1983 Coleman Columbia

Discussion in 'Camper Restoration Projects' started by samh, Jan 25, 2015.

  1. samh

    samh Campin'

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    Our new-to-us 1983 Coleman Columbia. According to paperwork included with the sale we are at least the fourth owners. It is in fair to good shape and I plan to refurbish and modify it enough to successfully use it for our style of car camping on Forest Service roads which according to my research here on PUP these past months you all refer to as boondocking.

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    1983 Coleman Columbia

    Our tow rig is a 1990 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ62 which alone served us perfectly well for camping until the recent birth of our daughter. Having just a bit more space to work with when camping prompted me to begin searching for a tiny pop up.

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    I set my sights on a pop up trailer while my wife was pregnant and was glued to Craigslist. My criteria was a trailer with a length of less than 11' - 6" and sub 1200 lbs. The ability to add clearance through a lift or reversal of the springs to allow for a larger wheel and tire was also key as well as the possibility to upgrade to a sturdier axle.

    Our family backpacks a lot but when we car camp instead it's generally pretty spartan, consisting of spending most of our time outside so the trailer didn't need to be large nor have much in the way of amenities. A simple cook range, small furnace, sink, and five to 10 gals of water storage, and comfortable sleeping surfaces were all that we needed inside.

    Modifications will consist primarily to the axle and suspension and "tightening" everything about the frame and body up to withstand 100+ mile trips on gravel. Second priority will be building a table (parts already ordered). Next priority will be re-plumbing water and gas (as needed - have done no testing yet) and upgrading the electrical system to allow for lighting on multi-day backcountry trips (addition of a deep cycle marine storage battery to my truck may go along with mod). Last priority will be to construct or buy an awning. The whole point of a trailer for us is to keep us warm and dry while being outside as much as possible so an awning to sit and cook under will round out our build nicely.

    The build threads I've read here on PUP have been hugely inspiring and I hope to perform mine successfully enough to share with current and future owners of similar rigs as mine.
     
  2. R00

    R00 Active Member

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    Plenty of info here if you haven't already noticed. I got my rig trail-ready through info here and didn't have to ask a question for the first three months because all the answers were here!
     
  3. jnc

    jnc Welcome from New Hampshire

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    a cheap awning is a tarp & a few adjustable poles. Toss a few ropes over the top of the trailer pull tarp just over the edge of the roof and stake it off or tie to trees than set pole as you would for awning and stake down. This has worked well for me for many years.I now use one that is 20'x30' it's like having a great room outside.
     
  4. samh

    samh Campin'

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    R00 and jnc, thanks for taking a minute to comment. So far I have already spoken with a local trailer supply shop about the underside of the Coleman. I discussed spring, axle, hub, wheel, and tire options with them and have already begun formatting a plan based almost solely on information I learned in threads here on PUP.

    Awning-wise I am looking toward a more stable option. What you describe, jnc, sounds like what I've had rigged on the back of my Land Cruiser the past couple summers. It works very well but now that I have a trailer I think I'll buy or sew something that mounts permanently to the outside of the trailer.
     
  5. money pit

    money pit What could be so bad??? We are camping!!!

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  6. samh

    samh Campin'

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    Contacted them last week, Money Pit. Thanks for the confirmation in their quality. I have heard only good things about them but I'm still not convinced as to whether I want a pre-made bag awning, or if I want to sew one myself, or if I want something that rolls up and has rigid arms that attach to the side of the trailer as opposed to poles, ropes, and stakes to the ground.
     
  7. samh

    samh Campin'

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    I had the receiver installed on my Land Cruiser yesterday and hooked the Coleman up to it for the first time today. Only pulled it about a mile from home to work but it sure felt great to be towing it!

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  8. money pit

    money pit What could be so bad??? We are camping!!!

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    [:)C] looks like you have a fun little PUP there! You should have as much fun working on it as you will camping in it! congratz!
     
  9. samh

    samh Campin'

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    Got to spend my first quality time with the Columbia this afternoon. Borrowing a friend's shop for the weekend so the pop up is set up inside and I was able to thoroughly inspect the camper to see what needs work as well as Shop Vac and bleach down the entire interior.

    [list type=decimal][*]Plugged the shore power in and then ran a radio and the vacuum off the trailer's power outlet so I know that's all intact. [*]Have not yet done any inspection on the propane lines, lit the stove, nor the furnace
    [*]A thorough inspection of all canvas shows only a few rips that I am more than capable of fixing.
    [*]The passenger-side vertical panel of the roof is rotted out and wet and will need some thorough work.
    [*]The rear bed "roof rod" lock-off point is gone and a previous owner re-built a very shoddy replacement. I found the original part under a bench however so a refurb is possible.
    [*]I bought an OEM bed rail to replace one of mine that is mangled.
    [*]I also bought a lift crank but apparently needed to get a "short" one so will have to cut the one I bought down to size.
    [/list]

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    Front bed

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    Rear bed

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    Left rear outside

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    Left front outside

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    Damage to center of roof inside

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    Roof damage over inside of door

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    Electrical business
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
  10. samh

    samh Campin'

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    Spent another afternoon with the trailer today. I set it up in it's complete form for the first time (secured all shock cord under the beds, installed door, zipped everything up, and cranked ceiling all the way to top). I'm open to your answers and suggestions in regards to anything I've posted below whether it be a question or a piece of gear I need to source.

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    Completely set up

    I also installed a hose to the water-in port and was able to successfully use the hand pump to draw water into the sink and back out the drain hole with no leakage anywhere.

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    Am going to look into sourcing a permanent tank for attaching to the fastener under the sink since we will primarily be boondock campers.

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    Galley

    Also opened up the valve on the propane tank with hopes of checking all the lines, firing up the stove, and trying the furnace but before I could do any of that I got leakage at the regulator. Will need to look into sourcing a new one of those.

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    "Front" of regulator

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    "Rear" of regulator.

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    Furnace

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    I *think* this is the thermostat, and if so it's totally jacked.

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    Not positive the intent of all these cords. I presume the one on the outside of the bench hooks to the cord photo'ed below for plugging into tow vehicle power. The the other two that are inside the bench perhaps hook to each other for some purpose?

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    Cord for hooking to tow vehicle?

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    Power line to ceiling light. I need to install an LED up there. Also probably want to install one or two LEDs in other locations in the trailer too.

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    Couple shots of the side running lights outside the trailer
     
  11. thethird152

    thethird152 Active Member

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    Very much looking forward to following your progress, as I am about to undertake a similar project. Thanks for sharing!
     
  12. crackerJack

    crackerJack Well-Known Member

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    Classic Coleman's are so cool
     
  13. R00

    R00 Active Member

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    I had an '83 Redwood with the exact same floorplan. Too small for us though, so we kept looking. Solid little trailers!
     
  14. samh

    samh Campin'

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    I have been slowly collecting parts and pieces over the past weeks but haven't had the trailer open nor worked on it since I last posted a round of photos. But that's all for a good cause since we've had a steady stream of visiting family is in town to meet our new baby!

    The licensing came back from the state so the trailer is officially ours. I picked up the following bits and pieces for repair and upgrade work to come later this winter and into spring.

    • Wheel chocks
    • Safety chains
    • Interior fluorescent light rail
    • Marker Lights (4)
    • 12v Dome Light
    • Door Latch
    • Stick-on Levels
    • Wiring harness for Land Cruiser
    • Propane regulator
    • Solar panel
    • charge controller
    • battery monitor
    • cabling
    • shunts
    • fuses
    • lugs
    • and a Fan-Tastic Fan

    I have also begun work on my awning project which I took my liberal inspiration from TheThom here on PUP. His 1977 Starcraft Build thread has some exceptional work put into it.

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    I ordered an 8' x 8' custom tarp from http://mytarp.com using their 18 oz fabric. I had them hem and add grommets to three edges and then I ordered 8' of 3/8" White Vinyl Awning Rope from sailrite.com. I will sew the awning rope into the un-hemmed edge of the tarp next and also order horizontal and vertical poles to complete the project.
     
  15. PhillyTitan

    PhillyTitan New Member

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    You were correct about that brown "jacked" thing being a thermostat. But seeing that it's only use is a propane heater, it's super easy to fix. 10 bucks and 20 mins will have your heat going in no time.
     
  16. samh

    samh Campin'

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    Thanks, PhillyTitan, at a glance it appeared to me to be a simple, analog mechanism. Care to elucidate as to what parts I might need to acquire for this $10 you speak of? Or are you simply referring to acquiring an inexpensive thermostat?
     
  17. BigDogLittleDog

    BigDogLittleDog Member

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  18. Nandy

    Nandy Active Member

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    I have the same exact camper...
    As philly said, that is your thermostat, you can replace it fairly cheap or even upgrade to a digital one, lots of members here swear that the digital thermostat helped a lot in keeping a constant temp.
    The black cable hooks to the outside small connector and the cable other ends goes into your TV cigaret lighter to power your 12v. Mine did not have this cable which is a bummer. Be careful not running your TV battery down. Glad yours have it. I rewired mine for a stand alone battery in the front. I also added usb and cigarette lighter style 12vdc connections.
    The propane regulator was easy to change on mine. I just went to walmart and got the replacement regulator with hose that they sell for the patio grills. Replace the whole thing... $14.99 or something like that. You will have to have a modern propane tank...
    Currently I do not have the 120 hooked up since I dont have any 120vac stuff in it. This camper for me is a boondock camper so I am keeping it simple. Mine did not have a furnace, I took the galley out and replace it with a cabinet that houses the furnace I installed and a potti. I love the way this little camper pulls... Mine has racks also.. I will turn the stove into an outside stove. We dont cook inside.

    These first 3 photos is from the craigslist post when I bought it:

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    First boondocking trip:

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    Third trip, powered site in the beach SC. Home made pugs from walmart $3 windshield sun covers. It worked great!

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    Same trip, jacked up AC mount... (I dont want to put holes in this baby, not for now, plus is the boondock trailer...)

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    Close up. It worked great, AC is old an inefficient but kept us comfortable on an early September trip to SC/FL beach.
    I can push the button on the AC from the inside without messing the screen.

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    Furnace and Potty mod:

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    Have fun with your mods...
     
  19. samh

    samh Campin'

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    BigDog, thanks for the link to a simple thermostat, once I get my new regulator in the mail and can further test propane I'll swap something simple like that into my rig. I would prefer something analog over digital though since I am limiting power draw everywhere I can help it.

    And, Nandy, thanks for the comments, I've seen your galley replacement pics elsewhere and have some of your photos saved in a folder where I keep some inspiration for my mods. I was happy to find the 12v cable intact with the trailer when I bought it. My pop up is being converted to all 12 v with fluorescent and LED everywhere powered by a deep cycle under solar charge so little to no worries about draining the tow vehicle battery.
     
  20. PhillyTitan

    PhillyTitan New Member

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