When we were younger and our kids were in school, we would load them into the car, pack our camping gear into our canoe and flip the canoe upside down on top of the car. Off we’d go for a week’s vacation, or longer, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
As we have matured, and the kids went their separate ways, we have moved from tent camping to classic teardrop trailer camping. And, we are soon to move “up the line” in classic trailers, when we finish rehab on a 1964 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer.
We have owned two tiny trailers; our first was a cute little reproduction Kit Kamper, popular after World War II and one of the more frequent teardrop trailer styles seen today. The Kit was built on a platform of 4’X8’ plywood sheets; hence, 4’ wide, 4’ tall and 8’ long, with a 6’ sleeping compartment and a rear galley for camping storage.
Several years ago, we decided to up-size, and bought a slightly larger 1964 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer, still teardrop in style and needing a complete rebuild. This larger retro trailer offers a dinette, sleeps 3-4, with an interior sink, two-burner stove and stand-up room for someone 5’8” or shorter – my wife! And, this smaller classic will still fit in a standard garage (barely), important if you live in a homeowner’s association!
Procrastinating on the rebuild of the larger Scotty (now wedged in our garage), I purchased (through eBay) a beautiful reproduction 1958 Serro Scotty Sportsman Jr. teardrop, built in 2011. We have toured extensively with it, including two trips across the country, trips up the CA/OR and WA coasts to Vancouver, BC, and assorted other western trips to national parks like Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Glacier and more.
The arguments for a vintage teardrop trailer include small and lightweight (about 800 pounds), so a small car can tow it and deliver good gas mileage (we tow ours with a Ford Focus 5-speed stick and get 26 MPG). They fit in your garage, the smallest campsites and vintage trailers are always the “talk of the campground”!
Stepping up to mid-size classic trailers (1000 to about 2500 pounds) offers scores of options. From Scotty’s, Lil Loafers, Little Caesars to larger Shastas, Airstreams, Kenskills, Boles and the like, a wide variety of lengths, weights, floorplans and luxurious appointments await the discriminating buyer. Since they are larger, they offer more interior space and many more amenities – the trade-offs are they weigh more, reducing your towing gas mileage (you will need a more powerful tow vehicle) and you have to store them somewhere.
We take special delight in pulling up beside giant diesel pickups, pulling 35′ fifth-wheels (and getting about 8 MPG), realizing we are about as comfortable as they are! We also equipped both our trailers with a rear bike carrier receiver, so we can load 2-3 bikes on back. With bedding already made up, camp gear loaded, it’s a simple matter to pack a cooler and your clothes, hook up and away we go!
We recently attended a classic trailer rally near Lake Tahoe. There we toured almost 40 classics, many of them wonderfully redone from the original. Typical was a 1955 Little Caesar, weighing just 1400 pounds. Owners Steve and Patty Elliot, Shingle Springs, CA, noted “we paid only a few hundred dollars, invested $4000 and considerable time in the rehab, from the frame up”. They also have a 65 Scotty and have rebuilt two teardrops and an Aristocrat.
Donn and Donna Marchall proudly showed off their 1960 Aristocrat Lil Loafer, just 1400 pounds with a 9 foot box. Donn noted “we paid a few hundred and invested $4200 in the rebuild; we love that it’s so small, easy to store and can fit in many campsites too small for the giant fifth wheels! And, every camper wants to come by to tour our little trailer!”
A larger classic that needed only a bit of work was a comfortable 1962 Kenskill. Owners Jenny and Mel Davis, Grass Valley, CA, paid just $800, installed a new refrigerator and $1000 in parts and fixed some water damage in front window area.
Bob Hughes, of Camino, Ca, showed off his 1957 Corvette trailer on its maiden voyage. He paid $600 and spent two years doing a total rebuild. He extended the frame, rezinced the windows and put about $7000 into the rebuild, including a beautiful blue and white paint job.
And, we spied an import from Germany, a tiny 1989 Ariba Puck, weighing only 700 pounds, with queen size bed, tiny kitchen in front and towed by a classic Volkswagen Westfalia. With a pop-up roof, for six-foot plus headroom, it drew rave reviews (American-made 1970’s Hunter Compact classics offer similar style with pop-up roof).
Rebuilding a classic trailer can range from $1000 up to $10,000, or, you can choose to buy one that an owner has already rebuilt or upgraded. Prices for a fully rebuilt midsized classic can range from about $7500 to $15,000, plus or minus. Nicely, the true classics can usually be sold years later for as much, or more, than you paid for them.
The marketplace for any of these is both Craig’s List and eBay (search for tear drop, teardrop and vintage campers). Remember, however, if you find a trailer that has water damage or dry rot, the damage is usually many times greater than can easily be seen from the exterior, so beware!
You can also find, on the web, varied companies that rent teardrops or old classics for a few days or a week. Try one out, you may become hooked on the comfort afforded and hard-sided security, vs. tent-camping.
For more information: A variety of classic trailer web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists, on the web at tincantourists.com, Shasta Trailers, vintageshasta.net and Serro Scotty trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. Pick a classic, and you can find an owner’s group for most!
For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy travels in the West!