I have a soft spot for vintage campers. My jam is more of the U-Haul fiberglass trailer variety, but that didn’t stop a travel trailer on Bring a Trailer from stopping me in my tracks. This 1953 Spartan Royal Spartanette has my jaw on the floor with its curves and shiny polished aluminum. And as of now, it’s actually one of the more affordable Bring a Trailer auctions.
The gorgeous trailer sprawled across your screen is the product of Spartan Aircraft Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Spartan was founded in 1928 after, according to resource Spartan Trailer, William G Skelly used his 1920s oil fortunes to bankroll his interests in aviation. The company started with an aeronautical school and built biplanes.
The aircraft company appeared on oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty’s radar, and he acquired both Skelly’s oil company and Spartan. Getty might be most known today for refusing to pay the ransom of his kidnapped grandson before paying only what was tax deductible, or his son’s Getty Images.
Spartan built innovative aircraft through the late 1930s and WWII, where its factory grew to support the war effort. But when the war was over Getty decided to take Spartan in a new direction to build something with even more mass appeal than planes. Engineers were already working on a car and a camper. The company went forward with campers since the cost of retooling to build cars was too high.
Spartan’s trailers employed a design similar to its planes, using a semi-monocoque construction where the shell is a stressed element that used stringers for support. Its pièce de résistance was modern design for the era.
By the time this Spartan Royal Spartanette was made, the company had a bunch of trailer lines. Some were more towable than others, as lengths got as long as 57 feet and widths as wide as 10 feet. The Spartanette was on the more towable end measuring in at 35 feet. It also featured a curvy design. This one is said to have spent its life in Vermont, and the seller got it two years ago before doing a ton of work to it, from BaT:
Subsequent work has reportedly included replacement of the hot water heater and water lines, toilet, faucets, floors, wheels, and tires.
The seller says that they spent a good 200 hours polishing the riveted aluminum shell to the shine you see here.
You get all of the amenities of a home of the era, including comfy beds and a full kitchen.
Spartan was big on making these literal homes on wheels, notes the Stressless Camping blog, and it shows here. Much of the trailer appears to be original, but some stuff was added like period-correct lighting, furniture and curtains.
Now, you all know that I readily ignore red flags; that’s why my fleet is full of maintenance nightmares.
But it’s hard to ignore a few statements in the ad. It notes that the exterior lighting has not been tested and the condition of the hubs and axles is unknown. The seller invested 200 hours into the polish but couldn’t find the time to flip a light switch? It’s a similar story with the untested oven. It doesn’t take long to figure out if that works.
The frame is noted as being solid and the hitch has been reinforced due to rust, but it’s unclear just how much rust remains. Two windows also do not open. The seller also doesn’t say how much it weighs, but Spartan trailer suggests that it comes in at 6,960 pounds.
Still, even if it needs some work to the axles this thing is a work of art that you won’t often see on the road. These were about $5,274 ($54,387 today) at a time when $8,000 ($82,499 today) got you a whole house. This one is $10,500 on Bring a Trailer with three days to go.