Sometimes, you just need to see the world from a different perspective. We know the team at Smyth Performance understand this, as they offer pickup truck conversions for a wide range of vehicles. The Volkswagen Beetle Ute is arguably the coolest of the bunch, but then along came Paul McCormick with the other perspective. How about connecting a little five-wheeled camper to VeeDub for an RV adventure?
The result is the rig you see here, and yes, it’s a fully functional camper that McCormick really enjoys. Of course, one doesn’t just stop by a local RV dealer to buy a mini five-wheeler trailer designed for the Beetle. We reached out to McCormick to talk about the pop-up camper he built completely from scratch.
Photo Credit: Paul McCormick
“I got a Beetle kit a few years ago, and while I was building it a friend gave me a hitch. I thought I’d better put it on the back of the Ute, and last December I decided to go on a road trip and remember the hitch. So I thought I’d give it a go. make a pop-up five-wheel camper. It’s a camper built around a queen bed.”
As you can imagine, this project is a bit more complicated than just building a frame around the bed. With no other known Beetle fifth-wheel camper builds in existence, McCormick is really alone in finding a solution. The biggest challenge was ensuring the weight and aerodynamics matched the Beetle’s capabilities, and making the roof-to-side joints watertight. He was also concerned about the distance between the trailer and the bed, but in the end it all came together.
“I know I want a maximum of 1,500 pounds for the trailer, but I don’t know how much 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 pull it properly. I didn’t want the trailer roofline to be taller than the Beetle, and the width to be exactly the same. swaying or whipping marks, and we’ve been in a place with gusts of 70 mph.”
To keep the weight under 1,500 pounds, McCormick had to sacrifice water capabilities on board. With the roof up, the queen bed can be converted into a sofa for the sitting area at the front of the trailer. A small table sits in the middle, with a simple kitchen area in the back with a stove and small storage. The camper has both heating and air conditioning, with a housing battery providing power. In short, this is a comfortable camper with all the basics covered.
As for the tow vehicle, the 2006 Beetle TDI is equipped with a 1.9 liter diesel engine and manual transmission. McCormick added air support for the rear suspension to keep it 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 70-75 mph. It could be the most efficient fifth wheel camper in world history.
McCormick was surprised by the attention he got from his custom rig, but we weren’t. The Beetle Utes from Smyth Performance never fails to catch the eye, but what pulls the tiny fifth-wheel trailer? That pretty much warrants a double take from passersby, and maybe a bit of envy from those who crave a cool camping VeeDub road trip on their own. We’d 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.