SignaTour Campers LLC, a small company that builds teardrop trailers in Tampa, Fla., has added several trailers to its lineup.
According to Tiny House Talk, models include:
• The 4-foot by 7-foot Daytona is the company’s smallest at 600 pounds, allowing for towing with any car and some motorcycles and trikes. There’s also a torsion axle to help with handling.
• The 5-foot by 8-foot Venice weighs approximately 800 pounds and features a rear entry, which is a bit unique for teardrop campers.
• The Biscayne is 5-foot by 8-foot also with double side entry, rear cabinetry and a front cargo area. The floorplan also provides lots of natural lighting with double entry glass doors and two windows.
• The Rockledge has a 3,500 pound suspension, front storage box and a standard roof rack installed. This model targets outdoors enthusiasts.
All of the campers have a natural birch interior, indoor and outdoor carpeted floors, aluminum wheels and fenders, storage and a host of available options.
Sometimes when Joe and Leslie Kosareff pull into a campground, they encounter anything but peace and privacy. Fellow campers just can’t seem to resist their little tin can of a trailer. With its pudgy little teardrop-shaped body set low on two white sidewall tires, and measuring a diminutive 9 feet long by 4½ feet wide, it is the anti-RV.
As reported by the Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif., there is just enough space for two people to cuddle up inside at night and cook out during the day from a rear hatch.
But what the Kosareffs’ trailer lacks in amenities it makes up for in efficiency, ease and an indefinable cuteness that is fueling a mini-revival of “the teardrop trailer,” which was a familiar sight on America’s highways back in the ’30s and ’40s.
“It’s like the best of everything,” says Kosareff, a builder by trade who began making custom teardrops after arthritis made it difficult for him to continue with his fine carpentry. “You’re still camping but you have the convenience of a trailer. You just hook it up and go.”
Longtime campers, the 50-something couple found themselves tiring of schlepping gear and sleeping on the ground. So after seeing a piece on teardrop “gatherings” — camp-ins with fellow Teardrop aficionados — featured on the folksy PBS show “California’s Gold,” a few years back, Leslie turned to her husband and asked, “Could you build one of those?”
“We were at that age when it was just getting too hard to get up off the ground,” says Joe.
“And then we were having to deal with air mattresses with leaks in them.”
And yet the couple wasn’t ready to succumb to an RV when their goal was to get close to nature.
“We’re not trailer people,” he says. “We’re campers.”
The beauty of the teardrops is that they’re like a hard-sided tent on wheels. The sleeping compartment includes a full-sized bed and built-in storage and drawers for the accoutrements of outdoor living and simple travel.
The back, in typical teardrop fashion, opens up to reveal a galley kitchen with drawers for pots, pans, plates and flatware, counter space for a cook stove and a deep cabinet for either a refrigerator or big ice chest.
“It just so easy,” says Kosareff, who now custom-builds teardrop trailers in several sizes starting with a tiny 4- by 8-footer that weights only about 650 pounds. “It’s all set up. All you have to do is pack your clothes. If it’s midnight when you get to your campsite, you just crawl in.”
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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, the Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph reported.
“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 (March 4) through Sunday. The event also will feature recreational vehicles of all kinds, including travel trailers, fifth-wheels and motorhomes. 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.”