What is it? Trailer, Mobile Home, Trailer Coach?

by Tim Heintz (posted in the TCT Facebook group)

With the recent viral posting of the very long 50’s trailer at a gas station (Which is actually a real 1954 Duo Coach 8’x50’, SEE BELOW)

I have been getting a lot of messages and emails asking what the difference between a vintage ‘Trailer’, Vintage ‘House Trailer’, Vintage ‘Mobile home’, and vintage ‘Trailer Coach’?

Well historically they were all the SAME THING….simply put…. TRAILERS. Even the industry was unsure if there were any difference,

I have seen trailers as short as 16′ called mobile homes and trailers as long as 35′ called travel trailers by their own manufactures in the 50’s and 60’s.

It was a different time back then…. ALL trailers were built for road travel, yes some were fitted out more for weekend camping and others were more livable for what we would call today ‘Full Timers’.

Doesn’t mean back then or even today that these usages were interchangeable between the type of rigs, but just remember vintage trailers were just that…TRAILERS.

Also Holding tanks had nothing to do with the technical term, no trailer pre-1956~ had any kind of waste holding tanks (Black and/or Grey), and most from 1957-1960’s still were not equipped including the smaller Shastas, Scotty trailers, etc…

Many states in the 50’s and 60’s tried to restrict such large trailers from their roads, but that did not stop the trailer industry as many companies built expanding trailers that pulled at a certain width (8′) and then once on location the entire trailer would almost double in width (15′) (SEE THE 1958 BUDGER EXPANDO AD BELOW states 8’ for easy travel, and 15’ wide for living!)

A few brands even built trailers that extended in length to combat those states with length laws that restricted pulling anything over 35’…..The rigs would pull as 35′ long but would extend length wise once on site to 40, 45′ or more and of course many brands built two story trailers in the 50’s to gain more square footage than was allowed with certain state restraints on trailer sizes that were allowed on their roads. (SEE THE 1955 VENTOURA ADS BELOW OF A REAL HOME THAT TRAVEL TOO!)

By the mid/late 1960’s the industry had finally started to build what we now consider manufactured homes (still called mobile homes at that time) which also started to lose their running lights, trailer brakes, etc… and were nowhere near as ‘mobile’. There were still a few brands fighting the mobility of Mobile Homes at this time like the early 60’s Frontier Mobile Home (SEE BELOW 1961 FRONTIER TRAILER)

which built a 10′ wide (still legal in almost all states at that time, a few just required an easily acquired permit at state lines) but allowed you to fold out two portions of the side giving you a 14’x14′ living room, but it did make for an unusual floor plan!

This Frontier trailer is 10′ wide, and 55′ long! also came in a 51′ length. The below 10’x55′ model 200 retailed at $6,547.50 in 1961….that was a very expensive price tag in 1961 (Average yearly income was only $5300 that year)

My Family also has a very long history of pulling such large trailers (as ‘full timers’) from the 1940’s-1970’s and you can see photos of their travels with these trailers here: (I still own the Pink and White 1958 Skyline 8’x45′ that my grandparents purchased brand new in late 1957!)

7 comments

  1. Great info. Was a good time to grow up and lived in one as well. Loved it…could do it again now that retired.

  2. Very interesting page – this was an age with no limits. Would like to see more, but where are the pics of your parent’s travels you write of? Missing link?

  3. LOVE All of them Tin Cans lived in 3of the daring, They were easy to clean, 1961 to 2001 . Wish I could live in one again, but this time I want to live in a travel trailer. See the country..I’m Thanks for building them…

  4. I’m thinking about down sizing and moving from my house into a travel trailer. However I will be sitting it up more permanent just like a mobile home and skirt it also with a nice covered porch. Downsizing is what it’s all about

  5. Interesting, love it! Thanks for a great post. Seems like the mobile home is made a researgence. Companies like Escape are making portable mobile homes again but unlike anything we’ve come to think as a mobile home. But if one has the capacity of a large engine pickup truck these homes can be pulled as well. And they hook up to 50 amp electric & the sewer system the same way as our campers do. It helps to look back at the mid century ingenuity!

  6. I agree, I would love to see more of current or slightly older models of trailers. Tiny Homes have taken off like wild fire and a little larger model might be good too. Some people just can’t downsize enough to be comfortable in a Tiny House. Full Time Travel Trailers would be great too. With the Pandemic and unrest in different countries, seeing our own country would be great. Full Time Travel Trailers would help with all of that. Your own clean place to sleep at night.

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