Sometimes, you just need to look at the world from a different perspective. We know the team at Smyth Performance understands this, as they offer pickup truck conversions for a variety of vehicles. The Volkswagen Beetle Ute is arguably the coolest of the bunch, but then comes Paul McCormick with another perspective. How about hooking up a small fifth wheel camper to the VeeDub for an RV adventure?
The result is the rig you see here, and yes, it's a fully functional camper that McCormick thoroughly enjoys. Of course, one doesn't simply stop by the local RV dealership to buy a mini fifth wheel trailer designed for a Beetle. We contacted McCormick to talk about the pop-up camper that he built entirely from scratch.
Gallery: Custom Camper Trailer For VW Beetle Truck
Photo Credit: Paul McCormick
"I got the Beetle kit a couple of years ago, and while I was building that, a friend gave me a gooseneck hitch. I thought I may as well put it in the back of the Ute, and last December I decided to go on a road trip and remembered the hitch. So I thought I'd make a pop-up fifth wheel camper. It's a camper built around a queen-sized bed."
As you can imagine, the project was a bit more complicated than just building a frame around a bed. Without any other Beetle fifth wheel camper builds known to exist, McCormick was truly on his own for finding solutions. His biggest challenges were making sure the weight and aerodynamics were within the Beetle's capabilities, and getting the joints from the roof to the sides watertight. He was also concerned with clearances between the trailer and the bed, but it all came together in the end.
"I knew I wanted 1,500 pounds maximum for the trailer, but I had no idea what the tongue weight should be," he said. "I theorized that 200 pounds would be enough to transfer weight to all four wheels of the Beetle and still have it tow correctly. I didn't want the trailer roofline to be higher than the Beetle, and the width is exactly the same as well. And it tows amazingly well – not a hint of swaying or whipping, and we've been in places with 70 mph wind gusts."
To keep the weight under 1,500 pounds, McCormick had to forego any onboard water capability. With the roof up, the queen bed can convert to a sofa for a sitting area at the front of the trailer. A small table sits in the middle, with a modest kitchen area at the back with a small stove and storage. The camper has both heat and air conditioning, with a house battery providing power. In short, it's a cozy camper with all the basics covered.
As for the tow vehicle, it's a 2006 Beetle TDI with a 1.9-liter diesel and a manual transmission. McCormick added air support for the rear suspension to keep things level, otherwise, it's a stock bug with 165,000 miles. It's an economical rig too, with the diesel managing 30 mpg while averaging speeds of 70-75 mph. That could be the most efficient fifth wheel camper in the history of the world.
McCormick is surprised at the attention he gets from his custom rig, but we aren't. The Beetle Utes from Smyth Performance never fail to catch the eye, but one towing a tiny fifth wheel trailer? That pretty much guarantees double-takes from passers-by, and likely a bit of jealousy from those yearning for a cool camping VeeDub road trip of their own. We'd certainly love to see the world behind the wheel of this cool combo.
Special thanks to Paul McCormick for sharing his story and photos, and Smyth Performance for the tip.