By Mercedes Streeter—When the subject of vintage RVs come up a lot of people will think of greats like the GMC Motorhome, an Airstream, or perhaps a classic Winnebago. There’s another gorgeous unit worth considering and remembering: the Travco/Dodge Motor Home.
Raymond C. Frank helped usher in a new era for RVs.
This Class A RV is a streamlined work of art designed by the man who brought the term motorhome into the modern vernacular.
The Travco’s story dates back to 1958, when the owner of a trailer manufacturing company, Raymond C. Frank, came up with an idea to take his family to Florida. While there were travel trailers, truck chassis RVs and all sorts of “house cars” back then, Frank wanted to build his own take on what we know as a Class A motorhome today. And his would redefine the industry.
Frank’s first camper build strayed from the norm of the era, Tin Can Tourists notes. It wasn’t just a trailer grafted onto the back of a truck and it wasn’t an ungainly house car. This vehicle was purpose-built to be a recreational vehicle. The one example built was called the Frank Motor Home.
Frank took his Motor Home on the road, enjoying it for the very purpose that he built it for. Along the way, the RV proved to be popular with people lining up to get their own. But of course, it was the only one out there. Soon, Frank decided to put his Motor Home into production. He was able to make six units in 1960 from his trailer manufacturing business, but Frank soon looked for outside help.
To make this a reality, Tin Can Tourists notes, Frank tried to partner up with Chrysler for a chassis and drivetrain. Chrysler pointed him to a Dodge truck dealer run by Lloyd Bridges. In a deal penned between the two, Bridges would provide the bare truck chassis and also become one of Frank’s first dealerships. And in 1961, 131 Dodge Frank Motor Homes hit the road.
These first units were blocky aluminum and stayed that way until 1963, when Frank and his son would give the design an overhaul. In 1964, the Travco Corporation took over control from the Frank Motor Home Corporation, creating what was advertised back then as the Travco/Dodge Motor Home.
The white and green RV featured here is a 1975 Travco/Dodge Motor Home was recently sold on Craig’s List.
Power originally came from a Dodge 5.2-liter polysphere V8. This was advertised as making 202 HP with it delivered to the rear wheels via a three-speed automatic. Newer Travcos like the one shown above got a 7.2-liter V8 with 225 HP.
These are more than just a fiberglass body dropped onto a Dodge M300 chassis. Inside, your Travco/Dodge Motor Home had a sofa that converted into a bunk bed. The windshield had a curtain for privacy and the RV even had a sewage incinerator system. Why dump your sewage tanks when you can just burn the crap?
Travco — later incorporating as PRF Industries — saw more than just a recreational market for these vehicles, too. A few motorhomes ended up in commercial use as mobile banks, radio stations and promotional vehicles.
PRF Industries ran into roadblocks in the 1970s as the oil crisis hit. 1979 was the end of the M300 chassis, meaning that PRF no longer had something for the Travco/Dodge Motor Home to ride on. In the same year PRF sold Travco to Foretravel, who kept the body around until 1990. In all of that time, the RV’s exterior design stayed largely the same, with Travco giving it updates largely in the form of new front facias. Inside, there were floorplans that offered a palace for two and all of the way up to basically a bus for ten.
As for Frank, he went on to develop Xplorer Class B van campers. But his legacy is more. With his Motor Homes the house car became a thing of the past. In its place was the motorhome, and it helped spark advancement in how RVs are built that lasts to this day.
(Source: Jalopnik. No copyright infringement intended.)