In the days before rampant automotive bloat, small campers where everywhere. Domestic manufacturers of travel trailers proliferated all across the USA. Names like Airstream, Kenskill, and Spartan flourished in the great American Postwar era. Many oddities emerged from that time, but perhaps none where as strange as this nutty fifth wheel trailer meant for compact cars:
These things are incredibly rare. The owner of this one, Bob, said that only six were ever made, and I’m inclined to believe him. In fact, the VW super-nerds over at Volkswear thought that they had the only example left in existence. However, I found out that at least one other has survived.
Bob has been buying, fixing, and selling project cars his entire life, and even he had no idea what this camper was when he first clapped eyes on it. However, a guy like him can’t successfully flip cars for decades without developing good instincts. He bought it on a hunch and wouldn’t discover its true purpose until he came across this somewhat infamous youtube video:
According to Bob, the trailer was originally designed by Airstream. They must have (rightly) considered the concept too odd to generate enough sales volume to bother with. The design appears to have ended up at International Travel Trailer Inc, who produced only a tiny handful before giving up on the idea completely. Jayco Trailers might also have had something to do with it. Suffice to say, the origins of this camper are incredibly murky.
Bob found his example in a state of complete disrepair. The paint and interior were so far gone that hanging on to any originality was out of the question. The 70's build quality was also less than impressive, so some parts needed to be re-engineered as well.
This frame-work is all new. The hitch originally attached to a flat steel plate that, terrifyingly, was just bolted to the fiber-glass body! The bolt holes wore out in short order, making that arrangement incredibly unsafe. A beefy steel frame connecting the hitch directly to the axle is a much better solution.
The car side of the hitch arrangement was long gone by the time Bob came into the picture. He reverse-engineered a rig that was, again, far more skookum that the original setup. The heavy-duty hitch is bolted directly to the roof. This makes it a relatively permanent part of the car, but I say that’s a small price to pay to avoid cringing in terror every time you hit the brakes.
The interior of the trailer received a full re-build. It has heat, refrigeration, running water, and a functional latrine. It’s been tastefully decorated in a matching yellow 70's theme and appeared shockingly comfortable for how compact it is. It even has wood flooring! The only modern convenience it lacks is air conditioning, which is an easy add-on that Bob didn’t feel the need to invest in.
The accompanying Bug is a 1971 model. Bob had actually acquired a different Beetle to do this with, but deemed it too nice to modify in such a bizarre manner. The ‘71 was rough but solid, far more suitable for such a wacky build. I think it has taken very well to the yellow paint and creamy seat covers.
I asked Bob if he intended to take the missus and tour the countryside with it. He laughed and replied that he had a proper camper at home and that this was just a fun project. That fact, combined with his car-flipping credentials, means he isn’t terribly attached to this insane piece of history. So, for the right price, he’d be willing to part with it.