It’s hard to pinpoint when that first automotive pioneer came up with the notion of adding a fold-out bed and tent assembly to a Model T, thus spawning creation of the Recreational Vehicle. Vintage teardrop trailers that date back almost to Model T days are often said to be the precursors to the much larger towable RVs we use today.
Unlike the Model A RVs, teardrops are very much with us today and growing in popularity. Teardrop kits are available and RV manufacturers are churning out teardrops in a variety of sizes and option configurations.
Of these manufacturers, Little Guy Worldwide (www.golittleguy.com) is one of the most energetic teardrop builders we know. Its North Canton, Ohio factory produces a range of models from its Lite series, at about 450 pounds, up to the 6-Wide series at about 1,490 pounds. All are aerodynamic and deliver the best of teardrop-style camping.
Given their light weights, these trailers can be towed by even the smallest of autos, SUVs or minivans, as long as the tow rig can be fitted with the proper hitch and safety equipment.
To learn more about the Little Guys we visited George M. Sutton RV in Eugene, Oregon (www.suttonrv.com). Kip Shields, the Sutton expert on Little Guy trailers, showed us around a few units and explained their features and options.
Some of the trailers are available in 4-Wide, 5-Wide and 6-Wide series, with internal widths of roughly 4-, 5- and 6-foot, respectively.
These allow for variations in the amount of space a couple want for a sleeping area. Buyers can choose from a wide variety of exterior colors and interior trim packages plus fenders, accessories, entertainment features, you name it. Flexibility has been one key to the Little Guys success.
While visiting the Sutton lot we even saw a couple of Little Guys finished in University of Oregon mascot Ducks colors and logos and an OSU Beaver model. Sutton custom-ordered these units, as they aren’t standard factory options. Now that’s creativity, and knowing your market.
Each Little Guy trailer, regardless of size, is configured alike; it has a pair of access doors, enough floor space and length inside for a mattress and usually a few storage cabinets inside. Out back there’s a lift-up hatch with space inside that can be configured with storage cabinets and counter space, a small propane stove and hand-pump sink, or other options.
Up front, there’s an optional steel mesh rack on the tongue that can handle firewood, a toolbox or other necessities. For those who camp in the inclement weather experienced in most of the country there’s a side-mount screen room/tent that provides an extra 100 square feet of stand-up space next to the trailer.
The trailer is based on an aluminum or steel chassis, framed with wood and insulated with fiberglass batts. Most use fiberglass exterior skin and UV-resistant Alufiber roofs, but the RT and Silver Shadows use anodized aluminum sidewall skins. Rubber-torsion-sprung axles with independent suspension are standard.
Kip showed us the Silver Shadow 5×8 finished in silver exterior trim and black details.
The Silver Shadow package is a retro-styled model with vintage-look fenders and optional white sidewall tires, plus Baby Moon hubcaps. Optional black window shades and an optional spare tire with underframe mount round out the exterior hardware package. A spare tire as an option on a trailer makes zero sense to me, but it’s one of those longstanding puzzles about the RV industry.
Inside, the trailer included the birch wood interior, optional “Sight and Sound” DVD player/compact TV package, and a wood countertop setup out back with galley-type storage drawers and cabinets. This unit was base-priced at $7,250, and as equipped tallied $9,193, including delivery.
So what can you do in a teardrop RV with seemingly limited features? You have a great time camping. We set up a teardrop camp much like we do when tenting. A portable propane stove and lantern, a couple of ice chests, camp boxes of cooking supplies, folding camp chairs and we’re home away from home. We always prefer to cook over the fire when possible, so that’s teardrop-compatible for sure.
Weather is always a factor because we’re in Oregon. We set up a freestanding awning or tarp so we have a rain-free place to get in and out of the trailer, or as a place to retreat with the camp chairs as needed.
When the fire dies down, we retire to a comfortable mattress-equipped bed with our own pillows, topped by our Travsak, in a warm, dry, quiet, secure portable cabin that we can easily haul behind the family Jeep. That’s a pretty nice alternative to a tent.
A teardrop trailer’s features may not be for everyone, but as a step-up vehicle for making that leap to the world of RV camping, it’s a fun way to go. — Jeff Johnston, Motor Matters
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010