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Trail’s End: A Look Back to March 1967—From Camper Vans to Overland

Posted in Features on February 1, 2018
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Photographers: Four Wheeler Archives

Spend any amount of time on or around 4x4 trails these days and you might hear the term “overlanding.” If we peel back the layers of roof racks, traction boards, and LED lighting, we’re left with the rather basic concept of living in (or on top of) your vehicle in the backcountry. This is nothing new; we’ve been camping in our rigs for decades—five of them to be exact, at least that’s how long it’s been since we wrote about the Dream Camper II from Chevy.

This concept van took something standard for the time—a ’67 Chevy Sportvan—and made it into something that could cart around a family of four. The 108-inch wheelbase rig was powered by either a 4.1L six-cylinder or a 4.6L two-barrel V-8, but more fascinating than the powerhouse is the list of accommodations it sported.

Between the high-back, tapered front seats was a padded console, which had not only three cup holders and a map tray, but a light for nighttime map reading and beverage finding. The rig’s vertical living space was extended by a fiberglass bubble roof, which featured tinted Plexiglas to let in rays of natural light. Amenities included a stove, electrical refrigerator, sink with onboard water supply, and a removable toilet. Power could either be drawn from a portable 110-volt generator or from an external 110-volt hookup. The addition of a “balcony bedroom” made room for passengers to stretch out and sleep comfortably.

Like most concept vehicles, this van never went to production, but the idea of camper vans certainly lived on. We’ll even go out on a limb and say that modern overlanding rigs have taken some inspiration from the camper vans of yesteryear. In the last 50 years, the simple fold-out bed seen in this van has morphed into an array of sleeping arrangements limited only by the weight capacity of your rig’s roof or cargo bed. We now have tents form-fitted for your truck’s bed, pop-up shelters that mount snugly to vehicle rooftops, and a selection of gadgetry to turn the back seat of most SUVs into a plush mattress.

The list of simple amenities in the Dream Camper II has since tripled to include climate control, navigation systems, television, and enough high-class cookware to satisfy a master chef. It is even commonplace nowadays to drop off your 2WD van at a fabrication shop to have it outfitted with a transfer case and 4WD, along with the niceties typically found in a luxury motorhome.

Looking back on the ideas showcased in the Dream Camper II, it is fascinating to see what has become of them today. Some items have taken on a new technologically advanced life, and other items, like the fold-out beds, are still rudimentary and found in modern off-road camping rigs.

We know four-wheelers enjoy camping, but we want to hear about how you’ve combined the two into a single vehicle. Do you have a do-it-all rig that you sleep on top of, or is your 4x4 conversion van cavernous enough to rest a few tired souls at the end of a day on the trails? Send a note about your setup to editor@fourwheeler.com and don’t forget to include a picture!

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