Recently, in the top-secret Car Lust underground bunker, garage, test facility, and broken soft drink vending machine storage area, one of our own contributors said that maybe we should write more about "forgotten or bizarre cars."
Well, I thought we had been doing that, at least a little, but ok. So in response to that challenge, I'd like to present one of the least known and used forms of RV travel and camping ever... the mighty mini Teardrop Trailer.
But first, a lot of folks share the Top Gear presenters' opinions of RVs... that they are slow, they clog up the highways, and use up too much fuel. They have even done several films showing their dismay of "caravans" and the like. A teardrop does none of that traffic hinderment... these miniscule mobile homes are extremely lightweight, and add almost no drag at all to any vehicle that is pulling them.
I was first exposed to these moving microbial mansions in 1979, when my friend whose family had the '69 Buick Riviera brought one home. Each of our group had RVs of some description during our high school/college days, and this trailer was his contribution to our makeshift campground. I had a '68 Ford 1/2-ton pickup with a small camper on the bed, but that's another story.
He bought the trailer as a "fixer-upper," and we helped him where we could. Electrically-minded Dave ran wires, attached lights, and installed a 12-volt fan. I could use a jigsaw and a drill, so installing the panelling and the skylight/vent were my jobs. So was reattaching the hatch when it fell off which, luckily, was only once.
My bud painted his teardrop with the same bright aluminum paint used on propane tanks, and it shined very well. There was also the relief that all of the parts were finally the same color. He nicknamed it "The Cubstream" after a well-known silver travel trailer company, but we kind of thought it was really "the pits." So the trailer became known as "The Pitstream," and that name has stuck till this day.
But his father never saw the beauty of the Pitstream, and one day it was banished from the property. The last I heard, the new owner used it as a portable kennel for hunting dogs. So a few years ago, I made this rough model of the trailer just to remember it by.
What are the requirements of a teardrop trailer? Well, really there aren't any. Sometimes they don't even always look like teardrops, and they're not always trailers. But a spirit is there that you know one when you see one, and that's maybe the most unique thing about them.
Personally, I see most teardrops as being about four feet wide, eight or so feet long, and about four feet tall on the inside. But that is always subject to interpretation. Teardrop sizes range from one that can be towed behind a bicycle to ones you can actually stand up in.
Inside accomodations include a bed and, well, that's about it sometimes. You might add a skylight/vent for free daytime lighting and nighttime air freshening. Maybe a small cabinet above the pillow area (Be careful how fast you get up in the middle of the night or you'll knock your noggin!), and thanks to the advent of flat screen TVs, there may be room for a small one on the kitchen bulkhead.
All of your cooking utensils, gas stove, drinks, cooler, fresh veggies, vittles, and fixins are right at your fingertips. You might want a folding chair to sit on while your meal is being prepared, or just use the cooler if you want to save space.
The hatch lid serves double duty as both a cover when closed and a shield for either bad weather or too much sunshine when open. You may wish to add a small opening to acces your kitchen from the sleeping quarters, should you feel the need for some munchies during the night.
This would be handy if the weather outside is frightful, or if you just don't want to parade around the campground in your jammies.
Another nice uniqueness to teardrops is that you can either buy a brand new, ready-made one, or you can build it yourself from, well, anything you have. They can be all-metal, all-wood, fiberglass, old stuff, or anything in between.
Just get a small trailer bed/chassis (or similar), some plans (maybe), and have at it. This is where all those years of high school shop class come in handy, and your tools get a workout as well.
The hatch, if there is one, doesn't have to open; you can use the kitchen space for storage or other things. The size can be what you wish.
Also during construction, you can wire the trailer for lights, sound systems, cable TV, internet, and AC plugs. I wouldn't bother much with plumbing.
I have described teardrop trailers to some as "One step above a tent." That meaning you are above the ground in an enclosed shelter, but hardly in a huge motorhome or camper. If it rains, you might stay dry. If the battery doesn't go down, you should have lights. A flashlight or two might be good to have on a camping adventure. So would some spare batteries.
There seems to be quite a following of these too. Several groups exist for support and have been around for years, and there's no sign of slowing down. In fact, if anything, teardrop trailers are having a resurgance, as they absolutely have to be the most frugal form of hard-shell RVs.
Would I ever want a teardrop? Maybe. If I ever had an RV, it would have to be self-contained, having a kitchen, bathroom, and living/sleeping quarters. But it would be fun to design and build one's own camper, whether you tow it across the country, take it back on the farm, or just go down the street to show it off.
I do have a 5x10 utility trailer, which would be a good start. Hmmm... maybe, just maybe...
So let's head over to England, hitch a teardrop to a Mini Cooper, and see if we can get in front of Clarkson, Hammond, and May. I'm sure they'll be astonishingly amused at this forgotten and/or bizarre RV.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
Image credits: The first image is from TinCanTourists.com. I took the photo of the Pitstream that day it was purchased in 1979. The model is also of my doing. The interior cabinetry picture is from Farm7.Static.Flickr.com. The teardrop kitchen photo is from WordPress.com. The teardrop trailer under construction was found at PurpleSageTradingPost.com. The teardrop campground image is from KendallDog.com. The teardrop trailer CAMP-INN image is from TinyCamper.com.