Tag Archives: retro trailer

Introducing: The Whetzeldorf

Last year we introduced you to Dan Sutton and his teardrop trailer business, Whetzel Trace Travelers. Dan’s business up until now has been building teardrops as well as restoring vintage campers. However, his business has taken a slight change of direction thanks mainly to a camper he purchased in 2011: A 1957 Metzendorf

Metzendorf campers were produced from 1957 until the late 1960’s. They all were a standard 10′ in length. However, Dan’s Metzendorf was just 8′ in length. He believes this particular model is a one-of-a-kind, and most likely an early prototype before the production models became 10′ in length.

Earlier this year, Dan came up with the idea of reproducing the Metzendorf. He made a template using the ’57, although making it 3″ taller, and using a frame from a pop-up camper he bought, created a modern version of the Metzendorf and re-badged it the “Whetzeldorf”, a name which should need no explanation of its origin.

(2012 Whetzeldorf)

(1957 Metzendorf)

The Whetzeldorf sleeps two, weighs about 1200 lbs, sits on a 2,000 lbs pop-up camper axle, and measures 76″ wide, 98″ long, and 76″ tall. Standards include a refrigerator, aluminum exterior, and ample storage.

I had the chance to spend a couple of hours this past weekend at Dan’s shop (actually, his son’s garage) in Greenwood, Indiana where Dan currently has the third prototype Whetzeldorf in production.

Currently the materials going into the Whetzeldorf are a combination of new materials and recycled parts mainly from RV surplus stores. However, Dan is on the verge of getting serious with the Whetzeldorf and the plan is to have more new parts and frames  used on future models. But the stick-built cabinets and counter are something he builds from scratch.

With each prototype he’s built so far, features have been added while some have been taken away. One subtraction is that of the rear window that was on the first prototype. Due to the angle of the body and the placement of the window, it encountered some leaking issues, so it was eliminated with the second prototype. On the third prototype, a counter/cabinet was added to the far wall (pictured above).

As Dan tells me, he’s constantly coming up with new ideas and features. And he more than welcomes suggestions as well. A couple of suggestions I had were to utilize a jack-knife sofa/bed instead of just a permanent bed. Another possible feature may include a cabinet large enough to house a typical sized portable toilet. If those show up in a model one day, you’ll know where the inspiration came from. 😉

One of the big things he’s focusing on right now is the style of aluminum he’ll use for it. The first unit was skinned with bare aluminum, but he’s currently researching a few styles, including an aluminum that resembles a polished look, but will stand up to the elements. He’s previously used this type on a 1970 Yukon he restored and it’s holding up very well. It would get my vote. This same aluminum was also used on a Serro Scotty Silver Pup and the near-chrome look certainly gave that Scotty some pop.

While the first two prototypes of the Whetzeldorf are in the hands of new owners, the third one is currently (as of October 31, 2012) up for grabs. Dan is the lone employee of Whetzel Trace Travelers, so build time on a Whetzeldorf is about 6 weeks. With the materials he’s currently using, the cost of a Whetzeldorf is in the $7,500 range. I’ve seen similar sized trailers over the past few years with a price tag much higher than that. But the Whetzeldorf gives you the rare opportunity to get into an affordable micro trailer with enough room to make it cozy for two. Plus, the light weight of the Whetzeldorf gives you more options to tow it with. With the demise of the Serro Scotty Pup and its cousins the Sierra Campfire and Bak-Pak, the Whetzeldorf fills a void those trailers left behind. So get yours today….or in about 6 weeks.

Visit the Whetzeldorf page on Whetzel Trace Travelers’ website at http://whetzeltracetravelers.webs.com/whetzeldorfcamper.htm


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Little Guy Expecting Big Things from T@B

When Dutchmen ceased production of its T@B teardrop trailer in the summer of 2009, it left the existing owners of the unique lightweight trailer concerned. After all, many of its parts weren’t your typical RV parts that could be found on just about every make & model. Many of the parts came from various parts of Europe and came with a hefty price tag. We got a quote on a replacement door when we were T@B owners at the tune of over $1,000. Just one example of the cost of owning a Dutchmen T@B. It’s not publicly known why Dutchmen put the T@B on the chopping block, but speculation had been it just wasn’t a profitable line, mainly due to the cost of putting them together.

However, T@B owners are a resilient group. With over 3,000 members on a Yahoo Group dedicated to the T@B, and its big brother the T@DA, owners forged on and found ways of keeping their extinct trailers together by sharing ideas and finding resources for replacement parts. Rallies were still formed that drew a good number of T@Bs and T@DAs, with the campfire talk often times centering around whether Dutchmen would start building the T@B again. That question was answered in 2010 when Dutchmen answered with a simple “No”. So that would be the end of that, right? Well….no. Enter a teardrop trailer manufacturer from Ohio.

Little Guy Worldwide was formed in 2002 and has quickly become the big guy on the teardrop manufacturing scene, fueled by their popular 5-wide and Silver Shadow line. When Dutchmen discontinued the T@B line, Little Guy seized the opportunity to negotiate with Dutchmen to acquire the rights to build T@Bs, which added a new dimension to their lineup. Little Guy has their trailers built by Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers, but both companies are essentially joined at the hip. Recently I was in touch with Little Guy Senior Vice President and CEO of Pleasant Valley Teardrop Trailers, Scott Hubble. When asked when Little guy first decided to pursue the T@B, he tells us, “Following Little Guy moving the production of its trailers from Elkhart, Indiana to Sugarcreek, Ohio, the focus turned to developing a stand-up teardrop model.  Expanding the product lines distributed by Little Guy has always been a goal of ours.  A stand-up teardrop was the most logical fit.  The manufacturing side of our operation – Pleasant Valley Trailers – was poised to begin development and offer something in the same vein as the T@B; however, when it was discovered that Dutchmen’s new executive group decided to drop production of the T@B, Pleasant Valley Trailers seized the opportunity to acquire an established product with a large following and have Little Guy sell it to the masses. Once we knew that T@B was available, we knew it was a perfect fit and an absolute no-brainer, from a sales and marketing standpoint.”  The deal with Dutchmen, completed last winter, included drawings, schematics, marketing material, web site…essentially all the rights Dutchmen previously held relating to the T@B.

2012 Little Guy T@B (photo courtesy Alan McDowell)

Following the building of the initial prototypes in the first half of 2011, production models are currently in full swing with another 100 to be produced by the end of the year. Hubble is projecting production numbers up to 600 units in 2012. “Since this isn’t a new product and sweeping changes haven’t been made to it, the barrier to sales is pretty low and we can be choosey about what dealers we bring on board.  By the same token, the public has been deprived for the past 2 years and are eagerly anticipating the revival of the T@B.” However, their goals don’t stop there. “In our current facility, we could probably produce about 1200 units annually.  This would be where we project being in approximately 18-24 months.” Combined, Dutchmen produced over 4500 T@Bs and T@DAs over a 7 year period.

During their development of the T@B, Little Guy has made strides to correct weaknesses that plagued the Dutchmen version, as well as making standard what were optional features with the Dutchmen T@B:

  • The door handle, door thickness, wheel wells and black trim pieces on the original T@Bs all had failings to one degree or the other.  To address that issue, they moved to a new handle, more substantially weighted door, solid aluminum vs. mesh wheel wells and have employed automotive adhesive to keep the trim adhering to the roof of the camper.
  • In addition to the sink/stove and spare tire, they have made several other features standard, that were formerly optional.  Those items include:  Norcold Fridge, CoolCat 110 AC/Heater, LP Furnace, TV/DVD player, Screen Door, Alloy Rims, Port-a-potty and a 3-Way/Dual Directional Fantastic Fan.
  • In addition, there were a couple of other things that were overhauled – there is a new E-coated, U-channel frame with hydraulic coupler, a diamond plated gravel guard, Amish built interior cabinetry and extra 110 and 12v outlets. Axle weight was also increased to 3500 lbs, creating nearly 2000 lbs of hauling capacity compared to Dutchmen’s axle, which barely gave you 300 lbs. The weight of the trailer tops off just under 1500 lbs.
  • Most of the expensive European parts on the Dutchmen T@Bs will be produced locally, which in turn keeps the cost of the trailer down.

Once the initial wave of production takes hold, there may be additional models of the T@Bs coming back that Dutchmen produced, most notably the T@B Clamshell model. Chris Baum, Little Guy Chief Operating Officer, believes they can overcome the notorious leak problems that plagued the Dutchmen T@B Clamshell, due to Little Guy’s experience in building reliable hatches in their regular line of teardrops over the years.

The return of the T@B to the lightweight travel trailer market should be interesting to watch. Little Guy has been known in recent years as a company that is continually making improvements in their trailers and not sitting still. With that kind of company behind it, the T@B is definitely in good…if not better….hands since being sent out to pasture by Dutchmen.

T@B Website: http://tab-rv.com

Little Guy Website: http://golittleguy.com


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