Many people still hold on to the idea of buying a small home on wheels and driving it to different places, secure in the comfort of their tiny rolling home. However, some camper and car enthusiasts take this to the next level by designing RVs that are highly unusual. Read on for some interesting and inventive examples.
Rick Dobbertin had already made a career building show cars when he eventually decided to branch out a little. He acquired a Heil milk tanker that was about 8 feet tall, 32 feet long, and 7 feet wide intending to single-handedly transform it into an amphibious RV that he and his wife could use to travel the world.
The tanker was so big that for Dobbertin to work on it, he and his wife had to extend their garage. Four years and over 10,000 hours of work later, the Dobbertin Surface Orbiter, also known as Perseverance according to the New York Times, was unveiled and displayed at the 1993 New York State Fair. The behemoth weighed over 11,000 pounds and was powered by a 250-horsepower diesel engine.
The Orbiter had mainly kept the tanker’s original shape, although Dobbertin had made the front somewhat pointed and a journalist described it as having a “shark-like snout,” according to Syracuse.com. The cockpit had two steering wheels: one to control the vehicle on land, where it could reach speeds of 65 miles per hour; and the other to control it in the water, where it could reach 10 knots. Dobbertin had done all the shaping, welding, electric, and mechanical work himself to make the conversion possible.
Although the vehicle did have some mechanical and electrical issues, the Dobbertins spent approximately 3 years navigating the globe in it, visiting 28 countries and 38 states in a journey that spanned 27,300 miles on land and 3,000 miles in the water. Notably, the Orbiter had its picture taken with Columbian rebels and was the first amphibious vehicle to navigate the Panama Canal, according to Do It Yourself RV. Although the Dobbertins’ marriage ended soon after their journey, it sounds like the adventure of a lifetime.
Another memorable DIY conversion was the ShamRockAway, created by J. Dennis McGuire of Alma, Michigan. He used two 1962 Buick station wagons to create the camper that he and his wife later traveled to several states in. One of the station wagons was essentially cut in half and the two pieces were fitted around the second one, which was kept whole. With some extra framing and paneling, McGuire was able to create a unique RV that was photographed by curious campers wherever it went.
According to Hemmings, McGuire was an RV enthusiast who had already converted several vehicles by the time he created the ShamRockAway during his retirement. Due to their level of comfort, Buicks had always been his favorite cars to drive, and he wanted to create an RV that had the same smooth ride. McGuire’s son Michael built the steering gearbox that allowed the front four wheels to turn, and the large RV had power steering, which was most likely a necessity because of its size.
The finished vehicle weighed just under 10,000 pounds and was 6 feet tall and 28 feet long. It required two gas tanks and although the driver’s seat was located directly above the V-8 engine, McGuire had taken care to ensure that it would not get too hot. The most unique and unexpected feature was that instead of a regular car horn or a truck-style air horn, the ShamRockAway had a bicycle bell.
Do It Yourself RV mentions several other notable campers about which, unfortunately, little is known. One was made from a Boeing 727 airplane and still resembles an aircraft with wheels, although there are no wings. Another looks like a wooden castle and houses a traveling blacksmith. A third was made from a train car and had been built for the 1948-49 Chicago Railroad Fair.
These vehicles show that there is no limit to people’s inventiveness, especially RV enthusiasts. Based on these amazing examples, it would seem that it is possible to live in almost anything if you have the time, money, and skills to be able to convert it into a motorhome.