Streamlined to Extremes

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Is it a motorhome? Is it just a car and trailer caravan? Well, although it comprises a motive unit and a living unit, this outfit was conceived and developed as a whole. The objective was to achieve the ultimate in streamlining or, as we’d say today, it was all about drag coefficients. So, we are stretching a point and opting to classify inventor Angelo Novo’s creation a motorhome.

Novo, from Guadalupe, California, designed and built his ‘vacation equipment’ in the late 1930s and his friends named it the ‘Ritz of the Road’. The tractor unit is based on a Chevrolet chassis with the Chevy engine - probably their 3.2-litre ohv six-cylinder ‘Cast Iron Wonder’ engine designed in the late twenties and in use until the fifties - at the rear. The body consists of a steel frame clad with thin plywood and the vehicle is just a two-seater. It was able to reach 80mph.

The caravan unit - 16ft long by 6ft wide and 7ft high - was on a special low chassis; the sidewalls were of plywood again and the top was aeroplane fabric over a structure of quarter inch laths. Two doors on the right open to a kitchen and lounge/diner at the front and a bedroom at the rear.

Streamlining had more merit in the USA where higher towing speeds were permitted than the 30mph maximum for caravans here in the ’30s. Contemporary comment in ‘Caravan World’, in which this outfit featured in 1937, drew attention to the space limitation imposed by the streamlined style and showed a hankering for the old ‘box-type’ ’vans. The sentiment perhaps lingered on for a good many years and resulted in some of those rather brick-shaped motorhomes which we still remember well.


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 highway in the world is the Trans Canada highway. It stretches a whopping 4,860 miles across Canada. Beginning on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the road makes its way across the Continental Divide, 5 time zones, and 10 provinces, and includes several car ferries before it terminates in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Why are traffic lights red, green and yellow? The choice of these colors for traffic signals was based on the colors used as signals to control the trains. Red was an obvious choice for stop. For millennia red has been the color of danger in the wild; red is the color of blood. If it is necessary to stop something, red will get the attention. The other two colors could have been any color and, in fact, there were some changes made in the early days of railroad traffic. Originally GREEN was the color for caution and WHITE or CLEAR meant go. This had problems from the beginning because the white lights in other lights such as street lamps or even stars could easily be confused with the WHITE go signal. The signals lights were colored by using RED, GREEN and CLEAR filters. One railroad crash was caused when the RED filter of a stop signal fell out leaving only the white bulb signalling go. After these experiences, railroad engineers suggested changes. RED would be the stop signal; GREEN, the go; and YELLOW, caution. Under these rules if a lens ever did fall out, the white light would indicate to the engineer that something was amiss.

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