By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Among RVers there are plenty of history buffs. How many of us have it on our list to tour the RV Hall of Fame Museum, gawking at all those early house cars and trailers. For those with the real itch – and enough money – there’s an opportunity to buy a rare piece of RV history. Imagine owning one of the last two known-to-exist 1921 Lampsteed Kampkars.
“Back in the day,” meaning drop back to about 1920, if you owned a Model T Ford, you could order yourself a kit by mail that would turn that old “T” into a unit fit for taking you out to an appreciation of the great outdoors. “The Lampsteed Kampkar Body, complete with full equipment and ready to mount on a standard model “T” Ford Chassis, costs only $535.00 including war tax.” Shipped by train, the kit arrived knocked-down and ready to add onto your Ford. While pretty primitive when compared to today’s “whistles and bells” RVs, taking inflation into account, you’d spend $6,700 today.
After you picked up your kit at the local Ford dealer, what would you get? A very much forest green unit. Mounted on your “T”, behind the driver and passenger seat area, were fold-down Pullman bunks, each a generous 42″ wide. When not in use, the beds folded up into bench seats, perhaps like the so-called jackknife sofas of modern RVs. These ran the length of the model T, giving more room for passengers, or for a spot to settle in when in camp.
The production of the Kampkar has its own interesting twist. “When you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all,” the famous slogan of the Anheuser-Busch brewing empire, isn’t “all” that the brewing company made. In the early part of the 20th century, the brewing company also flirted with building vehicles, mostly commercial truck bodies. But along came Sam Lambert who designed the Lampsteed Kampkar. Busch picked up the production of the Kampcar. Anheuser-Busch promoted the Kampcar as the ideal getaway vehicle for the Average Joe. One sales brochure read this way:
“Make this the kind of a vacation you’ve always dreamed about – enjoy the splendor of Yellowstone, the majesty of the Grand Canyon, visit balmy Palm Beach or the great North Woods. Go anywhere you wish – on your own schedule, over your own railroad system in your own private car, stopping at your own hotel, eating your own cooking at your own table – all in great comfort and at a price you can easily afford.”
We weren’t able to track down statistics on how many of these amazing green campers were built and sold. But today, it’s said that there are only two known to exist. One is in the National Automobile Museum (The Harrah Collection) in Reno, Nevada. The other was until recently in a museum in Texas, the Kampkar owned by RV historian David Woodworth. Woodworth has put the rig up for sale – and you, too, for the right price, could own a piece of genuine RV history. Interested? Contact David Woodworth at [email protected]