How did an inventor become preoccupied with designing a split-level travel trailer? The answer lies in part with his seven cats.
Itty Atcravi – his first name rhymes with kitty – said he had been fascinated with motorhomes and other RVs since his childhood in Thailand.
“My brother and I used to draw pictures of them all the time,” said Atcravi, who immigrated to the U.S. 27 years ago at the age of 21. He spoke recently with the New York Times.
He says he doesn’t remember how he first heard of motorhomes or travel trailers, because they were not common in Thailand during the 1960’s – or even now.
Atcravi recently received U.S. patent 6,729,678 for a fifth-wheel travel trailer with three separate, full-size bedrooms. In the RV world, this is a monumental feat. The biggest motorhomes on the market, 45 feet long, usually have only two full bedrooms; Atcravi says he has done this on a modest-sized 34-foot trailer. A perky animation on his website, www.atcrv.com, choreographed to the theme song of Mission: Impossible, demonstrates how the sections pop up or slide out once the trailer has been parked.
He says his main innovations are a retractable sofa and a pull-down mattress that cantilevers off the side like a Murphy bed. One bedroom, which has a 6-foot ceiling, hovers over the bathroom.
Atcravi said he designed it not just because he enjoyed the mathematical challenge of puzzling out how to fit so many features in a tiny space, but with a thought to the pleasure of his cats, with whom he shares a two-bedroom apartment in San Diego. “They love different levels,” he said.
Atcravi’s invention does not yet physically exist, but he has contracted with a company to build a prototype. Meanwhile, he has endured a certain amount of good-natured ribbing from fellow participants in an online group of R.V. fans sponsored by Internet search engine Google.
“You are trying to fit 30 pounds of stuff in a 10-pound sack,” one wrote.
It is an irony of American culture that a society shaped by spaciousness is also enamored of cramped campers and motorhomes that would challenge the organizational abilities of a submarine engineer.
Squeezing in three bedrooms is unusual, said Al Hesselbart, spokesman for the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., according to the Times, “The concept is surely possible, with the use of slide-outs.” But he added, “There are only so many ways you can arrange the furniture in an 8-foot-wide box.”
On his website, Atcravi also says he is the inventor of the world’s first rack-and-pinion cat litter box. The litter box features a motorized rack that automatically scoops cat deposits into a refuse container at the end of the box. Atcravi said that LitterMaid, which sells a similar litter box on TV infomercials and online, beat him to the market.
Atcravi, who has a degree in electrical engineering from the University of California, San Diego, has adopted the nocturnal habits of his pets. He develops his inventions in the middle of the night, often staying up until 5 a.m. Unlike many inventors, who struggle to find financing, Atcravi said he was of independent means, thanks to a grandmother who made savvy real estate investments in Thailand.
In the past, Atcravi took his cats (he used to own nine, but two have died of old age) on jaunts in a motorhome equipped with four litter boxes.
They went to Las Vegas, and also to Los Banos, Calif., where the factory that is building his prototype is located. He said he gave up taking the felines on road trips, however, because some of his aging cats became nauseated easily.
Now the RV is in storage, he said.
“It’s too hard for me to go anywhere because I can’t find anybody to take care of the cats.”
Patents may be viewed at www.uspto .gov or ordered by mail by patent number, for $3 from the Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, D.C. 20231.