Tiny trailering; touring the west in a classic travel trailer

Tiny trailering; buying or rebuilding and touring the west in a classic travel trailer

We’ve been camping and touring the western states for almost 40 years, and touring the entire United States extensively in three classic travel trailers the last dozen years.

Our early camping while spouse Susan and I both worked was a combination of tent or car camping, packing our two young daughters, an enlarging tent as they matured and often loading a canoe on top of the car. For 20-some years, we toured much of the western states and occasionally up into Canada in that nomadic mode.

Our first teardrop, a Kit Kamper reproduction, towed by our 1994 Nissan 300 ZX.

After our daughters married and started their own lives, we continued with a nicer tent, lighter-weight gear (and toyed with occasional backpacking). But as we moved into our 60s, tiny teardrop trailers captured our attention and we found one for sale in Sacramento for $3500. We camped throughout the west and up into Canada for five years, eventually acquiring a second teardrop, a 1958 Scotty Junior, then a bigger classic, a 1964 Scotty Sportsman, all of 13 feet in length.

This article attempts to capsulize our experience with two vintage teardrops, each 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall, and the somewhat larger 1964 Scotty Sportsman we’ve grown into during the last year.

Teardrop trailers have the benefit of being easy to store in the garage or behind the backyard fence, can be towed with the tiniest of cars and yield good gas mileage in towing them. They’re cute; a lot of people will ask, “can you really sleep In that thing?” (yes, you can, quite comfortably). They also offer storage for most of your camp gear and a comfortable bed in a hard-sided camper (so you don’t worry as much about bears); hence, one can pack food and drink and be out the door quickly, headed for the Sierra.

Our ’58 Serro Scotty teardrop trailer.

What we like about our larger 1964 Scotty classic is a full-size bed in the back, two small center cabinets including a small sink, two burner stove and additional storage, as well as a front dinette that will accommodate, snuggly, four people with a decent sized table – the dinette also makes into another bed for a couple of kids or a large adult. The trailer remains small enough to store in the garage or behind a backyard fence; we tow with a four cylinder Ford Escape and get decent gas mileage. And, it’s packed and ready to go; but for food and cold drinks, we can be on the road in a few minutes, headed for the coast or the desert.

Let’s talk about buying; plan on extensive diligence and inspection. As example, I thought I was getting a deal on our ‘64 Scotty Sportsman, at $900, for a trailer requiring only simple cosmetic and some water damage repair. However, the previous owner did a pretty good job papering over the problems and I did haphazard inspection until after I bought it. After discovering it needed a total rebuild, we invested about $5,500 into the trailer rebuild – and untold hours over the last several years.

Our ’64 Serro Scotty Sportsman the day I towed it home after purchasing in Oceanside, CA. It looked, at the time, like it needed fairly simple rear-end water damage repair.

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 (which sell or rent new teardrop and small trailers), allowing inpection as to size and fit.

Our ’64 Scotty, with aluminum skins removed, indicated a bit more than “modest rear-end water damage repair”. It resulted in a two-year rebuild.

Here’s a sampling of vintage favorites:

The interior of our 64 Scotty, after the frame-up rebuild, looking from right rear to the front.

Serro Scotty trailers: Made in the late ’50s to the ’80s; pictured, our 64 Scotty Sportsman – you’ll see in the “before” photo that the trailer, once the aluminum skins were removed, had extensive dry rot, necessitating a full frame-up rebuild, involving about 500 hours and $5,000 in new materials and appliances. There were times, in the two years of rebuilding, that my spouse and I thought “we can’t do this”, but we pressed on and the ultimate result was worth the pain-staking effort (though, no, we would not want to do another one!).

Our 64 Scotty after the rebuild, with Susan in June Lakes, CA area.

‘57 Corvette: The Camino, Ca, owners of this 1957 Corvette trailer, purchased for $600 and requiring a two-year labor-of-love rebuild. The fram was extended, windows rezinced and about $7500 went into the rebuild, including a beautiful blue and white paint job.

A beautiful 57 Corvette classic.

‘55 Little Caesar, weighing just 1400 pounds. Owners from Shingle Springs, CA, noted “we paid only a few hundred dollars, invested $4000 and considerable time in the rehab, from the frame-up”. A cute, cozy trailer, garnering considerable attention when we see them in a campground.

Airstream, Shasta and other classic trailers are found throughout the west, and offer great camping and good investment potential. If found for a good price and well cared for, they can often be sold years later for more than you paid for them!

An Airstream Caravelle and its classic tow vehicle.

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

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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