Vintage truck campers: Relive the golden era of fun family road trips in the 1960s & 1970s

Vintage truck campers with pickup trucks and living space - 1960s 1970s 1980s

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During the 60s and 70s, the open road was calling, and many answered that call with a classic American icon: the slide-in truck camper. Through these decades, truck campers were considered an efficient and affordable way to satisfy wanderlust and the desire for adventure — especially for families. 

Today, used vintage truck campers from the sixties and seventies continue to capture the imagination. They serve as a reminder of a simpler time when the call of the open road was strong, and the promise of adventure was just a drive away.

Vintage Chevy pickup with truck camper (1968)

They may not have the high-tech amenities of today’s RVs (though many are, of course, retrofitted with modern features during renovation), but their charm and the sense of freedom they represent make them enduring favorites among camping enthusiasts.

Vintage truck campers in the 1960s

Beginning in the 1960s, vintage truck campers came into their own. Manufacturers like Avion and Alaskan Camper led the way, creating designs that were compact, yet surprisingly spacious inside.

Ford Camper Special truck (1967)
Ford Camper Special truck (1967)

These slide-in campers could be mounted on the bed of a pickup truck, providing a safe and comfortable haven for travelers. The innovative designs often included a small kitchen, a dining area (usually one that could be converted into a bed), and a considerable amount of storage space.

The Travelette camper by International (1964)

Takes a family of six and the comforts of home beyond the end of the road

The TRAVELETTE cab carries three six-footers on the front seat and three on the rear seat — with plenty of stretch-out room. Four-door design makes it easy to get in and out.

The special camper body is just as comfortable. It’ll sleep four on soft, foam-rubber beds. Two others can sleep on the full-width TRAVEL-ETTE seats.) Shave or freshen up in the bath. Prepare your meals in the galley. Let young campers play in the observation lounge.

The whole unit rides easy on the rugged INTERNATIONAL chassis. The true-truck frame is built for shouldering big loads — even the front end can stand the strain. And all-wheel-drive works smoothly with the husky engine to get you over rough roads, ruts, soft ground.

Before your next vacation, find out how much farther you and your money will go with a TRAVELETTE. An INTERNATIONAL Dealer or Branch will be glad to give you a test drive. He’s listed in the Yellow Pages. International Harvester Company, 180 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 1, Illinois.

The Travelette vintage truck camper by International (1964)

Vintage Dodge campers, RVs and motor homes (1965)

Your Dodge dealer has more kinds of homes than the average subdivision (And changing neighborhoods is as easy as turning a key)

Vintage Dodge campers, RVs and motor homes (1965)

1965 Dodge campers

Jeep Gladiator with more traction for campers (1965)

Families go right where the fun is with Jeep 4-wheel drive. Jeep Gladiator has twice the traction of ordinary campers. (Kaiser Jeep Corporation)

Jeep Gladiator with more traction for campers (1965)

Enjoy the great outdoors in a Dodge Camper Special truck (1966)

They call it Colter Bay near Jackson Hole. A place where the mountains rise out of the lake like ancient monarchs. Where the water is so cold it makes your teeth ache.

And just an hour’s walk and you can see the elk thread their racks through the forest, and on a nippy morning in the fall you can feel as if it’s a hundred years ago, and you can almost smell the fire of a camper cooking breakfast.

There are a thousand places like this in America. And a lifetime of new experiences waiting in every one. If you could just get to them all. If you could afford to go more often. Maybe take the kids.

Today you can . . . for little more than the price of a family sedan. Take a long look at a Dodge Camper Special. Sure, it’s a truck . . . but one with the sporty interior and the special equipment designed for hauling those camper boxes around. The boxes with the beds and the refrig and the stove and stuff inside.

Now you don’t need reservations at all. No hotel bills, either. And if you take the kids, they can sleep or eat or whatever on the way. Eating on the move needn’t any more than eating at home.

Dodge Camper Special truck (1966)

Old Jeep 4-wheel drive Gladiator for a camper (1966)

Jeep 4-wheel drive truck for a camper (1966)

Vintage 1960s Dodge truck with Vista Liner camper

Vintage 1960s Dodge truck with Vista Liner camper

1960s vintage truck camper on a red pickup truck (1967)

Vintage 1960s camper on a red pickup truck (1967)

Vintage truck campers in the 1970s

The 1970s were a transformative time for truck campers. As the decade of disco unfolded, these homes-on-the-go started to adopt more of the comfort and convenience we associate with modern RVs. However, the core charm of these vintage units was still intact, offering a way to connect with nature without sacrificing basic comfort.

During the 1970s, camper manufacturers started to add more refined features to their models. These included improved insulation for better temperature control and more sophisticated layouts to maximize the use of space. (Air conditioning started to become a common addition, although the exact year it became standard isn’t clear.)

Vintage Alaskan Camper (1973)

While these improvements were being made, the core appeal of these vintage truck campers held strong. They were compact, functional, and built to last — ideal for adventurous souls who wanted to explore the open road in style. The 1970s saw a boom in the popularity of truck campers, and it’s not hard to see why. The combination of increased comfort and the freedom of the open road was hard to resist.

Retro truck with a vintage truck camper on top from 1970

Retro truck with a camper on top from 1970

1970 Chevy pickup truck with El Dorado Camper

1970 Chevy pickup truck with El Dorado Camper

Old Chevy pickups made to hold a truck camper (1970)

Old Chevy pickups made to hold a camper (1970)

Ford Econoline Camper Special (1972)

Make it an Econoline camper special with quarters for a family of six

Travel in your own motel-on-wheels! This Econoline chassis-with-cab takes just the camper you want … equipped just the way you want it.

And wherever you go, you’ll enjoy the riding smoothness of Ford’s exclusive Twin-I-Beam front suspension. You’ll value the riding comfort of foam-filled bucket seats.

Ford Econoline Camper Special (1972)

Chevrolet Custom Camper (1972)

Custom Camper: This nameplate on the side means a solid foundation underneath.

That “Custom Camper” nameplate’s important on your 3/4- or 1-ton Chevy pickup. It means your truck’s specially equipped to carry a particular camper.

You get all the long-life features built into every Chevy pickup. Plus a front stabilizer bar to minimize sway, improve handling. And extras like heavy-duty shock absorbers and extra-large tires.

It’s a basic camper package at a basic price. You add just what you need, no more. Also available for Chevy campers: auxiliary battery, extra fuel tank, sliding rear window, camper wiring harness and enough other things to fill a small book.

Chevrolet Custom Camper (1972)

Ford Super Camper Pickup Special (1973)

The long 140″wheelbase is reason enough to pick Ford’s Super Camper Special Pickup. Here are 9 more.

1. Capacity to 10,000 lbs. This Ford takes big 11- to 12-ft. campers — and on easy-riding single rear tires. Extra-long wheelbase and wide tread give GVW excellent weight distribution for superior ride and handling.

2. 360 V-8/390 V-8/460 V-13 — Ford gives you a choice of top engines for the performance you want. Cruise-O-Matic Drive with 360 V-8 is standard, 4-speed shift available.

3. 8-inch deep frame is the sturdiest Ford has ever put in a pick-up. A real backbone for a strong, soundly engineered truck.

4. Stabilizer bars front & rear control the high, heavy load and reduce “camper sway.” Combine with Twin-I-Beam front suspension for exceptional smoothness and handling ease. Try a winding road now!

5. Spare tire in body side behind a removable panel is easy to reach and roll out. A better idea that solves a long-time camper problem.

6. Frame-mounted gas tanks are out of the cab and, for convenience, both fill from the same side of the truck. Standard tank plus optional auxiliary tank add up to 43 gallons.

7. Heavy-duty disc brakes at front and big 12″ x 3″ rear brakes provide reserve braking capacity. Power booster is dual-diaphragm type.

8. Heavy-duty equipment includes larger radiator, transmission oil cooler, camper wiring harness, 55-amp alternator, all standard.

9. Camper is anchored to frame with Ford’s optional tie-down system. Eliminates stress on box sheet metal. Uses spring-loaded turnbuckles to secure camper and cushion strain. For anything from camper pickups to motor homes, see your Ford Dealer.

Ford Super Camper Pickup Special (1973)

1974 GMC truck with Amerigo camper

It’s built to carry two kind of campers. First, there’s the human kind. For them, we offer a cab with plenty of glass area for good visibility. And there’s a wide choice of luxury interiors available.

Underneath, there’s a long wheelbase with rear leaf springs. And independent coil spring front suspension. And standard power front disc brakes with audible wear indicators.

Then there’s the other kind of camper — the made-of-metal kind. We’ve thought of that, too. We’ve developed special camper tie-down packages that are available to facilitate mounting. And there’s Elimi-pitch that hydraulically snubs the camper body in case it tries to pitch up or down.

Also available are dual rear wheels. Full-time four-wheel-drive. Or trailer towing package that can handle virtually anything you want to pull — even fifth-wheel units. If you’re in the market for a pickup, think about the two kinds of campers in your life. And get a GMC.

1974 GMC truck with Amerigo vintage truck camper

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One Response

  1. My dad and a friend of his actually built their own pickup truck campers in the mid 70’s. He used it on numerous deer hunting trips out west and my parents camped with it on occasion. it was just as nice as a manufactured one.

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