom, white top, silver wings and stripes—we notice heads turning on every highway. Come share the ride with us!
1963 Shasta Compact Exterior Photos: Isn't She a Doll of a Trailer?
Interiors: The Shasta Sales Pitch
Canned Ham Campers in History and Pop Culture
The 1963 Shasta Compact's Cozy Interior: Cook, Eat, Chill, Lounge and Sleep in 66 Square Feet!
The Mighty Compact in a Vintage Shasta Ad
Shasta Compact Specs Flyer: So Many Little Luxuries in This Compact Travel Trailer
This original sales flyer was included with a folder of interesting vintage camping manuals from the original owner. The specs here are close but not exactly those of another vintage sales flyer I've seen, but since this is the one in my camper, I'm going with it.
1963 Shasta Compact Specs: (from above, and Compact brochure below)
- Weight: 1,115 pounds
- Length (Including the Tongue): 12.5ft
- Length of the Camper Box: 10ft.
- Hitch Weight: 130 pounds
- Width: 6 Ft. 6 In
- Accommodation: Sleeps 4 in two twins and double upper-hammock bunks
- Water: 16-gallon water tank
- Tires: 6.5 x 13" tires
- Cooking Area: propane stove, cooktop, icebox and lamp
- Hookup Style: direct hose hookup
- Amps: 110 electric
Will Travel With Nearly Any Tow Vehicle
One of the biggest benefits of the Shasta Compact's tiny size is its ease of towing (this written by the one who rarely does the towing, take that as it were). Even the sales flyer states it can be hauled by nearly any compact car.
Shasta Compact Towing Specs:
- Weight of the Compact: 1,125 pounds
- Length (Including the Tongue): 13ft
- Length of the Camper Box: 10ft.
- Tongue Weight: 174 pounds
- Width: 6 ft. 6 Inches
These specs allow a wide range of options when it comes to a tow vehicle, which is why they are so sought after. For example, we are well within the towing capacity of our 2007 Toyota Rav4 small SUV which came with a V6 and tow package.
The other benefit of the Compact's light weight is that we can move it around the campground by hand if we need to using just the hitch wheel it came with.
How Many Does the Shasta Compact Sleep? Dream Like a Sardine in a Can(ned Ham)
Compact Undercarriage Photos - Where Rubber Meets the Road
How to Hook up an Air Conditioner in a Shasta Compact—Get out Your Duct Tape
A Portable Air Conditioner That Works for a Camper
We looked for the smallest window air conditioner we could buy reasonably and found that it was about 1" too tall to fit under the bench seats and vent out the side exterior storage compartment. Hmmm... finally we came across our solution; a portable Danby air conditioner (see photo) that could be placed in the closet/bathroom.
The air conditioner needed two external vents: one for the condensation to drip (because in our humid climate the water storage tank fills up too quickly to make it through the night) and one for the hot air to vent. Since we had removed the potty we had a nice round hole in the floor already. This (thanks to a good amount of duct tape which isn't the prettiest thing, but works) vents the hot air. One additional small hole drilled through for the 1/4 inch drip tube and we were up and running. Note; we had already upgraded the electric and placed an outlet in the closet. With just enough slack in the vent lines, the unit can be wheeled into the main room at night to cool us off and wheeled out of the way during the day. It's brought down a 98 degree day in high summer to a lovely 76. It's a win!
The Camper Before and After the DIY "$50 Paint Job" $100 cost, Priceless Results!
I was lured in by the price. $50 is a steal for a nice paint job. Our camper was down to bare metal in several spots along the top and estimates from local auto paint shops were for more than what we had paid for the camper!
A couple things we found out through the process.
- Tractor paint is the only way to buy oil based paint now in Ohio and Indiana.
- There are limited color options in tractor paint.
- Frog Tape is worth the extra cost
- Polish your metal trim before painting
- Spray primer is worth the cost
- And the "$50 Paint Job" really costs more like $100.
But what results! Its a year later and still looks amazing. Yes, there is some orange-peel effect to the finish, but step back and admire. Its quite a makeover! Take a look at the Before and After photos from our Vintage Camper paint job!
Shasta's Beautiful Birch Interiors: They Don't Make Them Like This any More
Shasta Skin and Road Rash—From 49 Years of the Road Less Traveled
Renovation Costs for Our Shasta Compact
With some elbow grease and window dressing: $1,200.
We paid premium for this little gem... mainly because we're not the handiest folks and knew that there would be very little we could do ourselves. When we searched for a Shasta our biggest red flag to avoid was any sign of water damage inside. I'd seen many a video about people's renovation horrors and knew I wasn't up to that level of reconstruction. I can barely find a philips screwdriver in my house.
I have always appreciated this little Compact's warm and gorgeous wood interior, but as time has exposed me to many more Shastas in my travels, I have to say that this little cherry really does have the most gorgeous interior I've seen.
Because of that, my renovation projects were mainly in my sweet spot - decorating. Below is my list of Shasta improvements and their general cost:
- A DIY Camper Exterior $50 (now: $100) Paint Job that I'm hugely proud of. The Shasta was a chalky white on the sides and fairly bare of paint on top. We researched, followed advice and did everything by the book. Frog tape, oil-based enamel tractor paint, many layers of primer, sponge applicators, days of drying time. What a difference. Cost of the Vintage Camper DIY paint job? Well, the "$50 paint job" is no longer $50... more like $100 but still well worth it.
- Add Air Conditioning; $425 - We replaced the toilet in the closet with a portable room air conditioner. We hired out the electrical and plumbing and did the duct taping ourselves... we got what we paid for. $365 for the air conditioner, about $60 of other materials & labor including upgraded electrical outlets.
- Three Baby Moon Hubcaps: $75 - from VintageTrailerSupply.com
- New Exterior Lights & new License Plate Holder: $40 - from VintageTrailerSupply.com
- Humphrey Gas Globe & Parts: $25 - from VintageTrailerSupply.com
- New Carlisle Trailer Tires - $250 worth every penny in peace of mind
- New Reproduction Barkcloth Fabric for Curtains: $40 From TonicLiving.com
- Seven yards of Fabric for cushion covers: $125
- Replacement of birch paneling on door: $75 Including carpentry
- Reproduction Shasta Decal: $18 Couldn't bring myself to apply it after the paint job... still have it in a drawer
- New Mirror: $25
Getting a vintage camper raises camping to a whole new level. Get ready to wave, be waved at, be stopped, be asked questions, give tours, be reminisced with and be invited to all sorts of cool gatherings and vintage camper rallies.
The way I look at it, its a great way to meet cool folks at the campground and an easy ice-breaker.
You'll be one of those "RV People" that the other campers actually welcome! Also, your canned ham is a ticket to the vintage camping community of vintage & rehab buffs who will help you, hold your hand, and hear you cry over your restoration challenges. It's good to be a part of this crew. I'll put some of my favorite links below.
Slow Going With The Shasta Compact
This is how I roll. I'm not the most confident driver. Part of my love for the Shasta Compact is that 1) it was within the towing capacity of my small RV (the Toyota Rav4), and 2) its compactness makes towing a bit less intimidating.
Before this travel trailer, I had never towed anything. At under 1,500 pounds and with a smallish profile, the Compact does not overburden our ride. One thing to know, however, is that these trailers were built in a time when speed limits didn't exceed 55 mph. Today's highways where people regularly push 80 mph are a whole different ball game. I quickly realized that our travel plans were going to be a bit more limited to closer radius and secondary routes.
There are many people out there with no qualms about dragging a 60-year-old trailer top speed on the highway, but knowing her gentle demeanor and construction of time-worn 1' wood framing, I stick to the slow roads. And that is how I roll...
Compact Not Your Style? There Is a Vintage Shasta Model for You
In my files, I found a copy of the full 1969 Shasta Travel Trailer Model Lineup Specifications. It lists their lengths, weights, hitch weight and amenities. Very useful as you try to make sense of all the craigslist and eBay listings you are wading through.
As one of the most popular camper brands for offering great value, features and convenience for the price range. I wish the modern camper companies had as much style and value as these old ones. There's a lot to learn from the fact they are still so many around and well loved after all these years! There really is a Shasta model just for you... happy hunting!
Questions & Answers
Question: What was the Carlisle tire size? I have the same size Shasta.
Answer: We have since upsized to a 16ft 1958 Shasta Airflyte, but the specs info I posted says "6.5 x 13" tires." I'm sure any tire company can advise you as they did for me.
© 2012 LizRobertson
Tell Me Your Favorite Travel Trailer Stories
laura on September 06, 2016:
I wished you lived by me its going to be a surprise (I hope) for my husbancd, Stage 4 cancer. We have a couple years so wish me luck. Thank you for all your advise.
Mary on July 09, 2016:
I just bought one of these and was trying to figure out how to dress it up! Thank you for this article!!
Connie on September 11, 2015:
I just inherited by fathers 1960 Shasta it looks very similar to yours. I am looking at reupholstering the cushions for the bed/sitting but have not found a good way or how to do it. Any suggestions?
LizRobertson (author) on January 16, 2014:
@LizRobertson: Most people find a way to either put a portable airconditioner in a pre-existing window or vent a portable unit through a pre-existing hole. The skin of these old models are contributors to the camper's structural integrity so its best not to add any holes if possible!
LizRobertson (author) on January 16, 2014:
@Shasta1114: Yes. The framing on these vintage campers is very light and due to age, could be brittle. They are definitely NOT designed to support the weight of a top-mount air conditioner. I imagine it would also really affect the towing dynamic.
Shasta1114 on January 15, 2014:
If there's room in the budget, is there any reason NOT to install a small roof mounted air conditioner like a modern RV? What is the most common way to install on AC?
emmagerl on January 14, 2014:
No I don't think I would consider myself a glamper - have never really been much of a girly girl.
I have a 1966 Shasta Compact that I intend to live in.
I have lived many places - currently live in upstate NY where I grew up and never liked and can't wait to get out of here again!!!
Hurricane, Utah is my ultimate ideal place to live - I love it there and my desire is to be there before the end of summer 2014!!!
emmagerl on January 14, 2014:
I bought my 1966 Shasta Compact for $300 last spring...........she as had no leaks as yet, and being that I currently live in upstate NY and it has been a particularly polar winter I have not been able to do much with her. Soon though, very soon...I look forward to cleaning her up and getting her prepped and set up and livable as that is the plan............I intend to load her and my little doggie and my scaled down belongings and head west to Utah before the end of the summer and we will live in our camper. So I have a few months to get her exterior painted with the same DIY $100 paint job you did, get my stuff packed in and hook her up to my little tracker and hit that open road!!! I can't wait - I'm so excited. I've always had a little bit of nomad in me and my dream from childhood was to be Lucille Ball in the long, long trailer but I never wanted anything bigger than a Bambi and I couldn't pass up this cute little Shasta when I found her!!! She still needs new tires and I have to license her and all that jazz but where else will I find a portable home for that price? Seriously I can move wherever and I have my own bed with me!! It doesn't get any better than that!! And, in my opinion, a huge improvement over the pop up camper I had with my former husband - I detested camping then because it was more work than staying home. With this gem I can hook up to water and electric and I will have a luggable loo and portable shower but will be looking for year round rv parks with facilities for those needs. But good to have those for the just in case situations.
I have been reading many blogs and looking at utube videos and just doing general small rv living searches for over a year now and I believe I am up to the challenge - in fact, I'm looking forward to it!
Yes, 60 square feet of living space is not a lot of room but it's just me and My Precious - this way I have to cure myself of my hoarding tendencies. lol
LizRobertson (author) on November 12, 2013:
@tonyleather: Camping is not for everyone that is for sure. But in my mind, this thing is a palace compared to tent camping. Up off the dirt, nice mattress, all my amenities, makes me feel like the queen of the campground!
tonyleather on November 12, 2013:
How claustrophobic is that thing? No thanks!
anonymous on August 25, 2013:
Loved reading all the info you have posted!!! I am just starting my remodel... however, I am having someone else do the work, as I have NO skills nor does the hubby... at any rate, my baby was taken down to the frame and it now has pressure treated wood frame, he added a little more ironwork underneath... it is going to be a TOTAL rebuild ... will NOT have a penny left for paint... so, PLEASE share with me how you managed to get yours done for $100... if you can share details, that'd be awesome. I love the a/c idea.. during my rebuild, I am going to take out that closet, extend the counter space, but keep half the closet for a pantry... will have to save room for the a/c... that will definitely pay off. how long ago did you buy? I am going to search this week... my remodel is going to be closer to $4,000... but will have all the dry rot replaced (there was a bunch due to leaks)... take care ... appreciate any more info :o) Rita
WerewolfCustoms1 on July 26, 2012:
What a great project!!! Love it! I'm a big camping freak, and I admire all the work you've done to this little trailer. Who said you need a big new luxury trailer to camp in style (and comfort) !?
robertzimmerman2 on July 07, 2012:
I would prefer something modern but these are definitely cool!