Photos courtesy California Automobile Museum, except where noted.
It might seem contradictory to coop up a bunch of old travel trailers in one place for half a year; after all, they were built to wander the highways and byways, to explore the countryside and to escape the constraints of the indoors. But, hey, the camping off-season’s coming up for most of the country, and besides, they’ll make a great exhibit for the California Automobile Museum.
“The exhibit came about because of the cross-section of two important things: Vintage trailers are very trendy right now, and the Sacramento area has a strong presence of vintage trailers,” said Carly Starr, the museum’s curator. “For example, a local collector is providing some early examples of production trailers which we are lucky and excited to have. Furthermore, Vintage Camper Trailers magazine and website is owned and managed by Sacramento locals and they have supported this exhibit from the beginning.”
Travel trailers date back to well before the invention of the automobile—think of the Conestoga wagons that took settlers further and further into the West or the horse-drawn vardos of the gypsies across Europe—but with the advent of the automobile they began to grow in size and take on more of the comforts of home, including self-contained bathrooms, integrated kitchens, and electricity.
The travel trailers in the Camping in Style: Little Homes on Wheels exhibit date from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and include a wide range of styles, from the 18-1/2-foot aluminum 1936 Bowlus Deluxe Road Chief at the top of this article to the tiny 1950 KampMaster “stand-up” teardrop-style trailer above. Other trailers slated to take part in the exhibit include a 1959 Shasta Airflyte and matching 1956 Chevy Bel Air station wagon, a 1948 Vagabond, a 1960 Ideal Trailer, a 1950s Airstream, a 1936 Luxury Liner, a 1947 kit teardrop, a 1956 teardrop barn find, a 1946 Curtis Wright Model 2, and a 1955 Aljoa Sportsman.
Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson Museum.
Among the trailers, the exhibit will include one vintage motorhome, a Brooks Stevens-designed Clipper that had previously been shown at Milwaukee’s Harley-Davidson Museum.
The Camping in Style: Little Homes on Wheels exhibit will take place October 31 through April 10 of next year, with a sneak preview party —featuring camp food—scheduled for October 30. For more information, visit CalAutoMuseum.org.