Hatch supports We were concerned about supporting the hatch because of unpredictable desert winds. Using just a stick prop rod would be dangerous for us so we had to research all avenues. We decided to use gas charged lift supports and purchased them from Napa Auto Parts and then found the manufacturer's web site [$14.95ea Service Plus Distributors]. You can also purchase them from any automotive or industrial supply store and come in different lengths and capacities. Our completed hatch weighed 50 pounds and while attached to the hinge on the body, it had 25 pounds of down force to hold it open. Napa allowed us to experiment with different capacities and we went through 4 sets before we found the right one, which would have made a mail order purchase rather expensive and time consuming. We chose the 17" length with 10mm ball swivels and started with 50 pound capacity but they left a 10 pounds of down force while the hatch was fully open. So the 2 supports combined capacity of 100 pounds only held 15 pounds. We then tried 90's and they worked but any movement on the Teardrop and the hatch would start to close. The next size up was 120 pound and held the hatch in the up position nicely and should hold it up even if the wind blew the other direction. These will hold the hatch half way in the up position but lost their charge in cold weather. We ended up using 150 pounders (NAPA 819-5560) and they work fine. I purchased a gas shock support lock from J.C. Whitney for $8 to lock the shocks, just in case of a real strong wind.
Support location The total weight, size and shape of your hatch will have a lot to do with choosing the right gas charged lift support. After reading some of the formulas for determining the right one, we decided it was easier to view our Teardrop gathering photos and make a few phone calls to get advise. Grant Whipp of Tales and Trails suggested attaching the top hatch pivot 5" below the hinge. Since the floor wasn't installed yet, it made it easy to climb inside the kitchen and view the operation of the supports. With the hatch open and support fully extended, the bottom ball pivot was installed 3" in from the body side lip and attached with #12 stainless pph screws. Our support manufacturer required the rod end of the shock pointed down or shock body facing up.
Hatch gasket Sealing out water was not our only concern. Dust can be a problem while driving on dirt roads. We used 7/16" x 1 1/4" rubber foam weather-stripping available from Home Depot and applied it to the hatch sides. This one compresses nicely and springs right back. We used 3/4" x 9/16" 'D' shaped EPDM weather-stripping on the bottom of the hatch and side door [McMaster-Carr]. We'll experiment with different configurations and types and update this topic and keep you informed on which works best. Update - both products work great but the Home Depot weather-stripping needs to be replaced annually, which isn't a problem.
Hatch locks Heavy duty stainless steel draw latches [$20.00ea McMaster-Carr] were used to pull in and seal the hatch, which fully compressed the weather-stripping and made a tight seal. We fabricated a 1/4" x 1" x 6" "L" shaped steel strap to mount the catch half of the latch using #8-32 x 3/8" stainless machine screws. This put all the pulling force on the 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" Poplar beam that's inside the bottom of the hatch and no force was put on the 1/4" hatch side and insert moldings. #14 x 2" pph stainless screws fasten the "L" brackets to the hatch. Since these draw latches have a eye built into them, we'll use a padlock for security and we won't need a Mickey Mouse 'T' handle lock.
Floor Most Teardrops are built from the floor up. We saved ours for last which our knees and backs appreciate and made the original 1947 plans attractive! The bottom belly pan is 1/4" Lauan laminated with Filon and is supported by the extra cross members in the chassis and the corner gussets where the stabilizer jacks are attached. 1/8" x 1 1/4" aluminum strap was screwed under the oak floor frame between the chassis cross members, creating a lip to support the belly pan. 1" strips of poplar was glued and nailed to the oak frame and belly pan and then we laid a sheet of foil faced rigid foam insulation to fill in this void. This was topped off using 1/2" Lauan for the actual interior floor which was glued and nailed to the 1" poplar strips, making the floor flush with the oak frame. The edges were sealed with silicone. Wiring for the side clearance lights were ran inside the floor sandwich using 16ga wire. Water and termites will have a tough time getting into this Teardrop!
Tires and Fenders Since the fenders will be sticking out 6" further on each side of the tow vehicle, they would be dragging through all the hard and prickly desert brush and be taking lots of abuse. We chose 14ga aluminum diamond plate Jeep style flat fenders [$22.99ea, Northern]. We welded 1/8" x 1 1/2" steel angle to the side of the chassis frame and covered the steel with vinyl tape. The aluminum fenders were attached using 1/4" x 3/4" stainless philips truss bolts. Since we've seen and had our share of tire blow-outs and knowing the Teardrop tires will be clipping more rocks than the tow vehicle, we decided to go with a strong off-road tire. B F Goodrich LT215/75R15/C All-Terrain T/A tires were chosen because of the 5 ply tread and 3 ply sidewalls [$85.00ea]. The BFG Mud-Terrain tires on my old Jeeps were indestructible and we're sold on this tire which gives us more reliability. These tires are 8.4"W x 27.8"H and were the largest tires we could fit without having the fenders interfere with the door opening. Oh darn, so much for the 35" mudders I originally wanted!
Tongue Jack We knew that a tongue jack would be destroyed on our trailers first trip out to the desert so we researched every jack that was available and couldn't find one for our needs. So we chose the short Atwood [$49.95 Hemet Trailer Supply] and thought it would be the best one for our off-road application after modifying it. Using a air powered die grinder with a cut off wheel, I removed the mounting bracket welds and rewelded it on the center of the jack tube so we'd have more travel in leveling out the trailer on uneven ground. We then cut off the flat sand pad and welded a sleeve on it. This gave us a choice of using the sand pad or a 6" wheel [$20.00 Hemet Trailer Supply]. By removing a pin, the jack can swivel to the horizontal position or be removed completely from the tongue, which complete removal would be the choice while off-roading.