Just what is a Grasshopper? It's actually the name of a company that manufactured 6 different sizes of travel trailers from 1978 to 1980. The sizes were 8'-10'-12'-14'-16'-18'. Grasshopper's factory was located in La Mirada, CA which was owned and operated by Jerry Utterback. Jerry now lives in Hemet, CA and I was fortunate to interview him a couple times back in 2003. Jerry also founded the Coachmen travel trailers and sold the rights to the Grasshopper & Coachmen. He said the whole RV industry suffered in the late 70's, early 80's due to gas prices and economy.
The original Grasshopper factory employeed 51 employees. Soon after closing down the travel trailer business, Jerry started a cabinet manufacturing business using the same employees and they manufacture tables for a local school district plus they make cabinets for Home Depot. Some of the original employees are still working for Jerry to this day. Grasshoppers were sold through 51 dealers all throughout southern California and at RV shows. Many were custom built to the buyer's specifications.
The main subject I'll be discussing is the 8' Grasshopper, which has a Teardrop trailer style rear hatch exposing the kitchen. I asked Jerry if he intended this model to be a Teardrop and he said no. He was always aware of the original Teardrop trailers but the reason he designed and developed this model is because RIVA had strict restrictions about having cooking & propane fixtures inclosed in such a small interior sleeping space. Some manufacturers did not follow RIVA's regulations, mostly smaller shade tree operations. He made the smaller Grasshopper profile the same as the larger models. Most travel trailers during this date had the same streamline profile. Grasshopper also had a 10' model that had a 'Toy Hauler' feature in the back where the rear hatch was a ramp that allowed 2 motor cycles to be loaded inside. Jerry also designed a model where the kitchen had a hatch opening up on the right side of the trailer. I found photos of this unique trailer and are posted on page 3.
There were only 100-150 of the small 8' models made. To date I have only seen 4, all at Teardrop gatherings. These small trailers were built using the same materials and methods as it's larger brothers. Weight was a concern, was with all models and the 8'er only weighed 700 pounds. That's extremely light for a trailer that had a body length of 8' by 6' wide and had a queen size bed inside. Some of the unique features of the 8' Grasshopper is it had a folding queen mattress which made into 2 couches, a folding table, storage cabinets, 30"x40" door, 18"x18" roof hatch, insulated walls, exterior kitchen with a refrigerator and storage underneath for a 1 gallon propane tank, 5 gallon water tank and battery. Even though the floor was 8' long, the unique body profile protrudes 10" in the front and 2" in the back, adding an additional foot to the over all body length. The 10" in the front makes room for the storage cabinet and shelf.
It was a pleasure talking with Jerry Utterback and obtain all the history of the Grasshopper travel trailers. Here is a collection of original 3 1/2" x 5" photos he had. All the photos are showing their age and are starting to fade and yellow. But at least we have a historical record of the Grasshopper, unlike so many Teardrops and travel trailers from the past.