Newbie from UK says Hi!

Hi all,

I stumbled upon this forum a couple of weeks ago from, a uk based site. I couldn't believe my luck!

I have had the makings of a trailer for a while (like four years...) sitting around doing nothing and often thought about making an Expo trailer. They aren't well known in the UK, I've never seen one and to be honest I'm not sure where I got the idea from.

Anyhow, this site gave me the inspiration to get started and I now have a "rolling chassis". I started with the hitch/tongue, a jockey wheel, axle and springs, which all came from an ex military towable diesel generator circa about 1950. The design is very simple - in fact a lot of it looks home made and very primitive but this suits me as I like this kind of thing. It came with two Series Landrover rims with 6.50 tyres fitted. As I am a self confessed "Landy nut" (I own three - a Defender 90 2005 TD5, Discovery 3 TDV6 and a Series 2A SWB "Project") so it really suits me!

I have "aquired" stock steel and set about making the frame. I have gone for a simple layout based around a two inch box section (you call it square tube in USA I believe) base and 2 inch angle sides and top. This is heavy stuff but the Landy can cope easily and I need it to be strong. You guys all seem to have sheet steel or aluminium bodies but I want to use marine ply, as its easier to get hold of and work with. Time will tell how good this will be. I don't intend to use the trailer in really bad conditions so I don't see a problem at the moment.

I haven't finalised a design yet - I tend to just get on with things and formulate an idea in my head as I go along! I do know I need 12 volt electrics and a 240 volt mains hook up for when its available, I want lighting, a decent kitchen with stove and water, and sleeping for two adults and two children and a mad dog...

The tent needs to be easy and quick to put up and take down. I need space to fit all the things a family takes with them on holiday (ie everything including the kitchen sink). One thing I am unsure about is whether to have a fridge - they are extremely expensive here and as I'm not intending to take the trailer to deepest darkest Africa (yet...) I don't think its necessary. Her indoors thinks otherwise so it's on the "maybe" list.

I will try to get some pics as soon as possible and weather permits (I live in Yorkshire, UK, wettest summer since records began - most roads in my area were under 4 foot of water last month)

As the build progresses I will probably have some questions to put to you all and would like to draw upon your wealth of experience. This project is all about do it yourself cheapness too - I want as much of the build to cost as little as possible, so any tips on this would be welcome.

Grim Reaper

Expedition Leader
Sounds like you are working on the “KISS principal” and nothing wrong with that.

Weight is the enemy. Do not fall into the trap “it has to be strong so let me use a 40lb piece of steel instead of a 10lb piece of steel”. Every pound you add “to make it strong” means another pound you can not take in gear. Good design can overcome lack of wall thickness. Unless you have to have a flat load deck then use lighter materials and make the side walls function as a truss. You will end up with a trailer every bit as “strong” but considerably lighter.

Welcome to the forum!

Now where they hell are the pictures of the trucks and the trailer you are building? :arabia:
1st problem...

Hi Mr Reaper, cheers for the advice, taken on board.

When completed, the first role of the trailer will be to haul stuff only - I need it to get rid of a load of junk in my garden, and to help with my impending move to South West France. After that the fun begins. Trouble is it isn't easy designing a utility trailer knowing that it needs to be easily convertible to an Expo trailer. This is why I'm using the KISS principle.

My first poser for ten...

I have access to gas rams (I'm an engineer for a diesel generator company, and the canopies they live in have gas assist doors). I want to use rams to assist in the opening of the trailer tops (I want two opening either side, I haven't decided yet whether to have two "halves" or build one on top of the other, to give a greater surface area. all will become clearer when I post the pics)

Knowing how these rams work, I realise its not easy to make them arc 180 degrees - does anyone know how its done, if at all possible?

These lids, when opened will become the "beds", which I need to be big enough for two each side. The trailer is only 1410mm wide so half of this won't be big enough, but two 1410mm beds will be excellent. To illustrate my idea, have a look at the Jumping Jack trailers - One bed either side, with the trailer floor being the main floor of the tent.


Supporting Sponsor, Overland Certified OC0018
Welcome Electron.

Next time you are in the Oxford area drop into Frogs Island 4X4 they are the European distributor for our Adventure Trailers.

I think you can get some good ideas from the Chaser trailer them have in stock. They also carry some great products you can look over. Eddie Priscott, the owner is a wealth of information.

If you look through our web sites and www.atreport you should be able to get some ideas on how to build and equip your trailer.

All the best, if you need more specific answers to questions please e mail me from our web site.


Welcome to ExPo, Electron.

You say that "...when completed, the first role of the trailer will be to haul stuff only... ." That's all we put in "Harry", our Horizon trailer...but, oh my, what STUFF. Of course, it's always 'stuff' that we might need, which means that about half never gets used on a trip...but, nevertheless, we have it along. When we could be doing with this :camping:, we seem to expand to this :tent:

Again, welcome. We look forward to your photos.

Allen R
Thanks for the replies guys,

I have seen the Chaser Trailers and have heard of Frogs Island 4x4 - if only I had the spare cash! All that is going into my investment in France, so this has to be done on the cheap.

When I say "haul stuff" I mean its just going to be a utility trailer to start with. I have a few tip runs to do, and then get some of our belongings to France. When thats over with I will be fitting the trailer out with all the expo gear.

Sorry about the missing pics - yesterday was a beautiful sunny day which I took advantage of after work by finishing off the basic chassis of the trailer. All thats left to do now is build the tailgate and thats all the welding finished. When I'd done it was finishing time and the light had gone (I'm a keen photographer too - the light just has to be right or its no deal!) I promise I will post pics as soon as I can.

On another note - I love the look of some of you're trucks, they are awesome! I notice the Toyota is popular. My father used to buy and sell a lot of American cars and I grew up riding around in old Cadilacs and the like. My favourite was always a toss up between the muscle cars or the big 4x4s. I actually learnt to drive in a 1970's GMC SWB when I was 12 in the wilds of Northern Scotland.

It finally stopped raining, pictures aren't very good but its all I can manage right now:

Thats the basic frame more or less finished, I will be boarding it out next money and time permitting.

And this is what will tow it:



Supporting Sponsor - Sierra Expeditions
Welcome to the ExPo...Love to the trailer and tow rig!!!!

That is a nice hitch you have on that trailer..never seen that before.


Grim Reaper

Expedition Leader
What will be permanently on the trailer weight wise?

I have a little concern over you axle placement. A General rule in trailer building is the axle should have 60% of the bed in front of the axle. The reason is to make sure you have adequate tongue weight. Insufficient Tongue weight can and will make for a ill handing trailer that can over come the tow vehicle and cause you to crash. Second reason to adhere to the 60% bed rule is the longer the distance between the Balls and the axle the easier it will be to back the trailer up.

Now if there is a plan for a battery spare tire, LP tank on the tongue you will have enough weight to counter the axle placement as long as you are mindful of loading and always load the light items behind the axle to Keep your tough weight. The general rule of Tongue weight is it should be minimum of 10% of the weight of the trailer.

Sharp 90! We can't buy them here any more. :(

My buddy has a yellow 93 soft top and the dealer keeps offering him $30,000 US for it. Its well worn in and he still gets the offer.

Regarding the tongue weight, I have built it to these dimensions for two reasons. First I have copied the original trailer layout, remember I salvaged the trailer hitch and axle from a towable diesel generator. That weighed in excess of two tons so I know I'm within the components parameters.
Secondly, there will be a couple of batteries and a water tank in front of the axle. I will be weighing the tongue weight as I go and keeping an eye on it. The current layout is also pleasing to the eye, I tried the axle further back and it just didn't look right.
The trailer in its current state is really well balanced. More through luck than anything else. The length was simply governed by the total length of steel I could get in the Landy! Ideally I wanted it to be another foot longer but couldnt get the door to shut so had to lop a bit off the end! I knew I should have got a 110!
That said, I have been studying things and I might get that extra tongue length with a small mod. As you can see I have used bolts to secure the tongue to the trailer body. I reckon I can get an extra 12 - 18" out of it. I may even make it adjustable.

Any thoughts on the 180 degree Gas Strut problem yet? My ideas have changed slightly with the layout of the tent and I think I may have solved the problem, I have a couple of solutions wizzing round inside my head...

You may have figured by now I work in a much more "organic" way to most. I spend a long time mulling things over and then just go and build it - I don't spend a lot of time with pen and paper. This approach, whilst technically wrong I suppose, is the way I've always done things. It works for me. Often I work on the "serendipity" principle!

The hitch incidently is a Bradley - I don't know if you can get them in USA. Its quite old, and is very simple in design. It rotates through 360 degrees. If it was good enough for the Army it will be ok for me I guess. They certainly don't make them like they used to - the trailer parts have been sat outside in our rubbish wet climate for four years. I stripped them down before starting the frame and found everything inside as new almost. No rust or pitting whatsoever. The bearings on the hubs are sweet, the brake shoes are like new and so on. I couldnt believe it. The only problem is I am one bearing cap short, I will have to rustle something up to protect it before it goes out on the road.

Thanks for the kind comments on the 90 - its my baby! I used to drive series 88's, and I've had various sports cars but never been happy. I traded in my 2004 Celica against a brand new 90 and havent regretted it since. The TD5 engine is enormously powerful and very reliable. It is madness you can't buy these in USA - they are supreme. Maybe the latest 2007 model will be the one? Thing is, although Landrover have always made fantastic cars they are useless as a company, the decisions they have made over the years have always left us baffled by their stupidity and blindness. Can you believe they still put aluminium next to steel with no protection in between? even after over 50 years of being told its a no no by their customers.
Extra length (oooer missus)

I've been thinking more about what you said Grim, and I think you're right (whats that...course you are?) so I am going to extend the tongue, which will give me more room to mount things anyway.

What I really want is a tent more like what is found on the Chasers, its the missus who seems to want a more camper type tent. I just think its more to go wrong and awefully complicated to build too. Trouble is she has too much faith in me as an engineer - she thinks I can do anything! (I can't...I know this from experience!)

The tent, however I have it, is going to be bespoke. I deal with a company at work who are fabric specialists. They make waterproof covers for our towable loadbanks etc. They have agreed to make me a tent to my own design when I am ready. They can sew in heavy duty waterproof zips, turnbuckles etc, even windows.

I've just finished making the tailgate, and now I'm finally ready to put the floor and sides on. I've got to get it over the fence first...

Grim Reaper

Expedition Leader
Wish I was lucky enough to have a contact that can handle the tent making.

I'm a cheap skate so no way I would buy a new Roof top tent so I have been thinking of making one starting with a common tent.

Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

As for the tongue. I have had a trailer about kill me because of design flaws (of my doing) causing a balance problem. When a trailer starts wagging at 70mph and bouncing 4ft in the air it will wake you up. I did a LOT of reading on trailer design after that thrill ride. The problem is the trailer was a tilt bed so it was long on the tail (the axle was a 45% to the front) to make the load angle less. I decided to make it enclosed. That made it very easy to load wrong.

I ended up adding 2ft to the tongue with a storage box to get the axle at 60%.
I was seeing some of the same mistakes I made in your design.

Something I read very recently caught my eye. When driving an enclosed trailer such as a camper or enclosed cargo the trailer becomes an airfoil. The air coming off the back of the tow vehicle kicks up over the front of the trailer and actually creates lift effectively reducing your tongue weight.

I could see how that was the final straw with my trailer getting out of shape.

That is a neat little site I just ran across recently. Some good information there.

Glad you are looking at the design and thinking about making it harder to mis load.

I'm impressed you think a Landrover can sustain 70 MPH long enough for a trailer to fishtail...

Its illegal to drive over 60 MPH in the UK or Europe whilst towing, but this is irrelavant. Safety is a very important factor here as I will have my beloved and our two kids on board. The tongue is definately getting extended. I've worked out how to do it, I just need to "borrow" a bit more steel from work...

Its also going to allow me to build a better trailer as far as mounting the accessories.

I need to work out how much to extend by. I havent measured the distances yet as guess what...its raining.

Grim I may yet be utilising a normal tent. I certainly don't have enough funds to buy a proper roof tent. The firm I have been speaking with will no doubt do me lots of favours with their quote but it may still be too expensive. My contact there is talking about allsorts of fancy breathable highly technical fabrics which sound very nice but pricey.

I have decided on using rivnuts to secure the "skin" to the frame. That will enable me to make alterations and also replace panels if the need arises.

I have lengthened the trailer tongue by around 14 inches, the axle is now approx at the 60% point of the total length.

I have also put the wiring in for the lights. I need to start thinking about the batteries etc. I have been given four 6 volt UPS deep cycle batteries which are rated 160 AH. Wired up to give 12 volt a pair I will mount two and keep two for spare.

I have posted on another forum about split charging from my Landrover, but had no replies yet. I'm not a 12 volt genius but am I right in saying I can run a lead via a split charge relay, from the starter battery to the trailer battery, and use the earth from the trailer light wiring? Will this not interfere with the lights?

I haven't managed to get the plywood for the body of the trailer yet but when I do I will post some more pics.