Even if you aren’t a camper, it can be fun to attend RV shows or browse magazines like Trailer Life, and daydream about a nomadic, carefree lifestyle on the open road.
A summer of Mount Rushmore, the shores of Lake Superior, maybe the Finger Lakes in New York or a jaunt to Maine. Wintering in milder climes while taking in the art galleries of Santa Fe, the charm of New Orleans or the Pacific beaches of Mexico, all in the comfort of one’s own snug nest.
And for that nest, there are plenty of options, from $500,000 motor coaches to $5,000 pop-ups, many of which will be on display at the 28th Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show, which runs Oct. 4-8 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
There’s lots to see at an RV show, from the massive coach engines that can range up to 600 horsepower, to the clever on-board storage hacks and cushy amenities like outdoor TVs and indoor fireplaces.
But one thing that long has puzzled me about RV design is the interior decor, which tends to resemble that of a model house in suburbia rather than a rustic cabin, beachside cottage or country lodge. Many feature rich fabrics in dramatic color schemes, sleek granite countertops, cherry cabinets and tile floors more reminiscent of Canton than campgrounds, frankly.
Stepping in from a brisk day of hiking, sightseeing or beach-combing into something that resembles a modern McMansion has always seemed like it would be jarring and spoil the mood. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me that — along with the “vintage” craze in so many other lifestyle realms — the lust for mid-century chic has spread to the RV world over the past couple of years.
There’s a movement called “glamping,” glorified in books, websites, Pinterest pages and blogs, in which actual antique and just-plain-old trailers are fixed up as stationary retreats or road-worthy living quarters, with cute cottage touches, antique amenities and tons of retro. I love to look at them but the notion of the refurbishment, upkeep and repair involved with a truly old trailer is daunting.
That’s where the latest industry savvy comes in.
Newly manufactured travel trailers and motor coaches that give off the quaint vibe of a Brady Bunch trek to the Grand Canyon are — pardon the expression — popping up in showrooms and catalogs and RV maker websites, and the trend doesn’t seem like it’ll fizzle out any time soon.
Just ask Vicky Rokas, whose RV dealership has developed a niche business catering to consumers who want the retro look without the hassle of restoring and customizing an original.
“Back in 2015, Shasta came out with nearly an exact replica of its (1961) model,” said Rokas, who with her sister Sandy Vicars owns Vicars Trailer Sales in Taylor. “Other dealers were leery of them but I took a risk, bought 10 and they sold like crazy. We bought 10 more right away.”
The Shasta remakes were a limited edition, but in the interim a number of manufacturers have jumped aboard, and the Rokas will be exhibiting some of their throwback models at the RV show in October.
She has a few theories on why today’s consumers love these little “canned ham” trailers with their streamlined, non-fussy interiors. First, she says, “it’s an emotional buy. Baby boomers want something that will take them back to their early days.”
Second, she says, some vacationers of all ages are gravitating away from the “all the comforts of home” coaches and trailers, to lighter rigs they can wheel right into the wilderness and tow behind medium-sized vehicles. “We’re staying fitter, longer, and a lot of people don’t want to sit inside a big RV watching TV from their recliners,” she said. “They want to be closer to nature and out there doing things.”
Establishing an identity as a retro camper aids socializing, and provides an outlet for creativity via hobby clubs or even just antiquing for mid-century items to accessorize with, Rokas noted. Her RV show displays, for example, feature old Schwinn bikes and other goods to create a setting for the old-style campers.
“These little trailers are people magnets,” she said.
Melissa Preddy is a Michigan-based freelance writer. Reach her via Melissa@MelissaPreddy.com
28th Annual Fall Detroit Camper & RV Show
What: Show features exhibits, educational seminars and more than 250 trailers and coaches
When: Oct. 4-8. Weekday hours are 2-9 p.m., Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Suburban Collection Showplace, 46100 Grand River Avenue, Novi
Cost: $10; $9 age 55 and over; ages 12 and under enter free