Chico's Doug Keister has a thing for "classic recreational vehicles"; his previous books include "Ready to Roll," "Silver Palaces," and "Mobile Mansions," all dealing with one form or another of vacation trailer. Now, with "Teardrops and Tiny Trailers" ($19.99 in hardcover from Gibbs Smith), Keister surveys "compact motorhomes and trailers."
The result is a book chock full of colorful interior and exteriors of teardrops, "canned hams" ("so called because their ovoid shape resembles a can of ham"), and glittery Airstreams. The cover shows a teardrop trailer built by the Gypsy Caravan Company of Bell, California, in 1937. The author notes that "fastidious care by a mere three owners during its lifetime has left this trailer in unrestored mint condition."
Teardrops became popular in the 1930s as do-it-yourself projects. Some teardrops were built from kits and conveniently had room for two--if you happened to be raccoons. But what the trailers lacked in space they made up in style. Keister shows dozens of restored trailers hitched to vintage cars. "Tiny trailers," he writes, "are a decorator's dream: a tidy well-defined space that seems to accept just about any stylistic ethos." There are blue ones and shiny ones, trailers that recall the Sixties, aircraft design, or an Arts and Crafts touch.
Canned hams reflected the teardrop style (though later the little teardrop came into its own with its aft kitchen) and became immensely popular in the 1950s, with their external styles "heavily influenced by the era's flamboyant automotive designs." Remember two-tone paint jobs and wraparound windshields, anyone? The makers of canned hams tried to make them cool, too.
The boler trailer (small "b") was created by a Canadian fiberglass septic tank developer. You can see where this is going. In the Sixties the compact fiberglass trailers, which looked sort of like bowler hats, hit the market. Though never wildly popular they were durable; some are still on the road.
The Airstream aluminum trailers got their start in the 1930s but are still popular; smaller Airstreams these days are marketed under the Bambi name. Keister also adds a chapter on the European love affair with tiny trailers, and there are two pages of online resources.
It's a fun book, and clear that tiny trailers are nothing less than portable personalities.