It's a sleek, shiny artifact of post-World War II optimism, a rolling home on wheels from the first year of the Baby Boom.
The 1946 Spartan Manor didn't look like much when Nikki and Adam Groff found it for sale on the Space Coast, the property of a NASA employee who worked in aluminum and had too many projects to get to.
The streamlined aluminum travel trailer was stripped, rotted and rusty. It needed a top-to-bottom renovation, and that's just what the Groffs — who are less than half the age of the camper — did to bring it back to life.
It was a big project, one that took on some urgency as the birth of their daughter, who's due April 30, approached.
It's relatively easy to find information on Airstream trailers, a more popular brand. With the Spartan, though, they were often on their own, figuring out where to buy parts when they could and how to make parts — including the curved wooden interior walls that followed the lines of the trailer — when they couldn't find what they needed.
"I don't know how we found the time and energy to get this thing completed — a mixture of excitement and optimistic ignorance," Nikki wrote on their blog, 1946spartanmanor.wordpress.com, which chronicles the transformation.
She's 31, a piano teacher. He's 35, a craftsman and writer with a background in screenplays.
They both grew up in Ponte Vedra and made several cross-country moves before settling in Jacksonville, where they gutted and restored a 1955 house with a huge backyard in the San Jose area. The Spartan is now in that yard, gleaming and restored, ready for visitors and, one day soon, their daughter.
"This is like the coolest playhouse ever," Nikki said. "Hopefully she'll appreciate it."
The house and the trailer fit their taste for the mid-century modern movement, the architecture and design of the middle part of the 20th century.
They come to it honestly: Adam's great-uncle was the late Taylor Hardwick, a mid-century modern architect who designed the iconic old Haydon Burns Library downtown, Friendship Fountain and other distinctive buildings around Jacksonville. They were both close to him, and Hardwick even gave them artwork and furniture for their new house.
Adam Groff is handy: He's started making mid-century modern-inspired furniture under the name Groffmade, and he completely restored a 1946 Chevy truck before taking on the Spartan.
Years ago, to make a trip out to California, they turned a 4-by-6 foot trailer into a tiny camper (The Cramper, they called it). They even lived in it while looking for a place to live in Los Angeles.
They needed all their skills to turn the Spartan into a livable, usable space. The "before" pictures show a ramshackle camper that needed to be completely gutted. The "after" pictures are nothing like that: The interior is 25 feet long, lined in thin birch plywood walls painted white, and in it they've made a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom (complete with shower) and a living/dining room with a table and a little hand-me-down flat-screen TV on the wall.
They insulated the walls, then laid down laminated flooring. There's an air conditioner, a space heater and a small water heater. For now, everything runs on electricity from their house, but they're looking into solar power.
They had to patch some of the aluminum, find some new windows and replaced a unsteady axle with a brand-new one that comes with electric brakes and other modern safety features.
"We think about all the work that went into every square each of this thing, and the learning process," Nikki said. "It's hard with these things because they're so old, you don't even know what any of the parts are, what goes with what. That's why we documented it."
They have just one clue about the Spartan Manor's previous life: They found a Jacksonville Journal from 1951 lining one of the cabinets, so they figure it's back home in the city where it spent at least part of its existence.
They calculate they spent about $15,000 for the whole project, including the $2,500 purchase price, keeping costs down by doing the work themselves. It's probably worth well more than that now, though they have no plans to sell.
"It's nice to know there's value in it, but at the same time it's part of the family now," she said.
A few weeks ago they put the final touches on the Spartan.
"It's road-ready," Adam said. "It's just not going to be on the road any time soon."
For now, the Spartan is simply a nice guest room/getaway space/playroom in their back yard. It seems the whole project has just one hitch — they don't have anything to hitch it to.
They need a truck to tow it, and Adam, being eco-minded, is already researching how to convert a diesel truck to run on used cooking oil.
They drive a Toyota Prius they'd hate to give up, so for now the Spartan isn't going anywhere. "Unless in the next couple of years they come out with a Prius that can tow 10,000 pounds," Adam said.
Matt Soergel: (904) 359-4082