The Phenomenon of Teardrop Trailers

The teardrop trailer gets its name from its unique streamlined shape.

Teardrop trailer plans
Teardrop trailer plans

Conceived more than 75 years ago, the teardrop trailer has stood the test of time. A common sight from the late 1930s through the ’50s—many were home-built—and were popular because of their sleek, aerodynamic design, and lightweight materials.

A teardrop trailer is generally small, ranging from 4 feet to 6 feet in width and 8 feet to 10 feet in length. They are usually 4 feet to 5 feet in height. Wheels and tires are usually outside the body and are covered by fenders.

The March/April, 1939 issue of Popular Homecraft ran a story and plans for a teardrop trailer designed and built by Louis Rogers of Pasadena, California in the 1930s for his honeymoon coach. This teardrop slept two and had a raise-up deck lid for the rear kitchenette with ice box and stove. A curtain-enclosed dressing room outside the starboard entry door provided privacy while dressing.

The February, 1940 issue of Popular Mechanics ran a story and plans for an egg-shaped teardrop trailer. It was built on a 1924 Chevrolet Superior front axle with disk wheels from a 1930 Chevrolet.

The floor was of tongue-and-groove oak over a spruce chassis. The exterior was 1/8-inch pressed board sealed with varnish. This 9-foot x 5-foot 9-1/2-inch floor plan featured a pressurized water tank with running water to a sink, a stove and ice box in the rear kitchenette. The cabin provided standing room beside the double bed for dressing, a small clothes closet, a chemical toilet, and a single entry door on the starboard side.

Vistabule teardrop trailer
Vistabule teardrop trailer

Following World War II Kit Manufacturing produced “Kit Kamper” teardrop trailers. They soon learned that what the public wanted was not a kit, but a completed trailer. Kit Manufacturing made the decision to produce the teardrop trailers in completed form. The 4-foot x 8-foot Kit Kamper tear drop was destined to win the hearts of Americans—and a place in history.

A total of 4,500 Kit Kampers were produced in 1946 and 1947.

Their popularity faded as vehicles became larger, fuel was cheap, and recreational vehicles increased in size. In 1948 Kit went into production of a more conventional 8-foot x 14-foot “coach” with demand far exceeding production capability. The Kit Kamper teardrop assembly line was ended.

Teardrops have recently gained a resurgence in popularity. New fuel efficient cars, combined with today’s modern teardrop trailers now allow you to once again enjoy the open road in modern comfort and retro style.

While a lot has changed since the introduction of teardrop trailers on the American highway, the reasons for owning a teardrop trailer are the same today as they were when your father or grandfather built his teardrop in the family garage.

Lil’ Snoozy Goes Camping
Lil’ Snoozy Goes Camping

Teardrop trailers are sleek, aerodynamic, and practical. Depending on the model, your teardrop trailer can sleep up to three adults or two adults and several children.

Teardrops can be pulled by any vehicle with a hitch—even the smallest of vehicles such as the Mini Cooper or the VW Beetle can easily tow a teardrop trailer.

Whether you’re a weekend camper who enjoys spending time with the family, or an avid outdoorsman who hunts, fishes, or rides a four wheeler—there’s a teardrop trailer that will suit your needs. There are even teardrops for towing by motorcycles.

A variety of unique teardrop trailers have gained in popularity including the Vistabule, Lil’ Snoozy, Safari Condo, Tiny Trailer, Little Guy, Eggcamper, Geistwerks, and Moby 1.

Streamlined and weighing just 1,220 pounds, Vistabule can be towed behind nearly any small car.

Customers love the Lil Snoozy, a fiber glass travel trailer, because Lil’ is only 17 feet, 3 inches in length; 7 feet, 11 inches in width; and 7 feet, 5 inches high.

Safari Condo Alto R Series (retractable roof)
Safari Condo Alto R Series (retractable roof)

Safari Condo tear drop trailers offer an electric retractable roof providing more interior space than traditional teardrop trailers.

Teardrop trailers have come a long way since those original teardrops, but still offer all the enjoyment and fun that the original teardrop owner came to expect.

Worth Pondering…

Live with passion.

—Anthony Robbins

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Texas RV Dealership Opens Museum

They rumble through the Texas Panhandle by the thousands to get to New Mexico and Colorado, and now, recreational vehicles have their own museum, right off Interstate 27.

Traveland RV Museum encompasses up to 7,000 square feet and is home to dozens of iconic RVs. (Source: rvmuseum.net)
Traveland RV Museum encompasses up to 7,000 square feet and is home to dozens of iconic RVs. (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Jack Sisemore and his son, Trent, opened the RV Museum this spring behind their Amarillo, Texas, RV dealership, Sisemore Traveland, at 4341 Canyon Drive. It showcases RVs they have bought and lovingly restored over the years, just because they wanted to.

The museum’s free, and they won’t even try to talk you into buying an RV while you’re there, the Austin American-Statesman reported

Inside a 6,000-square-foot metal building, the RVs are staged with picnic tables and other camping paraphernalia, so that the museum has the surreal feel of an overnight trailer park — but with air conditioning.

“We’ve been restoring RVs for about 25 years,” Trent Sisemore, a former two-term Amarillo mayor, says. “We just love doing it.”

Most of these campers, trailers and motorhomes are so beautifully restored that they actually gleam, though a few have been intentionally left in the condition in which they were found (although they’ve been cleaned). About 15 of the Sisemores’ 25 vintage RVs are on display at any time.

The first RV you see when you walk in is a 1948 Flxible bus used in the 2006 Robin Williams movie “RV,” which plays in a constant loop on a TV screen near the long red-and-white bus that Trent Sisemore hunted down in a Hollywood studio.

Nearby is a 1953 Fleetwood that the Sisemores found in bad shape at a gas station 15 years ago. It took two years to restore, they say. A cute little 1936 Alma trailer had been sitting in a barn since 1955 until the Sisemores recently found and restored it. There’s also a 1937 Kozy Kamp tent trailer, one of the first built.

This 1948 Flxible bus was refitted to become Happy Max in the Robin Williams movie 'RV.' Trent Sisemore found it in Hollywood and bought it for the museum. (Source: Helen Anders/American-Statesman)
This 1948 Flxible bus was refitted to become Happy Max in the Robin Williams movie ‘RV.’ Trent Sisemore found it in Hollywood and bought it for the museum. (Source: Helen Anders/American-Statesman)

With the exception of a 1937 Elkhart Traveler, the Sisemores recently acquired, all the RVs have steps at their doors, and you’re welcome to go inside and look around. Each is staged with appropriate kitchen gadgets, books, games and other knickknacks from its period.

A 1975 Itasca — in mint condition with only about 6,000 miles on it — reminded me of the RV my parents bought after my father retired. My kids and I took a lot of trips in that one.

A 1946 Kit Manufacturing aluminum teardrop trailer is a real charmer. It’s small but efficient, with a mattress inside the trailer and a kitchen in its “trunk.” The trailer was built with Army surplus aluminum after World War II.

The RV Museum has picked up a lot of buzz among RVers, and on the day I visited, there were about a dozen people there, wandering around fairly reverentially, talking softly about their own RV experiences.

Along with RVs, the museum displays about a dozen vintage motorcycles, because Jack Sisemore loves motorcycles. His favorite is a 1952 Blue Harley.

“My father had one like it, and he gave it to my brother, who rode it all through high school,” he says.

A replica gas station in the museum is a tribute to Jack Sisemore’s career. With money he borrowed from his grandmother, he opened a Chevron station in 1963. In the ’70s, he wanted to travel with his family, so he rented an RV. He later started renting RVs to other people, and that eventually led to the opening of his own RV dealership. Now, the family’s involved in RV manufacturing as well.

Oddly, the Sisemores still find time to vacation in RVs themselves.

“I leave here usually the last Saturday in September, and I’m gone for three to 3 1/2 weeks to Maine,” Jack Sisemore says. “That’s where the majority of these things have come from. We go junkin’, I call it.”

Details

Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum

1962 Airstream (Source: rvmuseum.net)
1962 Airstream (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Admission: Free

Hours: Monday–Friday, 3:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Address: 4341 Canyon Drive, Amarillo, TX

Phone: (806) 358-4891

Website: rvmuseum.net

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Worth Pondering…

Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.

—Tennessee Williams

Read More

RV Museum Opens in Texas

The Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum recently opened to the public in Amarillo, Texas. According to a news report in the Amarillo Globe News, the museum has already attracted more than 400 visitors.

1962 Airstream (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Traveland RV Museum encompasses up to 7,000 square feet and is home to dozens of iconic RVs, including a 1936 Alma, 1937 Elkhart Traveler, 1953 Fleetwood, 1962 Airstream, and 1972 Winnebago.

“We’ve been building a museum for about 25 years and we have RVs from every decade up through the ’70s to show the progression of the RV industry,” Sisemore said. “I wanted to have something that was free, that people could come to from anywhere in the United States.”

The Sisemore’s began restoring and collecting unusual vintage recreational vehicles over 25 years ago. They have built a museum that houses many of the RVs in their collection. These include the Flxible Bus from the Movie RV, the first Itasca motor home ever built, the oldest Fleetwood in existence, and many other RVs from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.

You can step back in time, reminisce, and enjoy the progression of the RV industry from its inception till now.

1936 Alma

This trailer was a barn find 20 miles from the Alma factory. It is all-original, never restored, and looks like new. Imagine stepping back into the pre-war years inside this Alma. It literally was in a barn from 1955 until today.

1937 Elkhart Traveler

The first brand of trailer produced in Elkhart, Indiana, the RV manufacturing capital of the world. This little jewel has not been restored; it has been left in its original shape the way it was found.

1946 Tear Drop Kit

1946 Tear Drop Kit (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Restored by the restoration team 24 years ago, this trailer still looks new. Dan Polkapaila, founder of Kit Manufacturing, gave the museum his last set of fenders to restore this little beauty. Dan built these kits out of aluminum that was surplus after the war. Many of the wheels had to have the bullet holes repaired to be used.

1953 Fleetwood

Jack and Trent Sisemore found this trailer in total disrepair at a filling station 15 years ago and bought it from an 84 year-old lady that was traveling across the country. She said it was time for her to quit camping. It took the restoration team over two years to bring it back to life. This was the first year Fleetwood built travel trailers, serial number 1123.

1962 Airstream

Jack traded for this trailer back in 1988 and just restored it last year but it required little restoration. This little Bambi was always ready to go on a trip from the day it was new.

1970 Avion

This 1970 Avion pick up camper is one of the last if not the last pick up camper made by Avion. It is a one owner purchased in 1971 and is completely original.

1972 Winnegabo

This motorhome was another barn find in Amarillo. It had been in the same family since it was new. Carpet and cushions are original. It has very few miles and drives like a dream.

1974 Winnegago

Jack started renting a motorhome just like this when he had a Chevron Standard filling station. A year later that he had six rentals and started Jack Sisemore Traveland. It took two 1974 Winnebagos to build it—one from Phoenix and the other from Maine.

On a side note, Jack Sisemore Traveland is the oldest Winnebago dealer in the state of Texas. Jack started selling Winnebago products in 1978.

1975 Itasca

This is the first Itasca motorhome ever built, serial number 1, and served as a prototype for Itasca. It was in Winnebagos Welcome Center for over 20 years. It has 6000 original miles and is in brand new condition.

Details

Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum

1977 Kit Road Ranger (Source: rvmuseum.net)

Admission: Free

Hours: Monday–Friday, 3:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Address: 4341 Canyon Drive, Amarillo, TX

Phone: (806) 358-4891

Website: rvmuseum.net

Worth Pondering…
Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.

—Tennessee Williams

Read More