Our ALiner Restoration

Guest Post by JoAnne Leonard

Our story about our little 1998 Aliner camper started two years ago when my husband and I brought home a funny camper with a rotted floor and got the evil eye from our neighbors. We salvaged it from its destiny of the dump from a couple camping friends of ours. They were getting older and had given up on most camping and didn’t have the time, energy or desire to fix the rotting floor, a known problem for this model and year. They had offered it to us a couple years prior, but we didn’t really have the means to deal with it. We were very happy camping in tents as we were lifelong campers ourselves and wanted to keep it simple. But this camper was different, it was simple, a basic popup but without the hassle of canvas, a unique triangle profile and a small foot print (6’3”x12’).

We’d bring the subject up to each other every once in a while until we decided to just go get it. It sat in the furthest corner from their house, the tires sat almost half way to the ground from sitting for so long, a branch had pierced a hole in one of the vents from a bad ice storm the year before and the floor was now growing things under the linoleum that was keeping it together. Looking back now I am not sure how it made it through the 30 mile trip back to our house.

We spent all summer working on it. We took everything out and saved what we could. We worked on the floor a bit at a time until it was completely replaced. While working on the floor we scoured the city looking for deals and we found them, we found the flooring as an end piece at a high end flooring store that wasn’t going to be able to sell it as it was so small.

The cabinets were found at a local contractor store, we paid $120 for solid oak and maple cabinets with built in drawers worth over $1400 but were ordered wrong and the store didn’t feel like shipping them back so they sold us them at what it would have cost to ship them back. Penny cabinet handles off the clearance rack at Lowes and so on. We spent a lot more time than money, but it was all worth it. Even after adding an actual mattress, new logos (designed online and ordered from Canada for a fraction of what US sellers quoted us), solar panel, LEDs our cost is around $1,000. Because of the high demand of these campers they can cost well over 14k new.

We also saved a lot because we were able to clean up and reuse a lot of the items in the camper such as the heater, water heater and pump, power convertor and so on. We replaced the wiring, battery (it didn’t have one), faucet ($7 Lowes contractor special bathroom fixture), water lines with PEX and gas lines for safety.

Now we camp in it all the time. We enjoy camping at a local state park
often and took the camper out of state in April from MA to SC. We replaced the tires prior to that trip! Where ever we go people always are amazed how big it is on the inside. We have everything we need to camp happily in there!


JoAnne and Micheal Leonard

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Irene - June 16, 2011 Reply

Very useful, thanks. Your camper is small for full-time living but there are plenty of people living in them, and restoration stories are always interesting to me. (Tin Can Tourists is a favorite Web site of mine.) Thanks so much for sharing your story. Unusual shape, your camper is. 🙂

alice - June 16, 2011 Reply

My son has the smallest ALiner model parked out on his land while he restores an 8×12 shack on the property and rescues it from mice, spiders and sowbugs. It makes a big difference having a warm dry comfy place to retreat to at night and the solid roof and walls are very much appreciated in our soggy climate – no canvas to get mildewy and mouldy if you have to pack up on a rainy day. With the addition of a small tarp canopy it also provides an outdoor working/sitting area.

JoAnne - June 16, 2011 Reply

Thank you! It is great to not have to worry about wet canvas and the set up is so easy. As far as livable in terms of a small house, I think I could live in it alone or just the two of us for up to several months.

Drue - June 17, 2011 Reply

I am a BIG fan of Aliners. Very light, towable, and simple. Some of you are already readers of the tiny trailer forum. There is a design out there called the Compact 3 that isn’t exactly an Aliner, but does use a folding roof so that you can easily store it in the garage. It has a bit more usable space.


I think the Aliner concept makes sense for emergency shelters post-disaster. Sort of a hard-sided pup tent.

Jere - June 17, 2011 Reply

Can you tell me more about your solar panel?

enjoyed your pictures,

Benjamin - June 17, 2011 Reply

Where does the bed fit in?

Joe3 - June 17, 2011 Reply

As a previous XLE owner I’d say you’ve done a great job. I loved my Aliner but sold it for a downpayment on a house….someday I’d love to find another in bad shape and customise it for my needs. Yours looks great, I love the green accent stripe.

JT - June 20, 2011 Reply

Very nice.

Terry - June 22, 2011 Reply

Thank you for sharing your story & pictures. Very interesting!!

James DeYoung - June 22, 2011 Reply

Love your camper! You did a great job fixing it up. BTW, who did you use to make your new logos? I need to replace the logos on my 1968 Smokey and could use some suggestions. Thanks for any help!

    JoAnne - June 30, 2011 Reply

    I ordered the logos from signnetwork.com, they are out of Canada. There are many predesigned logos to chose from, ours is from the Cameo section. I added the wording and stripes as I liked them. We had ordered lettering from them in the past and we were happy with them so we went back. Shipping takes a little longer from Canada to the US, but you can not beat her prices. Plus she gave me free shipping over $100. The total was just over $100 for all my logos in the higher quality decal. There are endless fonts to chose from too.

Woody - June 16, 2012 Reply

I want to thank you because.. I purchased a 99 Aliner earlier this year.. and knew I was gonna have to put some work into it… but after getting into it and seeing what we had… it was gonna be more work than I really wanted. But seeing your pictures and all really makes me feel alot better.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural - September 1, 2012 Reply

I love the shape of it!

gerald - June 28, 2014 Reply

my top is very difficult to raise,,,,,, the springs have weakened,,,, has any 1 replaced springs ????

    Ted Ogilvie - August 8, 2016 Reply

    I bought a beat up one and restored it. One of the springs had broke and I wanted to replace it. The roof stills went up very easily but I still hot that it was a good idea. I took the back end off and released the roof and in the end was too afraid to put the new spring in because I that it might blow the end of the camper out. It works fine and serves me well but it could have been made better.

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