Hesselbart’s RV History Book Goes Digital

April 17, 2013 by · Comments Off on Hesselbart’s RV History Book Goes Digital 

Al Hesselbart

The RV industry history book by RV/MH Hall of Fame historian Al Hesselbart has been accepted for digital publication and is now available for Amazon Kindle readers.

“The Dumb Things Sold…Just Like That” features stories of the evolution of each different type of recreational vehicle and short biographies of many of the early pioneers and visionaries that have led the growth and development of the RV industry.

It is now available from the Amazon Kindle store or, in print version, from The RV/MH Hall of Fame, the RV Bookstore on line, or from Amazon.

Hesselbart is RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum historian, curator and librarian. Besides his duties at the Hall of Fame, Hesselbart is a frequent speaker at RV rallies and events across the United States. Last September, he also served as one of the keynote speakers at the 1st National China RV Show in Beijing.

Hesselbart Addresses National China RV Rally

October 1, 2012 by · Comments Off on Hesselbart Addresses National China RV Rally 

Al Hesselbart speaks at 1st National China RV Rally

Al Hesselbart, RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum historian, curator and librarian, recently returned from an historic trip to Beijing, China, where he one of the keynote speakers at the 1st National China RV Rally. According to a press release, Hesselbart spoke to a large crowd on the America’s RV history and evolution.

“I was tremendously honored to be invited to speak at this historic event,” Hesselbart said. “My thanks go out to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for referring me and to the China Tourist Bureau and the First National China Rally Organizing Committee for making me feel welcome.”

According to Hesselbart, the show’s promoters described the event as a rally, but he noted it was unique by American standards.

“The rally which was held in conjunction with the 15th FICC (Federation International des Camping and Caravanning) rally was truly an international event,” he said. “It was attended by representatives of the RVing associations and industry from countries around the world. Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Korea, Japan and more were represented and most of them referred to the USA as the most active RVing country, the U.S., however, was noticeably absent on both sides, consumer and industry, with a few US products displayed by Chinese distributors.”

Hesselbart observed in several presentations that the Chinese unit balance is over 80% motorized and 15% to 20% towable including both tent campers and travel trailers. He noted, “No fifth-wheel units were shown. Chinese highway laws limit trailers to no more than 8 meters (25 feet) in length so the trailers, as well as the motorized units, were small by U.S. standards. The most prevalent brands of imported units were Hobby and Fendt from Germany as well as a few from Landhaus and some Isuzu-based motorized rigs.

“The motorized units were primarily small diesel units built on Mercedes and Isuzu chassis with a note that Fiat chassis had previously been used but are politically banned from import to China at this time. The towable units showed a wide variety of design from some unique folding campers, through teardrops, and conventional travel trailers.”

The largest RV shown was a Jayco Melbourne Class C on a Ford chassis. It was the only motorized unit noted to have an automatic transmission, the Chinese favoring manual shifting on their vehicles, according to Hesselbart.

Hesselbart concluded, “In my opinion the event which was held at the Xiedao Resort in September, was very well run, and Millian Hu and Sarah Song, the rally organizers, are to be congratulated on a job well done.”

RV/MH Historian to Keynote Show in Beijing

August 22, 2012 by · Comments Off on RV/MH Historian to Keynote Show in Beijing 

RV/MH Hall of Fame historian Al Hesselbart addresses audience during his 2010 visit to China.

Al Hesselbart, RV/MH Hall of Fame & Museum historian, curator and librarian, has been invited to be one of the keynote speakers at the 1st National China RV Show in China. The event will be held at the Xiedao Resort in Beijing Sept. 12-16.

The show is sponsored by the FICC Asia-Pacific Commission, the China Tourism Automobile and Cruise Association and the China Tourist Attractions Association, according to a news release.

Hesselbart intends to present an illustrated lecture on the evolution of the U.S. RV industry through its first 100 years. “I hope to amaze, educate and entertain the Chinese audience on the rich and varied history of industry products,” he said.

Hesselbart’s appearance was arranged through the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Several Chinese business people who are sponsoring the event had contacted RVIA about providing a speaker on the evolution of the RV industry in the United States.

Ed Han, director of the RVIA Asia Project, put Hesselbart in contact with the show staff in China.

Besides his duties at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., Hesselbart is a frequent speaker at RV rallies and events across the United States. This trip to China will not be his first. In 2010 he was one of four U.S. representatives who participated in the 3rd Annual Hangzhou China Outdoor Lifestyle Show in support of the growing Chinese RV industry.


Early RVers Included High Profile Celebrities

June 9, 2010 by · Comments Off on Early RVers Included High Profile Celebrities 

People planning on traveling this summer in an RV, historically-speaking, will be in very good company, according to MSNBC.

In 1931, Mae West’s Paramount Studios contract included a chauffeur-driven “house car” for the star to relax in while filming movies. In the early 1940s,  aviation pioneers Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, needed someplace quiet where they could write, so Henry Ford let them use a 1935 house trailer he owned that was equipped with electricity, a stove, an icebox, a bathroom and other “modern” amenities.  And in the ’60s and ’70s, TV reporter Charles Kuralt famously crisscrossed the country in a motorhome while filming his popular “On the Road” features for CBS News.

Today, West’s 1931 Chevrolet is just one of the unusual, iconic or prototypical vehicles on display at the Recreational Vehicle/Manufactured Home Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind. The 1935 Stage Coach Trailer Henry Ford loaned to the Lindberghs is parked at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., as is Kuralt’s 1975 Motorcoach.

And if you think it might be a good idea to take a drive to see one or both of these collections, now would be an especially appropriate time. Starting Monday (June 7) the RV industry is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Drivers began making camping adaptations to cars not long after automobiles were invented. But according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), 1910 was when mass-produced vehicles designed specifically for camping first hit the market.

Historian Al Hesselbart says while no production campers or trailers from that first year still exist, the museum does display the towable 1913 Earl Travel Trailer, which is the oldest non-tent travel trailer in existence.

Tour the rest of the museum’s collection, and you’ll see rare gems that include the homemade motorhome based on a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado, a variety of first production units and pristine versions of popular models such as the 1954 15-foot Shasta travel trailer described as a being typical of the “canned-ham” style trailers of the 1950s.

“The earliest towable trailers were basically platforms with tents on top,” says Hesselbart, “and for years the bathrooms, even in the fancy units, were really just well-concealed chamber pots. Now the most appreciated amenities aren’t microwaves, but surely bathrooms with flush toilets and showers, and thermostatic-controlled heat.”

But there’s no need to stop there. Many high-end RVs can be equipped with full-size appliances, multiple large-screen TVs, satellite dishes, up to five space-enhancing slide-outs and “floor plans with two bathrooms; one with a full walk-in shower and two vanity sinks, and another half-bathroom for your guests,” says Ryan Lee, a spokesperson for the manufacturer Monaco RV LLC, Coburg, Ore. 

The price tag for the higher-end units reach $500,000 and above, although you certainly don’t need a $500,000, multi-bathroom motor coach to enjoy a RV vacation. But if you’re going to hit the road, whether the RV is owned or rented, there are some basic etiquette rules the experts would like you remember.

Harry Basch, author of “RV Vacations for Dummies” and “Frommer’s Exploring America by RV,” says when you’re driving, it’s important that you not hog the road and that you know the measurements of your vehicle. To avoid getting stuck under bridges, shearing off roof-mounted air-conditioning units and having mishaps on bridges, he urges drivers to make sure to “know exactly how high, how wide and how long your RV is. And how much it weighs.”

Sue Bray, former executive director of the Good Sam Club, the world’s largest RV group, says the most important part of the organization’s membership pledge “is to pull over to the side of the road, when it’s safe, if more than three vehicles are lined up behind you.”

In any RV campground, says Mike Gast of KOA, “it mostly comes down to common sense: honor the evening quiet times, which usually begin at 10 p.m., and don’t drive over the speed-limit, which is often 5 mph.” Gast says it’s a good policy to leave your camp site cleaner than when you found it and to always respect another camper’s space. “There’s nothing more annoying than relaxing at your camp site and having people cut through what is essentially your living room for the night.”

Basch adds that it is poor etiquette to rev your RV’s engine too early in the morning or to run your electrical generator too late at night. And then, he says, there’s that little porch light installed over most RV doors. “It’s nice to see where you’re going during the evening. But some people leave their porch light on all night and it can shine into someone else’s window. Before you turn-in, make sure to turn off your entry light.” 

And whatever you do, make sure you learn how to tell the difference between your RV’s gray water holding tank, which gathers water that drains from the shower and the sinks, and the black water holding tank, which collects discharge from the toilet. “A lot of people remember the exploding sewage pipe scene in the movie “RV”, starring Robin Williams,” says KOA’s Gast. “That type of explosions doesn’t really happen. But make sure you know how to empty those tanks, and in what order. If you’re unsure, please don’t be afraid to ask.”

MacKinnon to Speak at Chinese Leisure Fair

February 23, 2010 by · Comments Off on MacKinnon to Speak at Chinese Leisure Fair 

Bob MacKinnon

Campground consultant Bob MacKinnon is one of three Americans asked to speak at the Hangzhou International Outdoor and Leisure Fair in China March 4-7.

MacKinnon, owner of MacKinnon Campground Consulting, Murrieta, Calif., will present an overview of campground development.

“I will be talking to them about the key issues a campground developer is concerned about, including site selection, market conditions and design of a park,” he said. “I hope to walk them through what they need to look at when they are selecting a site, and get them thinking about key markets to look at. This is an important initial step in their determination to move forward with their own RV industry. The site selection and design are contingent on the market they are going to serve.”

The other American speakers are Al Hesselbart, historian of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., and Joe Laing, director of marketing, El Monte RV in El Monte, Calif. The European RV industry will be represented by Wolfgang Bock of Munich, Germany.

The men will be speaking to Chinese provincial government officials as well as industry trade leaders on their assigned topics.

Hesselbart will talk about the evolution of the RV lifestyle and its effect on American society.

“I am going to show the evolution of what camping was like from the World War I era up to today when 30 million people are a part of it,” he said.

“What they are looking for me to touch on is the future of the RV rental market in China,” Laing explained. “I will talk about what has happened in the United States in the RV rental market over the course of time and what we see as some possibilities in China. They have an affinity for this, but need education and understanding. They need to develop campgrounds, their publications and infrastructure.”

“What we see for China is this is not something that will happen overnight, but we think this has great long-term potential,” Laing added. “If the RV industry develops in China, there is the potential for Chinese tourists to come and rent RV’s here in the United States.”

Outdoor Lifestyle Hangzhou is jointly organized by the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Light Industrial Products and Arts and Craft, and Hangzhou Municipal Government. The event will be held at the Hangzhou Peace Exhibition Center. For more information visit

The upcoming visit to China is the latest in a series of cultural exchanges between the RV sectors of the two countries.

Part of the Chinese delegation attending the 2009 National RV trade Show in Louisville, Ky.

A large delegation representing the growing Chinese RV industry attended last December’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, meeting with U.S. manufacturers and suppliers, touring the show booths and attending a reception the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) hosted in their honor, the RVIA noted.

The delegation of approximately 60 included Chinese manufacturers looking to form joint ventures with U.S. manufacturers, companies looking to develop campgrounds in China, government officials, and private equity firms. One delegation was led by the Beijing office of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Several RVIA member companies reported enjoying substantive conversations with the Chinese delegates about the burgeoning industry’s plans for the future.

“I was impressed by the number of Chinese representatives who attended this year’s show and the great interest in RVing that seems to exist among the Chinese people,” said RVIA President Richard Coon, who was interviewed extensively by Chinese media during the show. “Next year, the Department of Commerce hopes to bring an even larger delegation over and to schedule additional meetings between U.S. and Chinese manufacturers.”

In addition to attending the National RV Trade Show, some of the Chinese delegations also visited campgrounds in Nevada and California as well as RV manufacturing facilities in Indiana and California.

In May 2008, a delegation representing the American RV industry attended the 2008 China RV and Camping Show in Shanghai. The American delegation encouraged Chinese manufacturers to adopt U.S. standards and educated Chinese government officials on internal infrastructure issues within China that might affect the RV market there.