House Trucks from the Early 1970s

Rolling homes go back almost as far as rolling vehicles and the modern era of motor driven cars is not an exception.  If you have followed this blog at all you may have seen some great contraptions, especially from the 1920s and 30s.  The counter-culture of the 1960s lead to a generation of rolling home builders and dwellers ready to hit the road.


Photographer Paul Herzoff took a series of photos of some of the interesting, home-built, house trucks between 1971 and 1973 on the American West Coast. Many of these images are now housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Since I save a LOT of reference images, I sometimes forget what is even there.  I picked a few from my files to share here since they gave me many ideas since I first encountered them many years ago.


Paul Byrd’s Old West-themed truck is among my favorites and has a lot of charm in the details. I hope it survives somewhere today.


This thing looks like a mid-century sheep wagon mated with and early Airstream (its descendant) and gave birth to a little COE camper. The giant drop down porch looks like a precursor of a modern day Toy Hauler camper.


The interior of Bob’s Bus. It appears to have a lot of great storage space and utilizes a loft for added room.  You have to love the plants as well.


This one is called “Cab, Craftsman’s Van.” Again, I just love the homeyness of the plants on board.


Not much information about this other than the title “David.” It is a very utilitarian door that appears to be made from a recycled packing crate and a re-purposed window. I wouldn’t put a hasp on the outside unless it could be locked in the open position. I think there would be too much chance of mischief.


Here’s another pragmatic interior with a guy named George. Small bed, maybe it folded out?


Here’s another bus interior decorated with recycled cloth. Very Bohemian.


Craig’s house truck really speaks to me. It has a great form with the compound curve of the roof and a mollycroft. You’ll notice the water barrel on top and the ever important stove pipe poking up.

Craig Inside

Another view of Craig’s home. Not only does it have a mollycroft, but it has a sunroof as well.


Here’s a pragmatic plywood beauty. Maybe not very aerodynamic but it sure looks spacious.


And finally, probably my favorite from the set. I suspect it is ridiculously heavy but I think this truck can handle it. There are a lot fine details to note with this one.

If you are preparing to build a rolling home, there has never been a better time to find pertinent examples to learn from on the web.  Enjoy the views.

Terrapin, a New Caravan Design From Casual Turtle

aThere’s a new edition to the fleet of designs coming from Peter Pavlowich at Casual Turtle Campers.  The unique, curved roof lines really make his work stand out in the crowd and I’m glad to see it again in his newest model.  For me, this design melds the aesthetics of the early motor caravans with modern tastes.

1-DSCN0332It’s a simple cabin design with a convertible table top bed setup that looks like it will work great for one or two people and answers all the basic needs of shelter on the go.

a.JPG_6I heard from Peter (the owner and builder of Casual Turtle) last week and I think he can describe it best:

“Hey George-I thought I’d pass along a few shots of a recent build.  This one was for a gentleman here in Colorado – the model I call the Terrapin.  We went with a pretty full interior arrangement on this one.  He opted for no painted surfaces (which I usually do), so we incorporated several different species on the cabin’s interior – oak, birch, cedar, and beetle-killed ponderosa pine – so it wasn’t a one-tone wood overload.   It weighed in at 1,300 lbs, max headroom around 5’9″, and it goes down the highway just great.”

eIt’s compact, lightweight, and is filled with windows to enjoy the great outdoors in any weather.  It would be great to see this after the new owner settles in, decorates it to his personal taste, and gives it a “lived-in” look after a few thousand miles.


“Casual Turtle Campers was founded on the belief that wood is good, small can be comfortable, and that there is still room for simplicity in this increasingly complex world. “

l k jI enjoy the simplicity of this design.  It reminds me a bit of the “canned ham” campers of the 1950s and is not overly complicated by cabinetry and appliances.  The wood exterior fits in with the natural world in a way that shiny, white aluminum could never do, making it seem more at home in the woods than in the RV park.  This would make a perfect base camp for hunting, fishing, or just gazing at the mountains.

oHere’s a little about Peter and his company from his web page:

“The idea for Casual Turtle Campers was conceived by Peter Pavlowich in the summer of 2010. On a road trip to Colorado, he noticed an abundance of truck campers but a profound lack of variety or style.  As a Wood Construction and Design graduate from the University of Idaho, he believed he could design and build a simple and attractive alternative to the big, heavy, white boxes that he seemed to see everywhere. Over the next few years, Peter slowly and methodically brought together ideas and drew up plans for what would eventually become the designs for Casual Turtle Campers.

He very happily lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife, Lindsey, and their dog/shop foreman, Moxie.  We love when people stop by – just get in touch!”

Have a look at this and his other work by clicking the link below. Tell him I sent you!  It’s not really worth anything but tell him anyway.  GTC.



“I had to go alone…a kind of casual turtle carrying his house on his back.” -John Steinbeck, from Travels With Charley.

Vardo – Topper Makeover

Because there’s always room for improvement.  In my case, a lot of improvement. snail2
Rehung siding, new paint, fresh varnish, little fixes, and lots of cleaning.  We’re hooked up to get out of town for a bit.

snail1Dietz lanterns, Kelly kettle, fuel, and lamp oil packed away in the pan box.  The steel disk serves as a heat shield to minimize ground scarring under the fire.

snail8A view from the bed.  Still more to pack up but things are looking good and nearly ready to go.

snail7The new windows are great and really perk the place up.  Bright and airy makes for a pleasant space.

snail3Still, the little Snail is far from perfect; made on a shoestring budget during snatches of time between work and bad weather.  Although I don’t live in it full-time currently I have come to see this as my home.

Jed and Hilary’s Power Wagon Vardo

As unveiled at Winter Count 2014 near Maricopa, Arizona.

DSCN4000This classic kite shaped beauty is built into the bed of an old Dodge Power Wagon.  Like all projects of this nature, she’s a work in progress but is already and awe-inspiring thing of beauty.

DSCN4001The layout is a traditional elevated cross-bed with a kitchen down one side with additional storage and seating down the other.  A clever table is concealed under the counter and pulls out to be utilized from side-by-side seating.

DSCN4002The tail gate porch is an excellent addition to the space.

DSCN4003 DSCN4004Best of luck to both Jed and Hilary in their future adventures.

The Conklin House Bus

15conklin_gypsy-vanRoland and Mary Conklin of Huntington, N.Y., made house-car travel a family experience. Their bus factory built the Gypsy Van, shown above, and in the summer of 1915, the Conklin family set out to see America.

Photo & caption courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution,
the Huntington Historical Society (New York),
and Home on the Road: The Motor Home in America,
a book by Roger White

Found at

Semi-Bowtop for Sale…

…and Some Other Nice Work

Daphne at Daphne’s Caravans has been busy this summer and appears to have another beautiful wagon nearly ready to sell.  Her description is “all cedar, with a roof like a cedar strip canoe.  7′ long, 6′ wide at the ledge, and 6′ high in the centre.”  I presume the roof will be epoxied over glass or there will be a covering over the entire thing.  If you’ve wanted your very own mini caravan but don’t have the time, tools, or inclination, this might be one for you.

Below is another creation of hers from earlier this summer.  Click the photo to see more at her website.

House Trucks Again

My appreciation for house trucks has grown immensely over the years.  It’s not easy building a structure that is both light, strong, and wind-resistant.  Caravans, house trucks, and RVs have to undergo the rigors of hurricane weather every time they hit the road and still be light enough to be pulled.  If you are willing to get RV-type mileage from your vehicle  you can convert an older RV, large truck, fire engine, or bus into a fine living platform.  Starting from a link on Lloyd’ Blog I began looking at some very cool house truck conversions.  These have been around all my life and I’m surprised I haven’t started one yet.

These Bedford Fire Engines make beautiful platforms.

The trucks below were featured on the Tiny House Talk web page.

I wouldn’t want to drive these in high winds but the interior spaces are great.  Visit his Flikr page to see more interesting work.  They look very practical and I appreciate the low-maintenance exteriors.

And finally, one of the most beautiful art car builds I have ever seen… The Decoliner.  While on his website, its worth looking at his other projects as well, especiall the 1800 cubic inch, 1000 h.p. tank motor turned art/race car.

Take the chassis from an old RV, add a classic truck cab and a lot of beautiful design work and this is what can happen.  This is my new dream car.  Time to peruse Craig’s List to start looking for a chassis.