AT HOME ON THE ROAD
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Apr 6, 2003
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
AT HOME ON THE ROAD
By JOHN GRAFMAN
All too often, we forget that what rides upon the roadways are not just created from metal, glass, rubber and plastic, but also from the creativeness, spirit, hard work and determination of some very talented individuals. One of these enlightened people happens to be Craig Dorsey.
Looking back, Southern California was a hot bed for travel trailer building from the thirties to the fifties. Lucky for us. With the aircraft industry in our backyard, this was the natural home for many of the start up manufacturers. The building talent from aircraft industry were absorbed by an industry devoted to keeping the traveling families feet firmly planted on the ground or, shall we say, in a home on wheels. The prominent manufacturers such as Airfloat, Airstream, Bowlus, Shasta, and Silver Streak have long since ceased, yet their legacies continue to roll on. Like other icons of a time gone by, these trailers today could use a little TLC.
Photograph by John Grafman
Craig has now, almost by default, become the go-to guy in the vintage travel trailer world. You need a trailer, some restoration, advice, parts, or information? Craig is your man. A sudden turn of events has led him down this path of becoming the Shell Answer Man of vintage trailers - and it seems he isnt looking back. After many years involved in the film business (with an emphasis in the art direction and construction of many notable commercials), Craig finally had his fill and decided he needed to move on and put his talents where they would best suited and appreciated. Craig was looking to have none of the stress (well less anyway) associated with ultra-tight deadlines, lacking budgets, or crabby individuals in the commercial industry. Being able to parlay his skills - including fine finish carpentry and some plumbing, electrical and metal work - has allowed him to technically do the required work in trailer restoration. Of course, he isnt alone in having those abilities.
Jeff Lace's 1950 Silver Streak - Photograph by John Grafman
What really set Mr. Dorsey apart from the pack was his desire to utilize not just his skills at trades but his creative abilities and resourcefulness - and the gumption to undertake a project that others would leave for dead. Craig has a fire burning in him that is reflected in his work. Those who have seen his projects have seen it too. Within a rather short period of time, Craig has moved from his original facility to a larger one in Orange, California and now a larger one still in Anaheim. The current building can swallow numerous trailers but it is only a matter of time until he runs out of space there too. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool. Here is a guy who finds himself enjoying his work, and fortunately his clients have the same passion in these slices of Americana as well
.In Craig Dorsey's garage - Photograph by Kurt Fuhrmann
Craig is one of those guys who sees the whole enchilada. Besides that, Craig sees the plate, silverware, table, restaurant and even the sign in front. Yes, he is a big picture kind of guy. Why have trailers that are restored without a trailer rally. Why have a Trailer in 2002 without the modern conveniences available in 2002. Hey, originality means a lot to Craig but so does indoor plumbing. Much of his work captures the flavor of the eras in which the trailers were produced by the addition of detail and trim that may not have been manufactured when the trailer was new, but most certainly they look like it. On some jobs, the work is mostly cosmetic, while others can be complete strip down, six figure restorations from the tires up.
Craig gets into his work like a man on a mission. One of his recent acquisitions after scouring around was some vintage linoleum. Just a small roll of the genuine real McCoy was hundreds of dollars whereas some inexpensive, unauthentic material might be totally acceptable to many. That, as you might imagine, wouldnt be doing justice to his clients nor the trailers that he toils over.
Nick and Linda King's 1949 Crown & Ford Falcon - Photograph by John Grafman
The finished products of the long hours are gleaming painted or polished aluminum hulls that are a treat for the eyes. The character is no less evident inside as is functionality, which is a tribute to Craig and his employees.
As with most of the good things in life, once the word gets out everyone wants some. With a recent article in Los Angeles Magazine and the upcoming coverage on television programs such as Huell Howsers Californias Gold, The History Channel, and The Travel Channel, it may be that much tougher to get the attention of one of the last best-kept secrets in restoration. Ironically, the film industry that he walked away from just a few short years ago is back knocking on his door. This time, they want his help on their travel trailers. Small world!
Tom Barnett & Celeste's '59 Overlander Land Yacht - Photograph by John Grafman
What lies down the road for Craig Dorsey and the talented team at Vintage Vacations? With the momentum at which the company is growing and by that look in Craigs eye, you can bet he has more than just a few ideas on the horizon.
Mike and Kelee Geller's '50 Silver Streak Clipper reflected in a Lincoln Zephyr Photograph by John Grafman
To catch more travel trailer action visit www.vintage-vacations.com