You can pick up an accessory catalog and get a tent to mate to just about any SUV on the market now, but throughout history, several auto manufacturers offered camping accessories or modifications right in the showroom or over the parts counter. They were very cool, because they perfectly matched the car in question, and some offered factory warranty protection as part of the package.
Nash Rambler Classic Cross Country
The Nash Rambler Classic Cross Country really offered nothing in terms of uniqueness on the outside, but the inside drew a lot of attention. The “Bed-In-A-Car” feature allowed your Nash Rambler’s front and rear seats to collapse completely into a rolling camping wagon. Yeah. It’s for “camping.” That’s it. Nash even offered a screen window option that snapped into place so you could feel the breeze without doing battle with the mosquitoes. Interestingly, take a look at that robust B-pillar with the doors open. The Rambler Classic must’ve folded like a pair of threes when t-boned.
Volkswagen Camper by Westfalia
Of course, the most famous camper-from-the-factory was the Westfalia conversion offered on the Type 2 Volkswagen Bus. You could walk into any VW dealer in America and sign up to drive one of these super-cool campers from 1958 all the way up to the demise of the Eurovan here in the United States. Early layouts featured a slew of folding seat options, birch plywood interior, iceboxes, water storage, electrical hookups and sinks, and accessories included popup tops, screen tents, camp stoves and awnings.
Chevrolet Greenbrier Camper
Over at the Chevy dealer, though, if you ordered up a Corvair-based Greenbrier van, you could build an insanely elaborate camper straight from the factory. Throughout the Greenbrier’s run, for just under $600, you could provide enough room for about six people to camp in comfort, along with screen windows, iceboxes and water storage.
The nice part about the Greenbrier was that it featured a flat-six as opposed to the VW’s four-cylinder, so if you were planning on camping somewhere other than say, Nebraska, you could actually climb a hill with the camping accessories in place.
Land Rover Dormobile
Dormobile was a coachbuilder that provided pop-up camping conversions for Volkswagen and Bedford vans in the UK, but by far, it’s most recognizable camper is the one built into the awesome Land Rover 109 station wagons.
Similar to the Corvair and Vanagon campers, accessories included all kinds of options for sleeping, eating and drinking. But the Land Rover offered the go-anywhere utility of four-wheel drive, adding to the adventure of a camping trip.
Chevrolet Blazer Chalet
Another factory-backed camper from the folks at GM (take a look at the GMC Palm Beach, if you haven’t seen one), the Blazer Chalet was a slide-in camper unit that took the place of the fiberglass rear passenger cover on a standard K5 Blazer.
About 1,800 were sold between 1976 and 1977, and the camper portion was installed by Chinook in the Pacific Northwest. Blazer Chalets featured propane stoves, sinks and sleeping quarters for up to four people.
AMC Hornet Hutchback
In the 1970s, AMC went back to its Nash roots with the AMC Hornet Hutchback, a fairly standard AMC Hornet hatchback with a cool camping accessory you could attach right to the open hatch. It’s a little tough to tell from this picture from the Hemmings Nation Flickr pool where exactly you’re supposed to sleep. And it doesn’t offer much in the way of windows, either. You could accomplish just as much with a blue tarp from the Job Lot. (Image courtesy: Hemmings Nation Flickr pool)
Plymouth Voyager Magic Camper
“2 Bedrooms with Front Wheel Drive” read the Plymouth Voyager Magic Camper brochure’s cover. You could buy the tent by itself from a Plymouth dealer, but the Magic Camper package provided a fold-down bed comfortable for two, a luggage rack, a larger fuel tank, and a heavy-duty suspension along with the 8’x10′ tent. The tent itself could be attached to the Voyager’s sliding side door opening, or it could be used as a standalone unit if you wanted a little separation from you and the kids.
The more you think about it, the more sense the Aztec made. Yeah, it was as homely as a hatful of baboon bums, but it really predated the kind of crossover vehicles that we all seem to be dead set on driving now. It also provided this nifty camping accessory in case you were run out of town by angry villagers, enraged by the hideous visage of that car you drove. The Aztec’s camping package came not only with the tent, but with an inflatable mattress. Interestingly, the Aztec was capable of stowing a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood inside. Try that with any crossover on the market today.