===== Thirteen Notable Dates in RV History ===== * ca. 1901: The first motor homes are built as special-order units by auto body builders. * 1907: Henry Ford introduces the first mass-produced Model T Fords, automobiles with a 2.9-liter, four-cylinder engine that make auto camping affordable for most Americans for the first time. * 1910–15: The first manufactured, mass-produced RVs—folding camping trailers—start coming off the line from Los Angeles Trailer Works, Auto-Kamp Trailers in Saginaw, Michigan, and other pioneers. * 1917: The first fifth-wheel trailer is built by airplane manufacturer Curtiss-Wright; its name probably originated from the trailer hitch, which is located in the center of the towing truck’s bed and could be considered a “fifth” wheel after the four on the bottom of the trailer unit. * 1919: The Tin Can Tourists gather for their first rally, in a Florida campground near Tampa called DeSoto Park, with 20 members present, most of them Model T owners; by the mid-1930s, the club numbered 150,000. * 1922: Fifteen million auto campers hit the road, according to the New York Times, most of them sleeping on cots, in tents, or in “newfangled houses on wheels.” * 1923: There are 7,000 free campgrounds in the United States, including Denver’s Overland Park, with 800 campsites, piped water, a garage, restaurant, beauty shop, billiards hall, soda fountain, and eight electric washing machines. * 1926: Fords equipped with Weidman Camp Bodies are first produced in Tonawanda, New York; the 1929 model sells for $1,900. * 1962: John Steinbeck publishes Travels with Charley about his RV journey around America with his elderly poodle. * 1966: Winnebago becomes the first mass-production motor home assembly line, turning out its early models (with moldings above the windshield that resembled eyebrows) in lengths of 17, 19, and 22 feet. * 1966: David Garvin begins selling RV parts and camping accessories at his family’s campground in Bowling Green, Kentucky; by 1993, his chain of Camping World stores (which he calls “Toys ‘R’ Us for grown-ups”) has become the world’s largest retailer of camping supplies with 78 stores, 10 million mail order catalogs distributed annually, and a sales base of $150 million. * 1967: Charles Kuralt rents a Dodge motor home to begin broadcasting “On the Road,” his famous series of CBS-TV news features that brought small-town Americans and their stories into the living rooms of people everywhere. During his 27 years on the road, Kuralt used six different motor homes; the last, a 29-foot FMC motor coach, is in the Henry Ford Museum near Detroit. * 1976: Winnebago Industries introduces the Heli-Home, a helicopter camper for off-road exploration that could sleep six; we note it’s no longer included in their published brochures.