With the basic Royal Mail Coach as a foundation, I proceeded to translate this form into something that would work as a camping trailer. One of my early decisions was to have side entrances even though the design utilizes ledges that go out over the wheels. I have never seen another ledged trailer that doesn’t have the door in back or in front. This requires steps in front of the door, but I figured hey, I needed something to hide the trailer wheels anyway.
Another unusual decision was to have a door on each side just like a real coach. Since there isn’t a kitchen inside I could afford the wall space. On the other hand, the second door contains another window. My final Coach has a total of nine windows and is very light inside. Also, the Coach is truly ambidextrous and I can have either side as the entrance depending on the campsite.
Like almost all small campers the bed converts from something else. In this case, we just have a full size futon that works as a couch or a bed as needed, with moveable boards to provide the support where needed.
One of the biggest commitments I made to truly disguise the fact that the Coach is really just a trailer was to build BIG three-dimensional wheels. These are a pain in the ass to build and to transport, but the Coach wouldn’t be the same without them. More on them later.
Another feature that contributes to the Coach’s coachiness is a driver’s seat and footboard up front. Along with the wheels, the broken roofline, the boot (back end) and decoration, these features keep the trailer from looking like a plywood box. And the front end latches closed to provide a reasonably aerodynamic profile.
All that remained was to find a suitable trailer as the foundation, and this eventually turned up on Craigslist. I found a medium duty ATV trailer with a 3500 lb. axle, measuring 5 feet between the wheels by 9 feet long. Wheels were 12″ rims by 5.80 tires, which is a step up in size from the Harbor Freight trailer wheels. It was time to begin!
The Coach kinda evolved as I went along, but I did begin with some basic requirements that I wanted to achieve:
- The finished trailer needed to give a very respectable impression of historical authenticity. It is our intention to use it at historical reenactment events, some of which are more exacting than others, as well as for our personal camping trips in Humboldt County and beyond. I have already camped in it at one Society for Creative Anachronism event where it was well received. More events to come!
- The trailer needed to be reasonably small and light enough to tow with our pickup truck. As our truck is a half ton with a v8 engine, that was not terribly difficult. While I did try to keep the trailer weight down, particularly by using some boat building techniques and materials, it is definitely overbuilt–constructed more like a tiny house than an RV. You are probably wondering what the gross vehicle weight came in at…it was just under 3,000 pounds. No problem pulling it but pushing the capacity of the axle and tires. I will be upgrading the suspension.
- A big and comfortable bed. Nuff said.
- Room to stand up and dress, room to store our gear and personal effects (including historical costumes and accessories which can be bulky).
- A kitchen. While we could have designed a cooking area inside the Coach, we opted for an outside kitchen such as are found in teardrop trailers. Think Gypsy Wagon–the wagon is for Mom & Dad to sleep in, with the cooking done outside and the kids sleeping under the wagon.
- Insulated for warmth, coolth and noise reduction when drunken reenactors are partying all around.
- Weather resistant and durable enough to last a few years before I need to repaint.
- Relatively inexpensive, because we are not rich people. I had been scrounging and hoarding materials for years and already had much on hand that was used in the Coach. Some materials were donated, some was horse-traded, and some was purchased on Craigslist. Total bill including trailer, new wheels and tires and everything, was, like the weight, a tad under $3,000 (but I’m thinking the suspension upgrade could be another $1,000). Biggest expenses were the trailer, new wheels, stove pipe & fittings, leveling jacks, windows, marine plywood for the exterior, insulation, seven gallons of epoxy, fiberglass cloth, thousands of exterior grade screws and over 50 tubes of PL Premium construction adhesive.
- Ah yes, the stove. Having a woodstove in a small trailer is completely impractical, expensive and some would say dangerous. Therefore it was a necessity.
- Potty facilities–are not very practical in such a small trailer. There is a honey bucket for middle-of-the-night needs, but otherwise we will use the campground or event facilities.
That’s more or less what I wanted to achieve at the beginning.