Kit

Kit

1945-2008

Kit Manufacturing Company – Long Beach California

Kit was founded in October 1945 in Long Beach, California. Its first product was a small “teardrop” trailer, so-called for its shape. It was to be sold as a kit, with its components assembled by buyers and attached to the rear of a motor vehicle. The manufacturing “plant” was a latticed-front fruit stand in Pico Rivera, and the original plan called for building 60 units. However, the kit proposal was soon dropped, and the company began manufacturing prefabricated but fully assembled trailers.

The company’s initial model, the Kit Kamper, made its debut in February 1946 at a trade show in Hollywood’s Gilmore Stadium. Because of a shortage of materials so soon after the end of World War II, the 12 show models had an unusual exterior combination of war-surplus aluminum and fiberglass fenders. Inside, the trailer included all the comforts of home, including an innerspring mattress and an all-aluminum kitchen with butane stove and icebox. The response exceeded all expectations, with nearly 500 orders booked. About 3,500 Kit Kampers were produced and delivered in 1946.

In January 1947 Kit moved to a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the harbor area of Long Beach. Shortly after, production began on a larger, 8-by-14-foot travel trailer. Demand for the two models exceeded production. Kit trailers were popularized through department stores and new and used car dealers and also received publicity as prizes in the annual Soap Box Derby and the “Queen for a Day” radio program. A number of units were flown into Buffalo and Detroit in the dead of winter.

By the end of 1947 production had jumped from the original two per week to 120, and sales had climbed from $1,000 to $50,000 weekly. A few years later Kit secured an order from the federal government, which needed trailers as temporary housing.

Pocapalia became president of Kit in 1956, and the company began producing mobile homes at a plant in Caldwell, Idaho, in 1958. A second Caldwell plant, for RVs, was opened in 1964. In fiscal 1968 (ending October 31, 1968), the last year before Kit became a public company, it earned net income of $688,000 on net sales of $22 million. Common stock was initially offered at $14.50 a share, but the majority of the outstanding shares remained in the hands of existing holders. Pocapalia, who assumed the position of chairman as well as president in 1971, retained about 30 percent of the stock. Arnold J. Romeyn, who joined the company in 1946 and was serving as secretary and treasurer, retained about 25 percent. The company’s long-term debt was $1.8 million in 1970.

Kit, at this time, was building mobile homes that retailed between $4,300 and $7,500, and manufactured housing from $8,150 and $12,000. Recreation vehicles offered were the truck-mounted Kit Kamper and Road Ranger models; the Kit Companion Vacation Trailer, top seller in the Pacific Northwest; and the recently introduced Sportsmaster travel trailer. Mobile homes and manufactured housing were accounting for about 70 percent of sales; recreational vehicles for the remainder. The company was selling its products through a network of 700 dealers in 30 states.

The early 1970s were a period of great expansion for the company. In fiscal 1972, when sales reached $47 million, Kit opened plants to manufacture Road Rangers in Chino, California, and in McPherson, Kansas; and a mobile-home facility in Duncanville, Texas. Kit was continuing to produce both mobile homes and RVs in Caldwell, and mobile homes in McPherson; Mount Vernon, Ohio; Forest Grove, Oregon; and Long Beach, Riverside, and Vacaville, California.

The 1973 Arab oil embargo and consequent economic recession struck a heavy blow to Kit’s business, with sales dropping from $54.2 million in fiscal 1973 to $32.5 million in fiscal 1974. The company lost $2.2 million in 1974 and $465,000 in 1975. Its stock, once trading as high as $25 a share, fell as low as $1 a share in 1974 and never topped $2.75 a share in 1975. The long-term debt widened to $3.2 million at the end of fiscal 1975. The company soon turned the corner, however, and earned $1.6 million in fiscal 1978 on record revenues of $61.9 million. Recreational vehicles now accounted for about 60 percent of sales.

Kit sold its Riverside and Duncanville plants in 1976. The following year it sold its idle Mount Vernon facility and opened a third McPherson plant. In 1979 the company was producing mobile homes in single, double, and triple width, ranging in length from 36 to 70 feet and in width from 14 to 40 feet, with floor area from less than 1,000 to more than 2,300 square feet. They retailed from under $15,000 to over $40,000. Travel trailers were designed to be towed behind passenger vehicles and campers to fit in pickup-truck beds. Fifth-wheel travel trailers, introduced in 1972 under the Mark V name, were intended to be towed behind and attached to special couplers in the beds of pickup trucks. Mini-motor homes, built on van truck chassis, were introduced in 1976. Kit products were being sold by 394 dealers in 25 states and three Canadian provinces.

The second energy crisis that followed the Iranian revolution of 1978 ended this brief period of prosperity. Net sales plummeted all the way to $28.8 million in fiscal 1980, during which the company, following a loss of $741,000 in fiscal 1979, incurred a deficit of $1.5 million. RV sales, badly hurt by gasoline shortages, fell to only 37 percent of the company total in 1980 from 60 percent in 1978. Mini-motor homes and Kit Kampers were discontinued, and the number of Kit dealers dropped to 208 in 22 states and two Canadian provinces. The company closed its RV plant in Chino and its mobile-home plant in Forest Grove. A Caldwell plant was converted from RVs to mobile homes, and in 1981 the company was operating facilities only in Caldwell and McPherson.

Kit returned to profitability in fiscal 1981. Recreational vehicles once again topped mobile homes in sales the following year. The company introduced a new line of lightweight travel trailers suitable for hauling by the current models of smaller, more fuel-efficient motor vehicles. Brand names for its RVs during this period included Royal Oaks, Oak Crest, Oak View, Fairview, Sea Crest, Golden Sunrise, Chateau, and Regal.

Kit’s sales, however, did not approach the record 1978 figure during the early 1980s. Profits were modest, and in fiscal 1983 the company actually lost $740,000. The culprit was the mobile-home business, which fell into deficit in fiscal 1982 and did not return to profitability until five years later. In January 1983 Kit announced that the manufactured-housing product line was being overhauled, aimed at accommodating demand for units that were lower priced and constructed more like site-built homes. During fiscal 1984 mobile homes accounted for only 27 percent of company sales.

In fiscal 1987 Kit topped its 1978 highs with sales of $68.1 million and net income of $1.8 million. Increased interest rates on conventional, site-built housing were said to have given manufactured houses a competitive advantage, resulting in an upturn of sales. The RV business was also doing well that year, with Royal Oaks, Oak Crest, Golden State, and Limited models selling for between $19,000 and $45,000.

After Kit reached a new sales record of $73.8 million in fiscal 1988, the mediocre economic climate of the following years took a toll on its business. Revenues declined each successive year through fiscal 1992, when they fell to $55.5 million. Although the company remained in the black, the RV sector lost money in 1991 and 1992, when a new management team was brought in. Its deficit widened in fiscal 1993, despite a sales gain of 11 percent to 3,335 units. The company as a whole lost $33,000 on sales of $59.1 million that year.

Kit’s McPherson manufactured-home plant was destroyed in a 1992 tornado. Production continued at Caldwell, where about 500 homes were produced in 1993, along with RVs. In 1993 the company began work on a second Caldwell facility–opened in 1994–behind the main building, in order to double its production of manufactured homes, most of which were being placed in the western states. In making the announcement, Kit spokesman Ed Tucker declared that “Public awareness and acceptance have increased year by year. … The majority of homes we sell go on private property available for 30-year land-home financing. The homes we build are an affordable value.” In 1994 they ranged in floor area from 1,100 to 2,500 square feet and were selling at $28,000 to $90,000.

Kit expanded its sales network for manufactured housing in 1995 to take in three more Western states: Wyoming, Colorado, and parts of northern Arizona. The company had been selling its homes in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and Montana, with Utah and Idaho the biggest markets. About 1,400 manufactured homes were produced in 1994. Approximately 91 percent were double- and triple-wide homes, with the remaining nine percent single-wide models starting in size at about 700 square feet.

The company’s RV business turned around in 1994, when sales rose more than 50 percent, to 5,009 units, moving Kit into the top 10 in this field. Produced in Caldwell, the 35-foot-long Companion Cordova was its largest model, with living-room and bedroom walls that slid out by pressing a button. Produced in McPherson and selling for $21,000, the 33-foot-long Sportsmaster fifth-wheeler was a “toy hauler for the guys” with a 10-foot rear patio that could carry snow machines, golf carts, bicycles, motorcycles, Sea Doo watercraft, or all-terrain vehicles. A Kit executive said the market consisted of people age 45 to 65 who “sell their home and want to travel.” Selling for between $9,000 and $32,000, the company’s RV models had carpeted hardwood floors, kitchen skylights, solar panels, electric brakes, deluxe range/ovens, enlarged galleys, and power roof vents.

Kit opened a new RV manufacturing facility in Caldwell in 1995, about three miles from the plant producing manufactured homes and the Road Ranger and Companion RVs. This new plant, aimed at meeting demand in the Northwest and Canada, initially produced the 33-foot Sportsman fifth-wheeler but eventually was to manufacture all 21 models in the Sportsmaster line, ranging up from a 19-foot trailer selling for $8,000. About 2,800 Sportsmasters a year were being produced in McPherson at this time. Kit’s RV production reached 5,516 in 1995.

Kit’s sales rose by about 50 percent to $89.7 million in fiscal 1994, and its net income reached a record $1.9 million. Sales increased to $101.5 million in fiscal 1995, but net income was only $1.3 million due to new-production and plant expansions and consolidations, and the company lost $53,000 on manufactured housing. There was no long-term debt in January 1996. Pocapalia increased his stake in Kit from 30 to 46 percent in 1994, when Romeyn sold his 25-percent holding back to the company, which retired the shares.

Recreational vehicles accounted for 73 percent of Kit’s sales in 1995. They measured from 16 to 36 feet in length and provided sleeping accommodations for two to 10 people, with over 50 different floor plans offered. Components and accessories included name-brand appliances, radial tires, rubber roofs, and fiberglass insulation throughout. Interior features included an entertainment center with AM/FM cassette stereo, skylights in the bath and living areas, queen-size bed, microwave oven, and ducted air conditioning and heating system. Several models had slide-out features for interior expansion of the living room and master bedroom. Awnings were available and could be converted into an enclosed patio.

The company’s RV product lines included Sportsmaster, Road Ranger, Companion, and Patio Hauler. Retail prices ranged between $9,500 and $45,000. Some 239 independent dealers were distributing the company’s RVs throughout the United States, 32 in Canada, and five in Japan.

Kit’s Manufactured Housing Division was producing homes in 40 available floor plans ranging from 750 to over 2,500 square feet, towed by truck to locations where they were set up and connected to utilities. Retail prices, exclusive of land costs, ranged from $25,000 to $115,000. Distribution was through a network of approximately 50 dealers in nine western states.

Most models included walk-in closets, spacious open areas, and Roman tubs with special showers. The Sea Crest was the smallest. Sierra models were double- and triple-wide, with an array of styles and custom features. The spacious Kit Special home was offered in a popular double-section configuration. The Golden State line was described as outstanding value for individuals placing a premium on comfort and luxury. Designed specifically with subdivision application in mind, the Briercrest came ready to attach a site-built garage.

Kit, at the end of fiscal 1995, owned production facilities in McPherson and Caldwell, where it also owned a warehouse and leased a production facility. It also owned an idle plant in Chino, available for lease, and was leasing its executive and administrative offices in Long Beach.

Years built

1945-2008

Models

  • Camper – 11 ft
  • Sportsmaster – 11 ft
  • Model 10 – 13 ft
  • Companion – 16 ft
  • Royal Chataeu – 23 ft
  • Kamper – 12 ft
  • Chateau – 23 ft
  • Jetstream – 19.5 ft
  • Companion Stowaway – 16 ft
  • Companion 1500 – 15 ft
  • Companion 1700 – 17 ft

Interiors

Ash paneling and cabinets (Golden State)

Standard Features

Pictures

1965 Kit Companion
1947 Kit Teardrop
1946 KIT Manufacturing Teardrop Trailer
1947 Kit Manufacturing teardrop camper trailer

Some owners

Drew and alicia keller coeur d alene, id —drewkeller2010@hotmail.com— 1949 kit ten, 1967 15′ companion,

Kenskill

Kenskill

1946 to mid-70s

Kenskill Manufacturing Company – Burbank California

The origin of this company was back in 1946 in Burbank, California with ‘KenSkill Kustom Kamper’. Bill Kennedy made about 200 ‘teardrop’ trailers by hand during the Summers of 1946 and 1947…… This ‘modern teardrop trailer’ design is the footprint for almost every modern 10 ft. teardrop manufactured today!….. These teardrop trailers were sold in 1946 – 1947 – 1948 and then the company closed doors. Jim Brunskill was the ‘money man’ and went on to form a second company – ‘Kenskill Trailers’…… It is interesting to note that ‘KenSkill’ is a combination of the names of these two men……. It is also interesting that while Jim Brunskill went on to be inducted into the RV Heritage Museum ‘Hall of Fame’……… Bill Kennedy became another forgotten footnote in the vintage history books!

Kenskill trailers were manufactured from 1946 to some time in the late 60’s or early 70’s. The earliest picture I have seen is a 9ft 1948 trailer made to stand up in. For some time period, Kenskill also made teardrop trailers. The logo on the teardrop is different from the stand-up trailers but is identical to that on the company buildings. Magazine ads from the mid 50’s on do not include anything on teardrop trailers.
In 1946 Kenskill made 18 trailers, by 1959 Kenskill celebrated 15,000 trailers.

Jim Brunskill was founder and President of the company and Jerry Weiss was Executive VP. Mr. Weiss also owned the River Queen Resort in Bullhead City AZ.

In 1965 Kenskill was sold to Redman Industries. Brunskill & Weiss went on to form Executive Industries which made motorhomes.

History

Originally located at 126 W. Alameda, Burbank, CA, Kenskill Corp moved to 11321 Goss Street, Sun Valley, Califorina.
Kenskill. formed in 1955, had one of the larger “clubs” after Wally Byam’s Airstream clubs. Kenskill Caravans had many members and they traveled to sites throughout the Western US. At one time there were over 200 member with 90% being Kenskill owners. Other brands were allowed at the start of the club. Club members had a habit of wearing the same kind of clothes during a caravan, some were on the ugly side of things. Remember this was the era of his and her bowling shirts.

Years built

1946 to the mid 70’s

Models

The oldest model pictured is a 1948 nine foot model but they also made teardrop trailers for a few years. Some of the teardrops have been restored and are still being used.
Going by restored models, the most popular teardrop (maybe the only model) was the Kenskill Kamper.
By 1955 Kenskill was making 17-19-22 and 27 foot models. In 1956 some models also included an optional version called The Toilet, apparently indoor facilities were added to these models. The standard model was advertised as sleeping 5-6 but The Toilet model slept only 3.
In 1960 the “X” model was introduced to add sleeping space; it was called the “duplex” in later years. (See picture section).

Vintage Kenskill Trailer Models

Standard Features

According to some restoration professionals, Kenskills were among the best built of trailers from the Canned Ham era

Prices

1955: Model 15 (12ft) $895, Model 17 (14.2ft body) $1495. Model 19 (16.6 ft) $1995, Model 22(19.6) $2295, Model 27 (19.9) $2995
1956 Prices jumped Model 176 (15ft body) $1657, 186 (16.6) $2095, 206 (18ft) $2395, 236 (18 ft) $2395, 276 (25 ft) $3345, 316 (29 ft) $3695

Other Information

Although not as famous at the trailer used by Lucy & Desi, there was a Kenskill featured in an “early nuclear attack” Movie, Panic In The Year Zero, directed by and starring Ray Milland. It was initially released as “End Of The World” but is still available on Amazon as “Panic In The Year Zero.” Not a super movie but it does have an edge that most atomic exploitation movies did not.

A Kenskill is also featured in another movie “This Woman Is Dangerous “ 1952, Joan Crawford, Dennis Morgan & David Brian (Warner Bros) Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Woman_Is_Dangerous
The Kenskill is prominent in film goofs listed at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045232/goofs

Pictures

1947 Kenskill Teardrop Trailer

 

The oldest available Kenskill photo, 1948 9 foot
1948 ad for Kenskill Sports Rover
Ad for the 1960 X-model, later called the Duplex and a work in progress 1960 Kenskill 15.5 ft
Here is the same 15.5 ft Kenskill after it has been re-skinned by Larry Hill of Retro Restorations in Albuquerque, NM in Aug 2007
See more of the re-skinning process at http://tinyurl.com/2mxbay
This is the updated interior of the 15.5 Kenskill and it has a very popular curtain pattern:-D. (See down the page). Martini Lounge pattern of Boomerang Beat by Robert Kaufman fabrics, www.fabricdepot.com.
New Floor Tiles
1967 Kenskill 18ft
1969 19 ft. Owners Susan & Art Moore
Restored by Craig & Jill McCormick email: craig@azcraig.us
See more pictures of this restoration at http://www.azcraig.us/Kenskill_Restoration.html
Ad for 1962 Kenskills (no more louvered front windows.) One of these was used in “Panic In The Year Zero” movie pictured above.

1966 Kenskill 17 1/2 ft trailer
Jerry and Carolyn Tucker
Tualatin, Oregon

1958 KENSKILL STEVE&PEGGY LOY CLOVIS CA

 

Some owners

The new Kenskill group on Yahoo http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/kenskill_karavan/

Chipper and Kelly Bell
1956 Kenskill 16.4 Ventura CA.

Dennis Broderick
1960 Kenskill 15.5ft Lawndale, CA
dmb@duffyscavern.org

Guy and Marti Stallknecht
1967 Kenskill 18 ft.
Chandler, AZ

Keith Tucker
1950 Kenskill 10 1/2 ft
Sport Rover Model 9
Carson, CA
(Keith, can you contact Dennis above? I would like to see your trailer)

Erick and Tracie Swanson
1968 Kenskill 19 ft.
Spokane, WA
tracieswanson@hotmail.com

Sean Herzig
1958 Kencraft 14ft.
Goleta,Ca.
seanherzig@yahoo.com

Ray Kern 1960 Kenskill 1550 Grand Prairie, TX nrekr@sbcglobal.net

Roly Nelson 1964 Kenskill, 13ft (w/eyebrow) Wildomar, CA Rolynel@aol.com

Ed and Les 1963 Kenskill 16ft. Simi Valley, CA

Mick and Mary Gaworecki 1966 Kenskill 19ft. Nashville, TN LiLRedmg@aol.com

Roy and Rebecca Pemberton 3811 cr 1508 Jacksonville,TX 1965 Kenskill, 18 ft. Texaswelder2hot@aol.com

Michael and Carmen Akers 1964 Kenskill 20-S Sacramento, CA michaelakers@rocketmail.com

Garrett and Abigail Davis 1965 Kenskill 23 Knoxville, TN Abrodrick95@gmail.com Would love to connect with some other owners! Send me an email!

Kenskill Owner’s Database Wee K and the results data-clipart.jpg

http://www.engine-decals.com Two colors of Kenskill decals available, also do special orders.

Kenskill model list here.

Yahoo Kenskill Karavan group

Tralette

Tralette

Manufacturer Information

Tralette, also known as a Peninsular, circa 1935. Very unique antique travel trailer. Built between 1932 to 1936. Designed to expand truck space and as a sleeper. It has vent swing outs front and rear, a spare tire well inside the rear door, cast iron radial member frame with single cast iron wheel well in the center. Optionally, they had a tent that draped over the opened rear door and a wood floor extension to facilitate two sleepers. All body panels were stamped. It trailers very well. It was a competitor to the Mullins clamshell trailer at twice the price.

Several years ago, I came across a brochure for Tralette trailers. It piqued my interest, and in the fall of 2007 I pitched the idea of researching and writing a column about some of the interesting old pieces of advertising I’ve discovered for The Antique Motorcycle magazine. This glossy publication is essentially the newsletter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, and the column became Pulp Non-Fiction, and I’ve penned more than 50 of them.

However, the research team at American Pickers came across my work regarding the Tralette, as Mike and Frank discovered a single-wheel Tralette trailer. Happily, I was able to provide scans of the brochure — some of which were recently seen on an episode of American Pickers.

Here’s the original text of my first column for The Antique Motorcycle, plus the brochure scans for anyone else interested in Tralette.

Tralette Cycle Car

With the increasing interest in motorcycles at the turn of the last century, many ingenious solutions were arrived at to help make a two-wheeler more utilitarian. Sidecars, for example, allowed owners of these less expensive modes of transportation the ability to move either family or gear.

Trailers, too, help increase the carrying capacity of a motorcycle, and the unit offered by the Tralette Division of the Penninsular Metal Products Co. of Detroit, Michigan, is an interesting example.

Years built

1932-1936

Pictures

Vintage Advertising Brochure for “Perma D’ Trailette” A Utility Trailer
(This is an Allstate Frame with a Tralette body.) – sending 6 pictures of a tralette trailer we have had for 15+yrs. Any info on what we have would be appreciated. We have also have the license plate bracket and complete tail lite and the T handle which is not in the pictures.

Found this on Ebay: Rare 1934 “Tralette” Single wheel trailer MFG: Peninsular Motors, Detroit MI – Item Specifics Condition: 1934 Single wheel trailer: Tralette camping trailer Peninsular Motors. This trailer is so rare that there is not much information available on the internet. Check out these pictures of the one that I am offering. I have restored the chassis, floor, wheel and all moving parts. It is 100% functional. I have elected to not paint it as the body will need to be restored by a professional. The body has obvious advanced rust but is still very thick and will restore nicely.

Found this on E-bay:You are viewing a very rare one wheel 1936 PeninsularTralette camp trailer that sleeps two. It is one of only two known. It weighs approximately 275 lbs. but carries 750-+. It is currently in a museum so the exact length is not immediately available. It does have a pull out bed that makes it over 7’+-. The back opens up wide to allow the extension pull out. It has brass vent doors, water proof and dust proof, stands alone, tows excellent, leans the way of the towing vehicle. Backing up is a breeze – it goes the way of the car. The MOTORIST AMAZED AT NEW ONE WHEEL ad I believe you can enlarge and read, but as it states, it has beautiful lines and finish and harmonizes with finest streamlined cars. Attractively styled, has smoth running balance ‘unknown in ordinary tailers’. Locks, stands alone, 61 cubic feet inside space. Carries luggage, duffle, merchandise – This is ideal for any antique, classic, Hot, Street, Rat Rod owner to go on those longer tours and have lots of fun. It’s a wonderful addition to any collection of fine automobiles! The Peninsular is small enough that it can be carried in the back of a pick up. The trim you see in the picture is stamped in the metal and highlighted with black paint. The ad in the picture is from the May, 1936 issue of Colliers Magazine. The trailer was built in 1936 by the Peninsular Metal Products Corporation of Detroit, Michigan.

Found this on E-bay: Antique 1 wheel trailer very rare. Antique 1 wheel trailer very rare. This is a one wheeled trailer built in Detroit in the mid 1930’s. This has a stamped steel body with a cast frame. The one wheel is on a swing arm with semi elliptic springs. I have heard of one other in a museum but have not but have not been able to verify. I bought this in 1985 in Topinabee and was told it belonged to Brace Beamer of Lone Ranger fame. It came from the Silver Beach Resort that he owned. The literature proves it’s authenticity. The fountain is on Bell Isle. I used it behind a street rod in the 90’s. If anyone contacts me with verified knowledge of another one I will share the info. Reproducing this may be a good business idea. Because of the uniqueness I will not give a buy it now price.