A Fifth Wheeler For A Financier

Back to Article Index

The fifth-wheeler floats between the world of the trailer caravan and that of the motorhome, not quite fitting into either. Whichever side of the divide you choose to classify this unusual outfit, however, it certainly deserves its place in the broader history of caravans.

The makers were the Curtiss Aerocar Land Yacht company, certainly related in some way to the Curtiss aircraft manufacturers whose founder Glenn Curtiss was a rival of the Wright brothers in the early days of aviation. The outfit was made for a New York financier Hugh McDonald to take him on his daily journey from Long Island to Wall Street. Providing the motive power was a 1932 Graham Blue Streak coupé with 8-cylinder 4022cc engine developing 90 bhp and giving the car a solo top speed of 85 mph. The Blue Streak introduced skirted front wings to the American market and was immortalised in model form by 'Tootsie Toys' - a Tootsie Blue Streak was the treasured possession of many a small boy across the USA in the 1930s.

The fifth-wheeler Land Yacht is constructed on aircraft principles with a frame of light metal tubing braced by wire cables. Up front McDonald had his mobile office with a desk and wicker chairs. At the rear was a galley and a lavatory. No doubt the Land Yacht's crew included as well a the chauffeur an attendant in the caravan so that the Wall Street man could be provided with breakfast or light refreshments during his commuting journey. But, breakfast over, was it work while the wheels rolled or did McDonald find other diversions to take his mind off the dealings on Wall Street?

That 'bridge' at the front of the caravan over the hitch - which incidentally employed a tyre to act as a shock absorber - was fitted out with the kind of instrumentation one would find on a flight deck. There was a compass, an altimeter, speedometer and a barometer - also those swivelling spotlights. Can we guess? It was McDonald the money man who toiled at the thirties forefather of the laptop on his way to the office. Going home it was 'Captain' Hugh, letting his hair down after a hard day worrying about the next dollar, who navigated his craft from the pilot's seat way below the clouds.

You can find this Land Yacht and its Blue Streak buddy in in the Dutch National Motor Museum: Het National Automobiel Museum, Steurweg, 8, Raamsdonksveer.

Take the Dombosch II/Geertruidenberg exit from Motorway A27 between Breda and Gorinchem. The museum is signposted, the entrance to the rear of the Toyota Centre. It has a particularly fine collection with the emphasis towards the exotic end of the automobile spectrum - Bugattis, Duesenbergs, Cords, Aston Martin (ex-007!), the Darracq from one of the great 'motor' films 'Genevieve'. Don't pass by without a visit.

The Museum is open from the Good Friday through to the last Sunday in October. Tuesday - Saturday 10.00 - 17.00, Sunday and Bank Holidays opens at 11.00. Monday closed.

Note: Article published in Motorhome Monthly, Britain's former number one motorhome magazine, by Chris Burlace, now an author at Motorhome and Campervan Magazine.

Did You Know?

The longest car was a 100 ft, 26 wheeled limousine designed by Jay Ohrberg of Burbank, California, USA. It includes a swimming pool with a diving board and a king sized waterbed among its many features. It can be driven as a rigid vehicle or altered to bend in the middle. Designers of these super-stretched cars try to outdo each other not just with the length of their creations but with the add-ons. For example, The 68 ft Cadillac Hollywood Dream has 6 telephones, a satellite dish, a putting green and a helicopter landing pad.

I love RV Logo RVDA of Canada Logo