Introduction: Race Car Bike Trailer

This is a race car-inspired bicycle trailer I made for my 2-year-old from parts of an old jogging stroller, a 55 gallon plastic barrel, some scrap wood, and a few other odds and ends.

It's fairly lightweight, and as a neighbor put it, "looks bad as hell." (Not my line, but I agree!)

It took a few months to complete, working on and off. It was painted to match an old 10-speed that I restored for my wife, and has upholstered seats, covered wheels, and a trunk to carry lunch for the family.

This open-top design works well for the age of my child, but the techniques I used to make this could be applied to make a similar child trailer in almost any form, such as to accommodate a sleeping baby, or to included some kind of canopy, for example.

Thanks for taking a look . . . and as always, let me know what you think!

Step 1: Old Jogging Stroller

I had to scour my local thrift stores for many months before I found an ideal jogging stroller for this project. I picked it up for only $5 and everything was still in great condition, including the tires. It was almost a shame to take it all apart! 

The rear wheels are attached to a flat piece of metal that is bolted to the stroller frame. This wheel assembly worked out perfectly for what I needed, as did the handlebars which were modified to use as the tow bar. 

Step 2: Trailer Layout

The finished trailer pod (not including wheels or tow bar) is 36" long, 17" wide, and 12 1/2" at the highest point. The opening is about 12" by 15".

I laid out the side profile on 1/4" plywood and cut out two matching pieces with a jigsaw. The bottom board that creates the base of the trailer is 16 1/2" wide and 30" long, and was made from 1/2" plywood.

I wanted the trailer to invoke thoughts of a classic race car. As I was drawing it out and working on the details, I was tempted to omit the curved trunk area to simplify the build, but I'm glad I didn't as I think this really makes the whole thing come together.

Step 3: Body Build

To build the body, I began by cutting a small stack of 3/4" strips of 3/4" plywood. These became the framework of the body that was then covered with panels of 1/4" plywood. Everything was glued together with wood glue and fastened with finish nails.

Everything was measured, cut, and custom fit as I went along, although there was quite a bit of trial and error involved. This same basic building method could be used to make any number of shapes or styles. The trick is to make sure everything is square, well-supported, and not overbuilt (so as to keep the weight down).

Step 4: Trunk Lid

The lid to the trunk proved a little tricky, but not as bad as I had expected. 

I cut four individual curved pieces that matched the profile of the side of the pod with my scrollsaw, and used these to create a frame to which I attached a piece of 3/16" hardboard (like masonite). This was all held together with glue and lots of clamps.

Step 5: Tow Bar Anchors

Because of the narrow width of the trailer, I had to have the tow bar attached about 4" outside to the left of the trailer in order to have enough turning clearance for the rear bike tire.

The towing aspect of this project took a lot of work, and I studied many options before I settled on this one. I made two brackets from solid birch that were glued and screwed through the sidewall to additional support pieces made from 3/4" plywood on the inside of the pod.

Two long bolts extend through the brackets to securely fasten the tow bar.

Step 6: Hitch

The hitch was made from a 4" eye bolt, threaded and epoxied into a piece of dowel that is bolted to the tow bar.

The receiver end of the hitch (on the bike) is made from a piece of square tubing that was cut, drilled and shaped, before being bolted the rear axle of the bike.

A hitch pin was made with various pieces of hardware that I found around my garage. One of the main pieces of the hitch setup is a rubber grommet that fits into the eye bolt. I had to trim down the top lip of it a little bit with a utility knife so I could squeeze it into the eye, but it fits in there nice and snug. This grommet eliminates any play in the hitch, but is flexible enough to allow the trailer to pivot in all directions.

I'm curious to see how this hitch setup holds up over time. To be extra cautious I have a safety strap in place as a backup if anything happens to fail, which I cover in a later step.

Step 7: Wheels

The wheel assembly was attached with 1/4" bolts through the bottom of the trailer into the trunk area.

Step 8: Trunk

The trunk lid was attached with some old dark-colored hinges I had in my junk drawer.

A finger hole was drilled in the back of the trunk lid to open and close the trunk.

Step 9: Wheel Covers

The wheel covers were made from the bottom of an old 55 gallon plastic barrel. These shapes were cut out using a jigsaw and attached with 1/4" bolts, along with some nylon spacers.

Using power tools on non-flat surfaces is a little risky. If you ever do something like this, work slow and support the work piece as much as possible.

Step 10: Seat

The seat pieces were made from 1/2" plywood, foam, and vinyl fabric. This was my first real attempt at upholstery, and it's harder than it looks! I was okay with how they turned out, but I'm sure many people could do a much better job.

A seat belt was made with 3/4" webbing and a plastic buckle. The seat bottom was screwed in place from the underside of the pod, and the seat back was screwed in place from inside the trunk area.

Step 11: Safety Strap

A safety strap was made from 3/4" webbing and a plastic buckle. This was attached to the tow bar through the bolts that attach it to the pod, and the bolt that holds the hitch in place.

The holes in the webbing for the bolts were created by poking a soldering iron tip through the webbing into a hole drilled into a block of wood. Some zip ties were used to hold the webbing in place along the bar and keep it from flapping around.

Step 12: Rear Reflector

A rear reflector was bolted in place on the back of the trailer.

Step 13: Paint Body

Once I had all the pieces put together, I disassembled the entire thing to paint it.

I brush painted the interior brown and the trunk area black.

I wanted the exterior to be super durable, so I brush painted it with three coats of Rustoleum hunter green oil enamel. I waited for a couple of days for it to dry completely, and then sanded it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. A final coat was applied with the spray can version of the same color. This gave it a nice, smooth finish.

Step 14: Paint Stripes

I masked off and covered the body so I could add some white stripes. The trick is to paint a first coating in the existing color (in this case green) all along the taped edges, before painting the top color (white). Any bleed-under that occurs only does so with the first top coat, but it matches the base coat so therefore and goes unnoticed. Additional coatings then leave nice clean lines between the contrasting colors once the tape is removed.

I waited 24 hours after the final green base coat before I taped for the stripes. I applied the tape-sealing coat of green, then three light coats of white spray paint, waiting about 10 minutes between each coat. I waited 20 minutes after the final coat before removing all the tape and newspaper.

Step 15: Finish Details

Final details were added with brush-on black paint. I let the entire thing sit for about 24 hours before I reassembled it. 

A few little blemishes here and there were touched up as I waited.

Step 16: Reassemble and Ride!

That's it! Thanks for looking.

Comments

author
skov made it! (author)2016-08-14

Great build!

Liked it so much I had to make one!

IMG_20160813_165345065_HDR.jpgIMG_20160813_165249882_HDR.jpg
author
seamster (author)skov2016-08-14

Whoa, cool! I think you're the first person to make one. I'm impressed!

I send you a pro code for a premium upgrade to your account to say thanks. Thanks for sharing your photos. Totally made my day :)

author
skov (author)seamster2016-08-16

Glad you enjoyed the photos, and thanks for the code!

author
imhhawk (author)2015-10-15

Awesome build. I think it would be cool to build it as a three wheel pedal car instead of a trailer.

author
MeanUncleBob (author)2015-09-28

Ahhhh, meals on wheels.

Kinda funny I did the same eye bolt and dowel as a connector. Used an old hunk of runner/mat as a buffer.

Got a few ideas so may build a cargo trailer from mine.

thanks

author
Databanks (author)2015-07-17

Very nice. I'm having some thoughts on the towing design - Rather than pivot at the bike axle, would it be better to run a bar from each side of the back bike wheel and make a hitch there or do you have plenty of clearance in the existing design?

Also, I'm wondering if you could use some of the plastic drum on the trunk lid to save the time spent curving the ply. Just coming up with ideas - your design looks bloody brilliant

author
dog lover109 (author)2014-08-20

I think is so awsome

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alexisg1 (author)2014-07-16

AWESOME !

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badboyss (author)2014-04-19

awesome

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bwh13 (author)2013-08-13

Clever build!

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infernisdiem (author)2013-04-24

I saw this and thought that it was an old kid's trailer converted into a car, I love this, I am kinda waiting for my son to out grow his bike trailer so that I (or my father who is better at wood working) can make something like this out of the frame :D

author
HibbityDibbity (author)2013-04-16

Very cool project; one that I'm definitely going to have to try, but I do have a safety concern I'd like to hear your thoughts on:
I like the idea of a safety backup for the hitch, but I'd be concerned that, in the unlikely event that the primary hitch failed, the safety strap would pendulum the end of the hitch right into your spokes. Probably just an academic concern, as I have a hard time imagining the hitch failing to begin with.

author
seamster (author)HibbityDibbity2013-04-16

I guess it could happen. But I'd still want my kid attached to my bike somehow, rather than not at all. I'd like to think most people would notice really quickly if the trailer hitch broke. Before every ride, you would want to inspect the hitch to make sure it's secure and not wearing down anywhere.

author
seamster (author)seamster2013-04-16

Another thought, all commercial kid trailers have a similar safety strap. So they're obviously worth having, despite any possible risk in the scenario you describe.

Hope you make one! Do an instructable if you do. Love the manly beard. I can't manage more than so patchy scruff. Very jealous.

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HibbityDibbity (author)seamster2013-04-16

Don't be too jealous; the testosterone that gave me my beard is the same testosterone that caused me to start balding at 17.

author
seamster (author)HibbityDibbity2013-04-16

I likewise started going bald in high school. So, so sad.

The trick to overcoming baldness is a hot wife that doesn't care and a nice hat. At least that worked for me.

author
HibbityDibbity (author)seamster2013-04-16

My plan was to grow the beard out as a comb-over.

author
Yard Sale Dale (author)2012-11-12

The style does look a little like old race cars, but I thought it looked more like a nice sidecar, only it's a trailer. I like it.

author
seamster (author)Yard Sale Dale2012-11-13

I think you're right, it does look like a sidecar. My racecar inspiration may have just been with the paint job!

You are right on with your other comment about low center of gravity and tongue length. These two concerns dictated where I placed the wheels and the seat. I put the wheels further toward the back with the seat in front of them and as low as possible, which makes the trailer stable and keeps the weight on the hitch. I made the tongue just long enough to clear the rear tire plus a couple inches, with enough room for right and left swing.

author
Yard Sale Dale (author)2012-11-12

That's impressive. The thing to aim for with trailers is a low center of gravity, and balanced load over the wheel axle. The longer the trailer tongue, the more stable it will likely be, but it can be a problem as the trailer "cheats" when cornering around obstacles like poles or pedestrians. I like your idea of the wooden car body. I think I'll do a much simpler version, aiming for a Jeep body style, built on an existing kid-trailer.

author
earlyflyer (author)2012-10-15

Very excellent project. Reminds me of an MG TD. As usual, your craftsmanship and creativity are top notch. Seeing fenders in the base of a plastic barrel speaks to your resourcefulness. Keep 'em coming!

You should add one of those little horns with the squeezy bulb thing for your son to have fun with. Or maybe mom would nix that idea?

author

A nice ding bell is pleasant and hard to get tired of.

author
seamster (author)earlyflyer2012-10-15

Thanks!

We thought about extras like a horn, lights, and faux gauges and such on the dash, but in the end nixed all of these ideas just for simplicity's sake.

As I was laying out the shape I wanted for this, I think I was vaguely conjuring up images of the Aston Martin DBR1, but I never took the time to look up any photos for reference. I've always liked green British roadsters, so you're right in the ballpark with the MG. Nice call!

author
seamster (author)seamster2012-10-15

Now that I've been looking more closely at these old cars, I want to go make another one of these, only pattern more closely after a specific car.

..Not sure which one though, but it would sure be fun to make a simplified replica of an actual car. Should have done this in the first place!

author
BillBiker (author)seamster2012-10-18

Just another suggestion, put a fake steering wheel where the kid can play like they are driving and add the horn too :) .

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seamster (author)BillBiker2012-10-18

I thought about a steering wheel. That would've been awesome a nice touch. Perhaps I'll put one on the next trailer!

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gromm (author)2012-10-23

This is an awesome concept! Things that would go well with this are roll bars (for safety and realism! You could probably make them out of PVC pipe.), you might be able to get away with making the sides and top out of plastic sheeting to save weight, and the thing I recommend most is the Chariot ball hitch.

Chariot Carriers makes spare parts for their cup-and-ball hitch that is the cat's pyjamas. You can install the lollipop (ball) in pretty much any trailer hitch arm, and the cup just bolts on the outside of the rear axle. It's super strong, safe, and is super easy to hitch the trailer on.

Most places that sell the Chariots will have these parts, but here's an online catalogue that has all of them, separately and as a kit:

http://www.bikekidshop.com/chariot-trailer-parts-c-197.html

author
howtomechanic (author)2012-10-22

for attatching it to your bike i would use a tie rod end from a car for better turning

author
seamster (author)howtomechanic2012-10-22

I'm not very familiar with car parts, but I'll ask around and try to find one of those and see if it works. Thanks for the tip!

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l8nite (author)2012-10-17

have to agree with your neighbor ^5

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seamster (author)l8nite2012-10-18

Thanks!

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ilpug (author)2012-10-15

I really like the techniques, and the look of the end result, but I just can't like the whole idea of baby trailers on bikes. Great job though.

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seamster (author)ilpug2012-10-15

Thanks! But hey, what's not to like about baby trailers on bikes? ;)

We have a few kids and we like to go on long bike rides on the paved trails around our home, and this is the best way to bring along the little one that's not quite riding yet.

author
ilpug (author)seamster2012-10-15

I just think that it seems a bit dangerous to pull a kid around in a bike trailer. The statistics probably prove me paranoid, but it just doesn't seem safe to me.

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seamster (author)ilpug2012-10-15

Ah.

Yes, there are many dangers in life, and it's generally advisable to avoid them if at all possible!

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shazni (author)seamster2012-10-15

Yes...even i have that fear of when you ride a bike and the kid is behind...well...you cant always look back....especially when you are supposed to look front...else you'll knock a tree and then you and kiddo will topple over...and as long as the path is smooth...i guess there would be very little accidents...still....i love the design. :-D ...the finish looks excellent

author
BillBiker (author)shazni2012-10-18

As cycling requires most to wear helmets there are mirrors when adjusted correctly will allow the drivers to look back without having to completely take ones eyes off the road. I too absolutely love the style of this DIY :). Not picking on either one of ya just trying to help out with a suggestion :) .

author
shazni (author)BillBiker2012-10-18

Understood :-D

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coach_sam (author)2012-10-16

Great job! This is by far the best looking of the bike trailers I have seen.

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seamster (author)coach_sam2012-10-16

Thanks!

I'm biased of course, but I agree with you!

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coach_sam (author)2012-10-16

This is great, I've been thinking about my own DIY jogging stroller to bike trailer for awhile this hitch will work perfectly. thanks.

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zap1998 (author)2012-10-16

Great tip about the first coat matching existing. Your project turned out awesome.

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profpat (author)2012-10-15

i like it! nice one, i have been planning to build a bike trailer! i have lots of old small bikes i can use the wheels.

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___ (author)2012-10-15

Looks Great!

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audreyobscura (author)2012-10-14

This came out really slick. I like the way you made the hitch mount for the cart, and a very excellent upcycle of a jogging stroller.

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seamster (author)audreyobscura2012-10-15

Thank you. That stroller turned out to be a really good find!

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iOskr (author)2012-10-15

I'm very impressed for your great job. Looks amazing. Thanks for sharing!!!

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seamster (author)iOskr2012-10-15

Thank you for the compliment!

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stevemoseley (author)2012-10-15

Fantastic job! Your making all the other dads in your neighborhood look bad. Way to raise the bar.

author
seamster (author)stevemoseley2012-10-15

Ha ha, thanks!

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