1948 Trotwood Tiny House Project

1948 Trotwood Tiny House Project

trottwood camper snow camp

by James Kinkaid

I have been working on a tiny house project since June, when I found a 1948 Trotwood camper for sale alongside the highway here in Ohio. I purchased it, complete with original ice box, for $350.00 delivered. I renovated the inside first, then had my neighbor Tim help me drag it out into the woods behind my house. I painted the outside and built  deck from reclaimed lumber from the Habitat for Humanity store near me.

I am a teacher, so I got some of my techie kids involved in designing and building off the grid energy technology for the project. They built a pop can heater designed to heat the inside space with passive solar heat, a solar panel to charge a 12 volt battery for lights, an outdoor wood-burner to channel warm air into the camper, a water collection canopy and filtration system, and an outdoor privy.

I am very pleased with my tiny vacation home tucked away in the woods behind my house. I cannot wait until spring so that I can continue working on the project!

camper outside before
Camper Trailer Before
Camper Trailer After
Camper Trailer After
Camper Table Before
Camper Table Before
Camper Table After
Camper Table After
Camper Kitchen Before
Camper Kitchen Before
Camper Kitchen After
Camper Kitchen After
Arch at Snow Camp
Arch at Snow Camp



      • Yes, please show us how your students built everything! I am especially interested in the solar and heating applications. I have a 1960 Beeline camper that I restored a few years ago, so much fun. Great job!!!!

      • Add me to the list of those interested in that wood heater! No room inside the Boler but that setup looks most intriguing.

  1. Great find. Great Price, Great upgrades. Great Recycle-Upcycle.
    Very nice job, and love the student aspect brought to the project. Would love to see more projects that take on kids in a mentoring way. Great way to team up on project.

  2. That is beautiful! Like the others, I’d love to hear more about the heating & water filtration system. Very very impressive!

  3. beautiful little trailer! I just love a small trailer. The vintage trailers are especially cool, for me at least.

    Totally and completely off topic: that is a beautiful quilt! Did someone make that or is it store bought? As a quilter, it really caught my eye. gorgeous!

  4. Love what you have done to your ’48 Trotwood vintage camping trailer…One of our members of a new club that just opened the first of the year on Facebook and Yahoo groups posted your blog to our homepage…Our members all have two things in common…One, We all have a deep love and own vintage travel trailers, and two….Have a interest in having a site at home, very much like yours in this article…We would love to have you and others with the same passion as you to consider join us for just these kind of topics…We call our group ‘Camping @ Home’ and do hope to see you on board…Left the web address up above but guess I should also share it here as well, just in case it doesn’t post….You can find us at the following links.



  5. Thank you for posting. It all looks great! I am a teacher, too, and appreciate that you have involved your s tudents in some of the projects with your tiny home. I’m sure you all inspire and learn so much from each other.. So nice to see everyone working together on this sort of project.

  6. That looks great!

    When we moved back to our place to start building our tiny home, we bought a 31-foot fifth wheel camper to live in while building. Turns out we really love living in the camper too. But often I wish it were smaller like that one.

  7. Look awesome!

    Can you give me an update on the solar air can collector? I’m thinking of making one myself. How is it working? Is it effective?

    Well done!

  8. Hello 🙂 Congrats on your new space 🙂 I am so pleased to see a posting from Ohio. I live in Ohio as well and would love to chat and possibly see your camper in person and learn about the off grid energy technology. Kindly, Mitzi

  9. I love the way you lovingly restored so much of what was there instead of just tearing it all out and replacing it with something else.

  10. Thanks for all the encouraging comments about Trottwood! Hopefully, I can answer most of your questions in one response. I purchased the camper last June and fixed up the inside during the summer. I am a high school teacher and the director of a program called Agora. Agora is a week of school during which students can take educational trips abroad, or stay on campus and participate in unique learning activities and projects designed around their interests. I had a group of kids who wanted to do a technology/science/physics related project, so I got permission to use my camper as the project. I purchased the supplies and the physics teacher and a parent who is an architect worked with the students. Student go the designs for the pop can heater and water filtration system from youtube videos. They built them in the shop at school and then went on site to install them. There are many videos for these types of projects on youtube. On the roof, above the pop can heater is a small solar panel. It is wired into the camper to a 12 volt battery and powers two strands on LED lights, one above the entry on the outside and one along the ceiling on the inside. It is pretty good light. Just flip a wall switch and the electricity comes from the battery. Our Agora week was not enough time to get everything working, so Trottwood is a work in progress. We have not yet cut the holes in the roof to bring the heat from the pop can heater (it gets over 200 degrees inside, even on winter days.) There are two pcv tubes that will come through the ceiling. The idea is to use a small computer fan to draw the warm air into the space. The fan will also run off solar energy from the battery. Another fan will help to draw warm air from the outside drum heater. It is a small drum inside a larger drum. The idea is that the fire burns in the small drum and heats the air in the larger drum. A pipe will feed the air into the camper with the help of another small fan. I have a small portable propane heater that is another source for heating. It takes about 10 minutes to warm the camper space.

    If the on-line videos are accurate, both projects should work. As soon as we have time and it warms up, I hope to get the kids back out here to get everything finished.

    There are a few other fun things I would like to do. I would like to channel the water from the butterfly canopy into a rain barrel and then connect the rain barrel to kitchen sink via the outside connection. The water will hopefully come via gravity. I will need to put the rain barrel up on blocks or something.You cannot see it in the pictures, but they also built a funky outhouse from pallets.

    Again…thanks everyone for the encouragement. Here is the link to my tumblr blog: http://starting-from-here.tumblr.com/
    I am in Monclova, Ohio (near Toledo) if any rocket scientist wants to come help me rig something amazing. Wish list=tiny wind turbine, outdoor shower, any other ideas?


  11. Lovely job and worwhile project. I like that you didn’t just gut it but reused so much of the original. I’d like to hear more about the student projects.

  12. Thanks for the good interior before and after photos. I’ve seen Kirsten Dirksen profile a man who used the popcan heater system.

  13. I really like that more folks are picking up these old throw-aways and giving them new life. I don’t know about living in this one, but it looks like you have a great place to get away, even though it’s so close to you home. I also like that you didn’t try to “slick it up” with stainless steal and such. The vintage look is perfect! You didn’t waste anything that could be used again. Good job!

  14. I am impressed. What you are doing is perfect. A restoration enchanced with new technology. The colors are perfect. I have just about gave up on something feasible for a project and this appeared. Congratualtions and thank you for showing the students the importance of practical applications of research and fruition. Kudos to your students.

    • Wow. That’s funny. I actually did not know the brand of the camper and had to search the internet looking for something that looked like my camper. A lot of them looked alike. One of the parents who helped with the project finally found the model along with a really cool iconic advertisement (it sold for $375.00 in 1948, so either I got robbed or it held its value 🙂 Anyway, I did some research and the Trotwood factory burned down…in like the 70s, but it was a hub of tin can camper production for a while. I was excited that my recycle project was even more “local.” There has to be more of them tucked away in barns or parked in the woods around Ohio!

  15. Oh my! It’s like stepping into a magical fairytale land! I absolutely love this, so quaint, so sweet. It makes me want to go there and have a little tea party with a couple of little girls…how they would love it! Thank you so much for sharing =~)

  16. […] The obvious solution was to start hunting for a used camper. A cheap camper. A vintage camper. My dream tiny house on wheels. After only a few days I went to look at a travel trailer I’d heard about at a rural intersection outside of town. As soon as I set eyes on it I knew we had to have it. I laid the money down and by nightfall we were making up beds in it. It was the only camper I had seen that was built before 1980. Its previous owner claimed it after finding it in the woods so it’s kind of a mutt. No papers. No marks indicative of its make. Though a quick Google search leads us to believe it is a Trotwood manufactured sometime in the 40s. Vague vintage is good enough for me. It’s identical to a Trotwood featured on Tiny House Blog. […]