After attending a couple of rallies hosted by the southeastern chapter of Tearjerkers, I thought that it would be fun to build a teardrop camper. I took the basic shape of Wally Byam’s 1935 Airstream Torpedo and scaled it down to teardrop size.
This page of the plans was what I had to go by and a lot of guesswork was involved. I wanted to keep it 4 feet tall, so that off the shelf plywood and aluminum sheeting would fit. It also had to work with the trailer frame that I had. The plans and pictures of the Airstream Torpedo turned out to be more of an inspiration than a blueprint.
I started my teardrop with a Jayco pop-up camper. All of the canvas was shot and the interior had been removed.
The frame measured 76″ wide by 80″ long after I cut off the bumper to use as center bracing.
I welded a curve to the frame to support the rounded front end.
I made my deck out of half inch plywood and cut the scraps into 1 ½” wide strips to use as spacers. I added ½” iso foam insulation and covered the bottom in a product called Thermo Ply; then taped the seams with rubber flashing tape.
I re-built the suspension and welded new axle perches on so that I could flip the axle.
Here’s the profile that I came up with. I used a sheet of luan plywood as my template and traced out the framing and door location on it. This is what I used to lay out both walls.
I framed it with 1×2 pine and half lapped, glued and screwed all the joints.
After building the frames on my profile template, I marked and cut the ¾” insulation and covered the interior walls with luan plywood.
I put 1×2 roof spars vertically (on edge) between the walls and then framed the front curve. The front curve needed compound miters at the top of each (different length) upright.
I framed in for two front windows before I decided that it didn’t look right. It was a fairly easy thing to fix at this stage, so now I have one round window centered and a little higher up.
For the galley hatch, I made some glue laminated, curved 1”x2” spars by ripping 1x4s down into ¼” strips and running them through a planer and clamping them into a jig. Here’s a shot of the hatch looking in.
And one from the outside
My roof is a sandwich of 1×2 on edge between the walls, a layer of luan on top of the 1×2 and walls, 1×2’s on the flat glued and screwed through the luan into the 1×2’s on edge, insulation, and eighth inch structural sheeting glued and stapled on top of that.
I started my cabinets by guessing about how much foot room I’d need under the galley. Then I built a raised section in the middle rear to hang an air conditioner out of. Next, I needed a place to mount a dorm fridge. The shelf height was determined by the size of the wicker baskets that I had. So the whole thing came together out of what I could fit in the space available. The offset in the middle between the upper cabinets is for a TV shelf in the cabin area.
I built the galley and cabin cabinets at the same time because they’re the same single layer of 1×2 framing and 1/8th inch luan plywood. The back side of the galley is the front side of the cabin, a recess in one is a protrusion in the other – kind of like a reversible jacket.
I painted the plywood countertop areas and shelves with gloss alkyd paint that took about a day and a half to dry, but it’s hard as a rock now. The counters flip up to access the spaces underneath them.
I got some small windows off of Ebay, cleaned them up and put a piece of stained glass in them. They’ll be for ventilation because the round windows are fixed.
I spent a whole day cutting, grinding, drilling, bending, welding, painting some tail light brackets that will never be noticed once they’re installed.
Here are the brackets attached to the taillights.
Total length of the teardrop from tail light to ball coupling: 140″
Body Height: 52″ with 16″ of ground clearance to the frame gets me a total height of 68″
Weight on axles: 800 pounds
Weight on hitch ball: 70 pounds, so I’m a little light on tongue weight, but I’ve got a plan for that… aluminum suitcases to haul my supplies, spare tire and jack.