The March/April, 1939 issue of Popular
Homecraft ran a story and plans for a teardrop trailer designed and
built by Louis Rogers of Pasadena, California in the 1930's for his
8'x4' floor plan was on tongue-and-groove flooring on a pine chassis.
Rogers used a Chevrolet front axle with 28" wheels and 1926 Chevrolet
rear fenders. Sides and top were enclosed with 1/8" hard pressed board
sealed with varnish.
This teardrop slept two and had the
raise-up 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 a 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'x5'9-1/2" floor plan featured a pressurized water tank
with running water to a sink, a stove and 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.
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 the
trailers in completed form. Pocapalia took responsibility for
redesigning the trailer to make it easier to assemble with less waste of
raw materials. 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"x1" steel U
channel, when it could be found, and from 1-1/2" round tube steel tube
otherwise. Wheels were from Jeeps salvaged from sunken ships. Many had
bullet holes in them which were welded up. Exterior skin was of .032"
thick 24S-T aircraft grade aluminum.
The 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. Some dealers
paid in advance. many offered to pay a bonus to get early delivery. The
4'x8' "Kit Kamper" TearDrop 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) fenders as well as a 10 gallon water tank, chrome yoke
and other cosmetics, including a butane stove with a Manchester butane
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 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 went into production of a more conventional
8'x14' "coach" with demand far exceeding 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'x9'7" floor plan) 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 in 1998, 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