Mobile homes are often thought of as a relatively modern invention, most closely associated with recreational vehicles and low-cost prefabricated trailer houses. But dig a little deeper beyond mass-produced creations and beloved vintage favorites, and you’ll find all sorts of gems.
There are many forgotten mobile living designs that came before the now-classic Airstream, like the curious hybrid car + house shown above. Some manufactured housing designs stand the test of time, others do not, but the best may be those that still seem innovative when we look back on them today – even if they are not still being used in quite the same way.
Caravans, trailers and other types of mobile home have played a great many roles in modern culture, from the stereotypical shack-on-wheels to ultra-luxury portable mansions. Cabins built right onto trucks weren’t that uncommon in the 1960s and ’70s, and you could argue that they were the true progenitors of today’s tiny houses on wheels.
Here are a few examples ranging from the above-pictured extremes to the below-featured in-betweens.
Just as cars grew bigger, bulkier and yet more streamlined in design, so did the mobile home market. Even today, a thirty-five-footer is quite substantial and a second story like that, well, you would have to watch your clearance levels.
Many classic caravan and trailer designs alluded to everything from trucks and trains to ocean liners, emphasizing their portable nature despite the fact that most of them sit today in parks. Not the tropical allusions, but pedestrian setting – palm trees in the background but flat tile and grass in front.
As cars become more modular and customizable, so did their attached dwellings – options grew from basic accessories to appliance, cabinet, color and material choices, with the way already paved by the growing fixed-location prefab home movement. The double-wide floor plans were only a matter of time.