Introduction: Teardrop Camper
It is my intention to inspire and encourage you to build your own small camper. We chose the teardrop shape partly for the nostalgia and because they are quite visually appealing. It really doesn’t matter if you prefer a teardrop, a square woody wagon or a more modern looking camper as long as you use it and enjoy it. Don’t let it sit around as yard art, enjoy it with your family and friends to get away from the fast pace commitments you face all week long.
We designed our camper to be light enough to pull behind an antique vehicle like a model A Ford or similar era vehicle. Ours weighs around 750 lbs. minus food. Many teardrop campers have been built on a much heavier frame and cabin construction with an enormous list of accessories including air conditioning, fresh water tank and slide outs. If you will only pull you camper with a modern vehicle with extra power then the sky is the limit on what you design in to it and what you carry along with you.
Step 1: Welding the Frame
Laying out the frame for the camper.
Welding the frame together.
Step 2: Suspension
Laying out the springs and shackles for the suspension. The springs and axle were purchased locally at Tractor Supply.
Step 3: Painting the Frame
Primed and painted frame using Rustoleum paint.
Step 4: Plywood Structure
Cutting out the teardrop shape using a jig saw. We are using four pieces of ¼” plywood from a local home improvement store for the walls. We will be insulating the walls so they don’t sweat wile camping in cooler weather.
Sanding the edges of the plywood.
Step 5: Galley Layout
Laying out the galley to accommodate the cooler and all the cookware.
Step 6: Cutting the Door Holes
Measuring for the doors.
Cutting out the doors. All four pieces of ¼” plywood are cut at the same time. This will ensure the door line up correctly when assembling. The two outside pieces are longer than the two inside pieces. I wanted the outside of the plywood to extend over the metal frame it wouldn’t be seen when the camper is finished. Save the four pieces of plywood from the door opening to build the doors with so the wood grain matches.
Step 7: Wall Structure
Installing the wall structure using common fur lumber. Notice the notches on the edges of the sides, these are for the ribs to sit in.
Step 8: Inner Walls
The inner wall with the interior wall support “studs” in position on the floor. These are the shorted pieces of plywood that were sandwiched between the longer outside pieces in pic 10.
Installed ¾” birch plywood for the wall between the galley and cabin.
Counter top made from ¾” birch plywood installed. Notice haw the plywood and the 1” fur wall support line up.
Step 9: Interior Shelf
Laying out an interior shelf for storage and to mount our tablet entertainment center on.
Step 10: Ribs
Installed 1” fur pieced between the slots cut out for the ribs. This will add strength plus give a place to attach the ribs to.
Using carpenters glue and a brad gun to attach the ribs to the side wall.
Ribs in place and a very happy inspector gives her approval.
Step 11: Interior Plywood
We slid the interior plywood in from the top of the camper. The first piece was snapped in half trying to get it to bend to the teardrop shape. Second one was a success!
Step 12: Outlet Cover
Made our own receptacle covers out of oak. Just traced and copied a plastic one then cut out using a scroll saw.
Hollowed out the inside of the oak face plate to accommodate the receptacle using forstner bits.
Step 13: Male Power Plug
Installing a male plug to attach an extension cord when camping where there is power available.
Using a piece of oak to mount the plug in the wall.
Step 14: Wiring
Running the wiring in the left wall. The yellow wire is #12-2 with ground household house wiring. The other is 12 VDC wires for the ceiling vent, lights and accessory outlets.
Running wiring in the right wall. Notice, both sides have a light switch.
Step 15: Insulation
Insulating the walls. This is very important if you want a cozy cabin that doesn’t sweat in the early morning when that cool air outside surrounds the camper. You will exhale a lot of moisture while breathing in the camper at night and is the walls are cool the moisture in the air will condensate on the walls.
Step 16: Exterior Plywood
Stapling the outside plywood to the walls. I know! I know! Where are my safety glasses?
When installing the top plywood, we had to staple it on the bottom first then clamp a piece of wood to hold it in place. This allowed us to start curving it over the top of the camper while gluing as we went.
Step 17: Roof Vent
Opening for the roof vent.
Step 18: Building the Side Doors
Building the doors. We used the plywood saved from the walls in pic 10 so the wood grain will match. Notice the stack of oak on the work bench. This is what we used to trim out the doors with.
One of the doors finished with all the trim.
Step 19: Installing the Side Doors
Door installed on camper using a stainless steel piano hinge from McMaster Carr.
Another view of the door on the camper.
Kim sealing the door using polyurethane.
Step 20: Galley Door Structure
Using plywood, we cut out the shape of the galley to form the galley door.
Ribs installed and corner gussets to strengthen the frame. Notice how I had to support the door with bracing to counter act the forces of the plywood when it is attached. This will keep the curved shape from opening up.
Attaching the outer skin of the galley door.
Step 21: Galley Door Interior
View from the underside of the door. Notice the plywood added to support the latch.
The inside skin is attached after installing insulation. Notice how I had to add more bracing using a bar clamp to hold the curved shape of the door until the glue sets up.
Step 22: Installing the Galley Door
The galley door after removing the bracing.
The galley door sitting in place on the camper. Notice the aluminum teardrop camper hinge.
Galley door installed and gas struts holding it up.
Step 23: Wheels and Fenders
The wheels are 13” and the fenders are for a 15” tire bought from Tractor Supply. I carefully bent the fenders closer to the shape of the tires so they will extend blow the frame. This picture show the fender sitting on a block of wood above the tire to get an idea of where to mount them.
Sanding the fenders and cleaning with alcohol before priming and painting.
Painted fenders using Rustoleum black hammered paint.
Step 24: Battery Box
Battery box built on the galley floor.
Step 25: Trim and Finishing
Cutting and installing oak trip on the side of the camper. We had to cut the curve of the trim in pieces then glue and brad to the side.
Here you can see the trim installed along the roof line. Also see the Ford model A taillight mounted to the fender.
Installing the remaining oak trim on the camper.
Step 26: Galley Baskets
Kim is building crates to house all the loose goodies we will be packing with us in the galley.
The crates assembled and in place inside the galley to check for correct fitment. Great job Kim!
The crates stained. Notice the galvanized metal on the front. Kim wants to be able to attach magnets to the front.
Step 27: Home Stretch
View of the camper nearing completion in the shop.
Heavy duty drawer slide for the cooler.
View of the galley.
Step 28: Finishing Touches
Inside view of the cabin.
Exterior light made from a mason jar.
Step 29: Model a Trailer Hitch
The hitch receiver we built for our 1929 Ford model A Ford.
Final adjustments to the hitch and wiring.
Step 30: Pulled by the Ford
So here is what she looks like behind the old car.
And another view.
At a rest area in the Smokey Mountains.
Step 31: Camping
Camper at a campsite after we just arrived and unhooked.
Here we are in Bardstown KY pulling modern.
Camping at Pickett State Park in TN.
Step 32: Camping Group
Our camping buddies and their home built campers. Notice the guys hiding in the shade as the ladies are in the office getting our camp sites.
Another cool picture.
Step 33: More Camping
Camping at Pickett State Park in TN.
Camping with friend in the fall at Barron River State Park in KY.