Now you can buy a piece of RV history

This 108-year-old RV has a top speed of only 45 mph, so keep it off the interstates–but built in an age when few roads were paved, it’s likely as sturdy as anything coming out of Elkhart today.

Just in time for Christmas (yes, the catalogues have started coming in already!) and boosted by the sinking English pound (now at its lowest level since 1985!), this classic 1914 Ford Model T motor caravan can be yours for an anticipated $30,000 to $35,000 or so–all depending on how the bids come in. That’s right: this piece of history will be going on the auction block on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 2 p.m. British Standard Time.

Offered by the auction house Bonhams, the custom-made cabin on wheels is being presented as the oldest surviving motorhome anywhere in the world. Built just before the outbreak of the First World War for the founders of a British department store chain, the caravan is based on an extended and strengthened Ford Model T chassis, which had been in production only since 1908. The 2.9 liter flathead inline-four cylinder engine reportedly provides a top speed of 45 mph, although given the weight of the superstructure it has to propel, your results may vary. . . .

That superstructure, by the way, is an impressive piece of woodwork. Modeled on the railroad carriages of the day, the caravan features a polished pine floor, arched wooden roof trusses, and Welsh dresser-style cabinetry for inside storage; external storage is provided by lockers under the floor at either side and rear. The auction prospectus notes that there are “four berths in the living area, while behind the cab on the offside is a wood-burning stove;” it does not note that the caravan comes without plumbing or electricity, so period charm will have its drawbacks for some. On the other hand, the many brass fittings do include a mail slot.

Driving with a living room vibe.

Perhaps the most astonishing feature of the vehicle is the driver’s “seat,” which in fact is a plush, deep-buttoned leather couch for two. The couch–with integral storage box –can rotate 180 degrees to face the living quarters; the steering wheel, because it’s positioned for British roads, is only slightly right-of-center.

Extras include interior ornaments, brass lamps, pots and pans, pictures and antique memorabilia, as well as external lamps, a fuel can and, yes, a spare wheel. The big unknown: how today’s frou-frou campgrounds that prohibit RVs more than a decade old will take to this Methuselah, so caveat emptor!

AUCTION UPDATE: Yes, the 1914 Ford Model T caravan had a successful bidder. No, it wasn’t you–unless your bank account is now £63,250 lighter. That works out to about $73,376 (including the premium), or roughly double expectations. Hot stuff!

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Author: Andy Zipser

A former newspaper reporter who worked at a variety of newspapers, from small community weeklies to The Wall Street Journal, I finished my "normal" work life as the editor of The Guild Reporter, official publication of the union representing newspaper workers. On retiring, I and my wife bought a campground in the Shenandoah Valley and--with the help of our two daughters and their husbands--operated it for eight years, first as a KOA franchisee and then as an independent family-owned RV park. We sold the campground in May, 2021, and live in Staunton, Virginia, a short walk from our grandsons' home.

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