The Alpine Teardrop Build


I’ve been fascinated by the idea of a teardrop ever since I moved to the US and Utah a few years ago, while the budget only allowed for the RTT trailer at the time I was more than happy with that. Cheap and easy was the name of that build; was able to get a trailer for cheap from the US government, started with an M101A3 and made a few modifcations to make an and was able to pop out an pretty bad *** RTT trailer that I got a lot of compliments on. Some were in the form of “Can your first gen taco even pull that thing!?” While yes it took a bit to get up to 65 mph I was cruising as soon as I got there.

It was with some of the improvements I made to M101A3 such as the jack and max-coupler it was a no brainer for me to use this trailer as the base for my teardrop build.

Why a teardrop, well why not really, but in actuality it was beginning to be a pain in the D&*K carrying my overlanding side kick Cinder (a 60 lbs wiggly weimaraner) up a ladder into an RTT. Also terrifying when you get up in the middle of the night she doesn’t know where you are, jumps down 8 ft from the RTT (which I’m still unclear how she did that when I have a ARB simpson IIIc which has an overhang over the ladder) and you have a strange wet nose touching you when your bare *** in the desert.

I can’t take much of the credit for this build I’m just the guy who put it together, with some help from my parents who saved me from burning this thing to the ground…more to come on this later.

Huge shout out to Ryan who did an excellent job documenting his build Wyoming Woody, I borrowed his google sketchup model, had the boys at work transfer it into Microstation then transfer it into AutoCAD so I could manipulate it to fit the M101A3 trailer base and rework the design into things I wanted. Also a lot of the build threads on http://www.tnttt.comwas fundamental in the success of this build.

As you can see I did do a lot of google image searches and modelled it a bit after SoCal I also bought a lot of parts from them, I originally had been in contact with them to do some CNC work for the walls and Hatch ribs…not sure if they got busy but after I sent them a dxf of what I wanted they never wrote me back….good thing I only sent them bits not the whole build.

Also the below is a the highlight reel if you will, I may fill in bits and pieces of the build as we go along but it's something to start with.

So with any build before you embark on this make sure you have the time (250ish hours not including reworks) make sure you have some money ($8000 not including the cost of the trailers and new tools) some cost could be offset with a lower grade wood, I used Baltic Birch for 90%, only a minor variation to that but nonetheless didn’t sacrifice quality. And a desire to be single, if you’re not single now you might be when it’s done. If you have the above answered and you still want to build a teardrop read on, I certainly didn’t cover everything so if there's something you have a question feel free to IM me, and NO not under any circumstances will I build you one. For the right price I may sell it to you or trade you for a low houred Piper PA-28-180 ;)

Did he say trailerS above, yes he did, so I was set on using my M101A3 base because I knew it was mint, I knew it was what I would need for offroad but I thought I’m going to waste a perfectly good tub with RTT mount by using this trailer, well let’s buy a cheap military trailer…again. I bought a M116A2 generator trailer, which essentially is the same frame so it was an easy swap.

Building the Deck...I like this step so much I did it twice, I used popular as the frame and Baltic birch upper and lower, insulation in the voids. I originally didn’t have the center brace but when I noticed some sag it was easier to add a center brace for the deck than it was to add center braces on the trailer. I knew it wasn’t going to be an option on the trailer because my welding sucks and it would have been more expensive than a deck reinforcement.

Adding water to the belly this is the time to do it, I couldn’t find exactly what I needed size wise, and custom was wayyy to expensive but I took two 9 Gallon tanks that would work for what I needed, and I knew I was going to have a marine fill spout so adding water mid-trip from a hose or scepter would be just fine. I used Unistrut for the frame, and made it secure yet upgradeable later on if I needed.

Deck on, centered, bolted….

Walls, well cutting the walls were easy, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make a template for the walls, I used ¼” Baltic birch for the template and it saved my *** many times. Don’t go any further without one!

I searched the entire US for months for two sheets of 4 ft x 10 ft sheets of ¾” Marine Grade or Baltic Birch plywood they seemed to be unobtanium. While I could have special ordered them, minimum order was 44 Sheets, at $150/sheet. That was going to blow the budget, so just when I was about to give up and succumb to the fact I’d have to do a lap joint to get the overall profile I needed I found unobtanium in Prescott AZ on craigslist. Two sheets of 5 ft x 10 ft Marine grade ¾” plywood for the walls, damn I was happy! This is the 10% variation on wood.

Using my template that I spent a whole lot of time making sure was just right curvature wise on I used a double bearing trim bit with my router.

I put the walls up and secured them in place, I did this because I was moving and they needed to be somewhat road worthy, had I not moved I would have built the cupboards and shelving first then put the walls on, there’s an extra dynamic that comes into play when doing walls then shelving it’s not fun.

Walls are on, shelving and cupboards begin, during the design phase no matter how hard I tried I could not get the design to work to have my Engel MR040 to fit in the teardrop, but no worries having it in the truck isn’t a terrible idea, because what good is cold road pops when you’re on the trailer and they're back at camp in the teardrop. I found the following idea somewhere on the interwebs although not with a cook partner steel stove it would still work. I’d be an overlanding chef sink on one side, stove on the other, ingredients and prep in the middle woot bring on the ramen we’re cookin in style!

Building the shelving was easy, I left the headboard and top shelving till the interior skin was on so I could match the curvature more closely to what was going on instead of what the design was, everything works on paper but match wood to wood doesn’t always work, I’ll learn this again when I deal with the hatch, the first one burnt, the second one was almost burned with the trailer, more on that later.

Wall Ribs, fairly easy to do, added some reinforcements in between each rib, I had measured out where the approximate location of each rack mounting plate was going to go so reinforced those areas even more. Added in locations for the Air Conditioning port holes, as well as the Vent Fan, if you know me personally ask me about my RV vent fan adventures SMH.

Adding the interior skin, this was straightforward although a bit awkward to secure I did the best I could but ultimately had to use some staples to hold the wood in place for the glue to dry.

Gah I absolutely hate Styrofoam balls insulation, but thickness wise it’s the only one I could readily get, so do what you have to do, use this ¾” static cling nightmare.

But insulation headache mostly over, time to figure out wiring, I went with mostly 14 gauge wire except where I knew there may be increased load I used 10 gauge. Figuring out electrical, well figuring out the entire build before you actually build it is key, I figured some stuff out along the way and for the most part it worked out.

With the wiring finished it was time to glue the exterior skin onto the trailer, the “roof” was easy and straightforward. I attempted to glue a skin to the walls, I started with the passenger side and while it seemed to go ok….it wasn’t! I used Loctite premium PL which is awesome, it’ll give you a week long discoloration if you don’t wear gloves and will glue metal to metal enough said. Not sure if it was the AZ heat which caused me some major grief in other areas or my inability to apply adequate pressure to the middle of the wall and allowed some glue to migrate down but the final skin was warped. It was ugly I made the decision to rip off all the skin, which is easier said than done, I lost at least 10 hours on the gluing, setting and ripping off then the subsequent sanding of the dried glue.

Now with exterior skin on and the cupboards/shelving mostly installed it was time to tackle the hatch, I’m not sure I want to type out the hatch troubles but trying to create this thing in the summer in Arizona is not ideal!! I was able to create a hatch frame that worked, when I glued the exterior skin on it warped the frame. I airmailed the hatch down the driveway and chopped it up for firewood. Second try…built a jig so it wouldn’t warp things are looking up, I was able to have an exterior skin on, did the wiring integrated galley lights, lined up the continuous gear hinge. Then I was almost done only thing left was the interior skin, it wouldn’t line up it was off I’m not sure how not sure why but it wasn’t going to work. Removed the lights and airmailed the second hatch down the driveway, it’s still in my backyard awaiting a bbq. At this point I was soo frustrated, I’m going to estimate 40 hours on 2 hatches that didn’t work, I was ready to abandon my teardrop, so I took a break for a few weeks.

Not sure what changed my mind but I decided to try and finish most of the trailer and leave the hatch for cooler temperatures (winter in AZ).

I started to skin, re-enter the template, I trimmed to within a ½” of the template with my aluminum sheets, I used aluminum C channel to hold the bottom of the aluminum. It’s incredibly important that you do not glue the aluminum onto the trailer. Glue on the aluminum will restrict its’ ability to expand and contract also referred to as oil canning. I mostly allowed the skin to “float” between the bottom and top trims. The aluminum screws look super flimsy but do an exceptional job at holding the trim (and Aluminum skin). To cut to the actual contour i used my router trim bit, i first laid down a super big tarp because I was about to make aluminum confetti.

Work got busy for a few weeks so I put the trailer back on the shelf for awhile, when the work load lightened up I was only a few short weeks away from my parents being in town. My dad is the real woodworker between the two of us so his task while they were here was to build the hatch, I had started a third hatch before their arrival. They were able to use that to build the final hatch. From this point on it was finishing the hatch and then putting the doors on the trailer.

I’m going to let some of the pictures do the talking and if you have questions please ask, be patient as it may take me a day or three to respond. I have a few more additions to discuss but I’ll leave that for a bit.

Curtis in Texas

WOW! Subscribed.

I can relate to the rear hatch warping issues.

That's why my rear hatch is flat with corners instead of curves.
Plus it will match the rear profile of my Isuzu Rodeo I'll be towing it with.

Nice work!



There was a point where I was going to make it a hybrid like on a little guy tear drop or have it as a split entry glad I held out for my Dad's skills :)


Hey thanks for the link. Great build up. Glad to see you're making progress. I can't wait to see the finished product.