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Hunter Shadow HU-1 Build

Hunter Shadow Teardrop Trailer History

I recently re-acquired the camping itch. It's been quite a few years since I did any camping, so I decided: no more tents for me. I started looking around for something that had a bit more comfort, but was not a portable Marriott hotel.

Tent trailers are interesting, but they need to be set up when you get there and torn down when you leave. They also have the same insulating qualities of a tent. Tent trailers were out.

I had remembered seeing a little hard-sided trailer on one of my road trips. It was shaped sort of like a teardrop laying on its side. I decided to look into it, so I googled 'teardrop trailer'.

I can only say I was surprised at the results. These trailers were quite popular in the 40's and 50's, but kind of died out in the 70's. There is now a big resurgence of teardrops. Everyone is building them and many people want one. Me included.

I don't have the time to build my own trailer, or I would have just ordered some plans. So I looked around to see who was manufacturing them. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that WilTrek, the same people who sold me the snow plow for my truck, also made the Hunter Outdoor Products teardrop trailers. So I put a down payment on a Hunter Shadow HU-1.

For the most part, manufactured teardrops aren't done on an assembly line. They are hand assembled just like you would do at home. I decided to document this assembly, subject to my time constraints. The results are detailed here. First, a little history:

Jim Hunter was on a road trip south from Idaho when he passed by a farm and saw a 1946 Kit teardrop trailer sitting next to a barn. Being in the trailer business, he was intrigued, so he stopped and talked to the farmer about the trailer. He bought it on the spot.

Mr. Hunter then went in to the nearest town and got some bailing wire and electrical wire. He went back and wired up the trailer, hooked it up to his vehicle and continued on his trip.

He hauled that trailer on the entire trip. His big problem was that the trailer's suspension was frozen, and the trailer felt every jolt and bump he went over. When he finally got back to his shop in Sandpoint, Idaho, one entire side of the trailer fell off into the parking lot.

This was actually a good thing, since he intended to take it apart anyway and reverse engineer it using modern parts.

He finally freed up the 'spring inside of a tube' suspension, too. When he got the trailer back down to its frame, he hoisted the frame and dropped it from 8 feet. He had to do this about 10 times to finally break the suspension loose.

Mr. Hunter seems to be retired now, living a life of leisure in Hawaii. He sold his business to WilTrek, who were assembling the trailers for him. Their business is in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which is about 50 miles south of Sandpoint, but still in the Idaho Panhandle. WilTrek is 11 miles from my house.

The Hunter Shadow reproduction retains the classic outlines of the original Kit trailer, but differs in many respects from the original Kit design. It uses a Henschen Dura-flex rubber suspension instead of the old style suspension. The Shadow axle and suspension can support loads of up to 2000 pounds. The HU-1 Shadow is 4' X 8' and weighs just 670 pounds, so there is plenty of support for it. The Shadow also has two cabin doors. The original Kit trailer had one door with a window, and just a window where the other door would be.

The Shadow is built on a welded, square-tube steel frame. It has an adjustable front jack with wheel and two fully adjustable rear jacks. It comes with fenders, but you can get it without them and supply your own. Many people like to do that so they can match the fender style to the vehicle that pulls the trailer.

The Shadow is fully wired for 12 volt operation, with an interior light, galley light and optional heating and cooling fans. It also has cigarette-type 12 volt outlets in the cabin and galley.

Frame

The Shadow HU-1 frame is a welded frame consisting of square steel tubing. It is painted to prevent rusting. It has adjustable front and rear jacks and comes with vehicle-type tires and even has baby-moon hubcaps.

The frame comes with normal utility-trailer stop lights and a full trailer electrical hook-up. The trailer hitch takes a 2" ball.

Rear Leveling Jacks

The rear leveling jacks are manual. Pull the leg away from the swivel point and the jack unlocks. You can then rotate it down and it will lock in position.

Press on the tab with your foot and jack foot will drop to the ground. A steel bar inserted in to the jack will jack it up further.

Axle

The Shadow uses a Henschen Dura-flex rubber suspension and axle. The tire axle is offset from the main axle and rubber is used to absorb any torsional forces. This setup can handle loads of up to 2000 pounds.

Shell Construction

Hunter Shadow shells are created in a professional cabinet shop using CNC tools. This gives a high degree of quality to the process. The wood used is birch and birch plywood. The sides are 1/2" plywood and the inner top seems to be 1/8" plywood. The stiffeners seen above are made of pine with no knots in them. The spaces between stiffeners will be filled with R-13 insulation.

The picture shows the electrical installation process. The wiring is for inside lights, utility outlets and fans.

Shell Side

The CNC machine performs all the cuts and drills all the required screw holes. Shown here is the general trailer outline and the door cutout. The marks around the edge of the side are registration marks for tabs that will be positioned on the inside of the edge. The tabs are needed for attaching the edging.

The cutting is so precise that when the door hole is cut, the leftover material is used for the door itself.

Note that the interior finish has already been applied, except for those areas where other parts will be glued. Also note that the interior light has been installed as part of the wiring process.

There will be 6" of space under the bed area for storage of large, flat items.

The sides have been sanded and are ready to be skinned, except Phil and Duane have an engine to put back into a Porsche. Slows down the work, as they need the hoist for both jobs.

Shell Interior - Rear

This shot of the rear interior of the shell shows the accessory outlets and the optional fan. The fan is a standard whisper fan that is hooked up to an electro-mechanical timer. It is capable of changing the air in the cabin 3 times per minute. The exhausted air goes into the galley, which has two exhaust louvers built into it. When you use the fan, you are effectively cooling down both the cabin and the galley (if it is closed).

Rear interior from the other side. This shows how the timer for the fan is mounted.

Shell Galley

Galley wiring is in process. Note the exhaust hole in the side in the upper right of the galley. It will be covered with a louver on the outside of the finished trailer.

Also note the 1/2" birch plywood spar along the edge of the galley. This provides stiffening and support for the galley hatch.

Another galley shot. Note the sliding tray for the propane cook stove has a metal stop that prevents it from sliding out and banging the galley hatch when you pull out too fast from a stop light. The stove itself will be bolted down to the tray. I have a Coleman stove that is exactly the same width as the tray - 21.5".

The unmounted galley doors. These go below the stove area and one of them hides the battery.

Cabin Doors

The cabin doors are created when the CNC machine cuts the door hole in the side. The CNC machine removes only 1/4" of material when it makes the cutout.

Phil is skinning one of the doors. The trailer exterior, including the doors is skinned with .030" aluminum. Contact cement is used to make the bond.

Bed Panels

Panels for underneath the bed. Thumbholes are provided so they may be easily lifted out.

Support Tabs

The support tabs I mentioned earlier are installed. It's just about ready to be skinned.

Side Skin

The skin for one of the side panels is layed out, ready for contact cement to be applied. The outline of the side was marked on the sheet, so no contact cement is wasted.

The sheet is 4 x 10. For an 8 foot trailer like mine, the excess is trimmed off and is used to make other trim parts.

The skins have been applied to the sides and allowed to dry overnight. When it's all dry, the cutouts are all routed out. The routing is done to all parts at once, so that they only have to clean up aluminum shavings once. Note that the protective sheet is still on the aluminum.

Door Work

The doors have also had the excess aluminum removed. Duane has just finished adding the hinge to this door.

Finished Doors

The driver side door, mounted. They remove the original aluminum trim from the window and trim it with a birch plywood frame, which was done by the CNC machine in the cabinet shop.

The passenger side door, which shows how well they have fitted the doors into the shell. You also get a glimpse of the bed, which is foam covered in a heavy cloth.

Finished Trailer - Wrapped

The finished trailer, mounted on the frame. They left it wrapped up so I could have the honor of unwrapping it.

Finished Galley

The finished galley. The only thing preventing me from taking the trailer home at this point is I am driving my car, not my truck.

Hinge Detail

All hinges on the Shadow are piano hinges. After the doors are installed, the hinge is covered with a strip of rubber. The rubber is sealed with caulking and battened down with aluminum strips and screws.

The hinge for the galley hatch is also a piano hinge and is covered in the same manner.

Mounting a Stove

I have removed the stove mounting from its slides, turned over the stove and positioned the mount on top of it. The holes in the mount exactly match the leg bumps of my 25+ year old Coleman propane stove.

I have drilled holes next to each leg hole and have used 1" brass wood screws to attach the mount to the stove.

The mounted stove, back in its slide. Very functional, and it looks good, too.

The plastic container with the blue lid is a one gallon water container I picked up at Big Lots for about 2 bucks. I also got some pillows and green pillow cases there. Good place to find that kind of stuff.

Ready to Go

I have removed the plastic protection from the aluminum. We are ready to hook the trailer up to my truck. What a great feeling!

I drove it straight on over to the Idaho Transportation Department and got a license plate for it.

While I am hooking up my trailer, Phil and Duane are already working on the next Shadow, a 4' x 10' model HU-2.

The Finished Teardrop Trailer

After rewiring the lame trailer setup on my truck, I drove on down to Coeur d'Alene. Here is the finished teardrop, hooked up to my truck. That's North Idaho College in the background.

Here's a picture from the other side. That's Lake Coeur d'Alene in the background.

I'm ready to roll. My first teardrop gathering will be the 5th Annual Northwest Teardrop Spring Fling in Randle, Wa in May 2003. I hope to do some camping before then, though.