Before I even go into the details, brilliant ideas, dumb ideas, triumphs, mistakes and an occasional chair throwing there are 3 key ingredients to building a DIY trailer.

  1. You have to be crazy enough to do it
  2. You need to have friends with skill sets that far exceed your own
  3. Your friends have to be dumb enough to help you for weeks on end so you can then brag to people that “you built the trailer”

Ok so now that’s out of the way I am going to try to give a walkthrough from A-Z on my trailer build.

In 2013 a friend of mine and I went 50/50 into a M416 trailer. It was a great deal. I wasn’t planning on buying a trailer and just came across the information and passed it along to my buddy. He said he would buy it if I was interested in going 50/50 on it. So I said sure and off we went. It was a great basic M416. We had to make some minor improvements to it like new tires and rims but that was about it. We both took a couple of trips with it and the proof of concept was successful. We both decided we like having a trailer but the M416 style didn’t work for us. So it was sold to another friend who has made lots of improvements to it and now made it his own. The M416 lid style trailers are great if you don’t mind dealing with a lid to access all of your stuff. I decided I wanted a box style trailer with doors.

Being a huge organizer I knew I could find storage boxes that would fit perfectly in every nook and cranny to maximize the potential. My background is I’m an idea guy with very little mechanical skills. I must also be a smooth talker because along the way with my build multiple people came to my rescue to make this trailer 2nd to none. There names should be on the side of the thing.  First and foremost I have to blame my friend Eric for selling me on the idea of buying the trailer in the 1st place. He bought a smaller trailer from the same person and convinced me I should get the other one. Initially I said it was too big but after walking around the thing 50 times and the 3 of us chatting about the possibilities they sold me.

Day 0 – M116A3 slightly modified military trailer

Once I was convinced on buying the platform I had to establish some goals. I knew I wanted to replace the military axle with a new one that supported electric brakes and the same bolt pattern as my FJ rims. After much research it was found there was no way to put different hubs on the factory axle. Spectrac in Mesa built the new axle. It is the same axle as what Turtleback trailers uses. Below is one of my first conceptual drawings.

Step 1: Find a drawing app. Draw lots of lines and arrows describing what you want to do even though you can’t do it yourself.

I bought the trailer from Rob at PMA 4×4. He too wanted to make a camping trailer but just didn’t have the time to do it. So that’s when he sold it to me. The nice thing is he had already done some of the clean up work on the trailer including removing the heavy military style brake system and putting a standard receiver end on the front. I also convinced him to help me build the initial basic box for the trailer. We came up with a fair price and the project finally started in mid-December 2014.

Original military axle

New UCF torsion axle from Spectrac

To see all of the photos for this build you can go here:
To read about the build on Expedition Portal go here:

Initial framing from PMA 4X4. Right side and left front were cut to provide a cleaner look.

I’ll say this is a good stopping point for part 1. The major accomplishments were the initial box framing and axle swap. Now it was time to work on the interior welding of the trailer and the beginning of the “hey can you help me?” phase.

Continue Reading Part 2


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