Mini Tears Of Joy
Story: Jim Dyar Photos: Kara Stewart
CRUISING AROUND WITH MINI TEARDROP TRAILERS
Kurt Bowden designs custom homes. It’s a profession that’s paid most of the bills over the years for him and his wife, Shannon. Recently, however, he’s turned his attention to dwellings of a bit smaller scale.
The Lakehead resident has begun constructing high-end teardrop trailers that feature fine cabinetry, polished aluminum siding, diamond plate fenders, crazy cool lighting fixtures and dozens of other hip touches.
“It’s really fun,” he says. “It’s like building forts … adult forts.”
Bowden’s version of the popular trailers – they’ve been around since the late 1930s – are specifically designed to compliment Mini Coopers. The teardrop he pulls behind his red-and-white Mini looks as if it were sold as a set with the car.
Bowden calls his trailers MiniTears. They’re 8 feet, 6 inches long by 4 feet wide, and weigh 876 pounds. Though he designed them with Mini Coopers in mind, the compact and relatively light trailers can be pulled behind just about any vehicle.
The endeavor is a perfect evolution for Bowden. It engages his design and woodworking skills (he’s finally completed that dream workshop), and the trailers reflect his and his wife’s love of camping and the outdoors.
“There’s no more planning a camping trip,” Bowden says. “The teardrop has everything already in it. It can be a Friday evening and I’ll say, ‘Let’s go to the coast.’ And we can just take off.” Bowden’s own teardrop features an interior sleep space with varnished alder walls and a pair of wine cabinets. The rear hatch area opens to a kitchen/pantry with a running sink and ice-chest storage area with a slide-out shelf.
“Teardroppers” are often people who have traditionally camped with tents. The trailers add a significant level of comfort to the experience, however. You don’t have to set them up or tear them down, they keep occupants off the ground when sleeping, they’re warm when it’s chilly, yet can be cooled by a unique ventilation system. When you’re driving, they store a bundle of gear.
The Bowdens caught the teardrop bug after a Dam Gathering of the Tears event in Lakehead two years ago. In addition to studying various designs at the event, Bowden picked the brain of Redding’s Grant Wipp, who has built and sold teardrop trailers and parts through his Li’l Bear Tag Along business (www.lilbear.teardrops.net) since 1984.
“He was doing it before teardrops were cool,” Bowden says of Wipp. “He’s a huge influence for teardrops on the West Coast.”
Once he nailed down the overall design, Bowden began having a ball making the trailer as plush as possible. The moon roof and stainless steel galley fixtures are marine grade. He used Tambour sliding pantry doors, ambient lighting and silent computer fans for ventilation. The MiniTear trailer he’s currently building for Tampa, Fla.’s Stephen Peters features magnetically locking drawers and a flatscreen TV/stereo system in the main cabin.
“I can never seem to just build something for the sake of building it,” he says. “It’s always high-end everything. It’s part of my personality, I guess. You can do some incredible things with the right tools.”
Bowden’s MiniTears start at $6,995 and increase based on features and options. For specific features and more information, visit minitears.com.
Part of the satisfaction behind the trailer-building endeavor stems from his father Jack, who died six years ago. Jack Bowden had always wanted his son to build hot rods with him, but Kurt was always off exploring other interests.
Kurt has dedicated his trailer-building project to his dad.
“When I started this project it was kind of a big undertaking,” Bowden says. “I dedicated it to him as something we would have enjoyed doing together. (Thinking of him) forced me to hold myself to a little higher standard. If things didn’t fit well, it forced me to go back and redo it and get it right.”