Coincidentally, plans for a trailer of similar shape but without a rear kitchen appeared in the December 1936 issue of Mechanics and Handicraft magazine. That magazine has one of the earliest references to the name “teardrop” when associated with a crawl-in trailer with the distinctive teardrop shape. Throughout the late 1930s, handyman-oriented magazines were chock-full of plans for these tidy little trailers. Eventually a few companies started to manufacture ready-to-assemble kits and complete trailers, in addition to plans.
Understandably, World War II put the brakes on most types of trailers, but after the war, companies that sold plans, kits and fully assembled teardrops were back in full force, and a number of other companies hitched their wagon to the teardrop star with their own interpretations of the teardrop design. There were mom-and pop trailer manufacturers as well as more formal factories. Most of the manufacturers were in the Los Angeles area and catered to the outdoor-oriented lifestyle of the region. Among the most popular teardrop trailers were:
The Kit Kamper is the most enduring of all the teardrop brands. C. W. “Bill” Worman and Andy Anderson started the company immediately after World War II in October 1945. Their company, which they headquartered in the shell of an abandoned fruit stand in Norwalk, California, was christened the Kit Manufacturing Company. The duo planned to offer the trailer as a kit (hence the name), but had few orders.
A short time later, a friend of Worman’s, Dan Pocapalia, bought out Anderson’s share for $800. After analyzing their less than stellar sales, Worman and Pocapalia decided to offer the Kit Kamper fully assembled rather than as a kit. The first 4-foot x 8-foot units were offered to dealers at a trade show in February 1946 for $500. The enthusiastic dealers placed orders for over 500 trailers, which prompted Worman and Pocapalia to design and offer an upgraded model with additional cosmetic features for $595. By July 1946 the company had backorders for over 1,000 trailers. By the end of 1947 more than 4,500 Kit Kampers had rolled out the door. Interestingly, the company decided to abandon the teardrop line in 1948 and concentrate on more conventional travel trailers. Eventually the company became a manufacturer of higher-end RVs and manufactured housing.
Ken-Skill teardrops are among the most desirable vintage teardrops because of their timeless design, which makes them easy to pair up with almost any tow vehicle. They were manufactured in Burbank, California, in the late 1940s
Modernistic, Cub and Modernaire
Prefabricated Trailer Manufacturing and Modernistic Trailer Manufacturing, located in the Los Angeles area, made these shiny aluminum trailers in the late 1940s. National Trailer Stores, also based in Los Angeles, distributed them. Ads for the Modernistic, which were available as kits for $280 or fully assembled for $500, appeared regularly in popular handyman magazines throughout the 1940s.
The Benroy trailer is roomier than most teardrops because of its 4-foot x 10-foot footprint and, more importantly, its stubbier profile, which sacrifices some of the streamlined teardrop shape but allows for an increased cargo area and a more accessible kitchen. The Benroy name was adapted from the firm’s founders, Bennet Petersen and Roy Greenwood. The company churned out about 500 units from its Burbank, California, factory from 1953 to 1955. Another company acquired Benroy and produced the same trailer under the King Richard brand.
The Scad-A-Bout teardrop, manufactured in Pasadena, California, has a profile very much like the Benroy, but the rear hatch of the trailer looks more like a standard automobile trunk and does not go all the way to the ground.
These jumbo teardrops are best described as a teardrop on steroids. They have an oversize hatch that opens far enough to allow egress into the entire rear compartment. The trailer sports an articulated screen door that folds in the middle and snap-on canvas sides that allow meals to be prepared indoors during inclement weather. The Wild Goose version was featured as a rather complex build-it-yourself project in the April 1953 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.
It’s hard to estimate how many teardrop manufacturers there have been, but the number is certainly well over 100. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the tiny trailers, largely fueled by classic car owners who want a trailer that is sympathetic to the curvy profile of their automobile. This new breed of teardrop aficionados has been scouring the countryside for old teardrops tucked away in garages, barns and sheds. The demand is so great that there are now over a dozen manufacturers supplying new teardrop trailers, kits and plans.
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Douglas Keister’s new book, Mobile Mansions: Taking “Home Sweet Home” on the Road, was published by Gibbs Smith Publishers in May. He also has a companion DVD, Douglas Keister’s Mobile Mansions. Doug is also the author of Ready to Roll: A Celebration of the Classic American Travel Trailer and Silver Palaces: America’s Streamline Trailers. Copies of the Mobile Mansions book and DVD are available on his Web site, www.douglaskeister.com/id13.html. He is currently working on a book titled Teardrops and Tiny Trailers.