Benroy History

 

Bennet Petersen and serial #135 trailer

Bennet Petersen
Co-founder Ben lives in Lotus, CA when this photo was taken 5-7-00 by Charles Tello of Ventura, CA.
Charles' Teardrop is serial #135, which Ben said it was actually the 35th Benroy teardrop built.

 

Following articles reproduced by permission from Grant Whipp, written by Lisa Whipp, Tales and Trails - The Teardrop Times issue #5 spring/summer 1995.

The Classic Benroy

Bennet Petersen, the surviving founder of Benroy Trailer Products, holds a unique place in the history of teardrops. He designed and built (in Burbank, CA) what is still acknowledged as one of the sweetest classics of the teardrop world. He experienced what big-company competition could do to the little man, eventually went out of business, saw his molds picked up by King Richard's (of all places), a trailer dealership in El Monte, CA which only produced a few units. He watched as other manufacturers came along and reproduced many of his ideas and was actually disappointed when some of his favorite features weren't included. Then he saw the market fall off to nothing. Today, Bennet Petersen is still around, seeing the resurgence in popularity of the teardrop. And watching his trailer and his ideas being recreated by some wonderful craftsmen in California and elsewhere. 'I feel a certain amount of pride,' Bennet says, when they use the term 'Benroy reproduction.' He built the pilot model in 1953, completed tooling, and with partner Roy Greenwood ('he was the money man,' says Bennet) launched the Benroy line of teardrop trailers. From then until the end of 1955, they manufactured 480 trailers, which sold for (are you ready for this?)....$420.00.

With its smooth design, bright silver body with fire engine red trim, the Benroy was a saucy little two-door trailer. Built on the standard 4'x8' plan form, it was 10' long and 68" wide overall, and weighed 760 pounds. The sidewalls and floor were 3/8" fir plywood varnished on the inside, the deck lid and door ribs were made of laminated birch plywood, and the deck lid interior was made of 1/8" bending birch plywood. The exterior was .032 mill finish aluminum. The kitchen area contained a two-burner propane stove, a porcelain sink, a 25# ice box, a six gallon water tank with outside filler cap, a drop leaf table, and a 6-volt dome light. The interior featured cabinets and shelves for storage, a three-quarter size mattress, and another dome light. The chassis was framed with 1/4"x2"x2" steel, using 1250 pound springs and axle. Steel fenders covered standard 600x16 tires and wheels. Benroy produced four units at a time, and only sold one unit direct. The rest went to dealers in southern California, Portland, Seattle, St Louis, Texas and Virginia. Many went to rental lots (such as Humes Sporting Goods) where families could rent them by the week. Dealers like Stout Motors, with 5 sales lots, paid 80% of the wholesale price until the unit was sold. Asked if he ever thought teardrops would become popular again, Bennet says, 'I thought they would come back, as they have, with limited production.' He doesn't believe there is enough market for mass production, however. 'Sales were limited, even in the '50s,' he says. Those of you out there fortunate enough to own an original Benroy know their worth. And if any of you would like to correspond with Bennet, who lives in the Gold Country of the Sierra foothills here in California, we'll be happy to put you in touch. [Editor's note; We here at T&T would also be interested in knowing who owns original Benroy's - so if you're a Benroy owner, or know of someone who is, please let us know.]

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Fitzpatrick Trailer Service

Jack Fitzpatrick comes by his interest in trailers through family tradition and a bit of teardrop trailer history. His father, Jack SR., founded the Burbank company in 1947, manufacturing the Gazelle [the first catering trailer, which he used himself for hunting]. In 1953, his dad's shop foreman, Bennet Petersen, built a prototype teardrop trailer in the Fitzpatrick shop. He took on Fitzpatrick's accountant Roy Greenwood as partner and began producing the Benroy teardrop trailer. Jack played in those teardrops. 'They'd be all lined up waiting to be shipped,' he recalls. They were just too good a playground for a youngster like him to pass up.

The present-day Fitzpatrick Trailer Service caters to the trailer needs of the movie industry and other custom orders, so why did he decide to manufacture teardrops? Jack laughs as he explains, somebody brought one in to have the back lid repaired a few years ago. He looked at it and said, 'Hey, I always wanted to build one of these. Let's try it.' It seemed completely natural, given his background plus the fact that Bennet Petersen is his Godfather, to reconfigure the Benroy. 'The hardest part,' he says, 'was the first one...trying to keep it looking as original as possible.' It took six to eight months, on and off, he says, 'finding the old T-molding for around the door, and figuring out how Benny made his hinges so they didn't leak.'

While the overall shape and paint scheme remain the same, he's added length to the tongue, modernized the kitchen a bit, increased the sleeping and storage areas, and replaced the springs/axle with torsion bar suspension. Jack prefers to build three at a time, and has produced 'for or five.' The windows will be different from the original Benroy, as they can't be purchased anymore. He promises a simple design with vintage wheels and tires, '39 teardrop tail lights set in '32 Ford fiberglass repro fenders, and optional fat white wall tires.

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We would like to thank Grant and Lisa Whipp of Tales and Trails - The Teardrop Times for their dedication in preserving the history and renewing the interest of Teardrop trailers. Click the button below for more Benroy history:

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