According to Petit Robert (2007 edition), the term motorhome is a false anglicism commonly used to denote a habitable motor vehicle. If the term is attested since 1974, however, other terms can also be used to designate this vehicle: “camper van”, “camper van” or also “camper van”; the latter two are also used in Belgium. In Quebec, a province that defends the French language, we use autocaravan and it is even recommended to avoid the term motorhome.
Pioneers always there
Let’s start the story with familiar names: Autostar, Digue, Notin, Westfalia… Westfalia started transforming Volkswagen vans in 1950; Notin, first name Joseph, caravan specialist since 1928, built his first motorhome in 1948.
Digue, given the first name André, was a Paris wheelwright when he released his “Passepartout” in 1950 based on a 1,000 kg Renault. It offers space for two to six people in three sizes. The 2.3-litre petrol engine delivers 46 hp at 2,800 rpm, served by a 3-speed gearbox.
Pioneers before the First World War
In these 1950s, it is the gradual disappearance of crafts. Before that, there were already hand-made motorhomes. Jules Secrestat was one of the very first to create “La Bourlinguette” in 1903. A body by Henri Lafitte was installed on a 20 hp chassis by Panhard and Levassor; On the program: electric lighting, mahogany furniture, tapestries and engraved crockery.
The vehicle is 7 meters long. In the United Kingdom, the first specimens are attested from 1908 in Liverpool. In 1913 the Loiret was a 2.7 tonne camper van on a Renault chassis; a collector’s item that has been restored.
After the first war place of crafts
In the United States, Ford invents a mini-apartment positioned on a Model T pick-up: the “telescopic apartment”. In 1924, the Ford TT chassis became a real camper with a wooden body.
Some recycle military trucks that are no longer useful. Raymond Roussel had his “nomadic villa” built from a luxuriously equipped Saurer truck; it is 1926.
In 1925, then 1931, Charles Louvet produced two machines of his invention: the Carling Home 2 and 3; the first is 10 m long and the equipment is impressive: kitchen with two gas burners, table and chairs for five people, fridge and phonograph, living room-bedroom with library, bathroom with bath, toilet. Ventilation is built into the walls, there is electric lighting and even a photo lab.
Beginning of the motorhome in the fifties
In France, coachbuilders are particularly active in this field. In 1955, Henri Heuliez converted some units of his 1400 kg Renault-based Robustacier bus into a camper van.
At Notin, motor home activity represented up to 70% of the workload in the 1970s. The first vans were either Hotchkiss trucks (heavyweight license) or Renault Goélette 1,000 kg chassis. Then the carriers multiplied: Ford Transit, Peugeot J7 for the lightest, and Mercedes 408 and 508 for the heaviest.