Travelmate to Teardrop

I am creating this post to document our journey of remodelling our old popup Travelmate tent trailer into a teardrop trailer that we can use while exploring this wonderful world. We decided to attempt this pandemic project in February 2021. After many years of tenting and travelling by car with a trunk full of gear, we feel now is the time to upgrade to a bed on wheels.

This was a second hand purchase that had served us well when the boys were young. Then, one day, a big wind knocked it over and we never got around to fixing it. There it sat for years… until I got bored! This project will keep us busy.

PHASE 1: DEMOLITION

We found a place to rip it apart. Plywood, canvas, aluminum, icebox, sink, stove, all had to go. With it back down to bare metal, we removed the bumper, jacks, and corner brackets and moved it to the shop. 76×118″

PHASE 2: REBUILD FROM GROUND UP

We sandblasted the frame and painted it black along with the wheel wells that we saved during demolition. New tires and bearings were purchased and put on. If nothing else, we would have a utility trailer. Then, I purchased a book and with a few design modifications, we started the tear.

We began with 3/4 plywood floor, then 1×2 foam filled frame covered by 1/4 plywood floor in the cabin area. Two conduits were included for electrical to the galley kitchen. We usually don’t need power when we camp, but maybe now we will.

The 1/4 plywood template came next. It’s a good thing hubby stockpiled salvaged lumber. We used this for wall skeletons and skins.

A lot of decisions were made and modifications from the original plan in the book. Wall skeletons were cut out. At first, I was really afraid of the router, but I learned that it works best if I move left to right. The doors had arrived from Vintage Technologies along with other parts so it was exciting to see how things were coming together.

We used clamps and bricks for weight when we glued the 1/8 birch to the interior cabin part of the side skeletons. We had to spread the glue very quickly as it only had a 5 minute open time. And the same process to attach ash plywood (from our kitchen cupboards) in the galley.

After a few coats of spar varnish, the interior walls were looking pretty good.

The sides and bulkheads made a sturdy structure.

With the counter in and galley wall up, the kitchen began to take shape. Pull out cutting board on the left, large area for cooler(s) and our bbq/burner holder on the right. What more do we need? We are trying to stick to the KISS principle.

Next, we glued the ceiling sheets together and put 3 coats of spar varnish on. The edges were taped to ensure adhesion when we glued it on top of the walls.

With the ceiling on, this project was really taking shape. This design needs no trim on the curves and the headboard bulkheads strengthen the front.

Some electrical work needed to be done before the rafters went on top of the ceiling. The router cut all the ceiling edges with a flush cut bearing bit.

Rafters went in and spacers with modified metal joist hangers held them solid. Saskatchewan wind is expected.

Wall skeleton voids were filled with insulation with the plastic film removed.

Two inch rigid foam was cut to fit and a stud was installed where the two sheets of diamond plate met.

Walls were covered with 1/8 birch plywood and door holes were cut.

More birch plywood went on the roof and diamond plate to stop stones on the front.

The roof was fibreglassed, sanded and then we primed and painted all the exterior wood. Next up: the hatch! Many little bits were finished before we had the guts to start the hatch sides. This was the intimidating part.

Hatch rafters were cut to go between the sides. Then the ceiling birch was glued and stapled to the inside of the curve and bricks were used as weights until it had set.

It fit well, so next, we did the wiring for the tail lights and added blocking for them, the latch and license plate holder. Aluminum was floated on the walls, the doors were installed and the 12 volt fan/vent on the roof.

Insulation, exterior skin, fibreglass, sanding, priming, painting all came next.

We felt it was almost ready for a test and booked a campsite at Dunnet Regional Park for our maiden voyage. The trim was applied and the tongue box installed complete with a 12v system in that last week. We had previously made the fold-down table complete with the table leg from the original tent trailer. The table top was our first fibreglass experiment before we did the roof.

This is the headboard shelf up in the front. With room to store small things on the shelf, and extra bedding behind our pillows.

Here, on the footboard, we stow our suitcases. The front board is a heritage piece of crown molding that creates a lip to keep things from sliding off during transport. On the back wall, are 12 volt outlets powered by batteries in the tongue box, and a 120 volt surge protector for when we connect to shore power. On the ceiling are a 12 volt dimmable led light and a super quiet variable speed 12 volt MaxxFan.

We used a stick to hold up the hatch temporarily. Coffee was good! We were camping!

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