Teardrop History

In 1939 Popular Homecraft ran a story and plans in their March/April issue for a teardrop trailer designed and built by Louis Rogers of Pasadena, California in the 1930's for his honeymoon coach. The teardrop slept two and had a raised deck lid for the rear kitchenette with ice box and stove. A curtain-enclosed dressing room outside the starboard entry door provided privacy while dressing.

The February, 1940 issue of Popular Mechanics ran a story and plans for an egg-shaped teardrop trailer. It was built on a 1924 Chevrolet Superior front axle with disk wheels from a 1930 Chevrolet. The floor was of tongue-and-groove oak over a spruce chassis. The exterior was 1/8" pressed board sealed with varnish. This 9' x 5'9-1/2" floor plan featured a pressurized water tank with running water, a sink, a stove and an ice box in the rear kitchenette. The cabin provided standing room beside the double bed for dressing, a small clothes closet, a chemical toilet and a single entry door on the starboard side.

Then in October of 1945, C.W. “Bill” Worman and Andy Anderson formed Kit Manufacturing Co. in an abandoned fruit stand on Telegraph Road in Norwalk, California to produce “Kit Kamper” Tear Drop Trailers. They had no orders yet, but their plan was to produce the cute little aluminum-clad trailers in knocked-down form to be assembled by the purchaser.

It was at this time that a third party, Dan Pocapalia, became interested in the project. Worman and Pocapalia had been friends and co-workers at Vultee Aircraft in Norwalk during the war. Dan Pocapalia purchased Andy Anderson's half-interest in Kit Manufacturing Co. for $800. The two of them then had a building, a dream and 60 Fulton trailer hitches. Worman and Pocapalia soon learned that what the public wanted was not a kit, but a completed trailer. They made the decision to produce the trailers in completed form—Pocapalia took responsibility for redesigning the trailer to make it easier to assemble with less waste of raw materials and Worman took on the job of material procurement.

Materials after the war had to be obtained from surplus markets. The chassis was made of 2" x 1" steel U-channel, when it could be found, and from 1-1/2" round tube steel tube otherwise. Wheels came from Jeeps salvaged from sunken ships. Many had bullet holes in them which were welded up. The exterior skin was made of .032" thick 24S-T aircraft grade aluminum.

teardrop-plansThe first public showing was at Gilmore Stadium in L.A. in February of 1946. They took 12 completed units to the show and booked 500 firm orders at a dealer cost of $500 each. Some dealers paid in advance, and many offered to pay a bonus to get early delivery. The 4' x 8' Kit Kamper Tear Drop Trailer was destined to win the hearts of Americans…and a place in history.

At midyear 1946, Pocapalia and Worman decided to upgrade the model by adding a second door and fiberglass (a new technology at the time) fenders as well as a 10 gallon water tank, chrome yoke and other cosmetics, including a butane stove with a Manchester butane bottle. They ended up with two models, the “Standard” and a “Super Deluxe” with the second door (port side), fenders and a dealer cost of $595.

Sales were going crazy—over 1,000 units were backlogged and by July Kit Kamper was operating two shifts and turning out 40 trailers a day. A total of 4,500 Kit Kampers were produced in 1946 and 1947.

Success demanded change and in January of 1948 Kit Kamper began production of a more conventional 8' x 14' coach, and demand quickly exceeded production capability. The “Kit Kamper” teardrop assembly line was ended.

In September of 1947 Howard Warren of Riverside, California published his “do-it-yourself” plans for a very similar (4' x 9'7") teardrop in Mechanix Illustrated magazine (PDF courtesy of JPJennings.com).

No one really knows how many teardrops have been built by the do-it-yourself crowd who purchased Mechanix Illustrated and other plans over the years. The design remains mighty popular around the world. Kit Manufacturing Co. remains a hugely successful manufacturer of recreational vehicles and mobile home equipment, with some 14 manufacturing plants in operation around the United States. Dan Pocapalia serves as Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer at Kit. Bill Worman lives in retirement.