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History of American Camping and Recreation Vehicles

This is a brief history of popular camping vehicles such as motor homes, pop-up campers, house trailers, travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, truck campers and camper vans. As the automobile industry progressed and the horsepower to weight ratio decreased more and more recreation vehicles evolved.


2004 Jayco Travel House Trailer

2004 Jayco House Trailer

House Trailers originated in England when the Bristol Carriage Company built the first leisure travel trailer in 1880, duly named the 'Wanderer'. Camping trailers became popular in the US and Canada in the 1920s and were known as 'house trailers' in the 1930s. In the 1950s the house trailer became known as a Recreation Vehicle (RV) and then expanded into sub-groups of motor homes, fifth-wheel trailers, pop-up trailer's, and truck campers. The motor home dates back to the 1920s and over the years three classes have evolved.


2001 Monaco Class 'A' Motor Home

2001 Monaco Class 'A' Motor Home








Class 'A' motor homes are built specifically for that purpose from the ground up and usually have a diesel engine in the rear.


1983 Volkswagen Class 'B' Motor Home

1983 Volkswagen Class 'B' Motor Home





Class 'B' motor homes are typically factory van conversions and may have extra high roofs to allow standing. They evolved from utility vans and quickly became a specialized item.


1989 Travelcraft Class 'C' Motor Home

1989 Travelcraft Class 'C' Motor Home









Class 'C' motor homes are generally built on standard truck chassis with a typical truck cab and a gasoline or diesel engine up front.


2009 Big Horn Fifth-Wheel Travel Trailer

2009 Big Horn Fifth-Wheel Travel Trailer






Fifth-wheel trailers are connected to the tow vehicle in a method similar to attaching a semi truck and trailer. The current form has been around since the 1930s but they were also used with horse drawn wagons.


1994 Fleetwood Pop-Up Travel Trailer

1994 Fleetwood Pop-Up Travel Trailer






Pop-up Trailers, also known as tent or folding trailers, became popular during the gasoline crisis in the 1970s when compact cars were favored over more powerful vehicles. They are lighter and more affordable than any of the other RVs.


2001 Lance Truck Camper

2001 Lance Truck Camper







Truck Campers evolved with pick up trucks. You will see small campers on the backs of Nissan and Toyota compact trucks but their larger brothers are far more popular on full size Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge trucks.


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