A while back I posted some pictures of a new trailer project. I acquired a surplus M116A3 generator trailer chassis from the local Army Depot. It was too good a deal to pass on. The original plan was to turn it into a flat-deck dual-purpose utility trailer and toy-hauler.
|M116A3 Generator Trailer purchased from a government surplus auction
Well, that was the original plan at least…
A few weeks after I got the generator trailer home I came across another trailer on the government liquidation site. This one was a flat-deck version of the M116A3. Rather than reinvent the wheel and turn my chassis into a flat deck I opted to just acquire yet another trailer. (For those counting at home, the current total number of trailers I own is now 4).
|M116A3 flat-deck trailer also purchased from a government surplus auction
The revised plan is for the flat-deck to take the utility/toy-hauler role. That left me with an extra trailer frame. Since it was an A3 version it got my wheels turning.
I love the Poor Man’s Teardrop. It’s a great overland camping trailer and has served me well for the past three years. That said, anything can be improved upon. When I built it I was on a limited budget and function won out over form. The guiding principle were, “it’s replacing a tent” and to have nothing more than a “rolling bed in a box.” As such it was built from mostly used parts and many corners were cut. That’s not to say it’s a bad trailer. Again, I love it. It works great. Ultimately the choice to build a new one came down to one simple thing: fenders.
|Here you can not only see the flush fender of the M101,
but you can also see how the 33″ tire is rubbing.
In this photo the axle is set up in a spring-under configuration.
For those that don’t know the M101 trailers have no flare to their fenders. The arch for the wheel well of the tire is flush with the side of the trailer. This gives it a sleek smooth line down both sides of the trailer. Normally this isn’t a big deal. With a Jeep-width axle (60.5″ wide) and stock Jeep wheels 31″ tall tires would tuck under nicely even with the trailer set up in a spring-under configuration. The issue I ran into was the wheel and tire combo I was running on the Jeep was rubbing on the trailer. With 33″ tall tires on a 16×8 wheel with 4″ of backspacing the tires were ever-so-slightly proud and when the trailer suspension would cycle the tires would rub. With the trailer setup spring-over (as it sits now) there is no rubbing. Problem is, now the trailer is a little too tall for my liking.
|Enter the A3 tub.
You can see how the fender flares out from the wheel well a few inches.
This allows for a wide track width.
On the A3 version of the M101 the fenders are not only shaped a little different by they flare out from the body of the trailer a few inches. This was to accommodate the wider track-width of the HMMVEE and the larger 37″ tall tires. While my Jeep is nowhere need as wide as a mil-spec H1 hummer, I figured starting with an A3 trailer tub would be a lot better foundation for a new trailer than another older version of the M101.
|Let’s get this party started!
Huge thanks to Jim for the use of his garage and lift.
The fenders weren’t the only subtle change I wanted to make though. One big advantage of the M116A3 generator chassis was that it was just a frame. This would make modifying the structure a lot easier than starting with a finished trailer. There were two things I wanted to address and both had to do with the tongue.
|First we need to remove this hunk of junk.
The M116A3 has a hydraulic surge brake system.
It’s also equipped with a lunette ring.
It’s all very very very very heavy…
|…so it has to go.
|Beginning removal of the subframe assembly.
|Here you can see the arms hinged down off of the pivot point for the dump action.
First, I wanted to remove the sub-frame that allowed the M101 series trailers to dump. This part of the frame that also formed the tongue hangs roughly four to five inches below the rest of the trailer’s frame. While the dump feature is nice for a cargo trailer, it’s unnecessary for a camping trailer. Having gotten hung up a few times on the subframe it was on my “to be removed” list.
|Here you can see how low the trailer ball is on the Jeep.
The subframe on the M101 means I had to run a 5.25″ drop hitch off the back of the LJ.
A loss of 5″ in break-over angle is HUGE.
Second, I wanted to lengthen the tongue of the trailer. While the M101 looks large, it’s a relatively small and short trailer. This makes is a great towing trailer when going forward, but a real pain in the but to back up. There is also no room on the tongue of the trailer to mount a storage box. One of the things I wanted to do on my next trailer was move the dual batteries for the camper’s electrical system into a tongue box making the easier to service as well as making it easier to tap into things like solar or shore power.
|8 feet of 2 inch square tube is the spine for the new longer trailer tongue.
|The square tube is fully welded around all four sides front and rear.
(Fun Fact: This is Jonathan’s first time welding. Follow him on IG @smithcreate)
By lengthening the tongue not only do I get a little more room on the tongue for a box, but I also fele the trailer will tow better as well as make it a little easier to back up.
There is also one other bonus to switching to a newer A3 trailer. That is parking brakes. Both the M116A3 generator trailer and M116A3 flat-deck trailer both currently have working parking brakes. This is something that has been lacking on my current trailer. While I could add them, and truthfully they could be added to almost any trailer, it’s just something to be mindful of when looking at the M101/M116 line of trailers as a whole. The cool thing is there are two separate levers allowing you to brake each wheel independently. This can help when maneuvering the trailer by hand as well as keeping it from rolling when disconnected. (Wheel chocks are still a good idea though.)
|And now the M101A3 tub is joined with the M116A3 frame.
And not, this doesn’t make it an M217AA6.
The new “Poor Man’s Teardrop 2.0” overland camping trailer is still a work in progress, but as it continues to come together you’ll see some more photos. The next big thing on the list are axles for both trailers. Stay tuned for a writeup on how you spec out a trailer axle and some things you need to be mindful of when selecting the right trailer axle for an offroad trailer.