"TrailTop" modular trailer building components

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"TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:09 am

First some background info:

Over the last few years I've designed and built several trailers. Starting with a trailer made from the rear halves of two Jeep tubs (the yellow one below), I decided that project was too hard for the average DIY-er so I designed and built what turned out to be the Dinoot "J-series" modular fiberglass Jeep-tub trailer kit (the black one). After that I designed and built what became the Dinoot "M-series" modular fiberglass military replica trailer kit. Both of those kits turned out to be easy to assemble and fairly affordable ways for people to DIY-build their own custom off-road trailers.

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I'm always looking for ways to make these trailers more useful, so not long after I made the yellow trailer, I built a camper top version of my fiberglass Jeep Safari Cab hardtop to fit on it:

Image

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While it turned out that it would have been a nice camper top, I never took it beyond the prototype stage and never installed windows or other features due to other projects I was involved in at the time. Since then, I've always been thinking about ways to enable DIY-ers to easily build custom on- and off-road camp trailers using fiberglass components. I'm starting this thread so I can share some design ideas and start a discussion to get your input on the idea of modular trailer building blocks.

But before I post anything about my "TrailTop" design concept, I probably need to say this: I design and build these projects as a hobby. I am not in business to sell these, and I am not an employee of any company. Sometimes companies want to market what I've designed and I license my designs to them, but I am not an employee and never will be an employee of any of those companies. I'm just a guy with who likes to design and build things as a hobby.

Next post: the design concept...
Last edited by jscherb on Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:10 am

The "TrailTop" idea

While I like the Safari Cab-based camper top pictured in the previous post, I've been working an different idea - a set of modular building blocks that could be used to implement a wide range of camper styles (and other trailer-topper ideas). The basic concept is a series of fiberglass framework pieces that mate together with tabs, and accept 1/4" plywood (or other material) side panels. Using these framework pieces, a teardrop, for example, could be very easily framed up, and then sheathed with plywood.

Building a "Trailtop Teardrop" for a Jeep tub would go something like this:

Image

It isn't necessary to base the top on a Jeep tub, the framework could be used without a tub to make a dedicated camper to sit right on the trailer frame. This next illustration shows two versions of a similar teardrop - the first version is made to sit on top of a Jeep-tub trailer, and the second is a standalone camper directly on the trailer frame:

Image

There would be a range of TrailTop framing parts, for example different radii, corners, and straight sections. They'd all mate together, so you could assemble a range of different shapes and styles of tops. Here are a few examples:

Image

And a few concepts based on my yellow trailer:

Image

In the examples above, the hard cover, the RTT platform/gear storage, and the cargo/utility use straight rails and 90-degree corners. The camper with the barn door uses straight rails, 90-degree corners, and 12" radius corners in the front. The teardrop uses straight rails, 12" radius corners in the front, and 36" radius corners in the back.

The parts have a curve that matches the radius of the back corner of the Jeep tub, but a Jeep tub isn't necessary in order to use these parts as shown in the teardrop example above.

I'm in the process of making the molds for the first TrailTop parts right now. I'm posting this to start a discussion about this design idea - what do you guys think of the idea of a set of modular building-block parts that could be used to implement a range of different styles and designs? Opinions, comments, questions, design ideas?... I'd really like to hear what you think.
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:39 am

Here are some TrailTop concepts which could be built on commercial frames.

This one's on a 4x8 Harbor Freight 94564 1720-lb. capacity heavy duty frame, which can be bought for between $260-280 on sale/with a 20 or 25% off coupon:

Image

This 5x8 Northern Tool trailer frame kit would offer a little more room inside:

Image

The 5x8 NT frame would give you enough room for a queen-sized bed inside.
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby Bodyman » Fri Jan 24, 2014 12:30 pm

I'm confused! :? Who actually designed and built these trailers? You or Schaney from Oregon.
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby grant whipp » Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:36 pm

Interesting concept ... I believe it has possibilities ... :thumbsup: ...!
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:40 pm

Bodyman wrote:I'm confused! :? Who actually designed and built these trailers? You or Schaney from Oregon.

I designed and built all 3 trailers in the first photo of this thread. The yellow trailer is all steel, it's made mostly from the back of two Jeep tubs welded together.

During the building of the yellow trailer I decided there had to be an easier way, so I designed and built molds and molded the parts for the black trailer in fiberglass. I did all of this work at home in my workshop and garage, I do these kind of design/construction projects as a hobby.

When I was finished with the black trailer, Scott Chaney (Compact Camping Concepts) contacted me and licensed the design from me. He now offers these as kits under his Dinoot brand name.

Then I decided it would be fun to do a military replica trailer in fiberglass, so I designed one, made molds, molded the parts, and built the military trailer in the first post. It turned out that Scott wanted to license that one too, so that's now available in kit form as the Dinoot m-series.

Since then I've done a few other fiberglass projects not related to trailers, and now I've designed and am building the TrailTop concept. I am doing this as a personal hobby project because it's an interesting and challenging project for me. I have no plans or expectation of making the TrailTop parts into commercial products, but that's what I said when I was starting the other projects :).

I am not an employee of Compact Camping, in fact I am not an employee of any company. Some guys collect stamps as a hobby, some watch football, I design and build stuff :).

BTW, I also designed and built the "Safari Cab" jeep hardtop in the first post.
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:42 pm

grant whipp wrote:Interesting concept ... I believe it has possibilities ... :thumbsup: ...!


Thank you.
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:42 pm

The reason I started this thread is because I like doing "group design"... as I'm going through the steps of designing and building things, I typically post a lot of detail on my design decisions and progress, hoping that people will have comments and criticisms that will help me improve the design and catch things I've missed. Many of my projects are Jeep-related, so I usually post in Jeep forums, but since this isn't specifically Jeep-related (the Jeep-tub trailer base isn't required as part of this design!), I'm posting here and hoping we can get a lively discussion going.

Jeff
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby grant whipp » Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:52 pm

Sure wish you were closer to the West Coast, Jeff ... would like the opportunity to sit down and speak with you about a number of thoughts and ideas I have on composite teardrop designs & ideas.

BTW ... thanks for signing your name at the end of your last post ... :thumbsup: ... I prefer addressing folks by their name and not some anonymous "handle" ... it's a familiarity thing that helps the potential relationship be a whole lot nicer!

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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 1:59 pm

grant whipp wrote:Sure wish you were closer to the West Coast, Jeff ... would like the opportunity to sit down and speak with you about a number of thoughts and ideas I have on composite teardrop designs & ideas.

BTW ... thanks for signing your name at the end of your last post ... :thumbsup: ... I prefer addressing folks by their name and not some anonymous "handle" ... it's a familiarity thing that helps the potential relationship be a whole lot nicer!

CHEERS!


Grant,
Just because we're not on the same sides of the country, doesn't mean we couldn't talk via email or phone if you like. I think I've talked to Scott Chaney in Portland on the phone maybe 5 times in the 2 years since he contacted me to ask me if he could license the Jeep-tub trailer tub design from me, we do very nicely with email. My different fiberglass designs have been licensed by companies in Oregon, South Carolina, and most recently Ohio, nobody's close to me and in this electronic age it's not a handicap. The primary communication method between me and all of those companies is email.
Jeff
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 3:43 pm

Here's some info about how the TrailTop parts go together and how the sides fit with the parts.

The parts have recessed on two sides into which the plywood goes:

Image

A 90-degree 3.5" radius corner is shown below. The corner piece is an actual fiberglass part (the only part I've made so far), the rest of the parts are drawn in place. All of the parts have recessed flanges where the plywood goes, and the corners have tabs to connect the straight rails to them. Here's an exploded view:

Image

The TrailTop framing pieces connected:

Image

The plywood in place:

Image

This illustration only shows the 3.5" radius 90-degree corner; the 12" radius and 36" radius curved pieces will look like a curved version of the straight pieces.
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby JuneBug » Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:15 pm

Yes, please.
This is a simple and utterly brilliant idea!
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby Bodyman » Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:21 pm

Jeff
Thanks much for the explanation. After a little research I thought this was probably how the Dinoot trailers came to be. It is much better to hear it from you.
Keep up with the great designs
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby KCStudly » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:55 pm

How about a version with deeper offsets in the corners to receive foam board composite panels rather than plywood? There is a growing number of people here in the foamie section that are developing lighter rot free methods of insulated construction, and, although purchased molded composites might not fall within the "thrifty" monicker, I could see this developing one step further to an insulated option.

I'm thinking epoxy the foam panels into the corner moldings, then wrap the whole thing in epoxy/glass or the thrifty canvas and paint method.

Recognizing that you are not in this for "a job", if/when you sell the rights to someone else, what do you expect the wholesale price point to be for a TD's worth of corner moldings? ...and handling fee? ...and shipping weight?
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Re: "TrailTop" modular trailer building components

Postby jscherb » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:45 pm

KCStudly wrote:How about a version with deeper offsets in the corners to receive foam board composite panels rather than plywood? There is a growing number of people here in the foamie section that are developing lighter rot free methods of insulated construction, and, although purchased molded composites might not fall within the "thrifty" monicker, I could see this developing one step further to an insulated option.

Thanks for the input, that kind of stuff is why I started this thread here :).

Can you point me to a writeup about the foam process? I'll take a look and see what would be involved in doing a TrailTop version to support foam panels.

BTW my key design parameters include (not in any particular order):

  • Affordability.
  • Configurability - the ability to implement multiple types/designs/sizes of trailers using the same basic parts (and I'll show you some additional designs soon, stay tuned).
  • Style. A TrailTop-built camper should have a professional level of style; even though it would be a home-built, I want to enable the DIY-er to achieve professional-looking styling and build quality with tools and skills an average DIY-er would have.
  • Ease of construction. I believe it will be easier to build a TrailTop-based camper than it would be to make one entirely from scratch out of wood.
  • Strength. A TrailTop camper should be stronger than wood-only construction; I want it to be possible to support things like a roof-top tent on top (an upstairs for the kids?)

Do these sound about right? Did I miss any important requirements? Should any of these not be on the list?

KCStudly wrote:I'm thinking epoxy the foam panels into the corner moldings, then wrap the whole thing in epoxy/glass or the thrifty canvas and paint method.

Maybe that's not as accessible to the average DIY-er as I'm trying to achieve, but if you can point me to some links on the foam method, I'll check it out. Maybe I can come up with a solution that would allow plywood for people who want to go that way, but encapsulated foam for those who want that.

Besides plywood, 1/4"-thick sandwich panels are available with both fiberglass and aluminum skins, so those would be easy-to-build alternatives to plywood.

KCStudly wrote:Recognizing that you are not in this for "a job", if/when you sell the rights to someone else, what do you expect the wholesale price point to be for a TD's worth of corner moldings? ...and handling fee? ...and shipping weight?

As I said in my requirements list, affordability is key :).

I've designed the parts to be very simple to mold, and the amount of materials they use (fiberglass, resin, gelcoat) is pretty reasonable, so from a production point of view, they shouldn't be too expensive to make. What I can't know at this point is that if a company licenses the design from me, what their cost structure/overhead/profit margin requirements/etc. are, all of those affect the end cost of the parts.
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