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The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is set to unveil its newest exhibit, “From Autocamps to Airstreams: The Early Road to Vacationland,” which takes a nostalgic look at the house cars, travel trailers and specialized vehicles used by vacationers during the formative years of motor touring before World War II.
According to a press release, the display features vehicles “both popular and obscure,” illustrating their utility by displaying them loaded with period camping equipment or hitched to trailers ranging from a pioneering Airstream to one of the earliest production tent trailers known to survive.
Opening is slated for June 28 and the exhibit is scheduled to run through Feb. 8, 2009.
“Since the early 20th century, Southern California has been a destination for vacationers because of the myriad of great outdoor activities,” said Dick Messer, executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum.
He noted that the exhibit showcases the development of camping trailers and other specialized recreational equipment and how they evolved to meet the demands of early travelers and tourists.
Originally called “motor touring,” the practice of exploring the countryside by car was considered a potentially dangerous adventure until Henry Ford developed inexpensive and reliable automobiles. Auto camping quickly gained popularity because it was an economical alternative to the more traditional and expensive travel options.
According to the museum, the increasing number of vacationers traveling by car created a ready market for specialized recreational equipment and “roughing it” rapidly gave way to civilized living thanks to the spirit of innovation among manufacturers.
That fueled the early RVing industry as trailer manufacturing became one of the fastest growing domestic industries by 1936.