Homemade RVs: The Future Of RVing?

driving-old-motorhome-by-David-Clow-Maryland.jpg Every day, the news reiterates a doom and gloom picture of our current (and quite possibly our future) economic situation.

Credit has dried up and Americans have discovered that many of the luxuries and excessive habits they have enjoyed in the past are no longer an option.

Does this bleak forecast indicate the death of the RV lifestyle? Will the recreational vehicle industry disappear?

I really don’t think so. It may go through some dramatic changes, there may be some downsizing, and quite possibly some manufacturers will fall by the wayside, but if you ask me RVing will survive.

Yes, the drooping economy has already started to take its toll at the RV dealership level. With organizations such as Beaudry RV in Tucson filing for bankruptcy protection, the domino effect may already be in motion.

Let’s explore some RV trends, which may give us a glimpse at the future of RVing...

First, let’s go back in time.


Homemade RVs

RVing has been around since Henry Ford and his buddies Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison decided they enjoyed camping out together.

Many people of that era built homemade RVs and hit the road. Some to enjoy the countryside; others to follow the westward migration that continued through the dust bowl years.

Many families in the 50’s and 60’s enjoyed family camping.

My family was among those who spent many weekends at remote campsites roasting marshmallows on a stick over the campfire. Our entertainment budget was pretty meager, so how did this modest family of 7 manage a comfortable motorhome well before Winnebagos were being built by the hundreds? We built our own.

My father purchased a retired ’55 Ford school bus, and over a period of a year or so, he converted it into a very comfortable well-appointed motorhome that served the family well for the next 15 years.

The RV Is In The Eye of The Beholder

studebaker-car-made-into-rv-by-Corvair-owner.jpgWhat it comes down to is this… owning a motorhome doesn’t mean you absolutely must spend upwards of $100,000 for an entry-level model.

It doesn’t mean you absolutely must mortgage your future for the next 15 to 20 years either.

Nor does it mean you’re forced to stay home simply because you’re not fortunate enough to have the disposable income required to take up the RV lifestyle.

You have a number of affordable options available to you.

Yes, many will look seriously at the used RV market — because it’s a buyer’s market for the foreseeable future. This would definitely be the time to swing a good deal on an RV, that’s for sure.

For others, the idea of building their own RV from scratch sounds like an enjoyable project that could provide a cost-effective way to get into the RV lifestyle while giving them the opportunity to express their artistic and craftsman abilities.


homemade-rv-motorhome-by-iMorpheus.jpgHomemade RVs

The interesting point is there is no set standard as to what can be used for the base for your RV project.

Everything from large logging trucks, recycled fire trucks, old bread delivery trucks, school buses — even the standard white cargo van — have been and will continue to be transformed into rolling homes, cabins, or personal domains.

Anything that can be conceived from the imagination of the owner who wants to create his own abode can be built to suit one’s own desires and serve as shelter from the elements.

house-pickup-truck-by-Dru-Bloomfield-At-Home-in-Scottsdale.jpg Throughout the last century, many have constructed their own rolling home — some better than others, but nonetheless they all make a statement about their creator.

With the economy floundering and millions losing their jobs, a mobile lifestyle may enjoy a resurgence in popularity, as many are forced to look elsewhere for work and alternative ways to make a living.

Not all of them will have a huge bank roll to accomplish this lifestyle change. Many will do it the best way they know how. Homegrown RVs are simply an option that may become more popular in the near future.

I’d be interested to hear what you think…

Curtis Carper

Curtis Carper

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs -- including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you've got a good idea of who I am.

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Fun From Around the Web

  • Bill

    I like your way of thinking,sure would like to see your rig.

  • Bill

    I like your way of thinking,sure would like to see your rig.

  • Cribcat

    Would like to see more interest in converting and restoring buses and R.V.’s. I’m starting with my ’73 Chevy bus and have no reference to turn to. The hardest part is getting insurance for a not yet converted bus. The state makes you go with commercial insurance??? I did not know that. Nine hundred dollars later… And s this article implies the economic downturn did have a huge effect on me.

    • Curtis

      cribcat, Some states are more lenient about what is an RV. By setting a couch, a porta-poti, and a coleman stove inside the bus some states will allow you to register it as an RV. Doesn’t hurt to ask them. I haven’t built out a bus, but maybe this link to my van build will give you some ideas. http://www.stealthvandweller.com/

  • Richard Thuillier

    I built my RV in a Grumman van, Cummins diesel and automatic transmission allows me to go on some pretty rough gravel roads.


  • Bill

    i found a 1990 rv with a chevy van front end. i got it extremely cheap because the inside was discusting. the cabinets were ruined by mouse urine which also runined the floor and many other things.i spent two full days striping out the interior completely and burning in in my fire pit. i even had to replace the whole roof. i decided to restore it m,y way. i wanted to feel like i was in my living room rather than a camper. and i am succeeding ever so slowly. the drive train and body were in very good condition with low miledge.and a nice generator. it used to sleep 6. now it sleeps only 2 for my own selfish reasons.

  • Bill

    im told that i can add photos by clicking the paper clip at the bottom of any comment box, there is no paperclip, what now?

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      Bill – the only way to show photos here is to include a link to a URL showing where your photos currently exist online. That means you need to upload them to a 3rd party site (like photobucket) or your own blog first, then include that URL here in the comments.

      • Bill


  • Bill

    photos of my progress can be seen on may facebook page

  • JeremyTCM

    Im currently building an RV out of a 1992 Grumman Olson bread truck!!

    • Jottoh

      Jeremy, I am converting a 1982 Grumman bread truck. Are you going simple or is the interior gunna rival a monaco coach when done? I have been living in an assortment of RV’s vans and busses since 1991 and love it.

      • Curtis

        Jottoh, Lets say my skill level is similar to bottom dollar RV over a top of the line Monaco coach. I do the best I can but the results are along the lines of simple, neat but finished. I’m not into expose 2×4 construction. Paint and trim hides a multitude of errors.

  • Jottoh

    Doc, Do you find it best to live with understanding friends and relatives or do you move around constantly doing the rest stop/walmart thing? I have been living in buses, motorhomes and vans on farms my friends own and love it yet…I stay in freeway rest stops on long hauls. I had planned to stealth-stay in business parks since my current rig is an old wonder bread truck and blends right in but am nervous about the security services chasing me away.