Hitting the road
One of the perks of writing about Vintage Overland’s custom teardrop trailers is the possibility of going camping with owners Britton and Ami Purser. At least, that was the case for an editor and photographer with “Popular Mechanics” who this month published a four-page spread about the Grand Junction business.
Journalists with Bloomberg News who filmed Britton and his crew building the trailers for a series called “Made” were also treated to a teardrop trailer camping trip.
In fact, the homegrown family business has been featured in multiple publications, including design magazines in Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, and Australia, as well as British GQ, Playboy, Uncrate, Gear Patrol and others. An August 2015 story in Outside magazine caused the company’s web site to crash twice in one day.
Vintage Overland has done well since the Pursers started the company two years ago. A trailer bought by Mountain Khakis, an outdoor clothing and accessories company co-founded by Grand Junction resident Jen Taylor, will get nationwide exposure when it leaves Washington, D.C., April 10 for the Mountain Khakis and Friends “Hell Yeah Tour” to promote craft beer, keeping apparel out of landfills and getting involved in the community, Taylor said.
A Vintage Overland trailer will be displayed April 1 at Over the Edge Sports in Fruita. Additional exposure will occur this spring when the Pursers park one of their caravans at the Denver REI store.
Prior to designing his first trailer five years ago, Britton operated a motorcycle touring company. After a motorcycle crash put an end to his riding, Purser found himself looking for another way to take his wife and two young sons out into the desert for fun and camping.
He ended up designing a small, teardrop-shaped trailer.
He built a couple of trailers for personal use and with the idea of selling them in the future. Two years ago Mountain Khakis featured the trailer in its catalog.
“My hope was to sell one, possibly two that year,” Britton said. “I ended up selling 18 in 2015; last year we sold 20. I’m already working on orders for this year.”
There are three models from which to choose: Both the Tuco and The Great Escape are 4-by-8-foot trailers with a full-size mattress. The Great Escape also features a back hatch. The most popular model, the T.E. Lawrence, is 5-by-8, with a queen-size mattress and a back hatch. Prices range from $12,500 to $16,500.
Vintage Overland trailers take six weeks to build. Once all the parts and supplies are gathered, it takes 83 hours to assemble. Britton’s brother, Cullen, founded Fruita Fab for the purpose of building the trailers with the help of apprentices who learn wood and metalworking, electrical work, engineering and design.
Many of the materials are sourced locally from suppliers like Bookcliff Field Services, Pro Powder, Pro Tire and All Metals Welding.
Although they’re open to expansion, “our goal,” Ami said, “is to keep the business as Colorado-based as possible” — at least for now. In fact, they’ve already turned down an offer for mass manufacturing in France.
Each trailer is hand-built by Cullen and his crew. Britton adds finishing touches.
This was not the line of work in which the Pursers started. Cullen used to make custom guitars. Ami is a painter who does commission work. Britton attended design school in Los Angeles, with the intention of becoming a costume designer. There have been times where each worked multiple jobs to both make a living and satisfy that creative urge.
“Another thing that we consider a success for us, personally, is this is the first time we’ve been able to put all of our efforts into one thing,” Ami said. “This brings all of our skill sets together. It allows for creativity, which keeps us sane and motivated.”
In October, Vintage Overland became one of 12 finalists out of 125 companies considered for the Wright Award, given by the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry to recognize innovation in the outdoor and lifestyle industries. Grand Junction zip line and ropes course company Bonsai Design was one of the three final honorees.
Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office Director Luis Benitez cited Vintage Overland’s “incredible craftsmanship” as a factor for the company’s recognition as a finalist. Benitez said he experienced the trailer when Purser brought one to the award ceremony in Denver.
“It’s so amazing and comfortable,” Benitez said. “Everybody wanted to hang out in it. You can put a rack on top for bikes — it’s a comprehensive package.”
Britton credits the Grand Junction Business Incubator Center for helping them obtain a business loan, and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership for providing publicity.
Britton and Ami are continuing to develop their “brand” with plans to develop products for the trailer’s lifestyle — items like camp kitchens and chairs — “things that would work in the trailer,” Purser said.
“We want you to have everything in it you need, to just hitch up and go,” Ami said.
“It’s always been about the ‘why,’” Purser said. “I want the trailers to add to someone’s lifestyle.”