start with surplus trailer or home build?

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Jun 4, 2015
Reno ,NV
Hi Mud world,

I am interested in either buying or building a small m100/416 utility trailer. Now that I have a kiddo the amount of gear we bring camping in mellow terrain is just crazy! It would be great to have a trailer that can haul more water, toys, and amenities. Also would like to put a small RTT on it eventually so that the kiddo has her own spot to sleep. She is rapidly getting too big for my aulcab with my wife and I up there. I spent an hour yesterday reading @Box Rocket 's thread. That trailer seems about right for us.

Anyway looking for advice whether or not to just try and find a surplus trailer and refurb it or finally learn to mig weld and try and make one. I haven't really found a good source for surplus trailers. Any suggestions on where to look?
Surplus trailers are difficult to find. They were difficult to find 10 years ago when I built my trailer and it's gotten worse. They are also very popular so even when you do find one, they can be quite expensive and still need significant work to get solid again. The more reasonably priced ones are often dented and rusted badly.

Those were exactly the reasons I chose to build my own. My build cost was less than nearly all the surplus M416s I was able to find, and those were junk trailers.

Before building my trailer I had tackled a few small welding projects but nothing major. I purchased a welder so I could take on the trailer project and it was my first significant welding project. It was a blast to build and I learned a TON. If you can find the time to build your own, I'd go it! I spent a couple months building mine through the winter of 2008. It has had a few "updates" since the initial build but for what it is the total investment has been a fraction of buying a pre-built trailer and I was able to do things just how I wanted.
Personally, I would build one from the ground up. It will be new, plus I find, that is is easier to personalize and get is set up exactly like I want starting from scratch. Learning to weld is a bonus too. If your really going to be dragging the trailer all over the place on rough, bumpy roads your going to want to put a better suspension under it any how. My 2 cents.
I didn't really have any detailed plans. I had some basic things draws out to get my material list. Then I just winged it as I went. It was nice to be able to see the actual thing and change a feature on the fly from what I had in my head. Some people don't like working that way. Neither approach is wrong, I just tend to be a bit more freeform with the things I build.
If you can find a copy of it inexpensive enough I recommend M.M. Smith's "How to Build a Trailer, vol 2". It is way more intensive than most need, but it will help you avoid some of the common mistakes made in trailer design.

An alternative to a complete blank sheet would be something like one of these: Dinoot Trailer Parts
IMHO he makes one of the most common mistakes in trailer frame design, poor tongue attachment, but there are a lot of trailers out there with this mistake that work just fine.
I went the surplus/refurb route and while I love the trailer, if I had to do things again, I would most likely try and build something custom that looked similar. I spent a ton of money on just getting the trailer itself and when all said and done with the tires and paint and whatnot, I could have probably done it cheaper building one myself. Some of these M100/M416 type trailer are just getting so out of sight on cost these days. I remember when they could be had for like $500. I had to give $1200 for my Bantam T3-C (civvy M100) which came with dry rotted tires and rusted wheels. I am prolly into it now for like $2500 after tires, paint, wheels, etc.

2016-08-03 08.40.12.jpg

Just seems to me to no longer be cost effective to get a vintage trailer. Deals can be had I guess, but I couldn't find them. Anything you do find most likely won't be ready to roll and you will have to do a bunch of work on it anyway, so might as well just build it the way you want from the ground up. Allows you to build in water tanks and power inverters and what not if that's your thing. I don't think some of the M100 type trailers are all that sturdy to begin with and you could easily build something a lot stronger but with a similar look. I wouldn't feel comfortable putting an RTT on mine at this point for example. Does not seem strong enough to me. You could even weld up a frame and drawbar setup and get M100 parts from here to finish it off:

Full body tubs and fenders available. HTH
By comparison....I'm into my trailer roughly the same amount ($2500) as the one above, not including the tent. That includes Toyota wheels, 33" tires, a Max Coupler, full lid, spare tire carrier etc.

I just think it so much more cost effective to build your own unless you are after something very specific and a prebuilt trailer has exactly what you want, or if you don't have the skills to tackle it on your own.

Untitled by Adam Tolman, on Flickr
I recommend going from scratch. You can have a full tubular steal frame the way you want it. even the military trailers I've seen are made from channel.
Build the frame first, then I do recommend sourcing a tub from somewhere. the m416 has lots of aftermarket support so you can find lids and racks, etc.
here is one option in fiberglass. they even have a frame kit that looks stout.
I was able to find an M101A1 years ago and converted it to an overlanding trailer.

So here is my 1968 M101A1 trailer overlanding trailer. Took about 3 months, still not done, I would like to swap the axle and tires but not a high priority at the moment. Would like to get an 80 series LC and match the tire wheel set up.

First pic is my 03LC, 3 in OME lift, Nitto Ridge Grapplers 275/70R/18, they run great, smooth and quiet. Rust free CA truck with 235,000 miles. That truck is gone, a lady hit it and insurance totaled the rig. New rig is a 2004 LC, 3.5 in lift, Slee UCAs, OME torsion bars and springs, Icon stage 1 shocks, running 35s, Nitto Terra Grapplers. ARB bull with a badlands 12k winch.

Next pic is the M1101 that I thought I wanted and when I picked it up from the gov liquidation site knew it was a bad choice, way too wide.

Pics cover most aspects of the build, clean up, getting a handle on the rust, paint, all new wiring, pull out kitchen, sleeping platform, hi-lift jack mounted, front storage and other features. The tongue was extended, harbour freight tongue box and jerry can holders now have plenty of room. The set up allows for a standard ball or switch to an off road set up. 100 watt solar set up with a 12v deep cycle battery as well, runs the fridge and lights. Set up now has an old tent for sidewalls and a slumberjack awning.

Still lots of bugs to work out and need to take it on the first trip with my sons but for the most part done.

Click on the link, pick the icon on the left, "open link" will get you a 100+ pictures that may give some ideas that I had.

M101A1 Trailer build
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I built one from scratch, kinda. Mine is the back half of an 85 Toyota pickup. Frame, axle, bed, and all. Cut the frame at the firewall. Cab was totaled in a wreck. It has lift springs, so it is as tall as my lifted 80. It goes anywhere I can wheel, serious offroad trails. It had E rated 285s on it now, but I am hoping to find some 315s that will be about max diameter for this setup. It has hauled as much as 3000 pounds. Short distance from a warehouse that I got to scrap out. There was a ton and a half of power transformers so we loaded the whole pallet on the trailer. It was squatting pretty bad, but I only had to go 3 blocks to cash it in. I cut up a horse stall mat in it to cover the bed. Works great. I have had about 4 tons of rock in it for trail repair. I had to haul 4 loads to rebuild a bad washout, so about a ton each trip. I can throw a bunch of camping gear in it the way it is now. I also have the topper that was originally on it, so I could put the top back on it. .

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