Identifying an unknown trailer

Trailer Identification

Click here for information on find a Vintage Trailer VIN or Serial Number 

We get lots of questions around helping people identify a trailer they just bought or are thinking of buying. Here are some suggestions to identify your trailer.

First off, you need to use Google. If you can’t find a reference to your trailer on Google, then you probably have a trailer that isn’t a very popular brand. All of the popular brands have websites, user groups, yahoo groups, or forums of some such. This is because there is a demand for information because of their popularity and value. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find information, it will mean that you have a lot more work to do on our own. It doesn’t mean your trailer isn’t valuable, you might have a very rare trailer. But it does mean that finding documentation, floor plans, original equipment, parts, knowledgeable resources, etc is going to be difficult if not impossible.

Bring your trailer to a vintage trailer rally, there are lots of experts at these rallies that don’t leverage the internet but might be able to recognize or help you identify your trailer.

The Tin Can Tourists Facebook Group is very active and helping people identify and learn about their trailers.

Unfortunately, the RV/MH Museum – no longer has a historian or staff to help with identifying a trailer. Please do not contact them by email. You can however visit them in person and browse through their library and potential find information. They are located in Elkhart Indiana.

Here is the best resource for getting copies of vintage trailer magazines, ads, and information: – Juergen Eichermueller ( – The definitive independent vintage recreational vehicle archive source!

Serial numbers are frequently found on the tongue rail on the passenger side. (Usually on top, but may be on the drivers side or the side of the rail). Use paint remover or sand lightly to uncover the numbers. The first two digits may be letters that identify your make, followed by the year, length and number of production. Example: Serial number (or VIN number): MR 57 25 123 is a Monterey, 1957, 25′ number 123.

Here is a record of trailer names and the abbreviation you may find on an old title or registration:

A wood screen door or free-standing stove often mean you have a pre-1960 trailer.

Teardrop wheel wells may be a Serro Scotty. Compare it to pictures here:

What to look for to help you Identify a trailer

It’s difficult to identify a vintage camper that has faded paint and missing logos. With so many manufacturers making very similar trailers, what are some of the key elements to look for and document before going on your hunt to identify your vintage trailer?

  • First off, look at the trailers overall shape. Campers were made in several different body shapes
    • Unique
    • Fiberglass Egg
    • Motor homes
    • Slide Ins
    • Square/Angular
    • Canned Ham
    • Teardrop
    • Bread loaf
    • Aircraft/Steamlined
    • Pop-up
  • Determine the length
    • The length of the trailer starts at the tip of the tongue in the front and goes to the furthest point in the back (usually the bumper)
  • What is the Skin of the trailer made off?
    • Wood
    • Aluminum
      • Anodized
      • Polished
      • Quilted or horizontal patterns
    • Fiberglass
  • Types of Graphics
    • Are there designs in the paint
    • Is the logo incorporated in the paint
  • Badges and Logos
    • Look for brand specific medal badges
    • Painted on or affixed logos in the front, back, sides or event in cabinetry
  • Wheel wells
    • Are they uniquely shaped
    • What sized tires and rims
    • Does it have hub caps
  • Windows
    • Wrap around front windows
    • Jalousie
    • Port hole
    • Triangular
  • Door handles and knobs or wooden screens
  • Interior
    • Material
    • Color Schemes
    • Layouts
    • Cabinets
    • Fixtures
  • Tail lights and Running Lights

Homemade Trailers by Tim Heintz

With all the people that ask about Trailer identification, many have noticed there are a lot that are identified as ‘Home-Made’ Trailers. You have to remember that even the best looking and well built trailers from the 1920’s-1950’s were often ‘Home-Made’ or at least kit trailers with no official ‘brand name’. While commercially built trailers had to be completely built in a factory in less than a day, some companies building as many as 6-15 completed trailer per day, and the average handy man building his own trailer in the back yard could spend weeks or even months on his custom build! So yes many of the home-made trailers of past were actually built much better and stylish than the factory built trailers. Most of these home-made trailers were built by craftsman in the airplane, engineering, bridge construction, etc… line of trade work so they knew what they were doing! But even with the so called ‘kit’ or boxed trailers you would find a lot of customizing by the owner/builder/buyer. Also take in account that with literally 1000+ official trailer brands in the 1930’s alone, the statistics back then was that 66% of all trailers on the road during that time were Home-Made trailers! That is a lot of ‘no name’ trailers!

Here we have detailed photos (1949) of such a ‘boxed’ trailer that one could order. This was a complete kit where most companies that offered boxed or kit trailers did not supply such parts as the main frame, or siding, or even upholstery/curtains….but this one did offer everything. Even some of the first Airstreams were sold as boxed kits just like this, or you could just buy the Airstream plans and supply your own parts!