1948 Trotwood Tiny House Project - Tiny House Blog

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


Join Our eMail List and download the Tiny House Directory

Simply enter your name and email below to learn more about tiny houses and stay up to date with the movement.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

m - January 9, 2013 Reply

Very nice job! I would like to see more on your students projects if possible.

    Gene Wallen - January 9, 2013 Reply

    Yes, that outside wood burner looks very interesting.

      Annie - January 9, 2013 Reply

      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!!!!

      alice h - January 9, 2013 Reply

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

How do we simplify? Let us count the ways. | Exopermaculture - January 9, 2013 Reply

[…] 1948 Trotwood Tiny House Project […]

Joel - January 9, 2013 Reply

Great job, thanks for sharing.

Joel - January 9, 2013 Reply

Great job, thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work.

Mopsa - January 9, 2013 Reply

Wonderful job! Love it.

Gary L - January 9, 2013 Reply

Nice job

Bob H - January 9, 2013 Reply

Nice backyard camper.

Woman on Wild Mountain - January 9, 2013 Reply

Hi, Love to see more of this project. I am remodling a 1950’s Boles-Aero and love ideas. Thanks, Kerry

Ann H. - January 9, 2013 Reply

What a great camper/house! You did a wonderful job fixing it up, just so cozy looking!!!!
Love the color of the outside too.

Danielle - January 9, 2013 Reply

You’ve done a great job with that camper. Congratulations!

Swabbie Robbie - January 9, 2013 Reply

What a nice camper you have now. Great job.

Christina - January 9, 2013 Reply

What a great color on that trailer! I would love to learn more about the pop can heater. How does it work?

VintageRover - January 9, 2013 Reply

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.

Leah - January 9, 2013 Reply

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

stpauligirl - January 9, 2013 Reply

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!

    James Kinkaid - January 12, 2013 Reply

    its store bought. I think it looks so cute in the pics because it pics up the colors in the curtains.

NannyR - January 9, 2013 Reply

Love it!

deborah - January 9, 2013 Reply

I love what you’ve done! These little gems have so much life left in them if you just look beyond what you first see.

Ron - January 9, 2013 Reply

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.



Lisa - January 9, 2013 Reply

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.

Ozark Nick - January 10, 2013 Reply

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.

Roxy - January 10, 2013 Reply

I am so interested in your students projects, escpecially the outddor heater and water filtration. Please, more info!!!

Amy - January 10, 2013 Reply

Gorgeous!!! Would love to see more about the projects students built!!!

Madeleine - January 10, 2013 Reply

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!

nicole - January 10, 2013 Reply

I absolutely love this and would love one of my own! 🙂

JCinCT - January 10, 2013 Reply

Great project…..and turning something forgotten into something useful and loved.

Mitzi - January 10, 2013 Reply

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

    James Kinkaid - January 13, 2013 Reply

    Hi. I have noticed some of us live in Ohio. I am near Toledo in NW ohio. Where are you? What kind of camper do you have?

Tiny Houses Hankerings - January 10, 2013 Reply

That is so cute! Great job on fixing it up.

Benjamin - January 10, 2013 Reply

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.

Aldene - January 12, 2013 Reply

Amazing job on the kitchen! I don’t know as I’d have the brain cells to imagine and accomplish that transformation.

Shell - January 12, 2013 Reply

That is inspirational. Thank you so much for posting. : )

James Kinkaid - January 12, 2013 Reply

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?


B J Fisher - January 12, 2013 Reply

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.

Carolyn B - January 12, 2013 Reply

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

Br. Curt - January 13, 2013 Reply

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!

RJ - January 13, 2013 Reply

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.

David - January 13, 2013 Reply

I grew up in Trotwood, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of a Trotwood Camper!!

The things you learn…

    James Kinkaid - January 14, 2013 Reply

    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!

ucciucci - May 24, 2013 Reply

[…] (via 1948 Trotwood Tiny House Project) […]

Patricia - December 22, 2013 Reply

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 =~)

Off the Grid | Upstately - June 30, 2014 Reply

[…] 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. […]

    James Kinkaid - July 17, 2017 Reply

    awesome. Mine has a twin.

Deb - June 5, 2017 Reply

Very cool! We have done some of these off grid ideas at our acreage. Some out of fun, some out of necessity! LOL
But what I really would like to know if there is a tag showing the serial number. I have a Trotwood Deco serial number #5251. I’m trying to figure out the year on it.
It has a trotting horse emblem on the front above the window and corrugated siding along the bottom half.
I think I might have to tackle rebuilding it! Got the bug!
Thanks for your info!

Leave a Reply:

Get the Tiny House Directory... join our weekly newsletter