Dodge Upland

Motorhome History


Rare vintage Streamline Motorhome

1966 Streamline

1964 Streamline

1964 Streamline Motor Car Lodge, 1 of approx. 70 made from 1964-67. Story has it that this one was bought new by Walter Matthou in California. ( I have no proof)
The unit was built on a 1964 Ford f350 chassis with a 330 engine and automatic trans, limitedslip rearend. The interior and drivetrain were remodeled within the last ten years with 9k miles of use.
remodel consist of : Engine updated to a crate Chevrolet 454 engine and turbo 400 trans, interior cabinets replaced with white wash oak and southwestern design tin inserts.All appliances replaced, large Norcold 3 way refrigerator, 4 burner stove/oven, new hot water heater, Duocold A/C, microwave, new toilet and holding tank, new aluminum fuel tank. Onan generator is original, (have not had running)
It has been sitting for approx 3 years, it runs and drives but needs some restoration.I have a new winshield and gasket to replace cracked rt side. There is some sheetmetal skin damage on the left side and some of the interior paneling could be replaced. Power brake booster was rebuilt 3 years ago but is leaking and needs to be rebuilt again.
This is a very unique and rare example of a classic RV, and could be the coolest Rat Rod camper on the road.


Lost and found: the Silver Bullet

Ford Streamline
David Janssen
The Streamline Today

David Janssen had a dependable companion and a discreet keeper of secrets on the set with him the last 14 years of his life. It had a Ford engine.



On August 8, 2008, The David Janssen Archive took possession of the Silver Bullet and it was towed 160 miles to a repair facility to begin its journey back to life. Ironically, the Solana Beach house where it sat for 15 years overlooks the Del Mar racetrack track where it had been brought in 1980 by driver Elliott Shapiro soon after Janssen's death.

In a sweet reunion 3 days later, Elliott stood next to the bus for the 1st time in 28 years (and will be invited to be the 1st to drive it when it is roadworthy).








A Look at Some of the More Interesting

Early Motor Homes





 1909 Home on Wheels

Once the car was a familiar sight on the American roads, it did not take long for someone to create a motorhome. This photograph of a happy family in their home on wheels was published in a 1909 edition of Motor Magazine.

This Model T Ford conversion, complete with a "bedroom slide", was definitely ahead of its day.

 Model T

 1915 Lamstead Kamper

1915 Lamsteed Kampkar - an early recreational vehicle manufactured by Anheuser-Busch. The vehicles were mounted on a Model T Ford chassis and sold for $535. This example is owned by Peter Kable in Australia.

This 1920 house-car is a full cottage, complete with a sunroom and a back porch. 

The chassis is a Model TT Ford truck, based on the Model T, but with a heavier frame and rear axle.  It had a one ton capacity, and second gear which was useful for climbing hills.  Ford sold it from 1918 to 1927 as a truck or simply as a chassis for buyers to build on as needed.  

 1920 Housecar



 1923 Nomad

 This 1923 Nomad house-car is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  It was commercially produced for sale, and also utilized the Ford TT truck chassis.  Note the chimney and the pull-down roller window shade.  It has a set of rear steps that fold down.




A whimsical picture of a Model T Ford conversion.  Note the matching outhouse and the still out back.  Click on the photo for a larger view.

This picture is a promotional image found on the web site of Pyne's Texan RV in Houston Texas.


Model T conversion



 1918 Custom

This custom made motorhome, probably dating to around 1918,  is made of redwood and mounted on a Nash-Quad truck chassis.  It was built and used by a photographer of the time. 

The photo was taken by Mark Quasius, an iRV2 forum member, at a visitor center in the Redwood Forest, just south of Eureka, CA



Here is a picture of a 1918 Nash-Quad flatbed truck similar to the one used as the platform for the redwood custom motorhome above.  The Nash-Quad was an extremely popular tuck in the mid 1910's into the 20's.  It was first manufactured in 1914 by the Thomas B. Jeffrey Co. in Kenosha, WI.  In 1916 Jeffrey sold production rights to the Nash Motor Company.

 1918 Nash-Quad Flatbed



 1937 Ford Housecar

1937 Ford House Car was produced in very limited numbers at the Ford Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota. The body is framed and paneled in wood, with sheet steel cladding.




1938 Fleetwheels, custom made for Italian explorer Attilio Gatti as one of his "Jungle Yachts", as featured in a 1938 Time Magazine ad for International Trucks.  Gatti made 10 expeditions to Africa in the first half of the 20th century.  He had two of these rigs, which when joined together at camp, made up a 5-room apartment.





1938 Fleetwheels



This picture has more to say than I can possibly say with words. 

Redneck RV



 Major Addition

Sometimes, when you outgrow your home, you just have to build on a new addition... 

Photograph by Karen Withak

...or, if chassis length is a problem, maybe adding a second story is the answer.

These two unusual motorhomes were captured on film by photographer Karen Withak, while visiting New Zealand.  Wouldn't you love to have a look inside?

Photograph by Karen Withak

 New Zealand Gypsy


This museum piece was built by a Danish painter in order to stay for several years in Spain with his wife and 2 children. It had a double-roof against the hot sun in Spain, a full kitchen and even a bathtub.

A fascinating 1946 Chevrolet motor home featured in the September 1989 issue of Motorhome Magazine. This vehicle was owner-built from a new chassis over a period of several years soon after WW1. It attracted so much attention on the road that vacation travel was hampered by all of the people gawking and asking questions.

 1946 Chevy

 1955 Fxible

A strong post-WW2 market for recreation vehicles prompted the Flxible Company to furnish some of its intercity buses as luxury bus homes and sell them to affluent vacationers. They called the new line of coaches the "Land Cruiser".  This one is pictured with it's owner, J.C. Long, an attorney and real estate developer of the time.

In 1955, Flxible sold the Land Cruiser line to Kirwin Elmers, who with his father, founded Custom Coach Corporation in a small auto service garage in Columbus, OH.  Today Custom Coach Corp. is a leading custom bus conversion company.

Since those days, bus conversions have always been popular with RV enthusiasts.  And the 40's and 50's era Flxible has always been a favorite to convert.  This 1957 Flxible Starliner is owned by Dave and Carol Lang, as photographed at a gathering for bus enthusiasts held in Timmonsville, SC in May, 2006. 

Another Flxible conversion (a beautifully restored 1948 Clipper) was featured in Robin William's recent movie "RV"  See more Flxible conversions here.

 1957 Fxible


 I have no idea who manufactured this futuristic looking model, which also looks to be about late 40's/early 50's vintage.  I love this picture, though, so I thought I'd include it.

If anyone knows what this is, please drop me an email message.




Some attribute Ray Frank as the father of the modern Class A motor home.  In 1953 Frank, a farmer and engineer who had a strong automotive and aviation background, built his first house car on a Dodge truck chassis, which he called a "motor home".   Soon afterwards, because of all the attention his motor home received, he built four more.  The photo on the right likely shows one of those four.

 Early Frank 1953

 1952 Frank

In 1958 Frank's son Ronald became involved and raised the capital to start "Frank Motor Homes".  By 1960, they had built seven more.  In 1961 Frank linked his company with Chrysler Motors and the motor homes were marketed under the "Dodge" brand name, as you can see in this 1962 ad.  The Class A motor home industry had been launched.  In 1963 Frank started producing fiberglass body shells, but unfortunately went bankrupt later that year.  Two investors bought the body molds and patent rights, and formed Travco Corporation, the company who supplied the bodies for the popular Dodge Travco shown below
Dodge Travco



The Dodge Motor Home above quickly evolved into the Dodge Travco.  Dodge and Travco ruled the motor home industry in the 60's and 70's with this popular RV which featured a rugged fiberglass Travco body on an enhanced Dodge truck chassis.  Tens of thousands of these were sold.  They came in body sizes ranging from 21' to 27' (27' being the most popular).  Most had the trademark mid-height color band paint scheme you see here. 

In the late 70's Chrysler Motors abandoned its medium duty truck market including its popular Dodge motor home chassis.  This soon led to the demise of Travco, since the two companies were tied so closely together.



In 1958, the same year that Frank Motor Homes was formed, John K. Hanson, of Forest City, Winnebago County, Iowa, was putting together his own RV trailer company with a small group of fellow businessmen from town.  The first motorhome was produced in 1966.  Winnebago developed a market lead by making its motorhome available for sale at about half the price of competitors' models, selling 100,000 units by 1977.  The company did so well that for several decades the brand name "Winnebago" was synonymous with "motorhome".

Here is a classic Winnebago Brave from the early 1970's.  Click on photo to see a magazine ad from the era.




1968 Newell

During this time the entire industry took off.  Recognizing a market for more "upscale" motorhomes, L.K. Newell founded the Newell Coach Corporation in 1967.  Here is a picture from the 1968 Newell Coach brochure.  Their first motor homes were built on a Ford chassis, with a Ford gas engine.

Just two years later in 1970, Newell was the first company to market a rear-engine motor home, on their own built-from-scratch class A pusher motor home chassis - a design which would become the standard for the future.  Within another two years they were offering "diesel pushers" far ahead of the rest of the industry.




Also built in 1972 on a Dodge M300 chassis, with a fiberglass skin, this Rectrans Discoverer 25R was a futuristic attempt at streamlining.

Although Dodge would yield the Class A market to other manufacturers, they would continue to become the leading manufacturer of Class B and Class C motor home chassis' for many years to come. 

 1972 Rectrans



1970's GMC

No pictorial history would be complete without mentioning the popular and futuristic GMC Motorhome.  Just under 13,000 of these were manufactured between 1973 and 1978.  Over 8000 are likely still in use today.  It was front wheel drive with a pair of tandem wheels in the back.  No rear axles or drive shaft intruded into the living space, allowing for a long, low fully integrated body, built with aluminum framing and a fiberglass shell.  Air bags were utilized for suspension which could be manually controlled for leveling in a campsite.  Most were 26' long, and powered by a 455 cu ft. V8 engine from the Oldsmobile Toronado. They often had "luxury features" common on upper models of GM cars, such as cruise control, air conditioning, and AM/FM/8-track sound systems.



By the 60's Volkswagen was well entrenched in America, and they would not be left out of the growing motorhome/camper market, as exemplified by this 1967 VW Westfalia Camper.  The next year VW came out with the larger and  more squarish VW Bus, which were also popular in the camper configuration.  Our fist "motorhome" was a '68 VW bus camper.

 1967 VW

Mini VW

Speaking of Volkswagens, here is an unusual conversion.  It was sold as a kit and marketed by a small company in Irvine CA as the "MiniHome".  (Not sure what years.)

You can still order the plans for this kit today from Robert Q. Riley Enterprises.  The new detailed version of the plans will cost you $55.  The materials should run just under $2000, plus the cost and preparation of a good VW Beetle chassis.  Click the photo for details and more pictures.

Here's a newer, but unusual model.  Built on an Isuzu chassis, with a diesel engine, the Navette is a streamlined design that was admired for its sleek looks and excellent fuel economy.  (Don't ask how you check the tire pressures.)   The Navette Motorhome  was first produced in 1990 by Bob Smith.  By 1995 he had produced and sold 16 vehicles, including one special ordered by Kellogg Cereals.  Unfortunately he had to close the company at that time due to severe illness.  See more pictures and read the interesting story of this company here.  Smith listed the company for sale a few years ago, and it still may be available.





In keeping with the "unusual motorhome" category, here is another do-it-yourself model.  This fellow took the easy way out.  All he did was mount an old travel trailer on a Mercedes Benz chassis, and then stick some skirting around the bottom.   Still, it's functional.  But watch that first step.



A motorhome for those who like to camp and go 4-wheeling at the same time.  This one was built on a MAN 4x4 truck chassis.  With those oversized tires, the owner of this off-road motorhome can go just about anywhere.  The top breathers will come in handy in case there are any rivers or steams in the way that need crossing. 

Actually, there is a company in Australia, Amesz Design Pty Ltd, that sells a line of off-road motorhomes.  They are popular for use in the Outback. 




 odd Grill 1975 Daystar

This 1975 Daystar, with a luxurious teak wood interior, is one of only 16 made by Daystar Motorhomes of Compton Cal.

Could it have possibly been the front grill design that did the company in?

Photographs by Bruce Fingerhood



A Century Of RVs



As the RV industry celebrates its centennial in 2010, one of the industry’s leading historians provides a glimpse into the innovation and ingenuity that have propelled the development of recreation vehicles of all types.

By Al Hesselbart
January 2010

Superior Custom Truck Builders of Toledo, Ohio, offered this Land Yacht for sale in about 1915.

For 100 years, the history of both motorized and towable recreation vehicles has been a story of the American vagabond and our desire to travel and see our wonderful country, and that of our neighbors, at our own pace.  From the earliest days of the automobile, travelers, both here and abroad, have placed their supplies in, on, and around their vehicles and headed down the open road — in many cases, even before the roads existed. Before the advent of the RV, the only way to travel in comfort and enjoy the countryside was by private rail car, which severely restricted the ability of travelers to visit places off the rail networks.

While many homemade contraptions of varying degrees of utility were seen earlier, and horse-drawn camping vehicles had been available for years, the vehicle recognized as the first production RV with self-contained camping features was the 1910 Touring Landau by the Pierce Arrow motorcar company of Buffalo, New York. The Landau was a chauffeur-driven limousine whose backseat converted to a bed.  It included a fold-down washbasin on the back of the front seat, a kitchen basket, a toilet, and storage boxes that replaced the running boards. Perhaps this could be identified as the first basement storage and the first Type B motorhome.  A telephone connected the passengers to the chauffeur for directional communication. C.W. Post, the cereal magnate, reportedly paid $8,250 for a Touring Landau that provided hot and cold running water in addition to the standard features. After 1912 the Landau was sold as the George Washington Coach.

The term motorhome was first applied to a house car built in 1959 by Ray Frank, a small builder of travel trailers in Brown City, Michigan.

By 1915, Gustav Bretteville of San Francisco, California, had invented and begun manufacturing and marketing the Automobile Telescope Apartment.  It was an aftermarket camper, much like a slide-in truck camper, that mounted on the back of Model T Ford runabouts or early pickups. This unit was remarkable in that it had a series of slideouts (“telescopes”). The body slid straight out the back, and then storage units slid out from either side of the first slide.  One side produced a kitchen, and the other produced wardrobe storage.  Sleeping quarters were in the center.  Advertisements for the unit displayed a shower that used water run through the radiator for warming. The basic apartment was advertised for $100, with the purchaser performing the installation.

At the same time, Superior Custom Truck Builders of Toledo, Ohio, was advertising a huge “Land Yacht” for sale for $2,850. This monster rig was very well appointed even by today’s standards. It was powered by a six-cylinder 60-horsepower engine and used nine forward and three reverse gears. It included a generator to run lights and the electric stove and furnace; a bathroom with a shower; hot and cold water fed by gravity from overhead storage tanks; folding Pullman berths for six passengers and a “crew” of two; and a stairwell to the upper deck that was equipped with a “phonograph for dancing.” As standard equipment, it also included a suitcase that held two folding bicycles as “lifeboats.” One of these amazing Land Yachts is known to have journeyed with a party of six on board from upstate New York to the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco, and back, with no paved roads for nearly the entire trip.

Most of the features that we recognize in our recreation vehicles of today were conceived by the earliest of RV pioneers.  By World War I time, we had tent trailers, travel trailers, hybrid travel trailers with fold-out tent beds, fifth-wheel trailers, and motor coaches of all sizes. Appliances were state-of-the-art for the time. Only the improvements of 100 years of technology have made them different, if not better. 
By the mid-1910s, many manufacturers were offering folding tent trailers as a much more affordable traveling home. By the late teens, other forms of RVs had come into the picture.  The fifth-wheel trailer was created in 1917 by Glenn Curtiss, the aviation pioneer, using the spare tire and “fifth wheel” of an auto as the receiver for the king pin hitch.  It was first sold as the Adams Motor Bungalo and then, from 1928 on, as the Curtiss Aerocar, often with custom tow vehicles attached.

In the 1920s, many more vehicles began to appear. The Zaglemeyer Kamper Kar was introduced in 1920, and from 1921 to 1928, Anheuser-Busch took over production of the Lamsteed Camp Car when Prohibition curtailed the company’s brewing business.  The Lamsteed had been developed by the Lambert family, also of St. Louis, who created Listerine mouthwash. Luxurious, totally self-contained house cars began to be more popular in the mid 1920s. Not production units, they were universally custom made by small shops.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression created a blip in the growth of RV development, but not for long. By the mid-1930s, more exotic house cars began to appear.  The Hunt Housecars were produced for nearly 10 years by famed Hollywood cinematographer Roy Hunt. By the late ’30s, nicely equipped house trailers also were becoming popular.

World War II caused another blip in RV growth through the 1940s, but the industry blossomed into full swing in the 1950s with the inception of many giant builders.

Fleetwood was created in 1951, and Holiday Rambler in 1954. Winnebago Industries was founded in 1958 along with many others, and the modern RV was born. The longest house car was the 1954 Executive Flagship, built by mobile home manufacturer Midstates Corporation and offered for sale for $100,000. It measured 65 feet long and had to articulate in the middle so as to be able to turn corners.  This vehicle even included a private helipad for one’s personal helicopter.

The 1950s also saw the dramatic growth of the truck camper industry, reflecting the popularity of pickup trucks following the war. As truck campers grew in size, manufacturers removed the truck beds and mounted their campers directly on the frame of the trucks, creating “chassis-mounted” campers. Over time, these evolved into today’s Type C motorhomes.

The term “motorhome” was first applied to a house car created in 1959 by Ray Frank, a small travel trailer builder from Brown City, Michigan, who made his first unit for private family use. His Frank Motorhomes evolved in 1961 to a molded fiberglass design, and in the mid 1960s became the well-known Travco coaches. The ’60s also brought the Chevrolet Corvair air-cooled rear engine-powered Ultravan and the Volkswagen camping wagons.

In 1967 Winnebago Industries applied auto plant assembly line technology to its motorhome production. These affordable, mass-produced coaches very quickly gave Winnebago more than 50 percent of the motorhome market share, since the company’s units were selling for about one-half the price of the competition. These mass-produced coaches were the start of the affordable motorhome industry of today.

Until the 1970s, most builders made custom motorhomes to order and did not build fleets of identical vehicles to sell to dealers.  That all changed with the success of Winnebago Industries’ assembly line practices. The ’70s also saw the rise of luxury custom bus manufacturers, such as Blue Bird and Newell. The GMC front-wheel-drive motorhomes became wildly popular in the ’70s as well, demonstrating another new technology.  This decade also brought a new blip in the growth of the RV industry when the fuel embargoes of 1973-74 and 1979-80 and astronomical interest rates nearly brought the industry to its knees, and nearly half of the manufacturers and dealers went under.

The 1980s ushered in another change in RV design, when bigger units allowed the growth of living comforts in coaches. These included couches, TVs, entertainment centers, and kitchen conveniences such as microwave ovens. Slideouts began to provide greater living space with more homelike comforts coming into the units. Conversely, many mini RVs also were seen in the 1980s.

As recreation vehicles grew more sophisticated, a separation in the RV public began to emerge. While the original RV camping society continued to grow, a new society of RVers began to appear, whose travels were destination-based and for whom the event, and not the trip, was the purpose for RVing. Tree-lined campgrounds and sitting around evening campfires were not necessarily attractive to these new RVers, but the opportunity to travel in comfort and have one’s own bed and living accessories at the destination certainly was. This new group of RVers added to the popularity of the lifestyle and is responsible for much of the recent growth in RV living.

The late 1980s and early 1990s brought basement storage into the Type A motorhome, with the late-’80s Fleetwood Bounder and all the others that quickly jumped on the bandwagon. With this design development, Type A coaches now could have nearly as much storage as bus conversions. This led to a dynamic growth in the full-time RVing lifestyle, as travelers could comfortably take all their needed supplies with them. Motorhomes also grew to new lengths of 40 and 45 feet, greatly increasing the interior living comfort.

As we entered the 21st century, units continued to grow bigger and bigger. Travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes often were supersized like french fries at a fast-food restaurant.  Longer lengths; three, four, and five slideouts; and rooftop patios all made it necessary to have bigger and bigger power plants. Full-sized semi tractors pulling monster fifth wheels and tractor-based 45-foot motor coaches made it possible to live in total comfort while pulling nearly any load desired. At the same time, extraordinary fuel costs encouraged downsized rigs also.  The modern “big B” van-type units have become more and more comfortable and popular.

Now, when we look forward to the future, smaller, lighter-weight, more fuel-efficient models are reversing the bigger-is-better trend and rapidly growing in popularity.  The use of more and larger slideouts is making increased living space available, and these smaller units become more comfortable. We will continue to see improved appliances, magical navigation devices, and easier and more convenient communication equipment. And modern technology is improving safety in ways only seen in science fiction during past years.

What does the future hold? We may again see units capable of flight like the 1970s “heli-home,” a prototype helicopter-based RV put forward by Winnebago Industries. We may see the application of self-driving technology (no driver needed), which is being researched for cars today.  The days of science fiction are growing closer and closer to reality. The RV lifestyle is ever popular and has grown to attract a widely varied population of users.

Like the amazing changes that have occurred throughout the first century of RVs, the next century will only bring us more and better homes on wheels to enjoy.
Al Hesselbart is a nationally recognized RV historian. He serves as historian, archivist, writer, and librarian for the RV/MH Hall of Fame, Museum, and Library in Elkhart, Indiana. He also has appeared or worked as an RV historian on television documentaries; presented RV seminars at rallies, including FMCA international conventions; written numerous articles; and authored The Dumb Things Sold . . . . Just Like That!, a history of the RV industry (Legacy Ink Publishing;

FMCA: A Proud History

In July 1963, a small group of “house car” owners gathered on the grounds of the Good Will-Hinckley School in Hinckley, Maine, to view a solar eclipse and share information about their homes on wheels, primarily converted school buses, transit buses, and intercity vans. After months and sometimes years of brainstorming, sweat, and plain old ingenuity by their owners, the owners had transformed these vehicles into impressive homes on wheels — perfect for family vacations. A few folks at the time were lucky enough to purchase vehicles already designed for life on the road.

During the weekend in Maine, 26 coach-owning families exchanged information, anecdotes, and technical tips about their vehicles. They also discussed at length the merits of forming some sort of club that centered around travel by house car. Wouldn’t it be great to belong to an organization devoted to sharing information about these types of vehicles, one that also promoted friendships and fun activities?

Eighteen families at the Hinckley gathering decided to form a nonprofit association. On July 21, 1963, after several names were presented for consideration, “Family Motor Coach Association” was chosen as the official name of the group. This suggestion came from J. Raymond Fritz, L4, who would later become the association’s second president.

Bob Richter, L1, who nursed the fledgling organization in his Hanson, Massachusetts, basement for its first year, and served as its first president, recalled that initial gathering in Maine: “It was an experience impossible to describe as we first heard —and then saw — the 26 coaches arriving, one after another, with our new friends. The coaches varied from a simple school bus on its fifth engine with only a mattress, a crib, and a stove in it, to a lush executive coach costing well into the six figures. What a sight it was to see them coming up the hill! And what great people!”

Volume One, Issue One of Family Motor Coaching magazine, containing 32 black-and-white pages, was produced in 1964 during the onslaught of a Massachusetts winter. FMCA’s first convention also was held in July of that year, drawing 106 member families in Fort Ticonderoga, New York.

By spring of 1965, FMCA had grown to nearly 1,000 families, and its care and feeding was impossible for Bob and his wife, Jean, to keep up with while also managing their own business. That spring, they packed up more than a ton of office equipment, supplies, and files — plus a couple of bottles of pink champagne — and delivered everything to Ken and Dotty Scott, L63, who took over administration of the organization in Cincinnati, Ohio. This city has remained FMCA’s home ever since.

Today FMCA serves approximately 100,000 member families in the United States, Canada, and beyond. Yet FMCA’s roots are commemorated in Hinckley, Maine, with a monument erected on the grounds of the Good Will-Hinckley School