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The Mobile Surf Shack

March 3, 2010

This “smallish” travel trailer is the most recent of my S.U. projects.  Every winter (around February)  cabin fever over takes me if I have had a number of colds and flues and can’t do silly things like winter camping (great fun – seriously).  So I attempt to combat c.f. by becoming obsessed with certain interests like geodesic domes, A-frame cabins, sailing canoes and proas , and teardrop’s and tiny travel trailers.

Four years ago I seen an old Popular Science article from April of 1946 on building a small teardrop shaped travel trailer ( it’s the lightweight trailer plan – it’s missing a couple pages from the original but it will give you a good idea of how this thing is built). These trailers are small and “funky”, often displaying retro, Art Deco ellipses in their form. You won’t find all the modern conveniences in them ( most don’t even have plumbing) but they are lightweight and easy to tow and are a perfect weekend trailer,being a step up from a tent and would be a great campground trailer.  There is a big revival movement with D.I.Y. “ers” designing and building teardrop and tiny travel trailers or building new trailers from plans from the 1920s to 60s.  There are big tear drop get-together weekends where teardrop owners can camp and look at other peoples designs.  The “Teardrop’s and Tiny Travel Trailer” site is an amazing resource for those who are interested in these funky little mobile shelters.

A modern example of a classic teardrop trailer with outdoor "hatchback" kitchen galley.

Well here is my design “The Mobile Surf Shack”. It’s a bit of a high-bred design using ideas from the Midget, the Widget (slightly larger than the Midget)  and the Popular Science Light Weight Travel Trailer ( also know as the Wanderbug) . Please note – if you are planing on building the Wanderbug please build the frame with steel tubing – or you will eventually be leaving a pile of lumber on the highway – ” A WOODEN FRAME WILL BE A SERIOUS ROAD HAZARD”.

The Mobile Surf Shack is a larger design – it measures 7’8″ wide 7’8″ high and the body of this trailer is very close to 14′ long. I wanted to have space for a washroom – taking my daughter camping at a campground can be a challenge – she thinks she has a spider phobia and will not go into campground bathrooms so designing a trailer with a washroom was important. I wanted to have a ceiling storage area for a cooler – the folding bar stool chairs and for storage boxes of cloths and equipment. There is storage space under the bed –  a tongue box at the front of the trailer for a deep cycle battery and a breaker box and more storage in the back with a pull out drawer for cooking equipment and stuff you want to keep outside. This is a rough draft design ( come to think of it, all my designs are “rough drafts”) but I wanted to have roller racks on the long sloping back of the trailer for a canoe or surf boards. I would also like to design an opening back hatch like many teardrop trailer designs to provide a shaded and water proof, skylight window area to take in the scenery (or to watch the surfers at the competition, “hang ten” or what ever they call it now) .

Well thats all I have on that for now. Until my next post – “Dyslexic’s Untie”


5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2010 8:15 pm


    I really like the design of the Mobile Surf Shack.

    Designing and building teardrop campers is a blast!

    Thanks for purchasing our plans. Have fun with your project.

    Sincerely, Brad

  2. March 4, 2010 8:41 pm


    Glad you liked the design – I am not quite ready to build the M.M.S. – I need to do more work on it ( and it will cost quite a bit) Maybe next year. If I were to build my design I would have to change the title of the blog. Your design looks well built and I will certainly have it done in time for summer and it does look like I will be having a lot of fun building it. I will certainly keep a blog journal of my progress here .
    Thank you for being the blogs first poster – Wooohooo Brad’s #1 Brad’s #1.
    Bye for now

  3. March 17, 2010 4:50 am

    The inability to build a trailer frame out of wood is utter nonsense. The Morgan sports cars are, to this day, still made of wood (ash) primarily for its light weight and longevity. It’s sold in the US and so meets all crash standards.
    You can see it here:

    After all, wood is the original carbon fiber, isn’t it?

  4. March 17, 2010 8:14 am


    I have 3 steel framed bicycles – tapered steel tubes are great for making bicycles – it’s a little heavier but steel has great flexing qualities which makes for a better ride, and steel is super strong – with proper care a steel frame bicycle will last a life time. A carbon fiber frame bicycle is extremely light weight and has great flexing qualities – it’s extremely expensive ( and here’s my point) It doesn’t last long – carbon fiber develops stress fractures over time, quicker than steel will – most riders will go through two or three carbon fiber bicycles on a classic tour.
    If you want to make a trailer frame out of wood – I can’t stop you – I am not the trailer frame authority ( I made it my life”s ambition to not be an authority on anything – I have never been comfortable telling people what to do). But if someone was to make a trailer frame out of wood without the proper knowledge of wood joints – the proper epoxies to use – the right wood materials to use and proper knowledge of lamination – a serious structural failure would be a most likely possibility – and if someone does have the proper knowledge to build a wooden frame trailer that can be properly pulled down the highway and not be a traffic hazard – it’s going to be a costly project. Having said that – yes I have actually seen a trailer frame made out of ash – parts were laminated to absorb stress – there was enough “beautifully made” wooden joints in it to choke a moose and the guy who built it was a structural engineer, metallurgist and a master cabinet maker to boot – and that guy made sure that the trailer never seen speeds greater the 45mph ( I remember it to be very annoying to be stuck behind him on the road when I was a kid) Anyways – your trailer needs to get licensed at a dot or mto ( what ever that is EH?) You can have the most brilliantly made wooden framed trailer in the history of mankind but just think of the hoops the DOT will have you jump through to get the thing licensed – I know – I use to drive truck and those folks take their jobs seriously because if they screw up it can cause traffic fatalities.
    I am not trying to be argumentative with you Steve – I know what you are saying and you are right on your point but for the sake of this (amateur) blog my warning will still stand ” A WOODEN FRAME WILL BE A SERIOUS ROAD HAZARD” – sure this is a blanket statement but I am certainly not going to be responsible for someone who makes a trailer frame out of two-by-fours slapped together with roof screws. I will add this warning though ” WARNING – BE SURE TO HAVE YOUR TRAILER INSPECTED AND PROPERLY LICENSED by the proper licensing authorities”. You have to be very careful about what you post and what gets posted on your own blog when it comes to peoples safety.
    Anyway – thank you for getting my pre-coffee morning noggin into proper running gear Steve
    Bye for now.

  5. March 18, 2010 2:28 am

    I hear what you are saying Craig. Whether you build this out of wood or steel or drink straws, the caveat is the same, you should be sure that your build has integrity enough to pass all inspections and is fit to be licensed.

    My only point is that we should not summarily discount a wood frame. It is technically possible and may still be legal where you are.

    In fact I OWN a trailer which is made of wood and has been on the road, inspected, licensed, insured etc since 1967 ( I have not owned it since 67 but it has been licensed since 67).

    It is made from some unknown eucalyptus species and is as solid as the day it was built. I actually like the bit of flex it provides with a heavy load.

    Just so you know I am paying attention to the topic of using wood, this trailer is no longer an acceptable construction in New Zealand, but not because it is a serious road hazard but only because no one is qualified anymore to know how to inspect these for roadworthiness.

    This does not make it less roadworthy, it’s just that some bureaucrat can’t be bothered to standardize the requirements for anything other than steel. It’s either the steel lobby at work, an unjust bias against wood by engineers or the prohibitive cost of developing guidelines for the few hundred wooden trailers still on the road. Either way it’s a shame.

    I’m certain if that same bureaucrat was given a Morgan, he would change his mind.

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