Today, every car show seems to have a vintage camping section filled with old-time recreational vehicles. Enthusiasts call many of them “tin can” trailers or “canned hams,” and they are popping up at events across the country. You can also find vintage trailers in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford, Wis., the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Ill., the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Ind., the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pa., the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum in Amarillo, Texas and probably many more historical repositories.
Car camping really started about 1917, when World War I “Doughboys” returned from the battlefields of Europe. The labor market became saturated, but due the mobility afforded by the new-fangled automobile, job-seeking families would travel from city to city in search of work. They often lived in shacks built of scrap wood and cardboard, which sprung up around major industrial cities. They ate meals served up straight from tin cans.
People called these encampments “Tin Can Cities.” Eventually, as industry moved back into full production and economic stability increased, these shantytowns began to disappear. Yet the good times experienced on the roads of America lingered in the memories, and motor touring and camping out became popular leisure time activities. Camping cars, travel trailers and motorhomes evolved out of this movement.
Many early travel trailers were made of wood. Few of these survive today. But by the mid-1930s, travel trailers constructed of metal began to show up more and more. These were more durable than wooden trailers and lasted much longer. Today, many of them are being restored by car enthusiasts and hot rodders.
Finding a trailer with that very cool 1940s, 1950s or 1960s look wasn’t all that easy, until a company called Riverside RVs (www.riversidervs.net) decided to start producing a line of brand new travel trailers designed to look like past classics. Riverside Retro models were a hit at the 50th annual National RV Show in Louisville, Ken.
The Riverside Retro trailers look like those you saw on the highways as a kid in the ‘40s through ‘70s, but they include modern features that make them easier and safer to pull to a show. On the outside, the Riverside Retro rigs feature two-tone paint schemes, chrome hubcaps and “gangster” whitewall tires. On the inside you’ll find “checkered flag” floor tiles, vintage looking seats and color-coordinated upholstery.
The offerings start with the Lightweight Travel Trailer, which has sleek lines and curves, colors that come straight from bygone eras and fantastic up-to-date features. The company’s Lightweight Toy Hauler offers the classic look of the Retro line with extra room inside for gear. It also features a rear gate that lowers into a convenient loading ramp. This design makes it easy to load up the toys and head out for your next camping trip.
The Retro Fifth Wheel trailer combines a vintage look with a spacious and well-planned layout. Classic color schemes and the items campers want are all built into this exciting model, making it smart to camp in style and comfort with the Retro Fifth Wheel.
Riverside RV can be contacted through a reply page on the company’s website. You can also visit the map on the Website to find Riverside Retro dealers located from 0 to 500 miles from your home.
Another company making retro-inspired trailers is the Happier Camper Company, founded by ex-disc jockey Derek Michael May, who is popularly known as the “Camper King.” He manufactures a tiny 72-square-foot fiberglass trailer with an old-fashioned look that can be customized to the buyer’s tastes.