It isn’t the money, or the work or the out-of-state orders flowing into the office that keep Dean Wiltshire building teardrop campers. It is the drive to put people out in the wilderness comfortably that keeps the Colorado Teardrop Company rising to the top of the trailer business since its founding in 2014. It is now the largest teardrop manufacturer in Colorado.
“We care about all of our customers and we appreciate their business,” says Wiltshire. “We are here to launch people on adventures.”
A teardrop camper is exactly what it sounds like - a small teardrop-shaped camper towed behind a car. The trailer is built aerodynamically in the shape of a teardrop for better gas mileage as well as storage in the unit. Teardrops have been around since the 1930s. In fact, Warren Miller, the famous ski videographer, started his career in a teardrop (smaller than they are now). He and a high school buddy filmed and edited video while camping under the mountains during the winters of 1946-47 and 1947-48.
The Journey to Colorado
Wiltshire was born in Britain, soon immigrating on the Queen Elizabeth II vessel from there to America where he took a Greyhound bus with his family from New York to Colorado. The move did not stop there. He would come back to Colorado some years later but spent his childhood helping his father build boats in the Silicon Valley area “before it was Silicon,” says Wiltshire.
Before he and his family started the Colorado Teardrop Company, Wiltshire worked as a developer for software and hardware solutions.
“Whether or not you are selling to software companies to understand global risk against flooding or Apple to design iPhones, the people you are working with are very passionate and dedicated to their work,” says Wiltshire. “But at the end of the day it is work. You deliver a new version of hardware and they love it, but it is not life-changing.”
Yet, when Wiltshire makes a teardrop camper, he gets to help people with their adventures, their retirement and their dreams.
“That level of satisfaction, you just don’t get it in most jobs,” says Wiltshire. “People are planning adventures around what you do, so that is satisfying.”
After a bear-infested camping trip with his daughter, Sarah (Colorado Teardrop Company office manager), in Yellowstone National Park, Wiltshire had the idea for his teardrop company.
“We were just tent camping along the way and camped next to this scary sign that said, ‘Danger, bear activity, do not cross’,” says Wiltshire. “It was literally just a sign on a tree, and we were right next to it.”
Wiltshire and his daughter left the morning of July 6, 2011, to find out that a backcountry camper in Yellowstone had been killed by a bear that morning. Wiltshire got into his Honda Accord and thought about the camping trip for a couple hundred miles. His brainstorming culminated into research which led to the idea for his teardrop company. Teardrops would keep him and his family safe from critters while also offering a comfortable place to stay while out and about. It was perfect.
“Eventually my son and I built one, and me and my daughter went camping,” says Wiltshire. “At Safeway we had people sitting in our teardrop. We went into the grocery store to get supplies for our first camping trip and people had literally opened our doors and were sitting in our teardrop. They had broken all social norms to check it out because they have always wanted to touch one.”
Wiltshire realized he was onto something and eventually started renting out teardrops that he was making. Thus, the start of the Colorado Teardrop Company.
“We have sold about 85 and built 75,” says Wiltshire. “One hundred trailers might happen this year or next we aren’t sure.”
The Colorado Teardrop Company are working on 10 more right now to finish off the 85th order.
Renting a Trailer for Your Trip
The Colorado Teardrop Company has a whole fleet of rental trailers for your summertime camping needs. It costs $105 per day with a three-day rental minimum and a 14-day maximum.
Wiltshire’s rentals go quickly during the summer months.
“There is a two-hour window to flip a trailer,” he says. “A trailer might come back from somewhere like Maine and is here for two hours and then might travel to somewhere like San Diego.”
After the trailer is returned, the staff clean it, determine how many miles got on it, determine it is safe to travel, windows, maintenance, and that the lights all work. Then the teardrop is off again somewhere else for another adventure.
The Trailers and Accessories
Wiltshire has had years of CAD (Computer Aided Design) training and uses it in his work.
“We can draw a profile, then email a file to someone, and say ‘cut me this, please’,” says Wiltshire. “For multiple years we were cutting siding out of plywood but now we fabricate out of aluminum,” says Wiltshire.
The company does less CAD work than in previous years, but they still use it to design models and work with out-of-state customers who can’t see the trailer in person.
“We can go in and check if, for instance we got a call this morning, to see if a Yeti cooler could fit in the back of the trailer,” he says. “So I can draw that in 3D CAD and check if the doors will close with it and so forth.”
A big question a lot of people have about these trailers is whether or not their car can tow it. Wiltshire recommends that everyone thinking of buying a trailer look and see how much weight their car can tow under a warranty.
“Our trailers are designed for smaller cars and gas mileage,” says Wiltshire. “When customers call to ask whether or not their car can tow we just tell them the weight of the trailer. You can look at a Mazda 3 in Europe and it can really tow. Here in the United States they say the same car cannot tow. (Meaning) It is all warranty stuff so it is not just car capability.”
There are four separate models to chose from: the Basedrop, Canyonland, Mount Massive and the Summit. Many customers have chosen accessories and personalizations for their teardrop trailer. Prices range from $11,600 for the Basedrop to $21,500 for the Summit trailer, depending on personalization.
“Instead of customization, we say ‘personalization’,” says Wiltshire. “We work with the customer to decide what kind of camping they want to do along with what they are doing when they are actually camping. Are they hunters or fishermen or just hippies in hammocks?” says Wiltshire.
The Princess Trailer
Wiltshire has collected many touching experiences relating to customers who have entrusted him to make their dream trailer. One story stands out for Wiltshire: the Princess Trailer.
Wiltshire was in the shop on a Saturday about 5-10 minutes from closing time when a woman came in with three little girls. Wiltshire asked her if he could show her around but she simply said “No, I know exactly what I want.” She handed Wiltshire a list, paid him and then walked out of the store 10 minutes later. The woman envisioned mirrored sides and a gold roof, a literal princess carousel.
“She was going up to New York for five weeks or something like that,” said Wiltshire.
Right before her adventure started, she came to get the teardrop while Wiltshire helped her hook it up to her car.
“I went to shut down her hatch door and it said ‘Vietnam Disabled Veteran’ on her license plate. I was like, ‘You’re too young to have served in Vietnam’, and she got a tear and said that her husband had passed. This was their trip to restart their lives, if you will,” said Wiltshire as small tears gathered in the corners of his eyes. “We have had all sorts of wonderful, touching stories about customers.”