Frame and Initial parts sourcing

So a Teardrop Caravan has been something that I’ve been keen to build for a couple of years. The motivation for the project always seems to be strongest after Eastercamp but then again there is nothing like spending a week in a tent working long hours to motivate one to find a better accommodation solution. I was talking to my brother-in-law recently whilst on holiday and he was interested in building one as well so we decided to finally give it a go.

Many long hours on the internet were spent researching the subject; what laws do you need to comply with in NZ when building a caravan, what is the best size and shape, do you go fibreglass or wood finish etc. The TNTTT.com website provided a wealth of information but I have to say the jackpot was discovering this site http://teardropbuilder.com. Contained within is an entire wealth of information as well as generously provided full construction plans and a Sketchup Model. Well worth checking out regardless of whether you are wanting to build your own or not.

As mentioned in the previous post the main hurdle to be overcome in NZ is the sourcing of a couple of the critical parts, namely the galley hinge and the side doors. The rest although perhaps in different sizes (metric vs imperial) are achievable.

Galley Hinge

There are a few main approaches that people seem to take here which fall into the following categories.

  1. Aluminium extruded hinge. (Hurricane Hinge)
  2. Piano Hinge with some form of weatherproof covering
  3. Rubber “Centaflex” hinge

I looked at all three options and rules out option two pretty quickly. Whilst I have no question that it is possible to waterproof these hinges I didn’t want to run the risk of stuffing around trying to waterproof it and then have to constantly keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not leaking

Option 3 turned out to be one option easily available in NZ from these guys http://www.mainlandfasteners.co.nz/2390/Plastic. The price I got back was reasonable at around $90 so definitely an option however it was hard to put aside the suspicions I had regarding the longevity of the rubber hinge material.

Option 1 turned out to be the option I went with however. One particular post on the TNTTT forum indicated that Grant Whipp based in the US shipped these hinges internationally. An email reply from Grant however advised that unfortunately (for me but not so much for him) he had retired. He was kind enough to pass me onto TCTeardrops.com in Wisconsin who make some pretty gnarly d including some off road models. Carol here was amazing and in short order a 5 foot section of hurricane hinge was on its way to New Zealand for pretty much the same price as the option 3. Highly reccomended dropping them a line if you too are after hinges.

Door

The door was the other option that was proving hard to source. Many hours were spent searching the internet for a workable option. From what I read online it seemed that about 50% of builders built their own door, the other 50% ordered one that was premade.

Once again waterproofing concerns were pushing me towards a premade option, the build your own approach used a number of extruded aluminium profiles and foam / rubber strips that all needed to be fitted around a plywood door section before being fitted to the body. Given the weather that you get here often in NZ I didn’t want to arrive at the campsite to find that rain had snuck in around the door edges on whilst in transit and that the mattress was soaked. The pre made option consisted of an insulated door and frame with little opening window, fly screen and inner trim strip. Basically cut the hole in the wall, screw the door in and then fit the trim. The only issue was sourcing in NZ.

One final option I looked into was marine hatches but the issue here was a) finding something large enough and b) something that had the locks on the outside.

Vintage Technologies seemed to be the go for pre made doors, any search on Google, Amazon or eBay returned his products so I contact them asking for a price to ship a couple to NZ. The price that came back for the doors was good but the shipping was an eye watering $550 USD.

Unfortunately NZ Post’s YouShop service has a maximum size that they ship, playing around with the shipping calculator revealed that the doors were only a couple of inches too large for them to carry however the price was significantly lower than $550 USD. The search then swapped to one of freight forwarders of which there were many. I settled on MyUS in the end, they had a simple calculator on their website to estimate shipping as well as a number of different service options and so after an account was set up with them a trial door was ordered from Amazon.

This arrived at MyUS this morning and should be shipped out in the next couple of days, just getting them to confirm that the correct door has been sent by Amazon, white on the inside, black on the outside and Insulated. Will provide an update on both the quality of the door and the MyUS service when the door arrives.

Frame

The steel for the frame arrived last week. This was purchased off Trademe from a seller MagellenImports based in Hederson. Big plus was that for $45 they would deliver it straight to your door, a big win when dealing with 6m lengths that weighed all up about 100kg.

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In short order this was cut to length and after a mornings work the ends of the C section had been notched to slot together prior to welding.

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One final fitup and the parts were stacked until the chance came to weld them up (or so I thought)

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The next day I was looking over the plans with a few friends and we came to the realisation that the frame was going to be too big to fit the locally available materials.

The widest sheet of plywood that I am locally able to obtain is 1530mm or approx 60 1/4 inches. Looking at the roof details from the plans we see that the roof overlaps the walls and so the widest that the trailer could ever be is 1530mm. (Images from http://teardropbuilder.com)

top

Looking now at the bottom we can see that from the outside of the wall to the outside of the trailer frame (point A) there is 1/8th of an inch of exterior skin and then 1/2 of an inch of wall which given that we have this on both sides, means that the trailer frame has to be 1 and 1/4 inches narrower than the roof.Bottom.jpg

The plans called for the trailer frame to be 60 inches from one outside side to the other and so this was the sizing that we worked to when cutting the frame steel but when you then add to that the thickness of the walls you end up with a complete teardrop width of 61 and 1/4 inches, about an inch wider than the available plywood…

Long story short, the next day steel was being cut again, to make sure that there were no issues about an inch and a half was removed from the width, this should now give a total teardrop width smaller than the plywood sheeting available locally.

To be honest I expected that something like this would happen at some point given that I’m using imperial plans in a metric world and that there are going to be regional differences when it comes to material sizing, I just didn’t expected it this early in the piece.

Next step will be doing the first weld up of the frame, the final weld will include the drawbar and the mounting points for the leaf springs which will probably happen close to the end of the build when to allow the trailer to be balanced. Ill have to come up with a way of making the top of the trailer detachable from the welded frame but don’t anticipate this being too much of an issue.

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