In the March/April 1939 issue of Popular Homecraft a story ran, along with detailed plans, for something that was dubbed the “Honeymoon House Trailer…”
…designed and built by Louis Rogers of Pasadena, California. He had literally saved his dimes and built this little gem back in the 30’s, to take his new bride on their wedding trip. The 8’x4’ floor plan was had tongue-and-groove flooring on a pine chassis, and Rogers used a Chevy front axle with 28” wheels and 1926 rear fenders. The odd little trailer slept two and had a raise-up deck lid for a rear kitchenette, with ice box and stove. A curtain-enclosure outside the starboard entry served at the “dressing room.” The teardrop trailer was born.
DIYers went crazy. They used Rogers’ plans, and soon added touches of their own. After World War II, the trailer evolved with models sporting Jeep wheels and exterior skins made from bombers’ wings. After the 50’s, their popularity started dropping when larger RVs appeared, but then returned with a vengeance. Today you can find a number of websites for plans (some free!), photo galleries, forums and clubs. Teardrop trailer enthusiasts believe that creating, renovating and modifying their own models are what give the little campers their timelessness—and the most rewarding way to own a teardrop!
I first noticed the teardrop trailer when surfing for a tent trailer to take on road trips. From time to time, “teardrop trailer” results would pop up, and eventually I started clicking on them. My first impressions: These critters are small… they’re cute… wow, they’re equipped… oh wow, they’re cool! The best of the bunch, IMHO, were the homemade models. They remind me of the Pinewood Derby race cars we made as kids—there were always a couple that hijacked the event, they were so amazing.
I also saw that the Harbor Freight utility trailer was a favorite for the frame, particularly the Haul-Master 1195 lb. 4’x8’ foldable trailer…
There seems to be a controversy over whether or not a foldable utility trailer should be used, but as is shown in the above photo, they’ve proven to be very capable. This model–
–aptly named “Woody,” is a simple, classic example of the DIY teardrop trailer. When I asked Steve Edling, the site owner, to use a picture of Woody for this article, he graciously consented and added that a number of Harbor Freight tools were also used in its creation. Indeed, Kuffel Kreek, a provider of teardrop trailer plans, lists several must-have Harbor Freight tools one should get before starting, including a brad nailer, air shears and angle grinder.
Type in phrases like “teardrop trailer harbor freight” on Google and you’ll get tons of sites—including a few YouTube videos—that talk about using Harbor Freight’s utility trailers in their projects. This isn’t just because the trailers are inexpensive—it’s because they’re rugged, reliable, durable AND inexpensive. I mean, if you’re going to invest all that time, sweat, and money (and probably a pint or two of blood) in this labor of love, would you risk the integrity of its frame? Neither would I.
The American-born DIY teardrop trailer is more than just a cool, little camper. It’s a gratifying project of personal expression, something you can climb into and go to sleep knowing, you built this! It’s not an easy project—as noted on Kuffel Kreek, “Anything that bounces down the highway at 65 MPH isn’t easy”—and if you’ve never built anything before, forget it (I should probably hone my skills a tad more before I attempt it), It also takes space and time. But the payoff is awesome, and your teardrop trailer will retain its value much longer than any other RV on the road.
Check out this great photo gallery which includes several teardrop trailers!