1950 Tear Drop Single-Wheel Trailer Restoration

BEFORE:     AFTER:

   I finally found the perfect practical vintage accessory for my VW camper bus.  It's a 1950 single-wheel Tear Drop trailer!!  It attaches to the rear bumper via bumper clamps.  This was a home built kit as evidenced by the original 1950 title.  This trailer had not been licensed since 1969.  Here's how it looked the day I got it home.

1950swt-2.jpg (53151 bytes)    1950swt-3.jpg (48190 bytes)    1950swt-4.jpg (39137 bytes)    1950swt-bumperclamp.jpg (73147 bytes)    1950swt-wheel.jpg (64184 bytes)    1950swt-licenseplate.jpg (55230 bytes)

   Pretty good shape for a 50+ year old trailer!!  The wheel was freshly powder coated and a new tire and tube was mounted on.  Here's my plan for the rest of the trailer:

   Caster assembly - The rest of the caster assembly is in need of bead blasting and powder coating.

   Frame - After it's separated from the bodywork, more bead blasting and powder coating.

   Tear drop box - I'm still thinking about using the original parts for patterns and manufacturing copies from aluminum to help cut down weight.  The original steel parts are really heavy and the top has some damage and warping going on.  Time will tell. . .

    Paint - I plan to match paint it to my bus when my bus gets painted.  Of course, if I end up making it out of aluminum, that may change things a bit. . .


10/13/01 - The chassis has been sand blasted and re-painted with "Hammered Gray" textured paint.  The luggage area was painted with POR-15.  The castor wheel assembly was completely stripped down, glass bead blasted and painted with POR-15 since it will be out of the sunlight.  Everything has been reassembled with new bolts and nuts.  To date, The sides of the body have been fabricated out of .091" 6061-T4 aluminum and mounted with stainless steel hardware.  So far, I've ground the welds on the outside smooth with a 90 degree die grinder using grinding disks but I still plan to blend everything together better so that it looks as if it's all one piece.   I'm pretty happy with how things are shaping up so far.  Here's a few shots of the progress to date.

1950swt-restored-chassis.jpg (52509 bytes)        1950swt-alum-body1.jpg (46786 bytes)        1950swt-alum-body2.jpg (48351 bytes)

Next on the agenda are:

Re-wiring - I'm going to try and finish this within the next day or two.  I've got everything to do it, I've just got to get out there and get it done.

Fabricate the top - I've got just about all the pieces for this fabricated.  The sides have been re-engineered a bit in order to keep the bending that happened to the original top from happening with this aluminum top.   This top will be built like a tank, but as light as a feather. 


10/28/01 - The trailer is wired and the top pieces have been tacked together.  It's starting to really look like a tear drop now!!  This week, I'm hoping to get the welding finished and begin the long grinding & smoothing process.  So far it fits GREAT and I'm really encouraged by the way it's coming together.  I've still got about 5" of excess metal on the forward end that needs to be trimmed off as well.  The side pieces are .125" 6061-T6 with the top being .071" 6061-T6.  The top sheet had to be rolled on a sheet metal roller in order to make it the initial shape which aided in welding it in place since T-6 this thick is very difficult to bend.  I also had to notch the front and rear of the sides to accommodate the two cross braces in the top.  When the top is closed, you will not be able to see these notches since the top sides will hide them. 

1950swt-front-notch.jpg (17077 bytes)        1950swt-rear-notch.jpg (20325 bytes)        1950swt-top-tacked1.jpg (25351 bytes)        1950swt-top-tacked2.jpg (22816 bytes)        1950swt-top-tacked3.jpg (21048 bytes)

Next on the agenda are:

Finish welding the top and smooth the welds - I'm hoping to have the top welded this week, time permitting.  It could take another week or so to get the welds smoothed.

Attach the top to the body - I'm planning to use stainless steel piano hinge and fasteners for this.   I also plan to cover the hinge with rubber to keep water from seeping in when the weather turns ugly. 

Install the top latch assembly - I plan to use an early VW Beetle front hood handle assembly with a Type-3  latch. 


  12/30/01 - This project is basically DONE!!  The top is on, the welds are smoothed, the latch assembly and release mechanism is fabricated and adjusted; I can't believe it!!  The top was a pain to fabricate and get to work right, but it's on and done and that's all I've got to say about that!!  

1950swt-12-30-1.jpg (49249 bytes)                    1950swt-12-30-2.jpg (57398 bytes)

    The rod holding the top up is made from 1/4" aluminum tubing with a length of 3/8" tubing clamped in the center acting as a hinge.  

1950swt-12-30-3.jpg (47877 bytes)                    1950swt-12-30-4.jpg (44280 bytes)

    The latch assembly has a plunger assembly from a VW Beetle trunk (with a lengthened rod and spring spacer).  The latch it's self is from a VW Fastback (type3) with the cable end holder donated from a Beetle trunk latch.  The cable assembly was a new unit (aftermarket choke cable) from the auto parts store. 

1950swt-12-30-6.jpg (32585 bytes)                    1950swt-12-30-5.jpg (44957 bytes)

    The rear lights for this unique  little trailer were customized as well.  I molded some carbon fiber lens liners for each lens.  Yeah, I could have just painted the inner lens, and gotten the same effect, but how much fun would that have been?? :-)  When the lights are illuminated, they look like this. . .

 1950swt-12-30-7.jpg (44986 bytes)

    There's still a couple little things I have to do yet before it can be driven.  I have to mount the original license plate, get it registered and find/install that early Beetle handle I have for the rear latch.  I'm planning to add a mud flap to the rear of the trailer and I plan to mount the license plate to this flap.   I may also see about powder coating it to protect the finish.

    Here's a few photos of the finished trailer attached to my bus being used during the past couple years.  This trailer has become my most useful accessory by far!!

Nates-EZ-swt.jpg (187394 bytes)            SACTO1.jpg (55442 bytes)            VTO1.jpg (69330 bytes)

 


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