Cool campers hit the road

June 11, 2011
  • Jill Hocking, The Australian.

“HEY, aren’t you a little cutie?” Is the woman on the bush path speaking to me, rubbing sleep out of my eyes as I emerge from our caravan? Or is she addressing my partner, Andrew, who’s lying in the shade of a coastal banksia, reading?

She approaches and peers into our little mobile abode. “Come and have a look at this!” she calls to her husband. “Does it pop up? What’s in there? Can you stand up? What do you do in there?”

Our caravan is different to others cruising Australian roads: it is low-slung and streamlined and features art-deco curves that resemble the shape of a tear. It is called a Teardrop.

We are exploring the beaches of far eastern Victoria for a few days, road-testing the second-hand Teardrop we bought from an advertisement in our local paper.

On this maiden voyage we’ll pitch up in a caravan park in Lakes Entrance and bush camp at Cape Conran Coastal Park.


This is an opportunity for us two caravan rookies to find our towing legs.

We give the woman and her husband a guided tour of the “little cutie”. Inside the Teardrop, a double mattress takes up the whole floor space. (Unless you are of Lilliputian proportions, you cannot stand up.)

Doors on both sides mean an easy exit in the middle of the night. There’s clothes storage above the foot of the bed and more stowing space behind our heads. A central fluorescent light and neat LED reading lights take care of night-time illumination.

Outside, at the back of the van, we lift the hatch to reveal the natty kitchenette: fridge, gas cooktop, sink, space for food preparation and storage for crockery, cutlery and pots and pans.

Fixed to the front is a capacious metal box for the wet-weather awning and non-perishable food. At the caravan park we pitch at a powered site and in the bush we use the battery. The Teardrop is light and manoeuvrable and needs neither stick-out mirrors nor the grunt of a 4WD to tow.

Teardrop trailers-for-two first hit the road in the US in the 1930s but it wasn’t until after World War II that the phenomenon properly took off. The September 1947 edition of Mechanix Illustrated: The How-To-Do Magazine featured building instructions for a double bed on wheels in the shape of a teardrop.

Teardrops went hand in hand with Americans’ desire for a simpler life after years of wartime austerity. The backwoods and the water beckoned; what better way to experience the romance of the open road than in a trim caravan with fetching retro curves?

Early models were built from salvaged World War II Jeep axles and wheels. Exterior skins came from the wings of wartime bombers.

Americans’ love affair with the classic teardrop waned in the 1950s. They wanted bigger and better in their mobile homes, and over the years got what they wished for: chunky caravans featuring not only a kitchen sink but dishwashers, washing machines and dryers, top-end entertainment systems and more.

At the caravan park in Lakes Entrance, our Teardrop stands out in a crowd of big rigs resembling aircraft carriers on wheels.

Curious campers sidle past our van and stop to chat. They soon work out its kitchenette is exposed to the elements and that, no, you can’t stand up inside. One couple, with a glance at our snug sleeping quarters, say wistfully, “Oh, you must love each other.” They reminisce about cosy caravan holidays of times past, all the family piled in together.

We point out its features to another couple, who look at us as if we have lost our minds. “It’s all you need,” they declare, appraising the van’s basic comforts. But is it relief I see flickering across their faces as they scuttle back to their luxury tourer, overflowing with bells and whistles?

A holiday in our jaunty little van reduces life to its simplest terms. At Marlo we pull over, raise the kitchen hatch and within minutes are sipping an alfresco coffee by the mouth of the Snowy River. We trundle into the camping area at Cape Conran at dusk, unhitch, crank the prop stands down and still have time for a swim before nightfall. In the morning we wake to the screech of rosellas high in the trees.

A Teardrop holiday might be a smallish step up from camping, but when the skies open we count our lucky stars that we are above the ground, warm and dry, and not in a tent. The LED lights cast a warm glow as we read in bed.

At Cann River we discover that our Teardrop is by no means the cutest of the pack. We stop for a picnic in the park and are approached by the local police officer. His wife is mad about Teardrops, he tells us. In his backyard shed we gaze at the sweetest, most minuscule van we’ve seen: porthole windows, shelves and a pint-sized bed. (They must really love each other.)

Little did we know when we set eyes on this second little cutie that our two Teardrops are part of a zeitgeist in retro caravanning. Across the globe classic caravans are becoming cool.

And how does the Teardrop fare on its inaugural odyssey? We hit our towing straps by day three; bumping in and out of campsites is a breeze. But the next day we come undone when we stop for a picnic on a rutted bush track and discover that a spring has shattered. (It’s not until later that we learn our double bed on wheels, built by a DIY enthusiast in 2004, was assembled on a 1970s trailer base.)

We are rescued after dark by a chain-smoking panelbeater who winches the van on to his tray truck, where it slips and slides its way back to town.

After we’ve spent two nights in a motel, the Teardrop is repaired and we are back on the road. We decide this gives a new meaning to the term “tearing up”.

Original Article


Annual rally brings campers to PB

May 22, 2011

Dressed in the fashions of the era, owners of some 250 travel trailers from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s greeted the public Saturday afternoon at Pismo Coast Village RV Resort in Pismo Beach.

Many of the Airstream, Shasta, Silver Streak, Vagabond and other classic travel trailers were decorated with accessories that could have been found inside and around them back in the days when they were new.

Some of the units were even towed by vintage vehicles ranging from 1940s Hudson pickups to 1950s Willys wagons.

The trailers were on public display during the fourth annual Trail Along to Pismo, a four-day rally organized by Vintage Trailer Camp.

For more information about the group and vintage trailer events, visit

Original Article

Hand-built caravan wins Teardrop Challenge competition

May 18, 2011

Monday, 16, May 2011 02:46

by Holly Tribe

A one-of-a-kind teardrop trailer has been crowned the champion in a caravan building competition at a recent campervan festival.

Vantastival in Co. Louth, Ireland, is now in its second year and is a festival dedicated to fans of live music and campervan culture. This year, event organisers invited revellers to renovate, or construct from scratch, a micro-caravan in the ‘Teardrop Challenge’.

The Teardrop trailer became popular in 1930’s America, and has since developed a dedicated fanbase of caravan and DIY enthusiasts. It gets its name from the distinctive teardrop profile, but models come in all sizes, shapes and colours.

Entrants were encouraged to be as off-the-wall as their imaginations would allow, with judges basing their final verdict on the exterior look and the standard of the interior finish.

According to the Donegal Democrat, the winning entrant was constructed by 29-year-old Enda McFadden, who began building the caravan just a few weeks before the start of the festival.

A carpenter by trade, Enda used his skills to construct the two berth caravan – receiving Euro500 worth of DEWALT power tools for his efforts.

The judges were particularly impressed with the exterior design scheme; Enda used blackboard paint on the caravan’s walls and invited spectators to decorate the caravan with their own designs.

Original Article

American Teardrop Trailer – Roaming Times Review

May 3, 2011

American Teardrop says: “We have been able to drastically lower the price of teardrop camper trailers by using assembly line production technique and eliminating the distributer mark up. Our streamlined production facilities make it possible for us to lower our price while giving you the quality and the features you expect.”

Important dimensions:
4 models are available – see below
Overall length 7’2″ ‘/ 13’0″
For specifications of the 4 models click here

MSRP  from $3995 (5/2011), kits avalable from $2995
(American says: “$2995 – $6995 All American made classic camper!”)



 American Teardrop


LOA 13’0″
Weight 925 lbs
Tongue weight 101 lbs


American Teardrop


LOA 11’10”
Weight 840 lbs
Tongue weight 80 lbs



American Teardrop


LOA 10’6″
Weight 748 lbs
Tongue weight 72 lbs


American Teardrop


LOA 7’2″
Weight 240 lbs
Tongue weight 24 lbs



From the Auburn Journal California:

The teardrop is designed for convenience.
 “It can be towed behind any car, including electric cars,”  Bud Hausman (general manager of American River Sales in Auburn) said.  “They’re super lightweight.  They’re the RV for the next generation.”  The trailers have been increasing in popularity for the last 15 years, “with the last two years seeing the biggest growth we’ve ever seen,” he said.
The demographic is just about everyone who enjoys the outdoors.  “Because of high gas prices, people don’t want a second high-mileage vehicle,” Hausman said. “They want to have their car and go on vacation.”
Teardrops offer a no-to-low frills experience.  “People love camping, but no one wants to sleep on the ground,” he said. “When they walk away, they want to be able to lock up all the gear inside.”

Original Article

Skillful fan builds a teardrop camper

April 24, 2011

Retro design harkens to ’30s, ’40s, draws a crowd

Two years ago, Gordon McAuliffe noticed a few unusual-looking campers pull into his Town Mountain Travel Park in Hendersonville. McAuliffe, 57, saw the unique, retro-style teardrop trailers in tow and immediately took a liking to them.

Teardrop trailers, also known as teardrop campers, gained notoriety in the 1930s, ’40s and early ’50s. The convenient, compact camping trailer got its name for its streamlined teardrop shape and is typically 4 feet to 6 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet to 10 feet long.

The camper weighs about 800 to 1,000 pounds and has enough room for two people to sleep. It can also be towed by smaller vehicles and even motorcycles, McAuliffe said.

He also owns a carpentry business, Gem Painting and Home Repair, and jumped at the opportunity to build his own teardrop trailer, built out of birch and aluminum. It took four months to complete the project.

“This was a challenge because everything is rounded,” McAuliffe said.

One of the more unique features is found in the rear of the camper. A hatch opens, revealing a small cooking area called a “galley.”

Opening the hatch on his own camper, McAuliffe showed off a small gas-burning grill, a couple of coolers with a small shelf to prepare meals. Some teardrops even come with a kitchen sink.

McAuliffe enjoys simplicity when it comes to camping. “I’m a minimalist,” he said.

With the compact camper, McAuliffe said he’s able to spend more time outdoors rather than “living” in one of the larger, modern RV models.

I camp for the experience,” he added.

Although he has yet to camp with the teardrop, McAuliffe displays it at local car shows and Music on Main. He parked it at Hendersonville’s Antique Car show with the vehicles and not campers. “I didn’t know how it would be accepted,” he said.

As he pulled up, six people immediately gathered around the small camper made of birch with a rounded aluminum roof. Inquisitive onlookers peered inside the cozy cabin where a mattress sits, along with shelves and cubby holes for storage.

The lights inside run off of a motorcycle battery, and the camper also has an electrical outlet and cable hook-up if they choose to watch their favorite television programs.

But McAuliffe hopes to do more than just show off his camper. He’s looking forward to taking a road trip with his wife, Deanna, as soon as his 17-year-old son, Matthew, can manage the family’s RV park for a weekend.

“I’d like to go cross country,” McAuliffe said. “It would be a blast.”

Young RV Sales in Kings Mountain is one of the few dealerships in the state that sells teardrop trailers.

“There has definitely been a resurgence of (teardrop trailers),” said Damien Gray, sales representative at Young RV Sales.

In the past three weeks, the dealership has sold three teardrops that typically cost between $3,000 and $9,000. The appeal is that they are more environmentally friendly than typical RVs, and because they are so light, they are more fuel efficient for the vehicle towing the teardrop trailer, he continued.

“It’s like a tent on wheels,” Gray said.


Original Article

World’s smallest caravan can be towed by scooter

April 21, 2011


It can be towed by a mobility scooter, measures just 2m by 75cm and is being suggested as a way of bagging a spot for the Royal Wedding… meet the world’s smallest caravan.

Despite the diminutive measurements the £5,500 QTvan caravan still boasts a full-sized bed, a 19 inch television, a drinks cabinet and tea making facilities.

Optional extras include solar roof panels, a SKY TV satellite dish, a games console, extra-wide wing mirror for mobility scooter and custom paint jobs.

And makers say the mini caravan is so small that if you need anything else, you could even tow it into a supermarket… though don’t expect to get there too quickly, it has a top speed of 6mph.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “Elderly spectators hoping to bag the best spot on the Royal Wedding procession route, but unwilling to spend a night camping on the pavement, can now buy a caravan designed to be towed by a mobility scooter.

“The QTvan is the world’s most environmentally-friendly caravan. Using a conventional caravan for a ‘staycation’ within Britain remains a relatively green way of taking a holiday.

“But if the electricity used to charge the mobility scooter is bought from a green provider, the QTvan is entirely carbon neutral.”

Developed by Environmental Transport Agency (ETA), the caravan was designed to highlight the 220,000 people who use a mobility scooter without breakdown cover.


Homemade teardrops offer campers chance to personalize campsite

February 28, 2011

By Scott Richardson

PEORIA — Teardrops form when Gary Daniel and Don Wheeler talk about camping but not because of bad days in the woods.

These do-it-yourselfers built their own “teardrops,” which are compact, efficient travel trailers measuring just 4 feet by 8 feet. Larger ones stretch a bit longer and wider. But they’re still basically just bedrooms on wheels.

“We call it ‘camping with a dry bed,'” said Wheeler, 64, of Groveland, a member of the Illinois contingent of a national club called the Tearjerkers.

Teardrops often have simple, well-organized kitchenettes that are fold-down tables for a workspace. Some have sinks with running water. Most teardrops are homemade so owners have a chance to decorate in unique styles to reflect their personalities.

Daniel and Wheeler will be among teardrop owners who will display their rigs at the Central Illinois Recreational Show at the Peoria Civic Center from Friday through March 6. The event also will feature recreational vehicles of all kinds, including travel trailers, fifth-wheels and motor homes. Vendors will represent campgrounds, tow vehicle dealers, ATV and golf cart sales and more.

Daniel built his teardrop to have an inexpensive way to travel to shows catering to his first love, street rods. He is president of the River Valley Drifters, a street-rod club based in the Peoria area. He’s restored several vehicles since his dad passed his enthusiasm for cars to him as a boy. He has a 1937 Cadillac LaSalle Coupe and a black 1950 Chevy with flames, which his teardrop is painted to match. He is creating a street rod from a 1954 cab-over-engine half-ton Chevy truck that once was a farm vehicle. He is also building a second teardrop that will be painted to match the truck.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Daniel, 71, a retired salesman.

One of his friends seems to have started a teardrop fad in the

street-rod club when he found an old teardrop trailer in the woods and decided to restore it. The metal-covered teardrop probably dated to the 1940s. Teardrops date to the Great Depression. They were simple and cheap to build from spare wood. They were also aerodynamic and light, which kept down fuel costs, Daniel said. Blueprints and directions appeared in how-to magazines of that day, including Popular Mechanics. After World War II, teardrop builders were able to use surplus aluminum.

One company started selling assemble-it-yourself teardrop kits, Wheeler said. They didn’t sell well until the company started selling fully assembled models.

“Then they went crazy,” Wheeler said.

Though on the roads consistently since then, teardrops faded in popularity as the horsepower of cars grew in the 1950s to allow travelers to haul bigger trailers with more amenities, like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz did in the movie “Long, Long Trailer.” Teardrops have enjoyed a revival in the past decade, Wheeler said.

Daniel and his wife, Stephanie, love the teardrop Daniel built from cast-off bed frames, plywood, a makeshift axle and wheels. They added a pressurized six-gallon tank for running water and a Coleman stove. The interior is paneled with wood and features shelves for a television and DVD player for movies.

At least two other friends are building teardrops, so they are fashioning an air-conditioning unit that will sit outside and keep up to four teardrops cool. He also has a shower that uses sun-heated water for hot showers.

But the teardrop is still mainly for sleeping. Even Stephanie Daniel, who is 5 feet, 10 inches tall, has plenty of room to stretch out inside. Still, the teardrop is usually the smallest trailer in the campground, a fact that doesn’t bother Daniel at all.

“One of the neat things about teardrops is you spend more time outside. In the big units, they sit watching TV. We with the teardrops are sitting outside around a campfire lying to each other and having fun,” he said.

Wheeler, who is retired from Caterpillar Inc., and his wife, Chris, come from scouting backgrounds. They’ve always liked staying in campgrounds. Their travels have taught them that less is more. They had motor homes and full-sized trailers over the years. But they weren’t enjoyable for someone who still had to clean a kitchen or a bathroom while on vacation.

“My wife would say, ‘This isn’t fun. I’d rather barbeque and have someone else clean the bathroom,'” Wheeler said.

Wheeler, who has restored two Model T Fords, purchased teardrop plans online and went to work. About $1,000 in materials and a winter’s worth of work off later and he created a trailer light enough to tow with a matching Volkswagen Beetle that still gets 25 highway miles a gallon, rig and all.

The teardrop is equipped with a microwave. They carry a camp stove to use on picnic tables to keep the mess away from the trailer. They also have a TV/DVD player mounted inside. A fan is enough for cooling. A heated mattress pad keeps them warm on cool nights. Full screens keep bugs out. The couple buys a week’s worth of groceries, carries a week’s worth of clothes in the teardrop’s closet and stops every seven days to do laundry and re-supply.

The best part:

“You have a dry bed. It starts raining or storming, you can get inside and shut the door. You don’t have to worry about floating around on an air mattress,” he said.

In addition to the convenience and the economy, Daniel and Wheeler like the people drawn to teardrop trailers.

“It’s a unique bunch,” Daniel said. “They are handy and they build their own stuff. That’s why it’s so interesting to street rodders. They like to say, ‘I built it.’ …You get bragging rights.”

Central Illinois Recreational Show

What: Displays of travel trailers, motor homes, fifth-wheels, tent campers, ATVs, golf carts, tow vehicles and more; special display of teardrop trailers

Where: Peoria Civic Center

When: Friday through March 6

Times: Friday 3 p.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; March 6, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Tickets: Adults, $8 (coupon for $2 off at website); children 7-12, $2; kids 6 and under free; Friday only, seniors (65 plus are $5;


Orinal Link

Never Cold in Sun Valley

February 13, 2011

It was a bright sunny day as I was cooking breakfast the crew that was building our garage was noticeably absent. I checked the thermometer and it registered 32 degrees below zero. If you are a carpenter that is an ideal temperature to call your boss and take a day off. If you are a skier it is a good day to hunker down and rest your sore muscles and tune up your skis.

For the last three days the wind has been howling out of the west at about 30 mph and during lunch in the lodge someone asked me if it ever got that cold when I was living in the parking lot in our eight-foot, tear-drop trailer.

Yes. It was a similarly bright sunny winter day, except without wind and about three and a half feet of snow had accumulated in the parking lot. Ward Baker and I had just finished cooking our bowls of oatmeal when we were politely asked to move our car and trailer so they could plow out our parking place.

When we had arrived in Sun Valley we had only planned on staying for about a week and we had been burying our trash in the snow bank beside the trailer.

There was no chance that our car would start without warming it up first so we got out our empty one-pound coffee can and filled it up with gasoline, lit it and shoved it under the engine. It contained just enough burning gasoline to warm up the oil in the engine but not big enough flames to catch the engine on fire. As the flames went out Ward stepped on the starter and the engine came to life. Well, it coughed and wheezed a little bit and then struggled to barely run.

Finally we were able to tow the trailer out from its own snow bank and the rotary snowplow could then carve a clean path through our part of the parking lot. We forgot about the trash that we had been burying in the snow bank behind our kitchen for the last three weeks. The giant rotary plowed through that trash and it landed in the trees above where we had been parking. Now hanging from the trees were milk cartons, polka dot Wonder Bread wrappers, old cans of corned beef hash and the carcasses of five rabbits we had shot in Shoshone on the way to Sun Valley.

From that moment forward for the rest of the winter it was easy to tell people that we were living under the tree with the milk cartons, pink napkins and bread wrappers.

But I have diverted from my temperature discussion. That winter we had no quilted parkas; they had not yet been invented. No one knew anything about layering and our soft leather boots were just that. The important thing for me in retrospect is that I didn’t know that I was supposed to be cold. It was a question of skiing every day all winter. And that was the answer, too.

We never had frostbite and we never complained about the cold because there was no one to complain to.

We did learn to wear long underwear with a sweater over it, then a nylon windbreaker and then another sweater. The second sweater kept the nylon parka close to the first sweater and somehow it worked.

You could always go into the Round House and warm up. You had to be careful, however, if you got too close to the fireplace because you might spend the entire day by the fireplace. I thought it was kind of dumb to ride clear up to Sun Valley from Los Angeles on the train and spend the day by the fireplace.

It really was great in Sun Valley then because the chairlift only hauled 426 people an hour and you could ski in untracked powder snow from one storm to the next whether you were cold. As far as I can remember, I was never cold, chilly perhaps, but never cold.

But my wife says I lie a lot.

Original Article

It’s What Lies Beneath

January 12, 2011

JARED MORGAN – The Southland Times

They hark back to a time when holidaying was done at a different pace, but sometimes the retro beauty of a caravan is only skin deep, according to Otatara businessman David Horsham.

Mr Horsham, who runs DH Caravan Repairs Ltd, said as the holiday season wound down it was the perfect time to check the bones of caravans.

“By the time you see any sign of a leak, it’s too late.”

Most of his six-year-old business is removing the outer shell of caravans to expose the often rotten wooden frame underneath.

It was a common problem people were not aware of, Mr Horsham said.

Most mass production of caravans stopped in New Zealand in the early 1980s, meaning maintenance, particularly of the joins in a caravan’s shell that potentially leak, was becoming increasingly important.

The only way effectively to ensure the joints were watertight was to remove and reseal them, he said.

“It’s about preventive maintenance … we had one caravan brought in that had broken at each corner after hitting a pothole. The frame had rotted and the impact broke its back.”

The work cost up to $1000 to fix a rotted-out corner but, in some cases, the extent of the hidden rot meant a complete rebuild, Mr Horsham said.

And it was at the rebuild and custom-build stage that his business came into its own, he said.

“We pride ourselves on doing things that are a bit outside the square.”

That included projects, such as building a replica classic “teardrop” caravan, through to complete restoration.

Teardrop caravans first appeared in the 1930s. Their popularity soared in the late 1940s, fuelled by plenty of war surplus aluminum.

At the restoration stage, most work involved stripping a caravan back to parts because of the way they were built, Mr Horsham said.

“If you liken it to a house, a caravan is built back-to-front.”

That meant much of the interior including floor coverings was fitted before the outer shell of the caravan, he said.

One of his latest projects was restoring a 1961 Starliner from the ground up, keeping as much of its original chrome and Formica interior fittings intact as possible.

Mr Horsham said word of mouth meant his customers came from across New Zealand and internationally.

“Mine and my father’s name is pretty well known.”

His father operated a similar business from Ryal Bush for 25 years, before retiring 11 years ago, he said.

“That was pretty much my apprenticeship. Every time I went home at the weekend it was ‘hey lad you’ve come at the right time’,” he said.

Original article

“Quackshack” tailgaters trying to get to Glendale

December 27, 2010
Eugene (KMTR)- For almost a decade, the “Quackshack” has been a part of the Autzen tailgating scene.  A group of friends wanted to create a place where everyone could come and tailgate.  In 2001 they traded a pair of tickets to a Duck game for a 1958 teardrop trailer- and the Quackshack was created.

Over the years, thousands of fans have signed the inside of the trailer and made it a part of the Autzen scene- they’ve even been named “Tailgaters of the Year.”

The owners promised themselves that if the Ducks ever got to the National Championship game, they’d take the Quackshack- which has never gone on a road trip- to that game.  So now they’re trying to get it done.

Symbolically, they’re doing it for every fan that’s ever been to the Quackshack- but as long-time Duck fans, they’re just trying to be a part of that once in a lifetime experience.

If you’d like to help them out, they’re on the hunt for gas money- and a flatbed trailer to haul the Quackshack to Glendale.  Search “Quackshack” on Facebook to find them.