The notion of Teardrop trailers dips deep into North American nos
talgia. Teardrops originated in the 1930s and became extremely popular in the 1940s. The average family acquired their first car by the 1920s; however, unbeknownst to them, they’d have to keep it through the Great Depression. And then, during World War II, automobile production ceased altogether. Many a family car was leftover, producing a lethargic 25-50 horsepower (the 2018 Honda Civic has 158 h.p.).
For those that could take a vacation during those lean years, the Teardrop trailer was an enabler: light weight enough to be pulled behind an almost powerless vehicle, and affordable – the dealer cost in 1946 was $500.
The company that capitalized on the Teardrop design was Kit Manufacturing Co. It was sold as a kit, with its components assembled by buyers. The company’s initial model, the Kit Kamper, made its debut in 1946 at a trade show in Hollywood. Because of a shortage of materials so soon after the end of World War II, the 12 show models had an unusual exterior combination of war-surplus aluminum, re-used jeep tires and fiberglass fenders. Inside, the trailer had all the comforts of home, including an innerspring mattress and an all-aluminum kitchen with butane stove and icebox. The response exceeded all expectations, with nearly 500 orders booked. About 3,500 Kit Kampers were produced and delivered by the end of the year.
In January 1947, Kit moved to a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the harbour area of Long Beach. Production had jumped from the original two per week to 120, and sales had climbed from $1,000 to $50,000 weekly. In 1948 Kit went into production of a larger 8’x14’ coach trailer, with demand far exceeding production capability. Now that the average family owned a powerful new car, capable of pulling large trailers, the Kit Kamper Teardrop assembly line was dropped.
Flashforward to today. The large pull behind campers still exist, though the requirement of purchasing a 200+ horsepower, fuel guzzling truck to pull it is prohibitive. Smaller fuel conscious cars are becoming the norm. As for the Teardrop trailer – it’s back in vogue. To customize one to pull behind your Subaru or Prius, you only need to drive to Vivian in Whitchurch-Stouffville to Steve and Mandy Hoddinott’s The Teardrop Trailer.
Oddly enough, Kijiji has steered Steve and Mandy’s course in business and to Whitchurch-Stouffville. In the first place, Steve was thinking about starting a hot dog cart business. He searched Kijiji for a cart, but rather came across a Teardrop trailer. He was astonished, and then decided he wanted one – but it was too expensive. Being campers, he and Mandy saw the utility of the Teardrop and built one from scratch in 2013. “You drive, you eat, you sleep, you go. There’s no set up, no anything, just enjoying the outdoors,” said Steve.
Meanwhile, Steve had been laid off as a commercial transmission mechanic manager in Rexdale. They decided to sell their Teardrop to make ends meet. They eventually built another one but sold it too. And then another one. “We were getting orders faster than we could build,” said Steve. The Hoddinotts had a business concept and a name – The Teardrop Trailer – but their Newmarket home was not ideal for the growing business. A backyard tent provided cover for manufacture, while the living room had been converted into a spare parts department.
Steve searched Kijiji again. This time he found a large shop and home in Vivian. The Teardrop Trailer moved to Whitchurch-Stouffville. Overtime, they have built and sold more than 300 trailers, with average production being about 10 a month these days. Production is currently booked until June 2019, including orders for British Columbia, Yukon, California, Texas, and South Dakota.
I (the editor) was surprised when I found The Teardrop Trailer on Google Earth at Vivian Rd. & Highway 48. I emailed Steve and Mandy to say – “Are you really in Vivian?” Steve emailed back with a photo attached of himself sitting in a thermal pool: “No”, he said, “we are in Iceland.” I emailed him after Christmas with the same question – “No, we are in St. Lucia.” As it turns out, Steve and Mandy just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in two places – one warm and one cold. Steve is a romantic. They originally married at the Newmarket courthouse, “with pennies,” says Steve. He was determined to celebrate this milestone properly. He wrote a song for Mandy, got someone to train him to sing it and crafted it into a music video.
The popularity of The Teardrop Trailer is the full customization, whether it be the configuration of the kitchen galley in the rear, solar panels on the roof or special shelving in the bedroom – not to mention the rims, outer skin or option for a pet-friendly bunk bed. Every trailer is based on either a 4’x8’ or 5’x8’ trailer frame (the 5×8 can hold a queen size bed). “Our customers push us to innovate. They send photos and make requests,” says Steve. Right now, they are making the first Teardrop that will have a tent on top to accommodate a family of three in Stouffville.
Steve and Mandy have a simple business model, being self-sufficient by continuously reinvesting into the business – they collect 50% deposit upon order, which is used to purchase parts in bulk. “We keep the prices down to keep the competitors and DIYers at bay,” says Mandy. Steve concludes with a reflection: “I grew up on the north side of Preston Lake. When the bus dropped me off to go home, I had to walk in from Woodbine all the way to Hilltop Blvd. I would walk past a trailer park filled with various sized camper trailers, facing the lake. It was a huge campsite community. I would walk by that trailer park my entire public-school years, often wondering what they would look like inside. My very first sale happened to be to a girl by the name of Anne, who lived on the south side of Preston Lake. I would have to say one of my strongest influences into this profession was walking by that trailer park every day and growing up at Preston Lake.”
For more information, visit www.theteardroptrailer.com. Videos, testimonials and hundreds of photographs have been uploaded to the site. One can watch their trailer being assembled online. “Transparency is very important to us,” stated Mandy.