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Build a Craftsman Folding Trailer
DIY Vintage Hardside Pop Up Camper Trailer

Photo and cutaway diagram of a vintage hardsided folding travel trailer as shown on the cover of DIY plans and instructions.
Craftsman Folding Camping Trailer Plans
Build this Vintage  Pop Up Camper Trailer
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Get a restored copy of these vintage Folding Trailer Plans with 13 Pages of Enhanced and Enlarged Figures and Illustrations and Searchable Text.
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Picture of a folding trailer hitched and ready for travel
Designed and Built especially for a trip to Alaska, this fold-down camping trailer was thoroughly road-tested on the rugged Alcan Highway. Economical, high-speed towing is the main consideration in its construction, combined with generous living space for four persons. 

When folded for towing, the trailer is lower than a modern car, Fig. 1, thus offering a minimum of wind resistance. Utilizing airplane-type, stressed-skin construction for the upper portion of the trailer body reduces over-all weight by hundreds of pounds.

Because the trailer is supported on four wheels, its weight seldom bears on the trailer hitch. This occurs only on very rough roads, as the tow bar has a pivoting action, Fig. 9, that accommodates considerable vertical motion. About 30 min. is required to set up the trailer completely when a campsite is reached.

Picture of the author's two daughter on a trailer trip to Alaska.
Author's two daughters enjoying a trip to Alaska, each night sleeping most comfortably in bunk beds at the end of the trailer.
The setup is shown in Figs. 3 through 8. When the roof is raised, the rear wall, which is hinged to it. is swung down and fitted on the lower body, Fig. 3. The front wall is next, being fitted in the same manner, Fig. 4.

Then one side wall is put up, and the bunk beds in the end of the trailer are fitted one above the other, Figs. 2 and 5. The drawer-type side bunks now are pulled out, Fig. 6, and their side walls swung up in place. The completed trailer is shown in Fig. 8. Note in Fig. 7 that the bunk end walls are square.

A man raising the rear wall panel of a folding hardsided trailer.
First step in setting up the trailer is to raise one end of the roof and swing down one end wall that is hinged to roof. Lower end wall is screwed to trailer body.
A man raising the front side panel and folding door of a folding hardside trailer.
Second step is repeat of preceding operation on wall at opposite end of trailer. Setting up trailer can be a one-man job but go quicker with two.
Setting up the bunks in a folding travel trailer.
In this photo, one side wall has been left off to demonstrate headroom inside the trailer for 6-ft man and to show how bunkbeds are set up on brackets.
Pulling out the sliding sidewall floor of a DIY folding camper trailer.
Drawer pulls attached to the pull-out bunks permit handling them like bureau drawers. Hinged side walls of bunks then are raised and tubing brackets installed.
Installing the the slideout panels in a DIY camper trailer.
Final step in setup is installation of side wall panel. Square end panels on man job pull-out bunks were modified with triangular extensions as below.
Below, spectators often express amazement a full-sized house trailer popping out of the shallow trailer originally towed into the camping area.
Craftsman folding trailer setup in a campsite.
Construction of the trailer starts with the welded, platform-type frame, Fig. 9. Side members are 3/16 x 6-in. steel channels. The end crosspieces are ¼ x 2 -in. steel angles. Four other crosspieces, spaced equidistant the length of the frame, are ¼ x 1 ½ -in. steel angles. Axles for the original trailer are the drop type that can be purchased at trailer supply houses. Automobile front wheel hubs are used with the axles. Because some wheels have roller bearings and others ball bearings, it is best
Dimensions and plans for a 15 foot camper trailer chassis.
to purchase car wheels and hubs from an auto graveyard first, and then buy the axles with spindles that will accept those bearings. To get the required tread on the original trailer, it was necessary to shorten a long axle. Conversely, a shorter axle may be lengthened to suit.

Two coil springs from the front axle of a car are cut in half to provide four springs for the trailer. In Fig. 10 is shown a suspension unit. The upper end of each spring is welded to the frame, and four short pieces of flat are welded equidistant around it to help position it. The lower end of the spring fits in a ring shaped from 3/16 x 2-in. steel flat. The ring is welded to a 24-to. length of 1/8 x 6-in. steel plate bent in a modified Z-shape. The lower horizontal portion of the Z-shape measures 5 in., the upper is 4 in. and is welded to the frame channel. Two U-bolts are welded to the ring around the lower end of each spring providing a means of clamping the assembly to the axle.

Axle, wheel and suspension for a folding camper trailer chassis.
A shock absorber from a light car is fitted behind each spring. Note in Fig. 10 that the end of the angle cross member is "boxed" with a short piece of angle to provide a surface for welding the bolt to which the upper end of the shock absorber is attached.

Details of the frame extension, made of 2-in. angles, and the tow bar, assembled from two 2-in. angles welded together, are shown in Fig. 9. Fig. 12 shows the main, or lower, body. The floor consists of 4 x 8-ft. sheets of 1/2-in. exterior-grade plywood bolted to the frame and trimmed to fit, allowing 2 in. extra all around, to accommodate the 2 x 2 strips bolted to the lower surface of the floor along the outside edges.

Strips of plywood now are nailed across the joints between the plywood, on the lower surface, and positioned to butt against the frame members. These plywood strips, held by clinched nails, aid in keeping the body positioned on the frame.

Cutouts also are made for the wheel wells. These are made by fitting trailer fenders into the cutouts and attaching a plywood semicircle to the inner edges of the fenders. If desired, the floor assembly now can be removed from the frame and the body finished separately Fig. 14. 

Dimensions and plans for the wall panels of a hardside folding travel trailer.
Plans with dimensions for the body and interior of a folding camp trailer.
This is handy where overhead clearance is restricted. The sides of the lower body are 1/4-in. plywood on which are fitted strips of 1 x 3, rabbeted 1/4 x 2-in. to produce a finish wall height of 30 in.

Note that the 1 x 3 strips on the pull-out bunks project 3 in. beyond the ends, requiring the strips on the fixed portion of the body to be shortened by that much, Figs. 6 and 12. Dimensions and details of the pull-out bunks are shown in Figs. 12, 15 and 16. These dimensions can be changed to suit, but remember that corresponding changes will have to be made in the side members of the body.
A small sheet of plywood fitted at the head of a bunk will provide a "pillow effect" under an inflatable or other type camp mattress, Fig. 16. Located inside the trailer door are two cabinets. The top of one contains a small sink of the type used in trailers and boats. Under the sink can be installed a small, portable refrigerator or icebox.

The other counter top is used for a three burner gas range, for cooking. Beneath the counter is stored a tank of butane gas that supplies fuel for the range. Supports for the upper bunk at the rear of the trailer, Figs. 2 and 12. are U-shaped members assembled from 1 x 4 stock. Plywood gussets at the upper corners reinforce them.

The lower ends of the supports fit in "pockets" formed from lengths of 1 x 2 stock and plywood. Dimensions and details of the method used to construct the upper side walls, end walls and roof are shown in Figs. 11 and 13. 

Each wall section consists of a framework of 1 x 1 stock, assembled with glue and nails, over which is glued and nailed to a sheet of 1/16-in. plywood, light sheet aluminum or plastic coated canvas.

Design and construction of a pop up trailer roof showing the ribs and spars.
Ribs of roof are 1/8 or 1/4-in plywood edged with 1 x 1 stock. Curves lower edges allow more headroom.
Felt weather stripping is tacked to all four edges of each side panel, and bottom and top of end panels. Adjacent panels are held together by thumbscrews and nuts of the type shown in Fig. 11. The same screws and nuts are used to hold the panels to the main body of the trailer, being fitted through holes drilled in a strip of 1/4-in. plywood on the lower edges of the panels. that overlaps the trailer body. 

The number, size and shape of the clear plastic windows is optional. The upper half of the trailer door, Fig. 14 is a screen. But an optional cover of light canvas is suggested for chilly weather. Plastic coated canvas is used to cover the trailer roof, Figs. 11 and 13. Battens are nailed over the canvas to the longitudinal members, and to alternate ribs, as indicated. The canvas is painted silver to minimize heat buildup under it caused by the sun. As indicated in Fig. 15, a strip of 1/4-in. plywood is fastened to the edges of the roof so that it projects down 3 in. 

A cutout can be made in the strip for each of the lean-to roofs over the pull-out bunks, and a rain flap used at these points. This will permit the roofs to be raised slightly. Two spare wheels, including hubs and bearings are carried on the back of the trailer. They can be held by long bolts, as indicated in Fig. 12, or regular trailer-type wheel mounts can be used as on the original trailer.

Two piece folding door for a folding camper trailer.
Elevation view of the dimensions and construction of a trailer body and slideout.
Demonstrating the bunk setup in a vintage trailer slideout.
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This modern chassis makes an excellent base for your teardrop trailer project, lightweight camping trailer, or vintage travel trailer build.
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