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Vintage Camping is Campy

By John Gunnell

OCW Blog 225 Photo 04

One of many vintage campers at the 2015 Symco Shakedown.

I’ve never been accused of being ahead of the curve, and if I had that ability, I’d be rich. But I did pen a book about vintage recreational vehicles way back in 1981. It was published by TAB—a company that did tiny books and it had a name bigger than the book itself. It was called How to Convert/Restore Old Cars, Station Wagons, Vans, Trucks & Buses into RV’s.

It was the first book I ever wrote. And though it sounds like it was a how-to book, it was really a history of camping vehicles and RVs. It featured such great rigs as Plankinton Land Yacht designed by Brooks Stevens (the cabin unit still exists), Commander Attilio Gatti’s Jungle Yacht and Ford Motor Co.’s fabulous 1958 “Push-button Camper of the Future.”

A wonderful collection of photo of “Tin Can Tourists” camping in Florida between the 1930s and the 1960s was obtained from the Florida State University photographic archives at the Strozier Library. They showed everything from a battered ’38 Buick towing a 1937 Covered Wagon travel trailer to a young lady dressed in peddle pushers climbing a ladder on the back of here Volkswagen bus to get into the striped tent
on top of it.

Well, my book did little to stir people into buying vintage camping vehicles 35 years ago, but today doing that has become one of the latest trends in the old-car hobby. When I look at what old campers are selling for today, I often think I should have followed my own advice and bought a classic RV back then.

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