Every screw Dean Wiltshire drives into the frame of one of his Colorado Teardrop campers has had a secondary effect — it’s closing the divide between himself and his 30-yearold son, David Wiltshire.
As an avid outdoorsman, Dean Wiltshire had found that increasing age and the wants of the women in his life were causing him to rethink how he wanted to spend a night outdoors.
“I found that I was not looking forward to cold nights under the stars. My bones creak a bit more these days. But I did not want to stop camping,” Dean Wiltshire says. “So I decided to buy a custom teardrop trailer.”
The small camp trailers include a sleeping area, full camp kitchen and organized storage space.
“Problem was, it was a minimum six-month wait and no one rented them,” Dean Wiltshire says. “So I decided to try and build one myself.”
Having purchased a set of plans, he rented a cramped, dingy storeroom off Pearl Street and set about fabricating his own trailer, but he quickly found he needed an extra set of hands. His thoughts turned to David. Their relationship had soured over the years to the point that they rarely saw each other, and when they did see each other, it was uncomfortable at best.
Despite their history, Dean Wiltshire decided to invite his son to work with him.
David Wiltshire was also at an interesting junction in his life when his father called. The father of three young children had recently left the restaurant industry and was looking for something that would allow him more time and freedom to spend with his family.
“My father has always been pretty successful and his vision for the company was ambitious, I figured to give it a try and see if we could make it work,” David Wiltshire says.
The elder Wiltshire had grown up using his hands creating things — as a child he helped his father build 38-foot cabin cruiser boats, as a teen he rebuilt cars, he even helped build his house. But the question was, could he build campers to sell and rent to the public. Wiltshire understood that while it was easy to fix mistakes when you are building for yourself, customers expect perfection.
As the first camper slowly took shape, the father and son started to realize something: They liked working together. The arguments that in the past would have darkened their time together did not materialize. As they overcame obstacles, like redesigning an in-cabin heater that threatened to melt the walls, they both found they enjoyed brainstorming together on tasks such as how to make a skylight that does not leak yet allows nighttime views.
“He has so much to teach me about fabrication and we are co-workers,” David Wiltshire says of his father. “The dynamic has changed. We smile and laugh instead of argue.”
From that first camper they have expanded their rentals to four of their Basecamp model trailers, each hand-crafted by father and son with interior design tips from daughter Sarah Wiltshire, who also works for the company as the office manager.
They use their rentals as a test fleet to try out new designs and layouts and to find out what consumers are asking for. That approach also has allowed them to see where they needed to make changes; they redesigned a smaller and lighter tailgate after a camper came back from Burning Man with the tailgate hydraulics broken.
Dean Wiltshire’s technology background has enabled them to use cutting edge design and manufacturing techniques to build simple, functional campers. Using water jet-cut wood for the frames is their newest idea; frames fit together like a giant 3-D puzzle with minimal screws. Once the frame is wrapped in aluminum, the sleek design looks more Apple than Coleman.
Their next offerings to the market will include models with a redesigned culinary area, solar power, independent suspension and 24-inch clearance and a heavily insulated model for winter excursions.
As the business grows, the Wiltshires have visions of this fledgling enterprise becoming a regional brand that continues to unite their family.
“Colorado Teardrops was designed to bring families together through shared outdoor experiences. It has already united mine: I have my son back and that is awesome,” Dean Wiltshire says.
The near-term goal is to get their trailers into retail stores and move into a larger production facility, with the father running operations and the son in charge of sales.
Additional information is available at www.coloradoteardropcamper.com.