By Larry & Diane Sorensen
My wife and I were tent camping out in a California desert back in the winter
of 1998 when we about froze to death. We came home that following evening and
saw a PBS television show on Teardrop trailers. We both said to each other, "We
gotta get one of those!"
The Sorensens and their rugged Teardrop offroads in the
roughest conditions without a "hitch."
The history of the Teardrop trailer dates back to
the early 1930s, and the design was based on a 4'x 8' sheet of plywood. They had
just enough room for two adults to sleep in and had a chuck wagon-type kitchen
in the back under a hinged hatch lid. After WWII, Teardrops really took off
because people were building them with war surplus aluminum and other
Back in 1998 when we decided to build a Teardrop, there weren't
many websites available on the topic. The only information was in old Popular
Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated and other magazines dating from the 1930s to the
1940s. These were limited "do-it-yourself" articles that just gave the basics on
how to construct a Teardrop.
I printed the few photographs I could find on
the Internet at the time and visited all our local utility trailer
manufacturers, RV repair and welding shops. They all said, "You're building a
what?" None of them had even heard of (let alone seen) a Teardrop.
Tricked out in the old woody style, Teardrops take
ahead and built my chassis frame, and then I heard of an annual Teardrop
gathering being held in San Diego County, which was the same annual gathering on
the PBS program. We went, and the first thing we noticed was that no two
Teardrop trailers were alike. Everyone either purchased an old original that
they found in someone's backyard or constructed a new one from scratch. They
then added their own customized touches to personalize their trailer.
soon found out that a Teardrop is not a downscaled RV or travel trailer. They
are an upgrade from a tent. Most RVers spend most of their camping time inside.
With a Teardrop, you're forced to spend your time outside, only sleeping inside
during the evening and making all your meals outside in the small,
self-contained kitchen under the hatch back. Teardrop camping ends up being much
more convenient than camping in a tent or setting up a tent trailer.
A matching red Teardrop is the perfect
accessory for a red hot rod.
though the basic Teardrop trailer is based on a 4'x 8' sheet of plywood, there
are some that are 4'x 10', 5'x 9', 5'x 10' or even larger. It all depends on the
size of your mattress, some have a twin, double/full or queen size bed. Some are
"teardrop" shaped, coming to a point in the back and some are more squared off.
There have been numerous mass producers of Teardrop trailers over the years,
but most have been short lived. The dealer profits were just not there. Today,
there are manufacturers scattered all over the country with prices ranging from
$3,000 to $10,000. Some have been built using salvaged material for $500, and a
few are in the $25,000 range. Ours cost $5,000 in materials, and one year's
worth of weekends to build.
You can build a Teardrop using basic tools at a
cost of $2,000 and up in three or four months' worth of weekend labor. The
weight range is 600-1,500 pounds, and it can be towed with any compact car. Some
Teardrops are even custom built to tow behind motorcycles. Storage isn't an
issue considering their compact size, and with today's gas prices, the Teardrop
is a very practical camping alternative.
Back in 1998, there were only about
6 Teardrop trailer websites. Today, there are hundreds. Now, there are discussion forums where Teardroppers share their ideas and help out the
There are sites showing the step-by-step construction processes, or
others selling plans on how to build or restore your own.
Hot rod and classic car buffs have taken
to taking Teardrops.
trailers are becoming more popular than ever. It's the hot rod and classic car
buffs that are finding interest in them. Most are custom built to match their
cars, using custom paint, special wheels and tires, etc. The owners of these
rigs soon find out that while at the shows, the spectators are more interested
in the Teardrop trailer than they are in the car.
One unique thing Teardrop
trailer owners soon find out is while driving around town or on the highway,
strangers will wave or give you a thumbs up. When we pull into a gas station to
fill up, we receive comments from strangers like "What's that?" "Where did you
buy it?" "Do you sell plans?" Or the most common one is: "You sleep in that?"
She may not be thrilled, but the owner is with his encapsulated camper.
They do draw attention. When a Teardrop pulls into a campground loaded with
monster motor homes and 5th wheels, people will come over to your campsite to
check the cute little trailer out. While many of the large RVs pull into their
campsite, they roll out their slide-outs, pull down the curtains, and that's the
last you see of them. On the other hand, Teardroppers are outside, cooking with
their outdoor kitchen or hanging around the campfire.
All Teardrop trailer
owners have a special gift. There's a camaraderie and fellowship between them.
Now, there are over 40 annual gatherings all throughout the United States where
Teardroppers join up to display their unique little trailers. Most will set up
displays at their campsite, some being 1930-1940's period antiques or other
outdoor displays, all having individual themes. These Teardrop gatherings draw
in a lot of spectators and local media.
This is the oldest original Teardrop Larry's seen-a 1937 home-built that was
stored in a barn. The owner washed off the pigeon poop, and it was ready to go.
All original and never restored, it has no siding, just painted wood.
Our Teardrop was built with another
purpose in mind. It had to be pulled by our 4-wheel drive Jeep and taken off
road. We had to put that into consideration while designing and building it.
It's more heavy duty than your standard Teardrop. We added features like wall
insulation throughout, a 12v bed heating pad, homemade 12v evaporative cooler,
off road tires and gas shocks, wind-proof propane stove and Kemlite Filon FRP
siding to withstand the rigors of off road travel.
We've taken our off road
Teardrop trailer all over the Southwest, including Baja Mexico. It has more off
road miles than most have highway miles. We've taken our Teardrop into places
where no other travel trailer could venture. We can also change campsite
locations at a moment's notice. The convenience of having an "instant" bed and
kitchen already set up sure makes camping more enjoyable for us. We will never
camp with a tent ever again. We may purchase a large RV for other purposes, but
we'll NEVER get rid of our Teardrop. There is no other camping vehicle that can
match them in convenience or style.
Our thanks to Larry
& Diane Sorenson of Hemet, California, for this article. On their webpage
(http://www.outbackteardrop.com), you can read about more of their Teardrop
adventures and see some classic Teardrops at gatherings. There is an
international Teardrop newsletter, "Tales & Trails, The Teardrop Times",
which can be seen at www.teardrops.net
and has information on manufacturers,
parts suppliers, etc.