The history of the camper van


A new and different way of thinking about the trip: free from obligations, reservations and timetables. This is the essence and the meaning of the fascinating open air tourism, constantly growing in our country and that, in recent times, has always attracted the most attention from the press. Symbol of a slow holiday, connected to the territory more than any other vehicle, the camper van is for fans a real lifestyle, an approach to the trip that, in the Belpaese involves 5.6 million of tourists a year. But when and how it originated, what is its history? Let’s jump back in time!

Modern dictionaries define the caravan as a “vehicle equipped with accommodation” or even “recreational vehicle equipped for camping during the trip.” Actually, however, the first caravans were used for practical purposes rather than recreation, such as providing shelter and accommodation to people who travelled, artists in search of an audience, artisans in search of distant customers or simply wanderers in search of a new home. Around 1810 in Europe were built wagons for the transport of people and goods in which it was also possible to stay, used in England since 1820 mostly by street and circus artists. The first who began to live in caravans (vardos), from 1850, were gypsies.

The ancestor of the camper van is the trailer, whose invention dates back to 1885 in England, due to Gordon Stables that, through a company specialized in railway constructions (couches), he made build a caravan of six seats pulled by horses. Inside the cab there was a kitchen, a table and a sofa bed. But we have to wait to 1920 to see the first campers made in motor vehicles, handcrafted means of transportation designed for wealthy clients.

In 1921 the American company Campingcar, based on the car models of Ford, created what is considered the first example of camper vans for tourist use, equipped with four beds and a table. After the World War different caravans pulled by machines began to circulate, while the camper was still a vehicle for a few people, quite a rarity, and by the 1950s it was common to see vans fitted out by campers, although quite spartan in the interior fittings. The best known example of a van adapted to a camper is the Bedford.

If you ask to a very experienced camper what is the vehicle that marked the history of the camper van in the world, he will answer without hesitation the Westphalia. The German company, in fact, since 1951 began to develop his own motorhome model able to overcome in time the trends of different eras. Transforming a small van produced by Volkswagen, he got a caravan with four beds, and from 1961 from the German factory it began to exit the first models produced in series.

In the same year, the Italian company Arca produced the model Noe, becoming from that moment a benchmark in the production of motorhomes in Italy. Today camper vans appear meticulously maintained both inside and outside, equipped with all comforts, like a house, designed for all weather situations and provided with a range of accessories that allow a large autonomy without the need for specific structures in places where it will stop.


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