The city of Elkhart, Indiana may not mean anything to someone who has never owned or camped in an RV. However, for those of us who have fully ingested the “bug” Elkhart, Indiana is the RV Manufacturing capital of the WORLD! No kidding!! Really! In this blog post I include many links that bring this history of RVing to life!
Here is a sneak peak of the RV/MH Hall of Fame exhibit area! See more links below!
For decades upon decades countless brand name RV manufacturers have set up their company production lines in and around the Elkhart area. If you visit, you can plan to take a factory tour if you want too but check ahead because they are only offered at certain factories on certain days of the week and times. Because of this, a multitude of outsourcing smaller manufacturing businesses have populated the area producing everything possible for those large brands like Fleetwood, Winnebago, Forrest River, Thor, etc. Things like smaller plants that make the windows, the cushions, the hitches, the extruded plastic AC covers, electrical and plumbing fixtures. It was comical being at a stop light and seeing flatbed trailers stacked with 15 shower stalls, trailer frames, stacks of windows being rolled down the road to finish off someones new trailer or motorhome! The majority of all the RV’s from tiny pods to large 45 foot diesel pusher Class A’s are made in Elkhart.
SO–it is no coincidence that the RV & Manufactured Homes Hall of Fame is located in Elkhart, easily seen and reached by Interstate 80. Don’t get me started on why the MH does not stand for Motor Home…but it actually stands for Manufactured Houses which to some degree is also represented in this museum (especially a small MH outside the building that is open for a tour- more of a sales pitch for the builder than anything I feel) . I suspect it was during lean years of funding for the museum that they had to expand their scope to include manufactured houses into the museum’s mission. It is just my humble opinion, but doing this inclusion of manufactured homes into an RV museum was a disservice to the tens of thousands of RV owners whose homes (whether part time or full time) are truly on “wheels”. Manufactured homes may be indeed built on an assembly line like an RV but by no means do they function nor are intended to be moved from spot to spot weekly, seasonally or for that matter ever…once put on their foundations.
Neverthless, when we were venturing to our very first (and not to be our last for sure!) Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart in the summer of 2017 we made the pilgrimage to the Hall of Fame and enthusiastically became Life Members! (Actually this was more a fiscal decision than anything because they made it easy to justify a Life Membership versus us just paying for admission to the two of us for the day–a difference of about $10 if i remember correctly. So now we can go anytime we want!)
Here is a link to the museum’s website so you can do your own “touring”!! WE DO encourage you to visit this museum, support its livelihood and share with your friends. Its exhibits truly do paint an accurate and colorful vision into the thread of our own Americana!
One of the reasons, we justify for return visits is that the museum was in the process of expanding their parking area to the north of the building and supposedly this will allow for even more boondocking (or limited hookups) for the RV family of which we are a part of and supposedly special events, perhaps even themed rallies (by year of RV or brand perhaps?!!). On the second floor of the museum is an archive library which although very unorganized by Library Science codes (our librarian friend Robin Stiles would throw a fit the way someone has tried to organize their collection–NOT!) we did find quite a treasure trove of Avion files including manuals, advertising pieces, etc. The archive section of hanging files is fairly easy to use- someone thankfully put those in alpha order so at least the “A”s were easy enough to find. As for the stacks..not so much–we scratched our head for a half hour trying to figure out what method someone had employed to categorize the shelves and shelves of RV manuals, books, how to guides and more…to no avail. Sadly, there was no volunteers present in the library that day either- perhaps that could have helped. BTW- in our exit survey we did comment that we highly recommended they tap a college intern who was studying Library Sciences or a retired librarian who would get in there and reorganize the stack system so that folks could find things. Even if they did not go by Dewey Decimal system…alphabetical like the hanging file folders would have been better. And then please…label the shelves or areas! Ok enough of my rant, I should talk, my files at home are not much better!
For the purpose of this blog post, i am going to literally add in all the photos we took while on tour at the museum into a flip book on our website at some point-but it is time consuming (so will be perhaps a 2019 winter project). For now, here is a great link to the exhibit area of the museum. The photos are arranged by vehicle type so will be pretty easy for you to scour and select. Check out the other link below which actually lists by rig their complete inventory with description and photo. We spent over 4 fours and really enjoyed going in and out of many of the vintage trailers and RV’s of all types, names, shapes and sizes. Some homemade, some “state of the art” when produced in the 1920’s, 30’s, -70’s.
At some point, when I have time—I am also going to include a “flip book” of the Avion brochures and sales pieces that we found that were right around our rig’s year which is 1973 onto the resources page of our http://www.ThePewterPalace.com website for easy access anytime. For some reason (maybe the Avion Coach Corp was feeling a fiscal pinch in 1973) we have a hard time finding that particular year or even 1975 brochures, etc.
Interestingly enough, this was also the year (1973) that the Avion Coach Company made the most significant change to their body style and design. So you would have thought this would have been a major push to new marketing. The transition between the front and rear sections from ’72 to ’73 is very noticeable. It went from the more traditional fan sections of aluminum nose to the more “bread loaf” style like ours is with only three sections. You will see the difference immediately in the photos below..
PRE-1973 AVION Nose and Rear construction:
Below is our 1973 with NEW AVION design rolled out that same year (affectionately called the “breadloaf” style) design which afforded more interior headroom, less seams that can leak too!
Not only was this a major exterior change visually, but it also greatly opened up the living space in the nose and rear bathroom areas extending headroom on both sides. When we were at our Silver Avion Fellowship Rally going inside the 1960-early 70’s models you can really tell. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some purists who love the earlier styles and while we do love them too as they are truly the classic look…we appreciate the bit wide open more space of ours especially since we will be living in ours full time when we retire. When you are dealing with less than 200 sq. feet of living space on a full time basis—every square inch of floor and head space counts. I would also go so far as to say, anyone who is over 6′ tall would definitely want the newer (tongue in cheek, ours is 45 years old this year!) style affording more headroom and less a feel you have to crouch to get into your dinette area.
(our 1973 Avion, dubbbed “The Pewter Palace” in winter storage in Queensbury, NY for the LONG winter of 2017-2018)
So back to our trip to the RV-MH Hall of Fame Museum. Surely, for anyone interested in “vintage” anything, this is a great place to visit. Also, if you own a vintage Shasta, Scotty, Winnebago, Bolus, Silver Streak, Airstreams or any of the other dozens out there, you will want to visit this mecca of motor and non-motor recreation vehicles.
Spend some time in the archive library to find and take photos (no they do not have a place to pay for copies to be made either—zheesh!) with your cell phone or camera. Fellow RV’ers and the actual manufactures or collectors of such ephemera have been very generous in donating volumes of great stuff to peruse through–so please do check it would when visiting and leave yourself enough time…and storage space for photos on your camera.
Enjoy and hope to bump into you someday at the RV Hall of Fame! If you are an RV hobbyist or depend on your RV full time to keep a roof (albeit mobile one) over your head—please support this museum and its mission in any way that you can. This is a core part of our American History experience and the American experiment!