In the beginning, there were cars. And Americans loved their cars. But it wasn’t enough to drive from point A to point B; the adventurous spirit of our nation demanded more. And thus, vintage RVs were born.
Some of the first “house cars” emerged in the early 20th century, when intrepid tinkerers took their Model T Fords and transformed them into mobile living quarters. These early contraptions were less “home on wheels” and more “rolling hobo shack,” but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that vintage RVs as we know them began to take shape. Enter Ray Frank, an entrepreneur from Michigan, who built the first modern-style motor home on a Dodge chassis.
Ray, bless his heart, dubbed his creation the “Dodge Frank Motor Home.” (Catchy, right?) Regardless, Frank’s innovation sparked a revolution in the world of recreational vehicles.
The subsequent decades of the 1960s and ’70s were marked as the golden age of the motor home. Companies like Winnebago and manufacturers of distinctive aluminum-bodied travel trailers, such as Airstream, gained significant traction. Their designs, coupled with an affordable price point, made these vehicles the preferred choice for families embarking on the great open road.
And what better way to bond with your family than by cramming everyone into a small space for days on end?
As the years rolled on, the motor home evolved, taking on more luxurious features and eventually branching out into the swanky world of Class A motor homes. These behemoths, often referred to as “land yachts,” offer all the comforts of home (and then some) for those looking to travel in style.
Today, the motor home endures as a symbol of the American spirit of exploration, and perhaps a lingering desire to return to our nomadic roots. Whether you’re a retiree taking on the Great American Road Trip, a young family seeking adventure, or just a fan of cramped living spaces, the motor home has a little something for everyone.
Here, take a trip down memory lane, vintage motor home style!
Note: While there is overlap between recreational vehicles (RVs), motorhomes and campers, for the sake of this post and the other on campers, we’re considering RVs/motorhomes to be larger than campers — intended to be used for more than a couple overnights away from home.
Vintage 1960s Condor Coach motor home (1964)
Vintage yellow and green Travco motorhome interior decor (1970)
Vintage Monitor motorhome exterior & interior (1971)
Vintage Superior 20-foot Motor Homes (1972)
Two years ago, we introduced the first Superior motor home — the 22-foot length and certainly the most popular size for the average family. Last year, we added a 25-footer, with loads of extra storage and a larger bath for families who want a lot more room and a lot more luxury for a little more money.
And now, this year… the new Superior 2000. A 20-foot motor home with all the Superior construction features and convent act unit. With any of the three, you can choose from three exterior and seven interior color combinations. And you get Superior all-steel construction, Superior visibility and Superior storage.
Bob Hope says, “Cancel My Reservation, I’ll take my Apollo.” (1972)
Bob Hope, star of Naho Enterprises Productions’ “Cancel My Reservation,” from Warner Bros, always uses his Apollo Motor Home for motion picture locations, mobile office, golf vacations, and cruising enjoyment.
Bob says, “Apollo is the only way to go for KM safety and luxurious accommodations — it gives me all that privacy and Ring-of-Steel construction.”
Apollo Motor Home
You need no reservation to see your Apollo dealer for a new experience in first-class living on-the-go. He will be delighted to show you Apollo’s exciting, new 1973 line of 22, 25, and 30-foot models in a variety of floor plans and beautiful decorator-coordinated interiors.
Features include a bath with sunken tub/shower, sparkling kitchen, and living room comfort all contained in a weatherproof, reinforced fiberglass body.
Old-fashioned Dodge motorhome (1972)
Go the Winnebago route (1972)
Maybe you’ll find a motor home with a lower sticker price than Winnebago’s new D-18 Brave… The new D-18 is compact and easy to drive — at 18’3″, it’s no longer than a family station wagon. It has a big 318 cu. in. Dodge V-8 engine with power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission and dual rear wheels.
Vintage motor homes and travel trailers (1973)
A great American tradition: The great new getaway-mobile (1973)
The mobile-minded alternative to that second house in the country or down by the sea is a new kind of house-on-wheels, which can be a vacation cottage in a different spot every year — and take you there as well.
The new house-on-wheels, designed by General Motors from the tires up, has all the land-loving comfort, looks, and livability of a genuine second house — at a price few stay-at-home houses can compete with.
One model of the GMC Motor Home is 23 feet long; another is 26 feet, and they range in price from $13,000 to $15,000. Both are filled with quick-care materials and House & Garden Colors no motor home dreamed of before.
Introducing the GMC MotorHome. It doesn’t ride like a truck. It doesn’t look like a box. (1973)
1. A NEW ERA IN MOTORHOMES IS BEGINNING. Before we started budding our MotorHome, we studied every other type of motorhome that exists. We found that the simpler the basic construction, the fewer the problems.
So we started with a strong, durable, steel perimeter frame and attached to this a cage of heavy aluminum ribs. On top of this, we bonded both aluminum and fiberglass panels molded to a smooth finish. It’s the same construction people are flying all over the world in. Except now you’ll be driving.
Then we sprayed the interior with a thick, rigid polyurethane foam for thermal insulation and noise suppression. This polyurethane foam has six times the insulation value of fiberglass. Which means the GMC MotorHome has better insulation than most homes. On or off wheels.
2. MORE POWER TO YOU. To give you excellent road performance, we installed a 455-cubic-inch V8 engine up front and coupled it to a 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission. We coupled that to a front wheel drive unit with a 3 to 1 ratio and put it all on top of torsion bar springs and stabilizer bar. With our low overall body weight, it all means getting up to highway speeds quickly. Excellent traction. Excellent weight distribution.
3. A MOTORHOME IS NO FUN IF IT’S NO FUN TO MOTOR IN. We took our basic construction and raised it only 15″ from the ground. This puts the ,enter of gravity only 37 inches above the ground. For easy handling. See the rear wheels. We put one behind the other for four reasons: To give you a wider base. More room inside. Greater stability than you’d have with dual wheels.
And so we could place a special air spring between the two wheels to pass the bumps from one to the other instead of to you! These air springs are the only ones of their kind on motorhomes. To keep the weight and balance of the interior within design limits, we fed all the data into a computer. It fed back what we needed to put things where they belong.
4. ABOUT OUR SIX-WHEEL BRAKING SYSTEM. In addition to power steering, there’s a six-wheel braking system with power disc brakes up front and four large finned-drum power brakes in the rear, plus an available leveling device operated from the driver’s compartment for parking on uneven ground. Incidentally, the parking brake grabs all four rear wheels.
5. CHOOSE FROM 15 DIFFERENT FLOOR PLANS. TWO LENGTHS. The GMC MotorHome is available in 23- and 26-foot lengths. The standard 26′ floor plan includes a dinette that converts to a double bed opposite a sofa that turns into double bunks. In the middle, a double sink, 6-cubic-foot refrigerator (it’s electric so there’s no pilot light that’ll blow out) a range and oven with exhaust hood. There’s also a bath with all the necessities plus ample cabinet space. That’s one floor plan. There are 14 more available.
6. WE INCLUDED TOP INTERIOR DESIGNERS IN OUR PLANS. To put the finishing touches on the inside, we had House and Garden magazine’s interior designers help us. The driver and passenger seats are high, contoured seats with built-in armrests.
This high-level seating arrangement, combined with the big, wide-angle windshield, offers you panoramic visibility. Every countertop has rounded corners. All cabinet knobs are eliminated. Every hinge is concealed. There are thick, shag or cut pile carpets. And wood-grained vinyl on the walls and cabinets. You also get a choice of four color-coordinated interior decors.
7. ONE-STOP SERVICE. AFTER-HOUR ASSISTANCE. Your GMC MotorHome dealer services everything he sells. Inside and out. From the engine to the air conditioner and furnace. And there’s a toll-free number you can call and immediately get the number of the nearest MotorHome dealer representative available for after-hour assistance.
GMC MotorHome (1974)
RV interior decor: The ultimate vacation home? One that goes where you want to go (1973)
From House Beautiful (1973)
Not too many years ago, the motor home was considered an esoteric vehicle. Most travelers preferred hotel/motel stopovers.
Now, the popularity of this modern gypsy caravan is enormous. More than 100,000 owners share a camaraderie in owning motor homes — and the privacy and comfort they offer at any stop along the road.
Carefree and flexible, indeed, is the Mobilux “mansion on wheels.” What is it like to live in this streamlined van?
See the three examples pictured. Elegant is the word for the interior of the first van, styled by House Beautiful’s decorating editors, in cooperation with Celanese.
In this sleeping area, colors are practical, neutral beige and pumpkin. Durable Fortrel knit upholstery fabrics, in an oversized herringbone print and solid colors, cover single beds and pillows.
A carefully planned, windowed kitchen has been organized for realistic living abroad. Storage is excellent, and counter space is increased when the aluminum cover comes down over the three-burner range.
The simplest repast is distinctive in this dining area of beige swivel chairs. A single bed is turned down with Wamsutta’s green-and-yellow patterned sheets in Celanese fibers in the second color-coordinated van.
Vintage RV floorplan concepts from 1973
1970s RV steering wheel and dashboard
1974 Holiday Rambler travel trailer motorhome
The 1974 Holiday Rambler: You’ve got to see it! Holiday Rambler is a dramatic new travel trailer design.
Dynamic lines for even better towability. Aluminum frame construction for durability and solid performance. Alumaframe engineering and the new look — including the gold striated band with our emblem in red, white, and blue (STRIBAND) — are now distinctive traits of all four Holiday Rambler lines.
Find what your family is looking for in the great Wide World (1977)
More and more families are enjoying themselves together in Wide World travel trailers. Because Wide World gives you more comfort and convenience for your vacation dollar.
Because Wide World’s appealing, “outdoorsy” interiors are the kind people are looking for. And seldom find elsewhere. Because Wide World has travel trailers from 17 to 32 feet (plus a 32-foot park model) with a selection of floor plans — one to please almost every family.
Because Wide World comes from a manufacturer people know and trust. Holiday Rambler Corporation. Because Wide World has something extra: it’s such a delightful place for your family to be together. Visit your Wide World dealer. You’ll see what we mean.
1970s Coachmen RV trailer (1977)
Vintage 1970s Holiday Rambler RV trailer interiors (1977)
For the good life: Holiday Rambler. With the engineering and design you want in a traveling vacation home. With the beauty of “Creative Interiors”… design your own… the way you’d do with any vacation home.
With motorhomes, fifth wheels, travel trailers and matching Travel/Tow Van, Holiday Rambler has the vacation home you’ve dreamed of.
Sportscoach Owners Club – Vintage motor homes (1977)
GMC motorhomes exterior & interior (1977)
1970s Airstream travel trailers (1977)
Champion full-size motor homes (1978)
You thought Winnebago, right? Because Winnebago sells more than anybody else. Well, the truth is, there are really two leaders. Champion Home Builders Company and Winnebago sell almost equal numbers of full size motor homes. (Based on R.L. Polk registrations for 1977.)
Some more facts you may not know about us and our Champion, Concord and Titan brands. We have 12 motor home factories, 800 dealers, plus 8 factory service cen-ters across the country. Which means if you are in sudden need of service, you’re likely to be a lot closer to us than to anybody else. We use expensive, steel-cage framing to make our motor homes strong and rigid. And expensive foamed-in-place insulation for more comfort and to help seal out dust and noise.
People like our motor homes enough to buy them again, for we have a high percentage of repeat buyers. Just ask some of the folks in our national motor home club that is 26,000 members strong. Because of our size, we are able to craft much of our own furniture and fittings. And pass those savings on to you.
As a result, model for model, our low-priced Champions, Concords, and mid-priced Titans usually cost less than other motor homes. Which is why, even though you may not see a lot of us on TV, you do see a lot of us where it counts… on the road.
Interior of vintage Itasca Seafarer motor home RV (1978)
Vintage Winnebago motor home-camper (1979)
Winnebago – a condominium that goes places (1979)
Superior luxury 29-foot motor homes (1977)
Winnebago’s Minnie Winnies (1979)
Airstream 1970s motor home (1979)
Itasca vintage motorhomes (1980)
U-Haul vintage motorhome rentals (1986)
NOW SEE THIS: Vintage campers: On-the-road living the retro way