Instructables

Teardrop Travel Trailer (added VIDEOS!)

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NOTE: This trailer is now for sale!  Contact me if you are interested!!  Thanks!!

Fair warning!  This is going to be a biggie Instructable.  Fair warning!  I suggest you read the WHOLE THING before you start building.  You may also want to obtain some more detailed plans that include more detailed drawings and dimensions.

Over the past year I've built a 'teardrop travel trailer.'  It's been an adventure for sure.  It's very much been worth it.  I aim to introduce you to the idea of a teardrop trailer and the steps involved in building one.  You WILL need more info to complete a build.  I strongly recommend the forum below. 

I stumbled across this idea because my wife and I were thinking about buying an old airstream trailer to fix up.  Then I stumbled across this web forum: http://www.mikenchell.com/forums/
It turns out that these teardrop (named for their shape) travel trailers were once very common.  Especially after WWII in the states.  Often built of materials at hand and ranged from minimal to elaborate.  Check out this link here: http://www.mikenchell.com/VintagePlans/vintageplans.html.

Well I was hooked.  I considered various designs and what I wanted in a trailer.  You can track down a TON of resources through that forum above, as well as many gracious and helpful and wonderful people.  There are a variety of FREE plans and a few at modest cost.  Note: be wary buying plans on Ebay.  Evidently, there is a fellow who pops up selling the free plans available from the above forum.

I decided to build a 'Cubbie' type trailer, based on plans from a company called Kuffle Creek.  http://www.kuffelcreek.com/  But with LOTS of modifications.  You must understand  that no two trailers are remotely alike!  One reason I picked these Cubbie plans is that there was NO WELDING.  Certainly there are designs where you can weld your own trailer to spec, but mine started out with a bolt-together utility trailer from Harbor Freight.  So without further ado....

P.S. At the time of initial publication (July 2011) I've got the trailer roadworthy, but it's by no means finished.  As I complete further finish work I'd further steps.  Please feel free to ask Qs in the comments and I'll respond as best I can.

 
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Rob O (author) 3 years ago
Hey everyone, per requests I've added a few videos at the end. It's the last 4 steps. Please consider voting for this 'ible in the Summer Contest. Thanks!
Tangski8 months ago
How does that work for ventilation?? Is it enough on a really hot day? Just wondering if here is enough air flow from those? If so, well I have some I can use on mine too!LOL
Tangski Tangski8 months ago
oh, don't forget stone guards on the weels? You are gonna get a lot of crap on that trailer if you don't ..hmmmm.....what do you think? Just a thought.... I KNOW you thought of it! You are tooooo good not to!
V
Tangski8 months ago
Looks great. You can also skin it much cheaper with thin sheets of fiberglass. Cost about 85 per sheet here. So that may also be a great option. And, you can then do vinyl lettering or pin strip it also, no need for paint! Great effects these days from you local sign shop, and really show this litty guy off!
Also, add a tool box in front for mis. items, that is very very very handy addition. Maybe a diamond plate too, for rock protection...!:)
Love this and it is helping me a lot to do mine!! My 'winter' project! Glad you got an award for this, and look forward to the videos if I can find them;)

Thanks a bunch
Vicki
Tangski Tangski8 months ago
PS, I forgot to say, I will build my hatch a bit off the base of the floor, due to water run off and from the road etc. I find those can leak like crazy. Maybe add a tighter hatch garage door kind on the back as well, again, they like to leak on the sides if not down tight. Another solution I liked was side closing clamps as those keep the bottom very well tight to the frame...which really matters on those less than nice rainy mountain travel days! Just a thought, and easy to add to yours.
Oh, I like that beer too!LOL Good ol Irish black stuff, sticks to ya! Keep building and teaching, you help many out there not to give up on a great idea for those long winter nights. How about a strip canoe or kayak!??? To go on top of that trailer? OK, so you need to add racks then..sigh..well, guess we will see!
Cheers!
Vicki
Tangski8 months ago
you can also use PL 3000 that is especially made for the foam insulation board, Works well and has a tiny bit of flex in it for weather changes. I use it on foam carvings for sets.
Cheers
Vicki
Tangski8 months ago
Nice!! I am rather scared of the electrical part so may need more detailed plans on 'how to do', but I am not backing off now!
Cheers!
Tangski8 months ago
I did see an idea of running all wires through your wall before you inner skin it, then also on top of roof, so no exposed wires will show, is that what you mean?
Tangski8 months ago
Now thats thinking! I will use that tip for sure!! Thank you!!
Vicki
Tangski8 months ago
Well, nice color of material, but always best to use automotive grade due to weather, cleaning and durability for any project subjected to the outside conditions unlike your house..trust me, learned that did that, and over that one!LOL The weave is tougher and lasts WAY longer. I also learned from a lady from Italy who used to sew for a shop and could make patters by hand with just a piece of chalk! Whoa! You can get scraps at your local upholstery shop. :) You will find that other will get raggy very fast and may have to strip it off in a year or two at most. Velvel also sheds...:(
Oh well, we all gotta use what we all gotta use!
Vicki
Tangski8 months ago
LOVED that tiny jig!!! A wonderful solution to keep things even...:) I will be adding however, some small l brackets onto the spars, as they need more support (for me) rather than just a scew or two and glue. Just my pref. I saw one that has 3 sides which I will use on mine. I guess a bit of internal over kill, but I have seen those get loose for some reason or other.
I was told to use 3/4 for outside walls, since the wood for outside (inside wood has inside glue and can come delaminated..not fun after all that work. So the 1/2 fir that has the outside glue, also has a better 'filler' but also not constructed as well as the 3/4. At least not the outside stuff I found at good prices. Baltic Birch was 100 per sheet, and much nicer to look at, but as you say, if skinning, best to use basic stuff with the proper glue etc. I may just use the 1/8 laminate for inside walls, but not sure. I do like the stability of the 1/4 inch. After all it will not weigh much more after all is said and done...I hope!LOL
I am also thinking of using spars that are pressure treated and weather treated too, since those tend to be much straighter and tougher for longevity. Any thoughts?
Thanks!
Vicki.
Tangski8 months ago
Great idea on the axel. On mine I upgraded to a 2000 lb axel and added a 4 leaf spring on both sides. I have to have the latter welded on the back part, but this also moved the wheel toward the back a bit more, which is what I wanted in the first place to help displace weight off the front. The extra is for good measure. since I have made mine a longer version of the above ( to allow for 10 feet rather than 8, and has a longer tongue as well, that will get cut down to the right length later. I was pulling a 15/12 canoe on this before I decided to make my tear drop, so things are longer on my base. Will also allow for more room to carry stuff like my fishing poles!:) One just never knows where one might have to bug out to and live in these days with weather as it is!LOL I should know, I have been displaced for 6 months in my life due to floods! GADS! At least I will have a nice shelter next time!;)
Cheers
Vicki
Tangski Tangski8 months ago
PS, I put my axle on the spring, rather than under it. Like yours it will be a bit lower, and that will have enough clearance with a larger wheel. Mine was upgraded to the 5 bolt 13 inch instead. Will also add the easy grease plug on both wheels too. I tend to go over gravel, so will need to miss some of those pot holes etc...sheeesh!
Tangski8 months ago
I am using the product hammer coat for painting instead, and it can go over your black with black hammer coat. That tends to be a harder finish and really looks great when done. Just FYI.:) When using any oil paint from a tin, add a bit of Japan dryer to that, it also makes the paint harder and drys faster as well.
Cheers
Vicki
Tangski8 months ago
Try dry lock or other latex water inhibitor used in basements or outer sealing, works and smells better than tar. Tar can also melt in hotter weather, and soften up, thus leak smells...not so fun.
Another idea, do not cut off your extra bottom sheeting..use that as a bit of a 'lip' on each side of the base for the sides of the walls. That lends to greater stability and then not all the weight of the walls are on the bolts. So, move in your 2x2's so there is 1/2 inch or 3'/4 inch for your walls for a more 'solid' base. Also helps when driving on gravel roads to have more stability on that part of the constuction. I found that tip from anther builder who changed to that modification on his second go around.
Since it only makes the inside a tiny bit slimmer, no worries. Or of course, you can add an extra 2x4 all around the edge of the trailer, so that you keep your floor size but still have a lip to rest the weight of the walls on etc.:) I may do that for mine:)
That extra on the bottom can also include clips for outside attachments such as a water filter, propane or water jugs on the outside, leaving more room on the inside. See the idea on the Bug Out Trailer being made out there. Great external top rack as well.:)
Your insulation is great, and also allows for more temp. extremes for camping enjoyment! Smart idea especially if living up in Canada:)
Cheers
Vicki
thehaneyplace11 months ago
SWEET! ... I love the cool RETRO design of it :^)
Rob O (author) 1 year ago
Hello everyone. In case anyone is interested I'm planning to sell my trailer! Reach out to me if you would like details. It's currently in St. Louis MO. And if this message violates any terms of use, let me know and I'll take it down. Thanks.
dwinn11 year ago
http://www.tnttt.com/ <<< is the new address for mikenchell.com....just sayin!
Rob O (author)  dwinn11 year ago
Thank you very much!!
badams211 year ago
Rob I totally love the instructions. I am itching to build one my self. What was the approximate cost for the build? Just out of curiosity. I will custom build to what is good for me. Of course the cost will be different. Thanks. Buddy
Rob O (author)  badams211 year ago
I stopped keeping track at about $3,000. If I had to guess it's around $3,500 now with all the accouterments. I can't tell you how many trips to HD, Lowes, Harbor Freight, RV store, etc.
Thanks for the great Instructable. Hope you'll check out my teardrop, too!
schmitta1 year ago
Looked up and watched your instructable tonight. You obviously thought twice and cut once. I think I saw you had some plans at some point. What were they? Thanks. Alvin...
Rob O (author)  schmitta1 year ago
Hey there. I got my plans from here: http://www.kuffelcreek.com/8'_cubby.htm
I found them very helpful. I customized a lot or did things differently. You can follow them to the letter or incorporate your own changes. I don't think any two trailers are alike!! Also check out the teardrop trailer forum; lots of good info there. Good luck.
bryan31413 years ago
I'm not sure I understand. Why did you want the axle above rather than below the leaf springs?
With the axle above the leaf springs it lowers the deck of the trailer by 3 - 6 inches (depending on thickness of axle and spring).
ah, thus removing the need for a ladder to get to bed....makes sense. :) Thanks! I REALLY want to do this, but I think I'll want to add a 12v heat pump to the party...once I figure out how many batteries I need, I'll probably go ahead with the vent like you have.
unless you are camping in the tundra somewhere these trailers are rather warm in cold weather as the interior is small, put a second person or dog in with you and you will need the windows open to let the heat out.
you could also try this idea http://www.instructables.com/id/The-Hotmail-Heater/
For someone who lives in California (me!), how would you get this registered with the Department of Motor Vehicle?
Rob O (author)  coachmachado2 years ago
Hey coach. I wouldnt have the foggiest idea. Fortunately in KS it is super simple. BUT I can tell you where you can do some research: http://www.mikenchell.com/forums/

Search those forums. I recommend using google advanced search. The search function within the forums is very buggy. Or even just post and ask. There are many many teardrops and other small camper trailers in CA, someone will know. Good luck!
rowerwet Rob O1 year ago
if you live in a hard state, look up the DMV in Maine, they are very easy to get plates from even out of state. Then take your Maine registration and plate to whatever state you live in and ask to transfer registration. There is a sticky thread on t&tt.com (formerly mikenchell.com that explains the process better, as well as more than one horror story about certain states. One guy in PA spent nearly as much on registering/weighing/inspecting his trailer as the frame cost. Not to mention the time lost in the whole process. Using the ME shortcut another walked in and out with his plate that day.
Just look at the registrations on the 18 wheeler trailers next time you are on the road, many will be registered in ME, and not because they were bought or operated by a ME based company.
gmajane Rob O2 years ago
Hi...I enjoyed your instructable. I have a homemade teardrop that I bought from a friend. How did you get that plate for Kansas? I was told I didn't need one here in Kansas for a trailer that small. I carry the regs at the recommendation of the DMV. Did you make your plate? Thanks!!
Rob O (author)  gmajane2 years ago
I didn't make it. I bought it at KC Home Trailer Co. They don't have a website.
(913) 262-8722, 1115 Merriam Ln, Kansas City, KS 66103
Rob O (author)  monkeysandllamas2 years ago
It turns out to be pretty common to buy utility trailers like this. I didnt know that either. A lot of hardware stores have them, or can order them. I got mine at good ol' Harbor Freight.

The trailer has a spec weight limit of 1,800 pounds. Sometimes called a '2,000 lb' trailer but that is definitely rounding up. My finished trailer weighed about 800 lbs, but that is without food/gear. I weighed it on a truck scale.

Start to finish it took me about a year and a half. But at least half of the time it was either too hot or I was too busy. So really maybe 8 or 9 months of nights and weekends. It would ultimately depend on how fast you work and how much time you could devote to it.
Man, I've been needin' a board stretcher! Does HF carry 'em?

Great trailer!
Rob O (author)  reallyreally2 years ago
Ha! I wish. My method was a pain. But I was really pleased with the result!!
My son and I plan to build a teardrop, then take 'er cross country. Yours has re-inspired us!
Rob O (author)  reallyreally2 years ago
Wow thanks. That makes my day. Check your inbox for another message!
lol, yeah actually, I'm a journeyman machinist and that is a trick I learned a long time ago (using motor oil). believe it or not, I've even used vegetable oil as a last resort for aluminum pieces and it works surprisingly well.
I use any oil i have at hand. Veg, mineral, motor, 3-in-1, air compressor, etc.
Not WD-40 though.
Usually no problems for a few holes.
I suppose if I were working on an industrial scale, I might tell the difference in cutting oils.
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