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RV/MH Hall of Fame, Museum & Library


RVs are displayed along a campground-style roadway in the museum | Larry Edsall photos
RVs are displayed along a campground-style roadway in the museum | Larry Edsall photos

Turns out classic cars, vintage motorcycles, wooden boats, historic aircraft and antique farm tractors aren’t the only vehicles people collect and restore. In northern Indiana, there’s an entire museum of recreation vehicles, from old pop-up campers to vehicles especially created for the likes of Mae West and Charles Lindbergh.

The RV/MH Hall of Fame, Museum & Library is located just off the Indiana toll road at the East Elkhart exit. That only makes sense since the Elkhart area is the heart of RV manufacturing in the United States.

Oh, the MH in RV/MH doesn’t stand for motor home but for manufactured housing, another big industry in northern Indiana, and just outside the museum is an example of a factory-produced home.

But the primary attraction are the historic recreational vehicles inside the large main building that houses not only the museum, but the hall of fame and an expansive research library as well as the Northern Indiana Event Center, which is large enough to entertain a thousand people at a social gathering or business conference.

Oh, again — and it’s not just RVs that are included in the museum’s display. There are several classic cars and trucks, from a Ford Model T pulling what is believed to be the world’s first travel trailer — the 1913 Earl — to a 1946 Studebaker Model M15A-28 dually hauling a 42-foot 1954 Spartan Imperial Mansion, a virtual apartment on wheels. There’s also a Pierce Arrow, perhaps the largest one ever produced.

These large GMC-built motorhomes, with air suspension and 455cid V8 engines, are popular restoration projects
These large GMC-built motorhomes, with air suspension and 455cid V8 engines, are popular restoration projects

Speaking of trucks, the rear fender and trim design on the 1955 Ranger crank-up tent trailer would look good on any pickup truck from that era.

The museum includes many “firsts,” — first Airstream, first Fleetwood, etc. It also displays a 1935 Bowlus Road Chief next to the 1939 Lindbergh travel trailer, which makes since: Before he started making trailers, Hawley Bowlus was the lead engineer on the Spirit of St. Louis that Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean. And speaking of Airstream, its founder, Wally Byam, was a Road Chief salesman.

But so much for the guys. Guess who’s leading the classic RV restoration hobby?

“You know who’s doing it?” RV/MH Heritage Foundation president Darryl Searer asked before answering the question. “It’s women who are restoring old trailers!”

Searer said that women — married or single — who want to travel, but may have a husband who would rather stay home in his man cave — are buying old motor homes and camping trailers and modernizing them and decking them out in design themes and are enjoying the company of their fellow “Glampers.” That’s Glampers as in “glamorous campers.”

Particularly popular among the Glampers are small vintage camping trailers but also huge units such as the 26-foot motorhomes designed by General Motors and built in the 1970s by its GMC Truck & Coach Division.

Photos by Larry Edsall

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
  1. I can rember seeing that Star Streak Motorhome in Yosemite in the very early *80s The older man driving it said He had built the coach him self I still have the pictures of the coach and the old man was so proud of it He gave Me a postcard with a picture of the coach on it .

  2. I actually own one of the few Airstream motorhomes produced in 1989. Yes, they were produced from 78 to 93, but because Airstream never kept records of which were motorhomes, and which were trailers, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly how many were produced. Also, I’ve heard at some point in the late 20th Century, Airstream had a fire at Ohio production facility.
    Anyhow, can’t wait to get to Elkhart in my Airstream one day soon, looks totally awesome!

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