50 years of MotorHome: Pages From the Past

Humble Beginnings The first issue of MotorHome Life featured a simple format and some now-retro fun, including this ad for a product offering owners an easy way to dump the motorhome’s holding tanks.
Humble Beginnings The first issue of MotorHome Life featured a simple format and some now-retro fun, including this ad for a product offering owners an easy way to dump the motorhome’s holding tanks.

Revisiting MotorHome’s inaugural issue

“It was only a couple of years ago that except for one-of-a-kind custom specials, mostly homemade, you could read through the entire roster of production motorhomes and housecars before a 3-minute egg was ready,” said Trailer Life publisher/editor extraordinaire Art Rouse, in the opening pages of his newly minted MotorHome Life magazine. It was 1968. In the Heat of the Night took home the Academy Award for best picture, the Detroit Tigers won the World Series and a gallon of gas was around 34 cents. But it would be Rouse’s realization that the motorhome industry was “growing like a weed” and “by far the boomingest part of the whole booming rec rig field” that proved to be more telling to his outlook of motorized RVs. Rouse, ever the savvy businessman and predictor of all things RV, had decided to branch out from his successful towable magazine “at the risk of my own survival,” because he viewed motorhomes as “the future.”

The result, of course, is the magazine you now hold in your hands, an impressive 50 years after it debuted as an annual publication. Reviewing the first issue now, with its listings of 88 models of motorhomes in a buyers guide format — plus features on motorhome testing, working from a motorhome, full-time living and overseas motorhome adventures, to name a few — it becomes obvious the passion for motorized RVs had existed for quite some time. But Rouse was the one with the foresight to gather it into a consumer-friendly package, and to fill its pages with some of the best minds in the industry. Rouse’s vision would become a bimonthly publication in 1971, merge with Camper Coachman and adopt its volume number in 1975 (hence the discrepancy in chronological age), streamline to the present title MotorHome in 1982 and finally achieve monthly status in 1983.

The 96 pages of that inaugural issue of MotorHome Life feature plenty of wit and whimsy, ahead-of-their-time technical features and a definite retro feel — not to mention some now-antiquated sensibilities (who really thought a scantily clad woman in a cowboy hat was necessary in an advertisement for portable toilets?). A few now-familiar faces also appear, as advertisements for Newell, Winnebago and Travel-Jon graced some of the pages. There had been nothing like MotorHome Life before its publication, and we hope that feeling of being on the cutting edge of something special continues to this day.

Please join us each month in 2018 as we celebrate the storied history of MotorHome, with a page each issue being dedicated to the magazine’s evolution over the years, plus other fun and nostalgic surprises here and there.

Rouse also stated in the debut issue that, “Having come so far so fast, the sky’s the limit for the next few years, and whatever estimates that are now made for the future can’t help but come out way short.” A half-century later, we can all agree he was on to something.


 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here