Teardrop Camper

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Introduction: Teardrop Camper

About: I like to dabble in a bit of everything: woodworking, metalworking, sewing, electronics.

This project was 100% my parents (Arthur and Kim Hollis), but considering that they don’t have a website, I am showing it off here. I had my dad write a description for each picture:

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.

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    22 Comments

    0
    KIRSCHMANTIMOTHY
    KIRSCHMANTIMOTHY

    Question 2 months ago

    How much did this project cost?

    0
    Arthur Hollis
    Arthur Hollis

    Answer 2 months ago

    I'm afraid to look at the receipts. haha

    0
    judyspak
    judyspak

    2 months ago

    My father and a friend built one of these and my mom, two sisters and I drove across the country and back with it in 1967, my mom and oldest sister sleeping in the trailer, my other sis and I sleeping on the reclined seats in the 1959 Rambler. They build it on a readymade Sears Utility Trailer base instead of making their own - two hitches and one wheel on a swivel (with retractable legs for stability at campsites.) When the high winds out west had everyone else's trailer swaying and fishtailing, we just cruised on through! Yours is much more attractive though!!! Ours was painted gray. It improved as we added state decals - PA, OH, IN, IL...

    0
    Wo1fMane
    Wo1fMane

    Question 2 months ago on Step 33

    What are the materials and structure of the floor and is the floor insulated? Were the levelers/stabilizers off-the-shelf items? They weren't mentioned in the text, but stabilizers are pretty much mandatory for any camper that has a suspension, otherwise the slightest movement shakes the whole thing.

    0
    Arthur Hollis
    Arthur Hollis

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you

    2
    Marve48
    Marve48

    2 months ago

    Brillant job. My hat is off to you!

    0
    SpikeSmall
    SpikeSmall

    2 months ago

    This is so cool.

    0
    duncanis
    duncanis

    2 months ago

    GREAT JOB!! Beautiful work. I loved reading the whole instructable with the pictures. Great journey.

    Three questions:
    1. Shouldn't the battery box have some ventilation to prevent off gassing of hydrogen into the camper?
    2. Shouldn't the camper have a metal bumper to prevent the tender wooden edges from being demolished if someone accidentally rear-ends you?
    3. Shouldn't the exterior of the wood be covered in linseed oil or some weather protective coating (i mean I see you've done it but it would be nice to inform the uninitiated on how to do this and when)?

    PS - That galley is smashing and looks FASTASTIC!

    0
    Arthur Hollis
    Arthur Hollis

    Reply 2 months ago

    1) Yes you are right, if retrospect I should have put it on the tongue. I can still relocate it but we have moved up to a fiberglass U-haul camper so this beauty is just sitting in the garage.
    2) Yes, a bumper is a smart addition. Not sure it would help much in a collision but for for normal bumps and bruises it would definitely help.
    3) I sealed the outside with polyurethane several times since we built it. We camped with a canopy over it just to keep off the rain plus we could stand up outside the camper for cooking and socializing while the weather is bad.

    Thank you for your kind words

    0
    ChiefInstructor
    ChiefInstructor

    2 months ago on Step 33

    beautiful work. Well done. The finishing touches like trim and especially the Mason jar ad the right touch.

    0
    Arthur Hollis
    Arthur Hollis

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you, we were going for the "just out of the ordinary" looks to make it feel more like ourselves.

    0
    Ksyankee
    Ksyankee

    2 months ago

    Very Nice work! Just picked up a '78 MGB, may have to build this with a little "Shaggin Waggon" flair to tote around...

    0
    Arthur Hollis
    Arthur Hollis

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hahaha, you should totally do it.

    0
    sconnors
    sconnors

    2 months ago

    A terrific Instructable. Lots of information that would enable someone who wanted to build one to do so. Didn't waste time explaining how to do trivial stuff. Gorgeous woodworking! The fit of the galley door is incredible.

    0
    Arthur Hollis
    Arthur Hollis

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thank you for your kind words.

    0
    towellm
    towellm

    2 months ago

    Very pretty and excellent quality throughout. The teardrop is pleasing to the eye and retains utility. The framing and insulation is first class and nicely done, very inspiring..!! I'm fairly tall so I would add a few inches to some key dimensions. One question: Does this require some stabilizers (jacks) or is it small enough to omit?
    Agree about the battery concerns. Option: Put in a low vibration area (ex: the tongue ) external to the trailer (fire risk) and away from impact in a dedicated (usually fiberglass) battery box (provides leakage protection)...
    The tongue is the usual place for a "nasty stuff" box...i.e. tools, oil, fuel...etc....