An Ode to the RV on its 100th Birthday

04 Aug

O! RV, how far you’ve come
since your days as covered wagon
and house car.
I see you now with
granite counters and palm trees
rolling down the highway
for your next faraway

It wasn’t always this way. Cramped
quarters on dusty roads, or
it’s a whole house – on wheels!

Your entire life has been a journey,
one I want to stay on.

Happy birthday, my dear RV,
and remember:
It only takes four wheels
for adventure to begin.


Evolution of the RV

Mid 1800's Mid–1800s
Families back East packed up their homes and set out in covered wagons. Yup, that’s the predecessor to the American RV.
Pre-1910 Pre–1910
Americans felt the itch for nature (and not the poison oak kind). Fantastic imagination brought about home-made travel vehicles, often with kitchenettes, water pumps, wash basins, bedrooms and curtains.
1910-1913 1910 – 1913
The first motorized home! Pierce–Arrow comes out with the Touring Landau and high society went wild. Leather upholstery, a telephone connection between front and back, and (gasp) a toilet!
1916 1916
The Telescoping Apartment fits right on top of the Ford Model T Runabout. Its back dropped down and expanded to make a bed, the stove was mounted on the car engine (which was also where hot water for showers came from).
1922-1929 1922 – 1929
The beginning of manufactured campers (as opposed to custom-built ones) that could be mounted on an auto chassis to create a travelling house car. This Wiedman Camp Body is sitting on a Stewart Truck Chassis, circa 1928.
1930s 1930s
The beginning of the boom of the travel trailer and the most exciting time for RV innovation. This was a decade for camping extravagance, with vehicles outfitted in outrageous extras. International Trucks won the bid to custom-create the Jungle Yacht, which boasted an observation deck and dining car with a library and all-electric kitchen.
1932 1932
Trotwood Model was one of the first to have a side door, as opposed to a back door. Let’s hear it for forward thinking!
1936 1936
Airstream came out with the Clipper, and America’s adoration of the brand took shape.
1937 1937
Welcome the Teardrop: aerodynamic and light enough that any car could tow it. It had a queen bed and, well, not much else. Teeny-tiny or over-the-top: no in-between for 1930s adventurers.
1939 – 1945
World War II. Travel trailer production slowed way down, and the ones that were being manufactured were sent to the boys overseas.
1946 1946
The introduction of recreational vehicles (our beloved RVs!), as opposed to travel trailers. Now families could pull boats or other cars behind their camping rig.
1952 1952
RV manufacturers started to realize the marketing benefits of a whole home on wheels. RVs and trailers started to get bigger (and bigger…and bigger). The Space Queen had an overhead compartment that grew to nearly 19 feet, but the trailer was prone to falling over in the wind.
1955 1955
There was now a difference between recreational vehicles and semi-permanent mobile homes. The Travelo had two bedrooms, large living room windows and stretched up to 41-feet long.
1960 1960
Hello, Double-Wide. This Knopf creation spanned 20 feet across, and was definitely not something you took camping. Move with caution.
1963 1963
Compact is back! The Yellowstone featured a tow-hitch compatible with the first wave of compact cars. It’s only 13’ by 6’6”, yet it sleeps 4 to 8 “comfortably.” Squeeze in!
1966 1966
All hail the Winnebago! First sold at approximately half the price of other motor home vehicles at the time, Winnebagos blasted ahead to become the King of RVs. Winnebago-go-go-going… GONE!
1973 1973
GMC premiered front-wheel drive RVs, whose new technology was incredibly popular.
1973 – 1974
The RVer’s biggest nightmare: an oil embargo. Fuel prices skyrocketed and the motor home industry was hit hard. Nearly half of the nation’s RV manufacturers and dealers went under during the next 7 years.
1978 1978
Luxury custom bus manufacturers like Newell saw a boost in popularity and joined the mobile travel world.
1979 – 1980
Another fuel crisis. The RV industry takes its second big hit.
1982 1982
Once again, size matters. RVs started getting bigger and we saw the first slideouts (those luxurious expanders that make more space when you are parked). At the same time, compact trailers were back in fashion like this Trillium 1300.
The beginning of membership campgrounds, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Sparked partly by federal cutbacks, cheap holiday travel (aka camping) was a growing industry, as was life on the road.
1989 1989
Basement storage (like what you’d find on a bus) is adopted by the Fleetwood Bounder, and soon everyone else manufacturing Class–A motor homes followed along. Full–time RVing was more accessible than ever as people packed up and hauled all their worldly possessions everywhere they went.
1994 1994
Retro makes a comeback. Refurbished Airstream trailers are touted by Hollywood stars like Sean Penn and Tom Hanks for on-set accommodations – other non-celebrities just like the way they look.
1998 1998
The most RVs sold in a year in over 20 years: America loves camping! Nearly 10% of American families owned an RV and the influx of hook-up RV campgrounds meant even those who didn’t like “roughing it” could find joy in the wilderness. Look at those slide outs.
2000 2000
Luxury redefined. Companies like Beaver Coach offer RVs that feature the same amenities as top-of-the-line condos including granite counter tops and cherry cabinets.
2006 2006
A focus on the environment takes its toll on the RV industry. The poor gas mileage and inefficient energy of the average RV sparks an interest in ultra-light, aerodynamic green trailers.
2008 2008
RVs have always meant adventure – now it’s adventure with a boost! Off–roading RV vehicles can roll over boulders, traverse rivers, and conquer Mt. Everest (sort of).
What does the future hold? What does the future hold?
Floating RVs? Oh wait — that’s already been done. RV, you are just too good!
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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in RV Events


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