DIY | Build an off-road trailer
On a Mini’s leaf springs and Toyota rims Ben Swart built his own off-road trailer. Few people believe him when they hear that he built the Bush Pillow 2008, as he calls it, himself.
For years Ben and Mariette Swart from Brackenfell travelled and camped wherever they wanted to with a rooftop tent. But when a little one arrived in their home, they needed more packing space.
But none of the off-road trailers on the market offered everything they needed. They were too expensive, to boot.
Being quite capable when it comes to working with steel, this policeman decided to take the bull by the horns. Once he had drawn up the plans and started building, there was no stopping him.
The trailer’s box is 900 mm high and it is welded onto a floor made of 2 mm steel plate. The top of the box is reinforced to carry the weight of a rooftop tent.
One side of the trailer has the kitchen with space for all the kitchen goodies, and for a fridge on a sliding rack. The other side has enough space for vegetable baskets that act as clothing drawers.
In the back of the trailer is a drawer with four compartments. Initially, the Swart family planned to pack four ammo cases into the compartments, but they realised the compartments work just as well without the ammo cases, without the effort of opening and closing lids.
Ben and Mariette are stoked with their off-road trailer and very proud of it too. They don’t want to change a thing.
Best of all, it only cost R25 000, tent included.
What is it made up of?
The chassis and frame are made of steel. The trailer rests on leaf springs – similar to those used in new Minis – that I got from Burnco. The rims come from a Hilux. I use a jockey wheel with an inflatable tyre.
KMG Stainless Steel did the bending of the chequered aluminium plate for the doors. The door locks and lights are from McNaughtans in Parow. The drawer in the back was built by R&D Offroad. I mounted a Howling Moon rooftop tent on the trailer.
What was the biggest challenge?
To fit everything, the layout of the kitchen was a real challenge. The placement of the axle was also tough to decide on and I got the advice from a friend of mine, Freddie van Dorp.
What did you do differently to other trailers?
The doors consist of an inside and outside part that are riveted together. Both parts have a 12 mm “lip” all the way around. These parts fit into each other and are held in place by rivets to make the door hollow inside.
What kind of reaction do you get?
Everywhere we camp people want to see how it works and everyone is very impressed to hear that I built it myself. A whole crowd once descended on us at a campsite to have a closer look.
The chassis is made of 40 mm x 60 mm steel pipe that is 2 mm thick. The axle and leaf springs can carry 1600 kg, but the trailer without the tent barely weighs 420 kg. You will have to carry a lot of weight to overload it.
The box of the trailer is made of 40 mm x 20 mm steel pipe that is 1.6 mm thick. It is 900 mm high. The floor of the trailer is made of 2 mm steel plate onto which the box is welded. The top of the box is reinforced to carry the weight of the rooftop tent.
The frame of the trailer as well as the front panels and mudguards have been spray-painted bronze with Hammerite metal paint. The chassis is galvanised.
The back door was reinforced and heavy-duty hinges were fitted to carry the weight of the spare wheel. The lights comply with all legal requirements and the trailer got its roadworthy certificate without any hassles.
The right side of the trailer carries vegetable baskets in which we pack our clothes. The baskets weigh virtually nothing and are very effective. The space left of the baskets is for toiletries.
The trailer’s kitchen side has a stainless steel worktop. Ben’s wife gave him everything that needed to fit into the kitchen and he designed it accordingly. The kitchen is made of aluminium and 6 mm plywood. It is held together with aluminium angle iron and rivets. The fridge is next to the kitchen on a sliding rack.
The trailer works with 12V electricity that comes from the battery in the nosecone. When the Swart family camp where there is electricity, the battery is recharged with a charger kept in the nosecone with the battery.
The drawer in the back of the trailer has four compartments. Above the drawer is a gap into which the table slides and between the two side boxes Ben stores the camp chairs.
The top of the trailer has been reinforced and a Howling Moon rooftop tent has been mounted on it. The whole project, including the tent, cost the Swart family less than R25 000.