The restored 1956 Benroy

Adventure Film 08: “Vintage Mood”

This is the eighth post on the Adventure Film project. If you haven’t read parts 1-7 of the adventure film blog series yet, you can read them here:


“I believe the true function of age is memory. I’m recording as fast as I can.” – Rita Mae Brown

Days 12-13

The state sprint went almost as planned.  Fatigue took over between Wisconsin and Missoula, Montana.  We actually drove for about 21 hours and finally slept on the side of the road in Billings, Montana.  I once drove from Dallas, TX to Spokane, WA without stopping (36 hours).  I’m too old for that anymore I guess.  On day 13, we drive from Billings, MT to Spokane, WA.  That night, we sorted & unloaded some gear at the house & I got to see Senior Management for a few hours.  The next day’s plan was to shoot up to Hope, ID to see Debra Kellerman and then make it down to Walla Walla, WA in time to meet a pilot we had contacted on the trip.

Day 14

Early on day 14, Landon and I loaded up the Jeep without the jPod (since we’d drive right back through Spokane on our way to Walla Walla) to visit with Debra Kellerman.

Debra contacted me through this website a few months after I announced the commencement of the Adventure Film.  She claimed to have be restoring a vintage teardrop.  Emails flew back and fourth and it soon became obvious that her project was perfect for the film.  During the spring of 2010 she continued to restore a 1956 Benroy teardrop trailer (read more about Benroy Trailers here).  There were fewer than 500 Benroys ever manufactured which made this trailer an obvious feature for the film.

The timing of our arrival was perfect since Debra had just camped in the Benroy for the first time a week or two earlier.  The camping & rebuilding memories were fresh and fun listening.

Upon arrival, we found three vintage trailers in the driveway and an amazing view of Lake Pend Oreille.  I must say, at this point, that Debra is an amazing hostess.  She had made pastry & coffee for us.  We spent quite a bit of time chatting together before we went to see the trailers.  Debra is a down to earth, fun loving, meticulous, pave-the-way sort of person.  She has an obvious knack for overhauling vintage trailers.  I know that the Benroy has never been as nice as it is now.  She took a piece of history, restored it, and improved it.  I think old Bennet and old Roy would be proud and perhaps embarrassed!

After seeing her quality craftsmanship, I started asking questions.  Debra began the search to restore a vintage trailer after camping in a modern large RV.  To her, the big rigs seemed too much like home to be actual camping and she didn’t like the size.  Something caused her to start looking at vintage RVs.  As she puts it, “I was in a vintage mood.”  It was in this search that she discovered the teardrop trailer.  It struck a chord with her and the passion grew.  She thinks that the vintage teardrops are “cute”, “minimalist”, camping but with comfort, and she likes that it can be towed with her Subaru instead of a huge truck.  This is the part of the story where comes to the rescue.

She placed a wanted ad on craigslist for a vintage teardrop trailer.  A few weeks later, she had purchased the 1956 Benroy with the hope that restoring it meant only minor repairs and paint.  As she dug into the trailer she realized that it needed to be completely overhauled.

I asked her what her favorite part of the project was and she said it was the learning.  “I didn’t know what a screwdriver was”, she said several times.  Debra came from a career in which tools were largely irrelevant.  Tools weren’t part of life for her until the Benroy rolled up the driveway.

“I had no idea what tools could do and how they could be used.  And I realized that really it’s not a mystery.  You can learn how to do these things.”

The amount of learning & research on this project really shows.  Her goal was to keep the trailer period accurate by restoring all of it as much as possible.  The result is her knowledge of RV technologies long in the history books plus some of the tricks of restoration (including a new but vintage looking decal on the outside).

Before the Benroy was even finished, Debra began collecting more vintage trailers.  As she put it, “If you’re really into them, you have to have one of each.”.  She now has three vintage trailers.

There is the 1956 Benroy, a classic 1952 Kit, and a very rare 1936 Kaycraft Kampster.  Kit trailers was the first of the teardrop manufacturers to begin production after WWII.  Their trailers are well known and any good tear-dropper will recognize the shape and style of their little RV.  Little is known about the Kaycraft Kampster teardrop.  From inspection, it appears to have been covered with a green canvas, it had an icebox, and clever shelving.  It is in pretty bad shape and will require a lot of Debra’s meticulous time to bring back its glory.

Time flew by while we were visiting, inspecting, and talking about trailers.  From our few hours together I gathered Debra’s basic message.  I think it is best said in her own words.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it.  Now I have power-tools that connect to this compressor and I’m all over it.  It is really fun.”

Our time with Debra was too short and I am thankful that she is not too far away from my home-base. I might have a chance at seeing her works of art being pulled by a Subaru down the road.

The afternoon of day 14 was the last day of shooting.  The raw footage isn’t all done but it was the last that he and I would travel together for this project.  Instead of reminiscing about our trip, we spent the 3 hours to Walla Walla discussing Debra’s vintage rigs and her ambition.  14 days earlier, Landon had a vague notion of what teardrop trailers were.  He knew he was making a film and since that is his specialty that was the initial focus.  By the end of our two week film marathon, I was starting to observe signs of the teardrop sickness in him.  He discussed design ideas, shapes, history, weights, and speculated about how teardrop trailers are licensed in Canada (his home).

In Walla Walla, we met our pilot and planned our short trip for aerial footage.  Since I was driving the jPod, and I was the second cameraman on our trip, we employed the help of a friend for a second camera.  At that point, the last thing I wanted to do was to drive for another hour but the results have made it worth it.  The pilot flew slow and low and we got some great footage.

Leaving Landon in Walla Walla, I headed for home.  Sometime in the middle of the night, I pulled over at a wide spot in the road and slept in the jPod until morning.  As I awoke and made coffee with an Italian peculator out of the galley of the jPod, I again marveled at these little trailers.  They’re just so convenient.

Later that morning, I marveled at what we had accomplished in two weeks:

  • Travel 4,567 miles
  • Interview over 30 individuals
  • Fill up over 120GB of Hard drive space with RAW footage.
  • Gave over 60 tours of the trailer (mostly at gas stations)
  • Ate a lot of sandwiches
  • Listened to several audio-books
  • and much more.

This project is not yet finished.  There is more filming to be done.  I can’t wait to get it in the “can”.  For now, it is time to fund raise and be thankful I don’t have to sit in the Jeep.  Only $1,000 left to raise and I’ll have the footage and purchased all of the copyrights necessary to make the Adventure film a reality.  Until that time, Landon and I will be editing until our eyes are bloodshot.  And I will be working with my students to develop teaching materials to bundle with this film.

There are rumblings among the people I’ve talked with about supporting a submission to the discovery channel, travel channel, or National Geographic.  The film would have to be edited slightly to fit those needs but the idea is intriguing.  I’m going to explore those venues through a couple of new contacts I made on this journey.

My many thanks must go to those who have supported this project so far.  I could not do this without your time, resources, knowledge, and financing.  We’re almost there.  Just a bit more time, effort, and money and it will be done.

2 thoughts on “Adventure Film 08: “Vintage Mood””

  1. Thank you for honoring my project(s) above and educating others as to the uniqueness of each of those wonderful vintage teardrops. I have begun the rebuild of the 1948 KIT this winter and hope to be done by late spring of 2011.

  2. Pingback: Anheuser Busch KampKar - Overland Teardrop Trailer & Adventure

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