Teardrop Caravan History - Find Out How It All Started
Kupler Mini Caravan

The History of the Teardrop Caravan


Kupler mini caravan has a special design and is known as a teardrop caravan (also teardrop camper or teardrop trailer). A teardrop caravan is a streamlined, compact and light travel trailer with a sleeping cabin and kitchenette in the rear. It derives its name from the unique teardrop contour, as it comprises a large curved front that tapers towards the back of the caravan, reminiscent of a teardrop. It’s a great concept and although we would like to take credit for that, teardrop campers have been around for much longer than you might think. In the following article, we will give you a brief overview of the history of caravanning and teardrop caravans in particular.

How Did Caravanning Start

The origins of travel caravans and caravanning can be traced back to nomadic people such as the European Romani and travelling showmen and women who spent most of their lives on horse drawn caravans. However, they travelled more out of necessity than leisure. The first recorded recreational caravan was built in 1880 in the UK. The purpose of this caravan was to go on holiday and the owner later published a bestselling book about his adventures on the road. So the idea of caravanning caught on among people. But back then caravans were the ultimate luxury items and were exclusive to the wealthy upper class. Nevertheless, by the turn of the century, caravanning for leisure had become an increasingly popular activity and in 1901, the first dedicated caravanning club was established in the UK.

As cars started to replace horse drawn carriages, caravans also evolved. In 1919, the first car-towed caravan entered commercial production in the UK. By the early 1920s, the interest in caravanning had also spread in the United States. But it was still wealthy people’s playground, as caravanning was naturally restricted to those who had the funds to own a car and a caravan. It was only in the 1930s when caravanning came within the financial reach of the middle class, and this is when caravanning as we know it today really began.

When Did Teardrop Caravan Enter the Picture

The teardrop caravan dates back to the 1930s and originated from the US. It is very difficult to say when exactly the first teardrop caravan was built and who that brilliant man (or woman) was who came up with the concept, but the proven fact is that they already existed in 1936. It is believed that the teardrop caravan was actually born out of necessity in the Great Depression era, when people would build these caravans for affordable shelter and for relocation in search of a job.

In 1936, an article on how to build a teardrop caravan was published in a magazine, and the years that followed saw many more such articles along with detailed building plans. These articles and plans were meant for do-it-yourselfers and inspired many people to build their own teardrop caravan in their backyards.

Teardrop caravans slowly began to gain popularity, but then World War II put them on hold. People had other things in mind than building a teardrop, and from 1940 to 1946 there is no known history/articles about building teardrop caravans. But then, once the war was over, teardrop caravan became extremely popular in the United States. The war had given the economy a large boost and American families had the surplus income to go on holidays again. The teardrop camper became especially appealing, as it was lightweight and could easily be towed by a family car, which in the 30s and 40s had a small engine with less than 100 horse power. The road network was also becoming well developed with more and more paved roads, which made travelling easier than ever before.

The true beginning of teardrop caravan mania is credited to an article in Mechanix Illustrated magazine from 1947 titled “Trailer for Two”. The concept of this article was a low cost do-it-yourself and it came with extensive building plans. This helped to boost teardrop caravan popularity a great deal.

Post-war teardrop caravans were often built from leftover and salvaged materials from World War II. In some cases, salvaged wheels from war jeeps were used as the teardrop caravan wheels and the exterior layers were crafted from bomber plane aluminium wings, giving it a shiny look. However, plywood was the main building material.

There were many do-it-yourselfers out there, but teardrop caravans were also commercially produced. In 1945, Kit Manufacturing Co was established to start the commercial production of teardrop caravans. The initial idea was to produce kits that people could assemble themselves but this concept proved not to be a success for them. Soon the owners realised what people wanted was not a kit, but rather a completed caravan, and they decided to produce teardrop caravans in completed form.

The first public showing of Kit Manufacturing teardrop caravans was held in February 1946 at Gilmore Stadium in L.A. They presented 12 completed units and booked 500 orders on site. What a success! But that was just the beginning. A few months after that first presentation they were operating in two shifts and turning out 40 caravans a day. In 1946 and 1947, they produced 4,500 teardrop caravans in total. Any teardrop caravan manufacturer today would be over the moon with these kinds of sales. The success of Kit Manufacturing Co paved the way for others and it’s believed there were about 35 teardrop caravan manufacturers in the United States from 1945 to 1961.

The popularity of teardrop caravans continued until the late 1950s. After that it started to decrease and teardrop caravans completely disappeared from mainstream camping in the mid-1960s. As cars were getting bigger and more powerful in the 50s, they could also tow larger campers and caravans. In an era when petrol was cheap and bigger was better, teardrops quickly declined in popularity and had to make way for bigger and more luxurious recreational vehicles that could fit the whole family.

Rebirth of the Teardrop Caravan

For decades teardrop caravans were forgotten but as many fashion trends have made a comeback, so too has the teardrop caravan. And we mainly have the internet to thank for that. In the late 1990s, many old teardrop caravan do-it-yourself plans reappeared online and have been picked up by enthusiasts wanting to build caravans for their vintage cars or small vehicles. Nowadays, there are also many commercial providers offering ready-made teardrop campers. So it’s safe to say teardrops are gaining in popularity again, and although much has changed since they were first introduced, the reasons for owning one have remained somewhat the same. They can be towed by the small cars many people drive today, and they are very economical as fuel consumption is only minimally affected. That means a lot considering modern petrol prices.

Teardrop caravans were relatively unknown in Europe while they were hugely popular across the pond all those decades ago, but that has changed now. This simple and inexpensive form of travelling and camping is appealing to more and more people around the world. Are you one of them? Check out our teardrop caravan to see if Kupler could be your future travel companion.