"Poor man's Teardrop" build [M101 + utility cap]

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#1
After tabling my cargo box-trailer conversion idea, I went back to the drawing board. I knew I still wanted to do a trailer but I wasn't 100% sure what kind. Anything with an RTT was off the table, so small trailers like M416's were out for me. Commercially made teardrops were well outside of my price range. Box trailers were inexpensive and functional, but I was still leery about their lifespan when taken off road. After browsing the interwebs I came across this trailer for sale on one of the forum classifieds and it open a whole new string of ideas.



PERFECT! Well, maybe not. At $1,200 that particular trailer was off the table.

After poking around some of my local contacts it turns out a buddy of mine had an M101 he needed to get rid of. The nice thing one he had already stripped off much of the military-spec bulk (lunette, surge brake, kick stands, and mil-spec axle/hub/wheel/tire assembly). He had replace the mil-spec axle with an aftermarket 3,500# axle that had drum brakes, was Jeep-width, and had the Jeep 5x4.5" bolt pattern. It was also rolling on 31x10.50 tires which is what my LJ currently has. He also offered me too sweet a price to pass up.





With the trailer base located it was on to the next task, finding a cap. Used truck caps are easy to come by in my area. A cursory search of Craigslist yields a few dozen any given day of the week. Some range from salvaged ones that have seen better days (around $100-$200) to almost-like-new take-offs (around $500-$700). A few days ago a friend sent me a link to one for $50 that was "over the mountain." Fearing it was a too-good-to-be-true deal I went and looked anyway.



It was for all intents and purposes a $50 cap. However, underneath the mold and mildew, and despite a few bent edges and a missing window, I saw it's potential. It came home with me later that day.

With the trailer and cap in my possession it was time to mock them up.







It's honestly not that heavy and can easily be moved by hand. I suspect I won't win any awards for the lightest trailer in the world, but it's beefy enough that it should hold up to some off-road use and abuse. At some point I'll get it on the scales.



The plans for the inside are pretty basic. Going to do a platform with a mattress (twin or maybe a double), storage cubbies, basic 12v/120v power, some sort of HVAC system (nothing more than fans to start), a few gallons of water, and that's about it. My mantra for a while will be, "this is replacing a tent." My initial focus will be getting the trailer road/trail worthy and getting it weather tight. It will also need rewired, a new hitch, and some other minor maintenance items sooner rather than later.
 

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#3
I like those lights, does the barn hold high school dances also?
No, but it has been used for square dance practices, children's birthday parties, wing fests, and super bowl parties. Gotta love legit multi-function spaces. The 2-post lift also doubles as a nice hammock stand.

The trailer is cool too.
Thanks :tip
 

JoshN

Adventurist
#5
I considered a build like this for a LONG time. My m101a1 sat as a pure cargo trailer while I looked and looked for a cap with a similar configuration to what you found. I gave up when another m101a1 frame dropped into my lap for $100. Am I happy with my built up "squaredrop"? absolutely. Would I have been done much faster with a built that is just as durable on my m101a1 with a cap? Dang right I would have and it would have been cheaper too. Both would fit the need, I would have enjoyed either configuration. Look forward to seeing what might have been.
 

Doug

Adventurist
Senior Staff
Founding Member
#6
I love this build, especially the barn doors. Once you get it set, fitting perfectly and sealed, do you plan on painting it? I could see you leaving it a budget build or doing matching paint on the whole thing and really making it stand out. Either way, it's something different than the norm.
 

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#7
I considered a build like this for a LONG time. My m101a1 sat as a pure cargo trailer while I looked and looked for a cap with a similar configuration to what you found. I gave up when another m101a1 frame dropped into my lap for $100. Am I happy with my built up "squaredrop"? absolutely. Would I have been done much faster with a built that is just as durable on my m101a1 with a cap? Dang right I would have and it would have been cheaper too. Both would fit the need, I would have enjoyed either configuration. Look forward to seeing what might have been.
I thought about a frame-up DIY trailer, but I liked the idea of the starting with a tub and cap as a little more user-friendly.

I love this build, especially the barn doors. Once you get it set, fitting perfectly and sealed, do you plan on painting it? I could see you leaving it a budget build or doing matching paint on the whole thing and really making it stand out. Either way, it's something different than the norm.
It will get painted, but nothing glamourous. The frame is getting a few coats of brush on enamel just to cover the rust. Primed it yesterday, top coat of flat black going on tomorrow. Outside will get color matched, but it will be a rattle-can job. My bro teaches at the local VoTech school so I might see about getting the trailer in there for a paint job but that may not be till next year. For now it's function over form.
 

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#8
So the goal this past weekend (Saturday afternoon + Monday) was to tear the trailer down and paint the frame. Here's why:



It looks worse than it was. Luckily the military frame is pretty thick C-channel and it was all just pealing paint and surface rust. I think the trailer had once been sandblaster and not prepped/painted properly. If time and funds allowed I would have had it properly sandblasted and professionally painted. However this is a budget project, so elbow grease will have to suffice for now.

Also removed all the old wiring that the grey tree rats had gotten into:



Once the old wiring was removed, it was time to separate the box from the frame. 20 bolts later:



At this point the box was trailered up and hauled off to the local car wash for a serious pressure washing. The frame was sanded and coated in an etching primer:



Good help is nice to have and with a new set of bolts it was time to bolt everything back together:







Once it was back together it was back up on the lift for some more painting.

Before:



After one coat (still a little tacky):



Given the cold temps, even in the garage, I'm going to let it set up over night before adding another coat. This one was just a base coat and is a bit on the thin side in some spots. In hindsight it would have been easier to paint the underside of the box while it was upside down, but that thought occurred a little too late to be practical. Live and learn as they say.

The goal was to have it back rolling by the time we were done working on it today. Given it's sitting at a friend's house he needs to move it at his leisure and I can't hog his lift or floor space too much more than I already do.
 

Phoenix

Adventurist
#9
That is an impressive amount of work in a short period of time. Congrats on doing the hard work that will serve you well over time.
 

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#10
That is an impressive amount of work in a short period of time. Congrats on doing the hard work that will serve you well over time.
The extra set of hands, garage with lift, and a full complement of power-tools certainly helps. The looming deadline of my big trip this year is also a huge motivator.

Oh, and it doesn't look like I'll be heading out for King of the Hammers, so there's a chance I can go camping with you next month and bring the trailer for a shakedown run. :cool:
 
#11
The extra set of hands, garage with lift, and a full complement of power-tools certainly helps. The looming deadline of my big trip this year is also a huge motivator.

Oh, and it doesn't look like I'll be heading out for King of the Hammers, so there's a chance I can go camping with you next month and bring the trailer for a shakedown run. :cool:
Sucks getting old. I'll be recovering from surgery, so no camping in 10 degree weather for me. Well, at least not this winter
 

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#13
This part occurred over three days (a Saturday, a Wednesday evening, and another Saturday). Sadly progress was interrupted due to the nasty Nor'Easter that dumped more than 30' of snow on the area.

First, a stop to the local surplus store:



Starting off with some grinding to get the new door surround to sit flush.



Welding up the new door surround using the existing doors as a template (nice to have friends that can weld):



Old doors; New surround. Hung in place and fully functional:



Part of the reason I needed to build new door surround was because the old one was FUBAR. The other reason was because I wanted the doors to sit back a little so the tailgate could still function and close:



Time for some sheet metal:



First, some supports:





Halfway there:



Rear is skinned.



Front is also patched and braced:



Also got some wiring run and the rear lights mounted:



Not bad, time for a celebratory cigar:



The only remaining items for this phase of the build are seam sealing all the edges, primer, and paint. The cap will get painted black to match the hardtop of the LJ and the trailer body will get painted silver to match the Jeep. They will be rattle can jobs but the fresh paint will hopefully refresh the look of the trailer.
 

Doug

Adventurist
Senior Staff
Founding Member
#15
Still seriously impressed with this build and it's fun to watch from afar. Your pictures really tell the story of your build well. I'd imagine some screen inserts or tent window screen material for the side doors would provide amazing ventilation. The addition of a fantastic fan in the roof would allow you to just crack them open to create your own breeze through your camper and maintain privacy. I wish I had the welding skills (and shop) to pull something like this off.
 

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#17
I'd imagine some screen inserts or tent window screen material for the side doors would provide amazing ventilation. The addition of a fantastic fan in the roof would allow you to just crack them open to create your own breeze through your camper and maintain privacy.
Both of those are on the list. I'm starting on the inside stuff this weekend after a little maintenance on the Jeep.
 

Dean

Adventurist
Founding Member
#20
Very Nice, I've always wanted to make my own trailer, now you've got me thinking.
Yeah, I'd be hard pressed to find a better starting platform than this M101. That was half the battle. I thought about building one from the ground up, but PA has arcane laws when it comes to titling and registering a home built trailer. I was also wary about using other light-duty framed trailers. Lots of great ideas and builds out there.
 
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