I have had a few requests to create a list of the resources used for renovating my Boler and I am happy to share them with you here.
Fibreglass RV – I found this site to be a treasure trove of information. People were very welcoming and amazing at answering questions and sharing their experiences. It’s also a great place to make friends with people who also love fibreglass trailers! Boler.ca – This site is everything Boler! It has general information, tips on repairs and renovations and links to where you can purchase parts. Boler-Camping – Another great Boler site chalk full of goodies for anyone looking to buy a Boler, repair one or just learn some Boler history.
Cushion cover – This is where I found some great tutorials to help me replace the cushion covers. Zipper – Same website! So many good tips.
Rock Alta Trailers – If you’re in the Calgary area I would absolutely recommend Rock Alta Trailers for your trailer repair needs. FIB-R-F/X – If you’re in the Calgary area and you need some fibreglass repaired, these guys were nothing but amazing for us.
Interlux Pre-Kote – This is what I used (in white) for the primer for the exterior of the Boler. Interlux Brightside Polyurethane – I used this for the topcoat in white for the upper half of the Boler and navy for the bottom half. POR 15 – This paint was amazing to restore the tongue and the bumper. It’s pretty pricey but in my opinion it’s worth it. I used it over 2 years ago and it still looks amazing.
The lower cabinets are painted with Behr’s Black Black and almost everything else in the interior is painted with Behr’s Simply White.
If you’ve ever renovated an old trailer (or an old anything really) you’ll be aware that the renovations never seem to end. In 2017-18 we renovated our 1975 Boler travel trailer to make it safe and comfortable (you can read about that journey here), but there were, and still are, a few things that need doing. For example, when we took out the furnace from the kitchen cabinets it left a large hole in the cabinets.
We camped with the Boler like this for most of the summer and we found that when we were travelling to and from the campsites dirt and dust got in the lower cabinets through the vents. We wanted to keep the vents because they let out the heat from the fridge but a lot of the road dust was getting into the rest of the trailer because of the large hole in the cabinet. Also, it doesn’t look very nice does it?
I could have made a door almost exactly the same as the other one but I wanted to do something fun and different. I had a conversation about it with people at work and the suggestion of lattice came up. I loved that idea, but I knew that the door wouldn’t block much dust with a bunch of holes cut out of it. After a bit of brainstorming, we came up with the idea of using a thin opaque plastic glued to the back of the door. I work at a Maker Studio which has a laser cutter so I started creating the design for the door and then used the laser cutter to bring my design to life.
That’s right! I used little Bolers to create the lattice! So cute and amazing right?
Once the lattice was cut out I attached some cut pieces of wood and trim to make the two doors match.
Then I primed and painted the door the same colour as the rest of the lower cabinets. I attached the door using matching hinges and added the door pull. I also added a door catch so it would stay closed while we were on the road.
All that was left was gluing on the sheet of plastic.
I’m glad I added this because you can really see the little Bolers with the contrast.
Here it is. What a difference! I love it because people don’t usually notice the little Bolers right away so it gives them a nice surprise when they do.
It’s been a whole camping season since the new door has been attached and it’s still holding up! I need to cover the gap around the fridge as a little dust still gets into the trailer through it. That’s a project I’m hoping to get to this spring along with a few others and I’ll be sure to share them as I go!
Well, here we are together for the last post of this series. Fear not my friends, fixing up the Boler is a never ending process and there will be many more Boler themed posts to come. If you have missed the earlier parts of this story feel free to catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
In the beginning of the 2018 camping season the Boler was still at FIB-R-F/X getting the fibreglass fixed up but we weren’t going to let that stop us from camping! We still had our tent :).
We spent the May long weekend in Kananaskis (very very chilly nights!), stayed in Little Bow Provincial Park campground in the beginning of June and Canada Day in Montana.
The weekend after we got back from Montana we had planned a big camping trip for ten days at Dinosaur Provincial Park with another family. We were expecting to use the tent but right before we left for Montana Dieter called to let me know that the Boler was ready to go. I wasn’t planning on taking the Boler camping because it still needed work for it to be useable. And not just a little work. It needed new tires, paint inside and out, there was a big hole where the stove used to be as well as the furnace, the floor needed to be installed, shelves were needed in the closet, the bunkbeds weren’t set up, the curtains had to be hung and the fan and lights weren’t hooked up. Not to mention all the other little things like the drawer pulls and hooks for the wall. I had been planning on doing all this over summer and I wasn’t really expecting to use the Boler until the next camping season. But boy were we getting tired of sleeping on air mattresses and our tent had seen better days as well. I remember my friend’s husband saying that there was no way I would get it all done in time when I mentioned that I might try and his wife who knows me quite well laughed and said “You’ve done it now!”.
That’s right my friends.
We got back from Montana on Monday and from that moment until when we left on Saturday morning I worked on the Boler. I barely slept and only stopped to eat. Jonathan cooked all the meals and the boys spent time at friends and their grandparents.
I sanded the exterior and then painted it with two coats of Interlux Marine Primer and then two coats of Interlux Marine Paint. I wanted teal but they only have ten shades and five of them are some form of white so I went with white on the top half and navy on the bottom. This was the most time consuming job of all but it made such a big difference! I had to remove the belly band to paint and I swear to you there was compost in there. Here’s the before:
and here’s the after:
Oooohhhh yeah! Pretty amazing if I do say so myself!
While coats of exterior paint were drying I worked on everything else. I painted the tongue and bumper with special rust blocking paint.
I painted most of the interior with two coats of latex primer and two coats of white latex paint. I had tested a section of the ensolite with some of this paint before the Boler went out for repairs and it was holding up great. The lower cabinets I painted black. I installed an electric bar fridge to replace the broken gas one, attached a cutting board to the counter to cover the hole from the stove, hung the curtains, put in the new cabinet pulls, hooked up the lights and fan to the battery and installed the vinyl flooring.
I installed the bunkbeds and then whipped up a rail to keep anyone from falling out.
Here are the bunkbeds as a sofa. The poles and rail fit behind the back.
Jonathan took the Boler to get new tires on Friday morning and I started packing for our ten day camping trip. When he got back I installed the shelves I had cut with my mitre saw for the closet.
I also installed some dragonfly hooks on the side on the closet so we could hang our sweaters and hats.
We were as ready as we could be! Unfortunately there were a few things I didn’t have time to do like build a door to cover the hole from the furnace, but for the most part we were set. We packed up and headed out to Dinosaur Provincial Park campground.
They’re so cute when they’re sleeping!
Induction stovetops are so great for small trailers! The only heat they put out is from the food you’re cooking.
We had a wonderful trip and even though it was an intense five days of Boler repair work I would absolutely do it again.
Since then we have been on many camping trips, all with the Boler, and we love it! In 2019 we took the Boler on a two week trip across British Columbia and back and it was amazing.
If you would like more details on the work I did please feel free to leave questions in the comments. There was so much that I did during that time that if I included all the details this post would be much too long.
I hope you have enjoyed my epic Boler journey and like I said, there will be many more posts to come!
Hello and welcome back to my tale of Boler rebirth! If you have missed the earlier parts of this story feel free to catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
We left off with the Boler coming back after getting some fibreglass work done in late June 2018. We’re going to pause our story here and and fill in some blanks from the previous winter. I mean, just because I didn’t have the Boler with me didn’t mean I couldn’t keep working on it! Believe me, there were still many things to keep me busy.
For instance, do you remember me telling you about the cushions? The rotten worm-filled cushions? The ones with the covers that disintegrated when I tried to vacuum them? Here they are with the covers removed.
Pretty gross right? I needed to keep them to use as templates for some new foam. I soon found out that foam is really pricey! But luckily my parents had a foam mattress from Ikea that they weren’t using and they let us have it. I traced out the old ones and cut out the new pieces with my bread knife.
I did end up keeping the two cushions that are used on the bunkbeds. They were still in really great shape since their old covers weren’t made of vinyl. Any water that leaked on them ran right through instead of pooling in the cover and creating the perfect place for rot. I washed them in my bathtub and let them air dry in my basement.
Once I had cushions I needed new covers. I looked up as much reupholstery information as I could find, dusted off my old sewing machine, bought some fabric, zippers and upholstery thread and got to work. Here’s the first cushion I completed:
There are nine cushions in a Boler. It was pretty time consuming but I worked my way through it over about a month. Halfway there!
All nine done! The most difficult ones were the two that fit along the Boler walls because of their unusual shape.
The boys wanted to try them out. Quality check? I think they approved.
While I was working on the cushions / covers I was also thinking about curtains. There are six windows in the Boler which is great for light but not so great for changing your clothes without the entire campground seeing you. I was looking at buying fabric but I hadn’t seen any that caught my eye yet. Then one day while getting groceries at Superstore I happened to see some over-sized tea towels on sale!
They were perfect! They were nice and dark (not see-through!) and they were big enough for the largest window. I bought everything they had and then went to a different Superstore and bought a bunch there as well. Then I went to Ikea and bought some curtain rings with clips and that was that! I was also pretty happy to not have to add more sewing to my list.
I needed some new pulls for the cabinet draws and doors for the kitchen area and the closet. I bought these from Amazon which I love.
There were also a few more unnecessary but fun items I picked up as well. For instance I found some great pillows at a thrift store:
And some dragonfly LED string lights at Michaels (I might have had a dragonfly theme going on):
And I machine embroidered some dishtowels:
It was a little difficult for me during that winter and spring to have to wait to be able to work on the Boler. Having these projects to do really helped. If fact, there’s an arm chair in our master bedroom and I piled a bunch of the items for the Boler on it once they were completed so I could look at them everyday and feel excited about camping in the Boler that summer. Like a Boler mood board!
Hello again! I’m very happy to you’re here and ready to learn more about the amazing, some call magical, transformation of my Boler. If you have missed the earlier parts of this story feel free to catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2.
When we last left off, I had stripped the Boler of everything that was rotten, grimy, or broken. The problem was that there were parts of it I couldn’t see and they were pretty important parts. Like the frame.
Bolers have a simple A-frame with the fibreglass body bolted to it. If the frame cracks or is rusted right through it could break and that would mean some very serious damage to the Boler as well as the tow vehicle. Not to mention the driver and passengers. So we decided it would be a good idea to get it inspected.
I asked for opinions on the vintage trailer forums for a good place to bring the Boler and many people recommended Rock Alta Trailers. It’s owned by a wonderful couple who have been repairing trailers for years. In fact, Kevin’s dad ran the business before he took it over. It is on the absolute other side of Calgary from where we live, but after speaking to Kevin on the phone I was convinced that this was where we should take the Boler. This was in December, it wasn’t too snowy yet and we wanted to get the Boler in before the roads got icy.
We called James in for some help; remember, we hadn’t yet pulled the Boler with our vehicle. We were pretty nervous. We weren’t even sure how to hook it up! James came and showed us the ropes and off we went for our very first time!
It was terrifying.
We didn’t know if something was going to break off at any second. The worst part was as we were stopped at a light a guy in a truck pulled up beside us and yelled out “If you take that on the highway you’re gonna have problems!”. Not very helpful. We asked him what he meant by “problems” and he answered back “your wheels are going to fall off!” and then he drove away. Yep. Terrifying.
Despite all that we drove slowly and carefully and made it to Kevin’s place with all our wheels intact (take that super unhelpful dude!) and left it there to get the axel, wheel bearings, and frame inspected and replaced or fixed if need be.
It turned out the frame was in great shape! There were a few Bolers made with a weak point in the frame but not ours! Ours was solid (knock on wood). The wheel bearings needed to be replaced but everything else was pretty good.
During the time the Boler was at Kevin’s I was looking into where we could take it to get the fibreglass repaired. The large cracks in the back (and a few more small ones on the rest of the body) needed to be fixed up before we could use it and to be honest, I didn’t want to mess them up by trying to fix them myself. The biggest crack had started folding in on itself and was changing the shape of the body. That was going to require tools and equipment I didn’t have.
It wasn’t easy finding someone who was willing to work on it. But luckily there was a company called FIB-R-F/X in Airdrie (a small town north of Calgary) who had worked on Bolers previously and was more than happy to do it. In fact, Dieter, the very nice man who we met there, told us he already has another Boler that was missing its door and if we let him use our door as a mold he would repair all the small cracks for free and only charge us for the two large ones. Sounded good to us! We made plans to pick up the Boler from Kevin’s and drop it off at Dieter’s to avoid putting it back in the garage.
When we went out to pick up the Boler it started to blizzard. No joke, it was snowing like crazy. We got to Kevin’s and hooked up the Boler but as we were driving down his very long driveway Jonathan remembered that we hadn’t done a light check (rookie mistake). James and I had made sure the electrical was working properly before we had dropped it off but something must have been knocked loose (the wiring was very old, I was planning on replacing it myself when we got it back from Dieter) and the lights weren’t working. At this point it was snowing very heavily and visibility wasn’t great. Pulling the Boler without lights would be dangerous (not to mention illegal) under normal circumstances but in this snow no one would see us until it was too late. There was no room on the driveway so we pulled out onto the road and as soon as we could we turned around and went straight back to Kevin’s. He tried to get the lights working but there was a connection broken that he just couldn’t figure out at the time, so we asked him if he could replace all of the electrical, he said sure and we called Dieter and let him know what happened. Off we went home a little disappointed but mostly relieved.
Fast forward to the end of March. Kevin finished the electrical system and boy am I glad we let him do it! He replaced all the old wiring, put in new LEDs and set it up for us to hook up a 12 volt battery to power the lights and the fan I had installed.
Jon and I had a lovely drive to Dieter’s. No one yelling at us that our wheels were going to fall off, no blizzards, the lights were working… really, what more can you ask for?
Dieter unfortunately was down a man and he didn’t think he would be finished until July. We were ok with that and figured the long wait would be worth it.
It was! Here’s the Boler when we got it back at the end of June (a little early!):
It doesn’t look like much but all the parts that are yellow are where he did fibreglass work. It was amazing! We also purchased a new tongue jack with a wheel from Dieter.
Because of this wheel, Jonathan and I could now easily push the Boler! We have done this so many times to get it into campsites. Bolers really are a wonder.
Welcome back to the epic saga that is the renovation of my Boler. Have you been waiting at the edge of your seat to hear more? Of course you have. I’ll stop teasing you and get to it. If you have missed the earlier part of this story feel free to catch up by reading Part 1.
Where were we? Oh yes! My parents had just brought home the Boler from my Aunt’s house and I was feeling some doubt. In fact I’m pretty sure when I swallowed you could hear a loud “gulp” like a cartoon character. But like I said earlier I had some friends to help me out (virtual and in real life) and they gave me the confidence I needed to get started.
A fun fact about Bolers is they will fit through a standard sized garage doorway if you let air out of the tires, so moving it into the garage was the first thing we needed to do. Having it in the garage would make it much easier for me to work on the Boler over winter. Unfortunately, our driveway is very steep and neither my husband nor I can navigate a trailer up a steep driveway, into a garage door while backing up. A not-so-fun fact about Bolers is they are notoriously hard to back up. They end up at 90 degrees with the tow vehicle very easily due to the short yoke. Luckily our friend James is extremely skilled at backing up trailers because otherwise I have no idea how we would have gotten it in there. In fact, James still comes by once (or twice) a year at the end of the camping season to help us put the trailer back in the garage because we are still pretty bad at backing it up. I swear the man is some kind of wizard. We pay him for his help with beer and sometimes fresh bread. James is a good guy.
Once the Boler was in the garage stuff started coming out. I had decided that I did not want any propane. I would of had to check all the lines to make sure there were no leaks, and if there were I would have had to replace them, but I would have always worried about it. The fridge and furnace were broken and expensive to replace. It just didn’t seem worth the effort or the expense. We have a camp stove to use outside and the Boler is so small that the four of us create more than enough body heat to warm up the space, so to save money and for my own peace of mind, out came the stove, fridge and furnace. Then out came the cushions which were very very rotten. The leak I mentioned in Part 1 had gotten to the cushions and they were beyond saving. I tried to vacuum them and they disintegrated. I got rid of the covers but I kept the foam to use as templates for new foam and new covers. I pulled out the old linoleum and I took out any rotten wood I could find and replaced it. One of the biggest problems I had was with rusted screws. Once the heads broke off they were very difficult to remove. I spent hours on the floor of the Boler that winter swearing at many a broken screw.
The most time consuming and difficult task was removing the paint from the ensolite. Like I mentioned in Part 1, the ensolite was painted with an oil based paint which didn’t allow moisture to pass through it. This caused mould to grow between the paint and the ensolite. I worked on scraping that paint off from October to February. I made sure to wear a mask for safety and once I had cleared an area off I would spray it with a mould killing cleaner. You can see my progress in the next few pictures. The paint is white and the ensolite is green.
Since Bolers are made almost entirely from fibreglass, there is a risk of the roof sagging if it doesn’t have the right support. The support is provided by the closet, a bar attached to the wall beside the door, and a metal rail that holds up the cabinets and is attached to the countertop. My Boler was missing that rail so that was the first purchase I made for it. You can see it through the doorway in this picture. Oh right. I also took the door off because there was a crack which was leaking in the door frame.
I also temporarily removed some rusty vent covers as well as the bar beside the door to clean them up, remove the rust and paint them.
The 9 x 9 inch roof vent was the cause of most of the water leaking into the Boler. I removed it and ordered a new 14 x 14 inch fan which runs on a 12 volt system (which I didn’t have set up yet). With James’s help we cut a larger hole in the roof and installed the new fan. I used many layers of butyl tape to make sure there would be no leaking!
The worst and best removal of all was the removal of dirt and grime. I cleaned every nook and cranny of that Boler and it was both satisfying and horrifying. Everywhere there were spider egg sacks, old wasp nests and other skin-crawling surprises. Some of them crawling more than others:
B.C. has much bigger spiders than I’m used to here in Alberta!
In 2017 my mom casually mentioned to me that my aunt who lives in British Columbia had a Boler which she wanted to sell for $1000 and that she and my dad were considering buying it. I believe my reaction at the time was “What the heck is a Boler? Do you mean like the hat?”. Then, of course, I googled it. Turns out that Bolers are cute little camping trailers made in Winnipeg from 1968 to 1988. They’re made by joining two moulded fibreglass halves (top and bottom) together to create a watertight seal and then bolted to an A-frame. They’re usually 13 feet x 6 feet and are so light they can be pulled by almost any vehicle. Inside, Bolers have a table on one end which turns into a double bed and a sofa on the other which are also bunk beds. There’s a little kitchen with a stove, sink, fridge and furnace and one closet. Here are a couple of photos from a vintage advertisement for Bolers:
My dad is over 6 feet so there was no way the Boler would work for him and my mom. But it left me thinking about whether or not the Boler would be a good fit for my family. My husband is just under 6 feet so that wouldn’t be an issue. We have a minivan with a towing package added on which would give us more than enough power to tow the Boler’s weight. Our two sons were 7 and 8 at the time so absolutely small enough to sleep on the bunks. We had been camping with our tent quite a bit that summer and having to pack so many totes of stuff wasn’t one of our favourite things to do. With the Boler, we could have a lot of our camping stuff left in it all summer! Set-up time would be so much faster and easier.
The downside would be that my aunt’s Boler was old. It was made in 1975 so who knew what could be wrong with it. My aunt and uncle hadn’t used it in a while either which meant there could be problems that they weren’t aware of. Here’s a picture my aunt send me of the Boler on her land:
Pretty cute right?
I didn’t have any experience with renovating trailers or with fibreglass so it was a daunting prospect. But I kept researching and it seemed that because Bolers were made so much less complicated than other trailers they weren’t unreasonably difficult to repair. Fibreglass is amazing, you can patch it up as good as new when it’s been damaged, and Bolers are almost completely made of the stuff.
So, we took a chance and the next time my parents drove out to B.C. to visit my aunt (which was in October that year) they brought back our Boler with them! Here it is getting a cleaning before the trip:
and in front of our house on its first night home!
The moment my parents pulled up with it we ran outside to check it out… and I might have panicked a little bit. Honestly, my first thought was “I just wasted $1000”. It was in rougher shape than I was expecting and I knew it would take a lot of work for us to be able to use it. I was worried the frame would be cracked or the axel would be bent, I could also see large cracks in the fibreglass that I knew were beyond my skill (which at the time was no skill at all) and would require a professional.
There was a small leak in the ceiling vent and back window and every time it rained (which is quite a bit where my aunt lives) water ran into the interior which caused some rotting where there was wood. The original floor had been covered with linoleum and water had gotten underneath and caused rotting there as well.
The walls of Bolers are lined with insulation called ensolite which is amazing stuff! They don’t make it anymore so if you can save it you should. The ensolite in our Boler had been painted which in itself isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately, it was painted with an oil-based paint that didn’t allow moisture to pass through it and even though ensolite is mould resistant, it caused mould to grow between the paint and the ensolite. You can see here all the dark areas in this picture are mould.
I know I’m painting a pretty grim picture for you. I definitely had my doubts that I could make this thing useable and safe. It seemed impossible, and it might have been if I didn’t have help from friends and the Boler community. Even that first night, I couldn’t get the safety chain off my parent’s truck due to rust but luckily I called my friend James who showed up to help and he managed to get it off.
James and various vintage trailer forums like Fibreglass RV were such a big help to me for the first few months I had the Boler. Anytime I had a question I knew I could find an answer, and anytime there was a job that required more than one person I knew I could get it done. I am eternally grateful!
Don’t worry, things get better I promise! There’s a happy ending to this story, it won’t always be gross mould and scary fibreglass cracks. Later on, I’ll tell you all about fun pretty things like curtains and ceiling fans but first, we will be tearing out the bad to make room for the good!