Not all clever inventions get widespread notice. Hundreds of thousands of patent applications flood into the U.S. Patent Office every year, but very few end up becoming successful products. Camping fans might be surprised to hear about the Shadow, a 5th wheel trailer designed to be pulled by a small car. The Shadow was special because it allowed the driver to spin 360 degrees underneath the trailer, offering maneuverability other small campers couldn’t match.
The Shadow was developed in the 1970s by Missouri-based company Harmon Industries. The Shadow’s unique 360-degree field of movement was made possible by a steel plate mounted to the roof of the towing car, which “takes advantage of the roll-resistance built into modern roofs to firmly anchor the trailer hitch,” according to the May 1972 issue of Popular Mechanics. The magazine also claimed that drivers reported the Shadow had very little sway in heavy winds — a common problem with 5th wheel trailers.
When it was released, the trailer was popular enough to be featured as a prize at least once on the TV game show “Let’s Make A Deal.”
Suddenly, the Shadow disappeared from the market. Many online blogs suggest that the Shadow was unsafe in certain conditions — a theory that’s corroborated by a YouTube comment from a man who claims to have worked at the Harmon Industries plant in Missouri.
“I used to work there putting them together,” YouTube user b.n. morgan wrote. “If I recall correctly the roof mounted system caused damage to the rear end of a vehicle so they didn’t last long.”
Despite potentially being a safety risk, the Shadow trailer is unlike anything on the road today. Check out the video below to see the maneuvering capabilities that the trailer offered.