by Steve Hingtgen, President of Vintage Trailer Supply
One of the first restoration projects many vintage trailer owners face is replacing or repairing the lock for the front door. Not only does your trailer need to be secure when you aren't around, it also needs to be secure when you are in transit. Highway speeds can make doors fly open if the locks aren't working properly. A lock protects the door itself from damage.
Most vintage trailer locks are no longer made. However parts may be available to restore your old lock. Here are some of the most common locks we see.
Bargman L-400: Obsolete and parts are hard to find
This lock was made by the Theodore Bargman Company based in Detroit. While it has been obsolete since around 2002, this beauty was used in most Boler trailers around from the 1970-1990s. Its paddle handle design was popular with trailer users because it allowed for it to fit flush with the exterior of the trailer.
Keeler (KBC): Obsolete and we have a few parts
The Keeler lock is another lock that utilized the paddle handle design, however, this rectangular model had a vertical orientation rather than horizontal.
It was made by the Keeler Brass Company and used from 1978-1990 in most Airstreams and also Fleetwing trailers.
Although this model has been obsolete since around the 1980s, we have reproduced the exterior handle, our VTS-929, and you can see it here. We also reproduced the unique latchbolt. It is our VTS-463, and you can see it here.
KT: Still made but extremely expensive. Parts are available.
This paddle handle lock is still being used today and holds a horizontal orientation. This model was typically used in the Airstream (1970-1977). This particular lock is still sold by Airstream dealers in similar versions.
Safety Trailer Lock Mfg Co. Flush Type Lock
These locks are unique because they are not used like a traditional trailer lock. Unlike other locks, these flush-type locks require a special technique to lock your vintage trailer. The key is turned to unlock the vehicle and the handle is turned to open the door just like a normal door lock, however, the vehicle is locked by pushing the handle in rather than with a key. These locks were normally found on the 1940 Elcar and 1946-1948 Spartan trailers.
Chesler T5 Lock
Chesler T-5 locks had several options for outside handle. There was a smooth round knob, and there was a long lever often with the trailer manufacturer like Streamline, Airstream or Holiday embossed on it.
A similar model is the Bargman L-100 and the Bargman L-200. While these locks were very similar and fit the same openings as the Chesler locks, the Bargman locks came with a serrated (jagged) grip rather than smooth.
Chesler T5 parts are generally not available. However, we ocasionaly have cylinders/keys and latchbolts.
This simple lock was used from 1949-1960. The zinc-plated lock was used on a variety of different trailers including the 1946-1947 Spartan, the 1949 Westcraft Tahoe, and the 1950 Yellowstone trailers. The replacement Decker 1040 B is still available for sale here as our VTS-888.
Bargman L-66 (Earlier/Later Style)
This model by the Bargman company was used in almost every trailer from 1950-2008. With its horizontal orientation, this chrome-finished lock included a “panic release” feature. Unlike the L-400 model, the earlier L-66 was high quality and made to be durable for years on end. Despite the old version of the L-66, which is still in service on some trailers, the newer L-66 models were unfortunately made with less quality. Not only were they not as durable, but they were also hard to manage because the cylinders made for these locks were difficult to replace.
Although the L-77 looks very similar to the L-66 models, this particular lock has a vertical orientation rather than a horizontal one. Obsolete since the early 1960s, the L-77 was used in the Airstream and Silver Streak around 1958-1961. Despite its similar design, this model cannot be used interchangeably with the L-66 model locks.
L-54 or L-55 Lock with H20-2 Handle or other handle and cylinder with flip cover
Because of its innovative and complex features, the H20-2 handle was used mostly on high-end trailers during the time period of 1948-1958. This handle was known for its extreme flexibility to work with a variety of different trailers such as the Airfloat, Spartan, Lintzcraft, and more. The handle was spring-loaded so that it could move in and out of the way of other objects in the way. It could them be pushed back into its original place. Not only was it spring-loaded, but since it was made with a circular design, the key opening placement as well as the handle placement could be adjusted according to preference.