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.