Teardrop Trailers rise in popularity

The economy has influenced all facets of daily life and occasionally in a good way.

Teardrop trailers, around since the 1930s, are seeing a boom in popularity.

A teardrop trailer, also known as a teardrop camper trailer, is a streamlined, compact, lightweight travel trailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear.

Teardrop trailers first became popular in the 1930s, when magazines such as Mechanics Illustrated published plans. The first teardrops were designed around the idea of using standard 4 by 8-foot sheets of plywood with hardwood spars. Teardrop trailers remained popular until the mid 1960s after which they disappeared from mainstream camping. However, in the late 1990s, plans became available on the internet and in recent years teardrop trailers have made a resurgence and are again growing in popularity.

A teardrop trailer is generally small, ranging from 4 to 6 feet in width and 8 to 10 feet in length. They are usually from 4 to 5 feet in height. Wheels and tires are usually outside the body and are covered by fenders. Since teardrop trailers are so light, usually less than 450 kg (1000 pounds), just about any vehicle can tow one and fuel consumption is minimally affected.

There is room inside a teardrop trailer for two people to sleep as well as storage for clothes and other items. Outside, in the rear under a hatch, there is usually an area for cooking referred to as the galley. Teardrop trailers tend to have lighting and other electrical power supplied by battery, although some have mains power hookups like regular travel trailers.

Some teardrop trailer owners participate in camping events for teardrop trailers (called ‘gatherings’). The teardrop trailer phenomenon is not local to any one country. Builders reside throughout the Americas, Europe, Israel, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. In Australia they are known as teardrop campers. Their popularity has resulted in the establishment of several commercial manufacturing organisations, and in the import of some North American models.

In Auburn, American River Sales has sold American Teardrops for 10 years and recently began manufacturing them in response to increased demand, according to general manager Bud Hausman.

“We can’t build them fast enough,” he said.

The teardrop is designed for convenience.

“It can be towed behind any car, including electric cars,” Hausman 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.”

The original teardrop design appeared in the 1930s. Then in 1944, Popular Mechanics ran an article on how to build one at home, according to Hausman.

“The unit we build is a pretty close replica of those 1940s units, using modern-day materials,” he said.

The average size of the trailer is 5 feet by 8 feet. There are windows on both sides and a door on one side. American River’s basic models range from $3,995 to $5,995.

You get the base model and then you outfit it the way you want. Among the options are air conditioning, pullout kitchen and mattresses.

“If you added every option, the unit would still be about $8,000,” Hausman said.

The Auburn store geared up its manufacturing site earlier this summer. Prior to that, the teardrops were all made at American Teardrop headquarters in Elkhart, Ind.

“This past year, we decided to open a factory here to cut down shipping costs,” Hausman said.

On Nov. 1, the factory is moving to a new, larger location at the corner of Borland Avenue and Lincoln Way. Hausman said he expects to add another six to 10 jobs to the already six jobs created when the plant is fully up and running.

American Teardrop is only one of numerous brands that make the teardrop trailer. But most are custom-design manufacturers that turn out a few units a year and charge much more for their product, Hausman explained.

“It’s becoming so popular that big companies are coming out with mini-models to compete with teardrops because they know that’s where the market is growing,” he said.

American River Sales will have one of its teardrop trailers at this weekend’s Vintage Trailer Classic show in Old Town Auburn.

Gary Moffat, owner of Carpe Vino and organizer of the show, will have a 1937 model on display along with American River’s new model.

“(I thought) wouldn’t it be fun to see one of the new ones side by side (with the 1937 edition) to see how it evolved over the years,” Moffat said. “But, in fact, there hasn’t been much change.”

Moffat has become a vintage trailer enthusiast after purchasing a 1972 Airstream Globe Trotter a year ago. He took his idea for the show to the Old Town Business Association, which signed on as a sponsor.

“An interesting fact after we started this show is that this year is the 100th anniversary of the RV industry,” he said. “The first RV was built in 1910. When it started out, people built these things themselves.”

Moffat got acquainted with American River Sales as he was coordinating the show.

“I love what those guys are doing,” he said. “They’re creating jobs in Auburn and they’re doing something innovative in a tough market.”

Here are some photos of different styles and brands of teardrop trailers. You can do so many different things to these, you can personalize them to fit any and all your needs.

I want to build one. I think that it would be a great way to have a cheap vacation. You can park anywhere since it is so small. You can literally go to Disneyland and park in a 24 hour restaurant’s parking lot and stay the night there, or some other creative parking spot. That would literally save you $300+. As well as it would be a great way to camp if you are not a fan of staying outdoors in a tent. I want one to tow behind the 55 Chrysler. When I first seen the 55 I silently said “that tow hitch is going to be the first to go” but then when I thought about the possibility of having a teardrop it quickly changed to “that tow hitch is the first to stay” ha ha. I am looking into the cost of building one. I want to incorporate some small conveniences such as a computer, satellite tv, air conditioning, Sink with faucet, and a gas range. I want to build the best trailer. I would love to have a bigger trailer but those are a little pricey. I have been told that you can build a teardrop around $3000 and I plan to do so.

Thanks for reading,

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Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 2:50 PM  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] 9. Tear Drop Trailers Rise in Popularity (Click here to read this article) […]

  2. I agree! Teardrop Trailers rise in popularity! I hope I’ll could have the coolest trailer soon!:)

  3. Great post about Teardrop Trailers rise in popularity! keep posting!

  4. I’ve just gotten into how cool these trailers are now I’m obsessed!! Thanks for the great informative article and all of the wonderful photos. This is our first step to getting a retro airstream trailer.

  5. […] the country and seeing it up close, instead of out of some airplane window. Ideally, some sort of retro teardrop trailer would be involved. It’s always been a nice dream, something to plan on for future […]


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