Here’s a fascinating little DIY teardrop trailer build that features some pretty detailed woodworking on the interior, thanks to the builder’s dad owning a cabinet shop with lots of fancy tools.
As he points out, the detail isn’t necessary, but if you have access to the means, it doesn’t cost much more (except in time) to add a lot of custom decorative touches to your project.
Three views of the teardrop build from the outside.
Start out with a small Harbor Freight utility trailer. Instructables user, HayleyP5, found this one on sale for $300.
You can also pick them up gently used on craigslist, or even still in the box unassembled, from someone who had the same idea, but never quite around to it.
Hayley suggests you leave the fenders and lights off until the build is complete, they get in the way.
A couple of interior views, featuring library paneled bulkheads.
The heavy duty 4×8 foot trailer from Harbor Freight will carry up to 1,700 pounds. Including a kitchen that will be built out later, HayleyP5 estimates this one at 1,100 pounds, well under the weight limits of the trailer frame.
Hayley mentions that under normal circumstances, the wheels are set too far forward. By drilling new holes, you’ll be able to move the axles farther back, allowing you to put more weight at the front of the trailer.
One side panel, with lumber frame cutout.
Insulation going in.
The subfloor was made from a sheet of pressure treated ¾ inch plywood to resist rot. Applying a coat of exterior wood sealer, or oil based stain, to the underneath of the frame is a good idea to prevent moisture from soaking in.
Other builders have also used roof coatings to weatherize the bottom.
Trailer sides on top of the plywood subfloor.
The side panels are bolted to the trailer frame.
HayleyP5 laid out the curves on top of the plywood sheets to ensure a proper fit. A piece of mason’s twine and a pencil makes an excellent makeshift compass to get good, even curves and once one side is marked and cut, it becomes a ready-made template for the second side.
Interior paneling, cut to fit and glued to cover insulation.
The framing was made from salvaged 2×4 material from construction sites, and attached to the plywood with wood glue and deck screws.
By mitering the ends of each piece, you can get the lumber to roughly follow the curve of your side panel. The bottom edge overlaps the frame of the trailer.
Haley used a computerized router table to do the cutout, but a jigsaw with a long, rough cut blade would do. Cut the plywood and frame at the same time to get the curve just right.
Roof support ribs between side panels.
Attach the sides along the bottom edge to the metal trailer frame. Inside the side panel frame, you now have an inch-and-a-half recess for insulation.
HaleyP5 used fiberglass, packed in place. This dampens the insulation value. 1 ½ inch thick Styrofoam, or spray foam insulation would be more efficient. Cover the inside with luan, or thin plywood, cut to fit the curve.
Ceiling panel installed.
Adding a plywood, or framed panel, known as a bulkhead is the next step. It sits between the walls to hold them up and separates the bed room from the kitchen.
He used ½ inch plywood, secured on both edges with pocket screws. I would suggest stepping up to ¾ cabinet grade plywood. Not a lot more weight, but a ton more strength.
Next, HaleyP5 added a layer of lumber along the edge of the side panels for roof support. If your roof runs all the way to the outside walls, this may not be necessary, but it does help to make the walls more rigid.
The raw kitchen hatch area, waiting for finish.
From here construction is fairly simple, with battens running across to serve as roof rafters. A thin panel is applied to the inside for the “ceiling”, then a layer of insulation is typically inserted, then the exterior panel goes on.
The rear section of the roof requires a frame along the sides, and gets hinged in place above your bulkhead to create a kitchen “hatch” for the back portion.
The roof is built from cut down garage door panels!
From here, the camper is a shell, ready to be customized to suit your needs. HaleyP5 has some great ideas for how that can be done, but you can easily come up with your own as well.
Make sure to reinforce every joint, since this will be bouncing along at 55+ mph behind your car, and take your time and enjoy the process, there are no mistakes here – only learning experiences!