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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Motorhome like an eggshell -- it's Ultra Van

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Imagine a motorhome traveling 16 miles on a gallon of gas. One that isn't built on a chassis, but rather, built like an eggshell – or an airplane – with aluminum ribs covered with aluminum. Visualize compound curves on the corners, formed with fiberglass. Yep, if you said, "Ultra Van" you struck it.

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Ultra Vans, the genius of an aircraft designer named David Peterson, who designed and produced these classy 22 foot motorhomes over the top of an Chevrolet Corvair engine and transaxle. Peterson's genius started running these limited edition rigs of the pdouction line in the early 1960's and on into 1970.

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All in all, there were less than 400 Ultra Vans produced, but strikingly, there are still over 100 of them on the road today. They're probably well-loved, and the mileage "clocks" on some run as many as 500,000 miles.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Car-top camper -- shades of the sixties

If you can reach back far enough in your memory, you might remember the golden age of the Penthouse Campers Association. The group got rolling after Edmonds Guerrant debuted his commercial "Camp'otel" car-top camper in 1961. Designed to attach to the gutter on the ubiquitous American automobile – the station wagon (remember them?) -- Camp'otels sold through the likes of Sears and Roebuck, Western Auto, and J.C. Penny stores.

The Camp'otel gave you more room than just sleeping in the back of the car, perhaps Mom and Dad got that honor, while the kids could sleep in the "tent" up topside. When on the road, the whole Maryanne folded down. What a great innovation! Sad to say, when the gas shortages of mid-70's rolled in, Guerrant folded up more than the Camp'otel – the company closed down. Adding to gas woes, rain gutters on cars went the way of the dodo bird.

Photo: Smithsonian Institute

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tow behind nearly anything -- it's the Scarab pop-up

While not designed for the year-around camper, there's a new production model "pop up" trailer that puts a whole new spin on the idea. Called the Scarab, it could be the dream of motorcycle riding RVers – or for those with SmartCars that want to tow a shelter with them.

ScarabRV is looking for financial support through crowd-funding for their new, 300 pound, tow-behind-nearly-anything pop-up trailer. Unlike conventional pop-ups, the Scarab doesn't require cranking up the roof, but rather, push a button on a remote control, and within a minute, the "tent" shelter inflates, ready to take occupants out of unwelcome weather.

The company wants to secure $350,000 in financing through crowd funding in just a month. If they're successful, they'll produce the Scarab, which according to a media release boasts these features: "The independent suspension, the extremely low weight and the finely tuned low center of gravity make the ScarabRV a pleasure to take along. The storage compartments provide plentiful capacity for sleeping bags, fishing gear, cook stoves and other conveniences. The front storage compartment is easily accessible for storage of drinks, weather gear and other items that you might want quick access to. Your tent automatically opens and closes at the touch of a remote button. Within 60 seconds, the wings open and the tent inflates, ready to shelter you from the elements. If you’ve ever been out on the plains on a late afternoon, or in a big sky country you know the value of finding quick shelter.

A range of contributions will get you anything from logo designed items, or even your own, personalized Scarab – for a mere $4,200 – a bit less than the expected retail price of $6,500.

Click here to visit the crowd-funding web site.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Slovakian group prototypes "tiny" dwelling -- RV to follow

Living small seems to be a buzzword these days. Small apartments. Tiny houses. Of course, RVers have been living small for decades, so getting more living into a smaller space is nothing new. At a time when tiny houses might be described as "quaint" a group of Slovakian architects are dreaming up a kind of tiny house that could never be described as anything but "techno." And they may turn the same concept into an unusual RV.

It's called Ecocapsule. Looks a wee bit like what some RVers call "Egg RVs," with those interesting rounded curves made famous by Bowler and others. But the team, Nice Architects, have gone farther, in an attempt to make a self-sustaining living space come to life. Slightly over 14 feet long and pushing eight feet wide, the rounded Ecocapsule is coated with solar cells, and with the addition of a 600 watt wind turbine to pump juice into its 800 amp-hour battery bank, the rig is said to reasonably support a couple. A clever rain-catching system draws both rain and dew from the rig and stores it in a basement-located fresh water tank, ready to pump back into the galley through a filter system.

Inside, a fold-down bed, a work area and dinette suitable for two. Storage space, "for all your sport or research equipment." The group touts their genius as  having "luxuries of a hotel room that are now also available in wilderness." Built-in kitchenette with running water, flushing toilet and hot shower are some of those "luxuries." At this stage of the production game, the group has produced a prototype for display, and says it will offer prices late this year for units to be built starting in 2016. By the following year they hope to have units available that are on their own wheels, read-that, 'recreational vehicle.'

What about prices? The group has cagily held up on listing a price until late this year. However, if you order one from Slovakia, paying whatever the price turns out to be, you can have it shipped to New York in a shipping container for an estimated $2,500.

More information on the website here.


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