Retro Trailer Rebuild: Part 1

Retro Trailer Rebuild: Part 1

My earliest memories in camping involve a Ford Maverick hauling a big old pop-top fibreglass camper van through the guts of Australia. She didn’t do too bad for an 800 dollar investment dated sometime in the 1970’s, but eventually it was time for a rebuild. It was a learning curve to say the least, but the bigger and better camper served well for years to come. Until it was sold…

Not even two weeks later, it’s place has been taken by one very run down smaller version of the same trailer. It’s called an ACT Cruiser. The year is approximately 1978, and it’s had a bloody hard life.

As you will see in the pictures following, this is one heck of a project. It cost about $300, unregistered, missing the kitchen,full of holes, and a few cracks in the chassis to boot. We have essentially bought it for the fibreglass body and a base to work off in building a brand new trailer. The build will be tackled mostly by myself and my father; referred to from here on as John…..Because that’s his name…..John is the one with the restoration skills, he’s the one who rebuilt the last trailer!

So what is our mission here? I’m gonna dot point that shit, cos I know everyone likes a good dot point.

  • Keep the weight down. This trailer is small, un-braked, pretty light, and we hope to keep it that way. If it can sit low behind the car, and weigh less; that’s less fuel consumption and better visibility. We will need to keep it under 650kg fully loaded. We’ll see how we go on that one, we can always pop brakes on it later.
  • This crazy idea has grown over the years that says a camper trailer should be able to follow you out rock crawling. That’s not us; if I want to do some tough driving I’ll leave the trailer at base camp and head out from there. This thing will be build to handle corrugations, beach driving and VERY simple off-road tracks into campsites.
  • Modernise! I’m planning on going all out with a 12v system, solar panels and batteries. The interior (what’s left of it) will be re-done to look more modern and be more convenient. The roof is rather difficult to lift also, so there will be some tinkering with gas struts to make it simpler to pack up and pack down.
  • Shine it up, find someone with some mad skills to re-do the canvas for us (shoot us a message if you know somebody!) and we reckon there’s gonna be a neat pop-top camper for around the $5000 mark!


Right now you’re probably glad it’s not your project! We are both pretty confident an awesome camper will come out of this and be a little different to everything else on the road. I’ll continue to check back in and update our progress, and go a little in-depth when things get interesting.

We’re gonna need some help along the way. At the moment we are searching for a master of canvas to dress the trailer in the latest and greatest. Do you know anybody, or are you somebody who knows their way around a big needle and thread? We’d love to hear some suggestions at this point 🙂

Keen to read more? CLICK HERE to go on and read part 2!


Alex Garner

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  1. Larry Ledford
    March 21, 07:24 Reply
    Had a pop-up many years ago and it served us well. Good luck and have fun with it.
  2. Geez, you are game mate. Too much work for me! Best of luck though; I'm sure it will come up looking like a bought one!
    • Alex Garner
      March 21, 20:53 Reply
      Haha, tackle it one step at a time and it doesn't seem so daunting. That's my way of looking at it anyway!
  3. Frenchy
    May 27, 11:28 Reply
    Just wondering how you fixed the canvas to the roof I have an act cruiser and hav just had the mesh repaired but it was originally just screwed tacked and stapled. I have also had the roof timber replaced and the inside fibreglassed so don’t just want to hack it back up. Any advice would be great
    • Alex Garner
      May 28, 15:45 Reply
      Hey Frenchy, The canvas was the only part we didn't do ourselves. But looking at it, it seems as though the canvas guys have taken a piece of wood about 20mm wide and 10mm thick, wrapped the canvas around that maybe one and a half times; and then it has been screwed into the roof using what look like wood screws.

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