We shocked a few people over on social media this past weekend when we posted a picture of our van towing our newest rig. The fact that we were hauling home a “new” camper was not all that shocking because we’ve been eyeing a toy hauler for months now.
But the fact that we were towing a camper made before either Jarrett or I was born was perhaps a bit of a shocker. I always dreamed about buying a vintage camper and fixing it up–however, it was one of those bucket list items that always seemed like something we would do down the road. That all changed, though, when we met “Tilley,” the 1976 Silver Streak.
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But first the backstory: Lately our 2012 bunkhouse camper has felt a bit like an RV-version of Money Pit. So anytime something went awry with it, Jarrett would begin to wonder whether it was time to take the plunge and invest in something new. But our savings account never seemed to make any sizeable headway toward reaching the $30,000 we were going to need to bring home the camper of our “dreams.”
So before we found out it was only stink bugs that caused our latest camper fiasco, Jarrett had started searching Craigslist for any used campers that might fit the bill–and our budget. And in the midst of a random search, he found her: a 1976 Silver Streak Continental Supreme Luxury Liner.
We have always loved the vintage camper look–but we had never seen a Silver Streak before. So when we first laid eyes on Tilley’s Craigslist ad, we were instantly smitten. Although Silver Streaks have similarities to Airstreams, a completely different company constructed them in a completely different way.
Only about six Silver Streaks were made a week from 1949 to the mid-1990s. At the time, Silver Streaks were considered an engineering marvel with their aerodynamic and futuristic design. The “Supreme” package came loaded with tons of luxury options, including things like a built-in vacuum cleaner, doorbell, and–get this–telephone lines (all features that our Silver Streak still has). These were clearly not entry level campers–further illustrated by the fact that the 1970s Silver Streak promotional literature features a gold Lincoln Continental as the tow vehicle.
We drove over four hours away to see Tilley before committing to buying her. From the pictures posted on the Craigslist ad we had a pretty good idea about the state of her condition–but you never know until you see it in person.
After doing our walk-around, walk-through, and inspection, we felt comfortable proceeding with the purchase. Before driving her home, though, we were going to have to get one of the tires changed due to dry rot. So we did a little bit of negotiating, but given the situation, the seller didn’t want to budge much. He kindly threw in a spare tire and can of Everbrite though. 🙂
Then it was time to hook her up and haul her down the road to Walmart (the only tire center open in that area on a Sunday). It was on that short jaunt that we discovered the inner door’s clamps were not holding, so while we were waiting for the tire change, we had to strap down the door.
Then we had a bit of a debacle with finding the right-sized replacement tire. The patient Walmart auto guys finally got a new tire on her and we were off! It was a long drive home because we took things slower to be safe. Although we had the weight distribution hitch on, we did not have sway control going home. The good news is that we had absolutely no sway! Jarrett said she towed easier than our current camper, which isn’t surprising given what we have read about how they are made and balanced.
Although Tilley is not in perfect condition and her restoration will take some elbow grease, we are amazed by how much of her original features are still intact and functional more than 40 years later. (For one thing, we are pretty sure she has the original frig–and it still gets cold!) Our plan is to spend the next year (maybe more) remodeling Tilley and getting her ready to ride the roads again in all her former glory. As part of the renovation process we will need to do some modifications to make her better suited for our family of five. (The first order of business will be devising bunks to go over the existing twin beds and then designing a foldaway bed where Jarrett and I will sleep in the front of the camper.) Then once the rehab process is complete, we will sell our current bunkhouse and begin our road trip adventures with the Silver Streak in tow.
Some people have already asked what Silver Streak parts we plan to keep and what parts we might be willing to “part with.” Once we begin the renovation, we will be sure to put up a post detailing which pieces we aren’t keeping in case any Silver Streak owners out there are on the hunt for original parts. We’ll also post the available parts on Facebook, so you can follow along there if you want to be the first to know about any spare parts.
Well, that’s the crazy story about how we became the proud new owners of a 1976 Silver Streak. In the video below Jarrett does a more detailed walk-around and walk-through of Tilley.