Teardrop and larger classic travel trailers; class, comfort and a smart investment!

Our '58 Scotty Junior teardrop in front of the historic circular red barn on Oklahoma's memorable Rt. 66.

Classy, comfortable and a smart investment; teardrop and larger classic travel trailers…

Years ago, with kids in school, we would load them into a small car, pack our camping gear into a canoe, car-top the canoe and head off to Mount Rainier National Park or remote campgrounds on the Olympic Peninsula for a week or 10 days.

Classy '66 Scotty Sportsman, from our Scotty Michigan tour last year, almost identical to ours.

As we matured and the kids moved out, we added to our tent camping luxuries – meaning more gear piled into a car and more off-loading at the campground. As we approached our 60s, the idea of sleeping on the ground, and Susan’s concerns about bears, caused us to rethink our strategy.

We surveyed the market for small to midsize trailers; eventually finding on-line a tiny Kit Kamper teardrop trailer. Built from a kit about six years earlier, it was a cute little teardrop based on the original (popular in the 40s and 50s) teardrop platform using 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, yielding a trailer 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall and 8 feet long. Trailer is economical to tow, offering a comfortable sleeping compartment for two cozy adults and room in the rear hatch to load all your camping and cooking gear.

After five years with the teardrop, we decided to upsize, and sought a slightly larger ’64 Serro Scotty trailer, finding a classic for sale in Southern California. I purchased it, cheap, believing simple repairs would make it roadworthy.

Our '64 Scotty in the "total tear-down" mode, a year ago.

After getting it home, I found it needed much more extensive work, resulting in an ongoing frame-up rebuild. In the meantime, we purchased a second teardrop, a ’58 Serro Scotty reproduction, built by a West Virginia shop teacher in 2011.

Hence, after 10 years of trailer ownership, and 80% completed on the process of the rebuilding a classic, these observations on small and classic trailers are reality-tested.

Teardrop trailers: Light-weight, easy to tow (we get 26+ miles per gallon behind our four-cylinder car), stow in the garage or behind a fence and are easy to maneuver into the tiniest of campground spaces. They’re comfortable, allow rear hatch storage of all camping paraphernalia – making it easy to go at a moment’s notice. Downside (at only 4 feet tall), no standup room and not a lot of fun if you get caught on a rainy weekend. And, no inside cooking or bathroom facilities.

T@B trailers, available new for about $20K, used for less than half that.

Small trailers: Including tent trailers in a variety of formats, and some of the smallest hard-sided campers made today. They include the A-liner, T@B, Casita and other trailers – offering standup room, sleeping for four adults, inside cooking/eating facilities, and often a bathroom and/or shower. Downside: they’re more expensive, in the $15,000-20,000+ range (new), won’t fit in a garage and a larger vehicle six cylinder vehicle is required (resulting in reduced miles per gallon).

Classic mid-size trailers: classic trailers have become increasingly popular over the last 10 to 15 years, as classic rallies have proliferated across the West and the US. Classics allow, if purchased wisely, the owner to enjoy them for a number of years, and sell for about the same price they paid, or more, years later. The cool classics also make you the talk of most campgrounds, able to attend classic trailer rallies and allow you to bask in the glory of enjoying a recycled product! Downside, if not purchased wisely, can be extensive rebuilding expense and time investment.

A classic tow vehicle with a very classic, small Airstream Caravelle.

As example, I thought I was getting a deal on our small ‘64 Scotty Sportsman, at $900. However, after discovering it needed a total rebuild, we will probably invest $5,500 into the trailer rebuild – and untold hours over the last several years.

There are a number of resources if you’re looking at a trailer like these. They include craigslist and eBay for classic and used trailers, specific trailer-brand Facebook groups and trailer websites for virtually any manufactured trailer, as well as local dealers like Pan Pacific in Lathrop and Sacramento dealers.

Here’s a sampling of favorites:

Our ’58 Serro Scotty teardrop: Manufactured in 1958 and 59, this one a very accurate reproduction. We’ve three times crossed the US and made many trips in the western states and Canada with this little trailer.

Larger Serro Scotty trailers: Made in the ’60s to the ’80s; pictured, a friend’s 1966 Scotty Sportsman – almost identical to the one we are rebuilding.

A beautifully restored '57 Corvette; a true classic, better than new!

‘57 Corvette: Bob Hughes, of Camino, Ca, owns this 1957 Corvette trailer, purchased for $600 and a two-years labor-of-love rebuild. He extended the frame, rezinced the windows and put about $7000 into the rebuild, including a beautiful blue and white paint job. You never know the value of a classic until you sell it, but this wonderful rebuild is definitely worth more than double what Bob invested in it – and, he grabs all the attention in varied campgrounds!

Then there are new trailers I define as “classics”; classic design, small, cute. They include:

T@B trailers: Belonging to our friends in Sacramento, just purchased for a bit over $20,000, sleeps two adults. The T@Bs carry that retro, tear-drop look over to modern times with the slickest of new trailers.

Casita trailers, slick, fiberglass trailers with virtually all the amenities, sleeping up to four adults.

A slick Casita trailer; retro lines defined by new fiberglass construction.

A–liner trailers: A modern version of the tent trailer, with hard-sides for bear-proofing, sleeps four.

For more information: A variety of classic trailer web sites offer insights into buying or rebuilding, including Tin Can Tourists, tincantourists.com  and Serro Scotty trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. Pick a classic and find an owner’s group! To purchase, scan craigslist and eBay.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

An A-liner "Mini" trailer, a hard-sided pop-up trailer.

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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