Starling Travel

January 4, 2012

Tow a Fifth Wheel With Your Car

Filed under: Camping,Teardrops & Tiny Trailers — Laura Moncur @ 10:00 am

Check out this interesting idea for a travel trailer from 1972:

Shadow Harmon Industries

It’s a trailer that hooks onto the top of your car.

Shadow 5th Wheel Trailer

Here is a video describing it:

I love watching the Beetle push the trailer into place. There’s no backing into your campsite, you just turn around and push it in.

It was a prize on Let’s Make a Deal. The trailer really catches some air in the demo video.

It was featured in the May 1972 Popular Mechanics issue:

Popular Mechanics May 1972 Shadow Harmon Industries

It reads:

Fifth-Wheel Trailers usually hitch onto a pickup-truck cargo bed, but this new Shadow design from Harmon Industries, Warrensburg, Mo. tags onto a passenger-car rooftop. A removable steel plate, bolted to brackets along the roof gutters, take advantage of the roll-resistance built into modern roofs to firmly anchor the trailer hitch. Great maneuverability and easy tow handling are claimed for these rigs. Models of 18, 23, and 27 feet are being produced, and unfinished units are available for extra savings. Shell for the Shadow 18-foot Mini will start at about $1700; price is $6500 for the completed 27-footer fully equipped. Driver reports indicate the design is aerodynamically suitable and does not buffet at speed or in strong winds.

Here is another video of something called the Dynamik Tev that also hooked up to the top of a car:

Here’s a picture of a Cadillac towing a fifth wheel trailer:

Cadillac towing a fifth wheel trailer

It’s not too difficult to know why these trailers never really succeeded. Most small cars are just not strong enough to safely tow a trailer without blowing out the transmission. That is the reason people buy huge pickups to tow their fifth-wheels. Sadly, the Shadow trailer and the Dynamik Tev have disappeared in the history of camping to become oddities.

Update 01-08-12: Here is another video that shows this fifth wheel camper in action:

Pictures via:


  1. I have just purchased one of these Harmon Trailers and would love to talk to anyone who knows ANYTHING about them and their history. We are planning on restoring it and would love to know more about them. Niki

    Comment by Niki — November 30, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  2. Niki, how did you locate one? I just saw the articles on this an am fascinated and would love to consider buying and restoring one of these.

    Comment by John Lanphere — March 3, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

  3. Where can you get one and what does the interior look like?

    Comment by Gary Allen Kane — June 24, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

  4. We just found one of the original VW Beetle Fifth Wheel trailers. Check it out.

    Comment by Jeremy Cutts — August 23, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

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