Retro Trailer Rebuild: Part 3

Retro Trailer Rebuild: Part 3

Haven’t been following this project? CLICK HERE to read from the beginning!

Let’s pick up where we left off shall we? In part 2 I talked about our thoughts and designs for building a new chassis from the ground up. We got stuck into grinding and welding, and I hoped to return to you with a complete chassis and wheels.

Guess what…we did it! In fact, building the chassis was a much easier task than I’d expected, with surprisingly few mistakes! This is what we’ve got now:

building-trailer-chassis-australiaThere’s a few ancillaries missing, like the jockey wheel, spare wheel mount and gas bottle mounts. That’s because we are not entirely sure how far forward the body will sit. Once that goes on we can have a play around with positioning them. So lets start from the front and look at the choice of hitch:

poly-coupling-trailer-rebuild-actWe’ve got a brand new poly block coupling up the front. These things provide articulation that can’t be matched. You could practically roll the tow vehicle upside down and the camper would stay right where it was. Of course there’s disadvantages. They are a little harder to line up and couple, and you have to change the hitch on your vehicle to match.


There’s just a bit of close up chassis-porn. When we first got the camper, these “chassis rails” were much closer together. We built the new one a little wider to suit the bigger wheels we were chucking on. The piece you can see hanging down in the bottom right of the frame is a mount for the step. Before you move on, just stare at this photo a little longer. Absorb the beauty. Those clean welds, brand new tyres and the shiny silver paint…mmmmm…..

fitting-bigger-wheels-old-camper-trailerOkay, time to talk donuts. As previously mentioned, the trailer came with the pretty standard HT Holden hub. Finding the wheels we wanted was a bit of a mission, but we finally landed ourselves a set of 14 inch steel king wheels. We wrapped some Bridgestone light truck tyres around them. The light truck construction is obviously a bit overkill for such a small camper, but we really wanted the toughness and puncture resistance. The tread pattern is just a highway terrain. What use are muddies or even all terrains on a trailer anyway? It’s not as if you need the traction, they don’t have any drive…

building-camper-trailer-suspensionHere’s our suspension setup. We’ve changed from a slipper spring to the eye and shackle setup. Much better! The springs are rated to 1100kg, just in case we need to put brakes on at a later date. We cleaned the original axle and hubs up, gave it fresh bearings and a coat of rust kill paint. Oh yeah, see that strap hanging down in the top left of the frame? That’s where the 60 litre water tank will go, nice and central over the axle.


Last of all it’s right down the back, where a new set of support legs have been installed. They had to be super long to account for the new found height. Nothing too flash here, just wind them up and down with a hand crank.

Now, there’s just a few things to tidy up on the body before we lift that back on. Like painting this awful body deadener shit on the floor:


I was going to offer to roll around on the concrete and get dust in my eyes and paint in places I never knew existed. Then I remembered I have to take photos instead!

In the next part, I will be going over a design for a very comprehensive 12 volt electrical system. You can go right ahead and read that if you like!

Read about our electrical system design HERE!


Alex Garner

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  1. Ross
    May 29, 07:23 Reply
    STOP IT! I have the exact same camper and now I am struggling to fight the urge to copy your upgrade!!!
    • Alex Garner
      May 29, 07:57 Reply
      Haha, awesome that you've got the same trailer Ross, but that urge will be harder to fight from here on mate!
  2. Ross
    June 01, 08:44 Reply
    What did you use for the underbody deadened?
  3. John Garner
    June 01, 19:28 Reply
    The springs are rated to 1100kgs. Just in case we need to add Brakes at some stage.
  4. Garry
    June 17, 12:52 Reply
    Hi Alex, I thought I would be the only one in the middle of a refurbishment of an old pop top. Great article. Really interested in more details aboat Wheel size and spring details. I intended doing the same as my old ones are tiny also. Luckily my chassis is in good condition.
    • Alex Garner
      June 17, 20:44 Reply
      Hi Garry, Mate I thought the same, that nobody else does these things up. But since starting these posts on the rebuild a few people have surfaced doing similar upgrades and restorations. I'll have to go take a look at the exact sizing details for the wheels and springs, but at this stage I can tell you that the wheels are a 14 inch king steel wheel from Bob Jane T-Mart.
      • Garry
        June 18, 15:03 Reply
        Thanks Alex, Appreciate that.
  5. Trevor Nottle
    June 17, 15:34 Reply
    We had a camper of the same design for about 30 years and it was great. Ours was a Holiday Equipment Corvette Hardtop made in Melbourne. The base was steel instead of glass but everything else looked like it came out of the same factory. Fully loaded it weighed only 400kg. Bought it second hand in 1984 for $2000. Sold in 2014 for $2000. Paid $1200 to totally replace the canvas so it worked out to be very cheap camping. Following your project with interest.
    • Alex Garner
      June 17, 20:38 Reply
      Wow mate, you did well out of that one for 30 years use! That is incredibly light too, perfect for towing behind just about anything! So awesome that it held it's value too.
  6. christian
    June 17, 20:19 Reply
    did you leave enough room for suspension compression? as it looks like there isn’t a great deal there
    • Alex Garner
      June 17, 20:36 Reply
      There are wheel arches that come up into the floor of the trailer Christian, so although it looks like the wheels are tucked very close to the body, there will be plenty of room to move within the arches :)
  7. David
    June 18, 03:49 Reply
    Awesome job so far guys! I'm doing the exact same with my Cruiser and by the looks we have done pretty much the same mods and are at about the same stage too. Longer drawbar on new frame but kept ball hitch, updated springs, 14" rims, repositioned water tank and new floor for me. I've made a new top with a ply and glass construction and a bit taller at 300mm to fit in thicker inner spring mattresses and removed the interior kitchen setup to make way for full length convertible bed (we have 3 small kids). I've dispensed with the 240v as well and have ditched the ditched the old Hella oval lights for nice LED tail and running lights. I'll be watching for your led interior and solar setup, should be interesting.....
    • Alex Garner
      June 18, 19:22 Reply
      How did you go with the new top david? That must be quite an undertaking? I like the idea of building it taller to fit a nice mattress! Ours isn't too bad, but has sunk just a little bit around the hatch. Problems with these ply and glass roofs sagging in time seems pretty common. We've got ourselves some nice LED tail and marker lights to go on as well, only way to go!
  8. Dutch
    June 18, 11:28 Reply
    G'day Alex, Good job on the van so far. I'm doing the same at the moment and am at similar stages by the looks, so I'll be watching intently to see how you rig up the interior lights. I changed the rear stabiliser legs for fast drop down ones not the old wind-down original style. Everything else is pretty much the same but I changed the floor as mine was rotten in spots. How much did you move the chassis rail in to fit wider wheels? I found it was a tight fit given the original was the 10"Mini rims and now it's 6x14s. Dave
    • Alex Garner
      June 18, 19:30 Reply
      G'day Dutch, Another person doing a similar build! We might need to start a group or something here! The drop down legs are cool, save yourself a bit of time! We widened the chassis by about 50mm each side, and we have approximately 20mm clearance between the tyre and the chassis either side now. I'm pretty impressed you squeezed the 14's in there without modification! For some reason our entire axle sat about 20mm to the left which meant the 14 inch wheels contacted the original chassis pretty bad.
  9. Glenn
    December 12, 05:24 Reply
    Hi, was wondering if you have gone any further with your ACT camper rebuild. Am looking at making external lift arms for my partners one and was wondering if you could suggest any advice regarding part lengths and the metal used. Thanks in advance.
    • Alex Garner
      December 23, 07:50 Reply
      Hi Glenn, The camper rebuild is now at the interior stage, and we have just started playing around with the gas struts on the lifting arms. I will put the information in a blog post when we get it right :)
  10. LC
    May 03, 18:01 Reply
    Hey, how is the rebuild going? I've just got myself one of these that has been updated inside and is in lovely condition but I would love to hear how you go with the gas struts, solar and while our canvas is ok I may consider doing that too down the track :)
    • Alex Garner
      May 04, 12:36 Reply
      Hey mate! Yeah it's become a bit slow but the project is still going :) The gas struts have worked REALLY well, the electrical system is mostly installed apart from the solar panel. It's pretty close to the stage where we'll be sending it off to get the canvas done. I'll be sure to get back onto continuing the story for you!
  11. Nick
    October 14, 16:41 Reply
    Alex quick question what is the bracing under the axle?
    • Alex Garner
      October 14, 21:55 Reply
      That is the original axle cleaned up and I can only assume it was to prevent it bending? Or perhaps it bent at some point and that was used to pull it back. Anyhow, we ended up needing to replace that axle; and you'll read more about that in the next post :)
  12. Marcos
    February 16, 22:43 Reply
    Hello, Great build I was wondering what length springs you used?
  13. waggie
    September 12, 07:07 Reply
    Hi Alex. Just purchased an ACT camper in need of a lot of tlc Fibreglass top past redemption so made a new one using 18 mm PVC Coreboard. Came out a treat Just lifted body off chassis to find an old repair due to 2 cracked rails at the point the A frame connects so looks like I will be following you in building a new one. Where are you guys situated. I am in Curra just north of Gympie Cheers Pete
    • Alex Garner
      September 12, 08:58 Reply
      Hi Pete, I love the sound of that PVC coreboard roof! I've been considering a new roof on ours, raising the height a bit to make space for bigger and softer mattresses. As for the chassis, you might be pleased to hear that I found that the easiest part of the build! Sanding and painting was easily the worst bit. I am actually located in Western Australia, bit of a trek from you!

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