Living on the road is a temporary affair for most folks. Whether on vacation or traveling between jobs, living in a home on wheels is something people do for a break, except for full-time RVers and one group, the Gypsies.
In recent years there has been an enormous increase in the popularity of teardrop trailers. These Lilliputian mobile abodes are easy to recognize because of their distinctive teardrop shape and rear exterior galley. Most people think these trailers emerged after World War II, but they have a long, rich history dating back to the Great Depression.
In the historic housing world, the term adaptive reuse is often employed to describe a building that is converted to another use, such as when an old fire station is converted to a residence. To take the process a step further, one might use the term adaptive recycling to describe one thing that becomes something else, such as old tires that are ground up and mixed with asphalt to create a resilient road surface. In the RV world, there is no better example of adaptive recycling than the compact Boler trailer.
Most people are familiar with the distinctive shape of the Airstream trailer. These streamlined vessels always get attention whenever they are seen gliding down the road. Except for a couple years in the early 1980s when the manufacturer decided to change the shape (the failure of the “squarestream,” as it was called by its detractors, nearly put the company out of business), the trailer has retained its aerodynamic shape from the mid-1930s to the present day. In the world of vintage Airstream trailers (and contrary to almost everything else in the world) the smaller the trailer, the more it costs. The diminutive 16-foot long Bambi demands a far higher price than its bulkier cousins and units smaller than the Bambi like the Cruisette and the Wee Wind command even higher prices.
Of all the bus conversions, the Scenicruiser is the undisputed king of the road. This twin-layered 40-foot leviathan originally served as the jewel in the crown for Greyhound Bus Lines.
The history of the Ultra Van can be traced to California RVer Dave Peterson, who worked as an airplane designer at Boeing and Beech Aircraft. He had a Spartan trailer and also a boat. When he went on outdoor adventures, he had to choose whether to take his trailer or his boat, a dilemma that caused him to ponder ways to build a motorized trailer so he could pull his boat behind it.
This 1917 Winton 6-cylinder, 48-horsepower house car was custom built by McKay Carriage Works for a Southern politician who was running for governor. (He lost.) The candidate was transported between venues in the house car, and he also gave speeches off the back platform.
TIt’s safe to say that the most well-known and enduring imported vehicle is the humble Volkswagen. The beginnings of the Volkswagen can be traced to arch bad guy Adolf Hitler, who desired an affordable automobile for the German people.
The Vixen, which was produced from 1986 to 1989, is a fabulous example of how a good idea, innovativeness, sound engineering, and quality components don’t necessarily guarantee success in the RV industry.
Without a doubt one of the most interesting camper innovations was the hydraulically assisted popup camper. The camper was the invention of R. D. Hall, who grew up in Rochester, New York, attended the Rochester Institute of Technology, and then served in World War II. After the war, he settled in California but yearned to explore Alaska.
The first bus manufacturer to go into formal production of motorhomes was the Flxible Bus Company of Loudonville, Ohio. The company got its start in 1912 as the Flxible Sidecar Company, a manufacturer of motorcycle sidecars. (The odd spelling of the name Flxible is derived from the fact that the name Flexible couldn’t be trademarked.)