Stop by Trotter’s RV Sales and Service in Kingman, Arizona, check out their diverse inventory, and it will be quite apparent that the RV, camper and travel trailer is, perhaps, now more popular than ever before. It will be equally obvious that there are options for those who prefer to rough it as well for those who want to travel will all the comforts of home. But if think that a modern class A motor coach is luxurious, consider the Executive Flagship, a limited production coach introduced in 1952.
Incredibly this castle on wheels was an astounding 65 feet in length and weighed 18 tons without fuel or water reservoirs filled. To carry this massive weight, it had 10 wheels. Amenities included two bathrooms full bathrooms, wall to wall carpeting and a 21 inch TV. It even had a portable pool and diving board. It retailed at $75,000 at a time when a new, fully optioned Cadillac sold for $3,685. Needless to say production was quite limited. Then in 1955 an even more luxurious model was produced with an ingenious two story design that allowed for two upstairs bedrooms, and a Master bedroom downstairs.
Before 1930, most RVs were home built or special ordered from a coach builder. Surprisingly, many of the earlier coaches provided more amenities than were available in the average home. The Gypsy Van was built on an eight ton rated truck chassis and the interior was designed to mimic an English manor house. It had a refrigerator in a kitchenette, a shower and bathtub. It was wired in a manner that allowed for telegraph and electric light hookup. This was at a time when three out five Americans owned an automobile, but only two in five had indoor plumbing.
Leonard S Whittier was one of the first entrepreneurs to capitalize on the market for RVs and trailers. In 1927 he acquired in purchased a Brockway Model H heavy bus chassis and built his first prototype. It also served as his traveling office. It had wicker chairs, bookcases, a refrigerator and sink as well as electric stove, a holding tank and water reservoir, and beds for four.
Glenn Curtis was a pioneer aircraft designer. He was also an avid camper. In 1937 he began limited production in Detroit of the innovative Aerocar trailer that retailed for $5,000. They were designed using aircraft engineering principle which resulted in a light but durable unit. It was fifth wheel unit which meant that the tow car was custom built for the trailers. Needless to say, the cost incurred ensured that the Aerocar found few buyers.
Vintage RVs and trailers were a rarity when new. Those that have survived into the modern era, and been restored, are revered among RV enthusiasts. They are also a tangible link to the era when the trip, the adventure was more important than the destination.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America