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The beautiful mid-century RVs of the Tillitson Travel Coach Company

We had the pleasure of meeting up with Greg Tillitson at the Sacramento Auto Show. Sharing our vintage trailers with the public at shows and rallies often elicits stories of people’s pasts. Greg’s connection to the hobby was one of those moments that makes our hours at events worth it.

Greg’s grandfather, Montgomery Frank Tillitson, owned Tillitson Travel Coach Company, and manufactured travel coaches, in Florida from 1938 to 1940. Greg shared his family photos of the Tillitson Travel Coach Company with us. He was unsure what ultimately happened to the business but knows his grandfather, “Monty,” moved to Long Beach, CA. In 1942 he started another business called “Tillitson Music Co.,” which owned and maintained jukeboxes located in bars and restaurants.

Tillitson Travel Coach Company
Greg’s grandfather, Montgomery Frank Tillitson, owned and manufactured Tillitson Travel Coach in Florida from 1938 to 1940.

Design inspiration

This style of travel trailer was invented in about 1927 by Glenn Curtiss, a leading American aircraft designer. Curtiss felt that he could build a lightweight trailer but strong enough to travel over country roads using airplane principles. These trailers were built in Michigan by the Aerocar Company of Detroit. A new Aerocar would have sold for around $5,000 at a time when you could buy a new Ford car for less than $1,000. Consequently, a Tillitson trailer coach was not for the “trailer trash” budget.

Tillitson Travel Coach
A Tillitson trailer coach was not for the “trailer trash” budget.

Here to stay

The March 1939 Automobiles and Trailer Travel Magazine featured an article on the T.C.T. (Tin Can Tourists of the World) gathering in Tampa, FL. In the article, there is a caption that reads: “W.F. Tillitson smiles with satisfaction at the reception given his coaches at Tampa.” The following year, the April issue of the same magazine ran another article on the T.C.T gathering in February of 1940. They reported that 1,984 coaches participated in the annual event and mentioned that two new Tillitson Travel Coaches were on display. Additionally, brands like Anderson Coach, Travelo, Platt, Schult, New Moon, Badgers, Trotwood, Kozy Coach, and Silver Domes were also present. There were dozens of manufacturers on the landscape; undeniably the trailer travel was here to stay.

Tillitson Travel Coach Co.
1,984 coaches participated in the annual TCT event and mentioned that two new Tillitson Travel Coaches were on display.

Post-war prosperity

In the decade-and-a-half after World War II, the United States experienced phenomenal economic growth. The war brought the return of prosperity, and in the postwar period, the United States solidified its position as the world’s most prosperous country. More Americans considered themselves part of the “middle class.”

The automobile and travel trailer industries were partially responsible for this boom. The number of automobiles produced annually quadrupled between 1946 and 1955. A housing boom, stimulated in part by affordable mortgages for service members returning from duty, helped fuel the expansion. In the years immediately following WWII, approximately 8 percent of Americans lived in mobile housing. Americans were on the move. Auto and trailer courts, motor lodges, hotels, and trailer parks accommodated those on the move to improve their quality of living.

Tillitson Travel Coach and Car
The war brought the return of prosperity, and in the postwar period, the United States solidified its position as the world’s most prosperous country. More Americans now consider themselves part of the “middle class.”

Back to the future (of vintage trailers)

The post–World War II construction boom of travel trailers utilized war surplus aluminum. Airplane building techniques and natural wood interiors were widely used. The walls were framed with either wood, aluminum, or metal. Breadloaf–shaped trailers from the 1940s like Vagabonds and Westwoods; “canned hams” like Shastas, Aljos, and Terrys from the ’50s; and other brands built through the early ’60s captured the look and feel that we associate with a vintage camper trailer. By the late 1960s, the exterior styling of trailers became more square. The warm amber woodgrain interiors were replaced with lighter imitation wood or pickled white paneling. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, colors like avocado green and harvest gold replaced the earlier aqua blues and pinks.



Today’s rallies usually cut off “vintage” somewhere in the 1970s. With the high demand and limited space at many vintage trailer rallies, the host typically establishes a year of manufacture date for your trailer to attend the event. To create a “Vintage Village” atmosphere, you don’t want a bunch of modern trailers among the vintage units.

Tillitson Trailers
The post–World War II construction boom of travel trailers utilized war surplus aluminum and airplane building techniques and natural wood interiors.

More Tillitson travel coaches

The Tillitson Travel Coaches were featured in issue #41 of the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine. We also have all of the photos that we received from Greg posted on our website. If you would like to attend an open house at a rally near you, check out our events website.

More by Paul

The Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine
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About the Author: Paul Lacitinola and his wife, Caroline, have published the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine for ten years. The Lacitinolas also host The Trailerfest Vintage Trailer Rallies and the VCT Boot Camp Restoration Learning Experience. They have authored two books on vintage trailering and are advocates for the hobby from coast to coast.

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Dawn
12 days ago

Really? Trailer trash? So anyone who couldn’t or can’t afford an expensive RV is considered trailer trash? Wow 😮😳! This will be the only comment I make here because this tt is out of here

Janet
19 days ago

Wow! Such a gorgeous coach. We toured the Motorhome Museum and Hall of Fame a few years ago and were astounded by the beauty of the trailers and motorhomes we saw there. We had to sell our motorhome a few years ago because of my husband’s increasing mobility issue and miss the experiences we had. I had never heard the term Tin Can Tourist before and love it. I’m proud to have been one.

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