Home » How A Man Who Couldn’t Drive A Truck Turned A Bunch Of Crashed Cars Into An RV Business

How A Man Who Couldn’t Drive A Truck Turned A Bunch Of Crashed Cars Into An RV Business

Great Dale House Car
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A common complaint I read about motorhomes is that the things are just too big. Indeed, many motorhomes sit high above the ground and feel and drive like you’re commanding a brick with a bed inside. Back in the 1960s, one man sought to fix that problem by building campers that weren’t using trucks as a base platform. The extremely rare Great Dale House Car didn’t sit high or drive like a truck thanks to the fact that instead of a pickup, it rides on a comparatively low-slung Dodge Coronet. Let’s take a look!

This 1966 Great Dale House Car has come up for sale on Bring a Trailer. It’s estimated that around 50 or 60 of these were ever built. So, chances are it will be a long time before you see another pop up for sale. That’s a shame because the concept is solid. While a lot of folks are fine with gargantuan RVs, others would rather travel the country in something that still drives closer to a car, but still has RV amenities. Throughout RV history, builders have tried catering to this market of buyers with RVs from the compact and thrifty Winnebago LeSharo to the Champion Ultrastar. Don’t forget the famous Aironado Airstream! In more recent years, we have Wingamm and its shorty Oasi 540.1.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The Great Dale House Car is the same concept but done in the 1960s. This one has been restored and it looks awesome.

1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D
Chris Werstiuk

Upcycling Crashed Cars

The fact that this camper uses the front end of a Dodge Coronet is really only the beginning of why it’s so cool. It’s also a form of upcycling.

The Great Dale House Car was the work of the Great Dale House Car Company of Denver, Colorado. According to a Great Dale House Car tribute page, the camper’s story starts with Dale Wasinger. As the story goes, Wasinger got into the auto body repair business in the 1940s. One of Wasinger’s skills was mating two halves of cars together. Apparently, he would buy two wrecked cars, bring them to his shop, cut the cars in half, and weld the good halves together.

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Img 1655
Chris Werstiuk

Alongside this business, Wasinger had a used car dealership and some real estate. Wasinger was also an avid gambler and developed a system he thought would help you beat the house at a casino. Helping him along was his wife, who aided in keeping the businesses running while also assisting with the car mating process.

In late 1960, Wasinger ran across a new 1961 Cadillac that had been in a rear-end collision. He decided to do something a bit different with this one. Reportedly, Wasinger had a problem with the motorhomes of the day. He wanted one, but after getting injured in a car wreck, Wasinger found it difficult to drive a truck. Thus, he decided to put his talents to work in creating a car-based motorhome that you didn’t have to climb into.

Check out this archived news story on Wasinger:

Wasinger started by hacking the 1961 Cadillac apart, leaving just the front clip and drivetrain. He then took the vehicle to a Denver area camper builder to have a truck camper body mounted to the front clip of the Cadillac. The camper builder was too busy to do the custom job, so Wasinger decided to take matters into his own hands. Wasinger, with the help of his wife, turned that Cadillac into a motorhome. Soon after, Wasinger found a 1962 Cadillac that had taken a side hit and he turned that one into a camper, too. The Great Dale House Car was born and Wasinger would build them in a small shop with his wife and sometimes some part-time helpers. There were no brochures, and there were no advertisements. Wasinger would find a wrecked car, turn it into a camper, then sell it by word of mouth.

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For the most part, Wasinger’s campers relied on a supply of cars that had gotten into crashes with damage behind the front clip. He worked with domestic vehicles including Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. Apparently, he favored building campers on an Oldsmobile chassis as he thought Oldsmobiles had an optimal power-to-weight ratio for a motorhome build.

1966 Dodge Charger Great Dale Ho
eBay via Barn Finds

According to an archived newspaper story, Wasinger built the motorhomes by cutting out everything behind the driver seat. He would then bring in the rear two-thirds of a three-quarter ton Chevrolet pickup chassis and weld the pickup truck to the front clip of the car. Wasinger also added the truck’s suspension to the donor car clip so the completed vehicle could handle the weight. From there, Wasinger and his wife built a wood-framed, aluminum-sided camper on top, which was supported by channel iron welded to the truck frame.

Here’s what the underbody of these things looks like:

1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D (1)
Chris Werstiuk

The resulting vehicle was a small motorhome with the strength of a truck but rode low to the ground like a car. As I said, most of these builds started off as wrecks, but Wasinger was willing to cut apart a new car if a customer brought one in as a donor. Reportedly, Wasinger also attempted to score a deal for new front clips from Oldsmobile, but no deal was worked out. It took Wasinger and his wife about three to four weeks to construct each camper.

Vintage Camper Mercury
Experiential Vehicles

From 1962 to 1966, Wasinger built between 50 and 60 examples. When the newspaper asked Wasinger about the campers (the clipping is undated), he believed many were still on the road. Unfortunately, the handful of people who bought them didn’t really report back to Wasinger about the conditions of their campers. Reportedly, Wasinger called it quits when the cost of materials went up and building the campers became unprofitable. After his small Great Dale House Car Co. shuttered, Wasinger started a vehicle salvage business and continued his gambling ventures.

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This Great Dale House Car

1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D (3)
Chris Werstiuk

For the price of $4,800 to $7,200 ($47,334 to $71,001 today), plus whatever you paid for the donor car, you got to turn a wreck into a camper. High-end Great Dale House Cars came with such luxuries as air-conditioning, a shower, and a refrigerator. Remember, during these days, many campers came with ice boxes for refrigeration and you were cooled by opening a window.

According to the Bring a Trailer listing, this 1966 Great Dale House Car started life as a 1965 Dodge Coronet. The front clip from the donor car remains, but everything from behind the fenders was cut out. The body appears to be in good shape, and that’s thanks to repairs and new paint. According to the listing, the Coronet’s body panels have been repaired, the windshield replaced, and the aluminum siding of the camper shell was also replaced.

1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D (4)
Chris Werstiuk

The restoration process continued inside, where the cab of the camper was reupholstered while the living space was refreshed and updated. Modern equipment in the cab comes in the form of a Garmin GPS, a JVC stereo deck, PolkAudio speakers, and a rearview camera.

Move behind the cab and you might have to blink a few times to adjust your eyes from the red of the Coronet to the teal-ish color of the living space. The interior restoration stayed largely period-correct, but you do get a new refrigerator, a memory foam bed, and a new electrical system. Sadly, there isn’t a bathroom, but you do get a cassette toilet! That electrical system is said to consist of “a 200Ah LiFePO4 house battery, a Renogy DC to DC battery charger, [and] a Xantrex PROwatt 600W inverter.” I like the period touches such as the Marmoleum flooring and lighting. You don’t get an air-conditioner, but you do get a roof fan for cooling and a Camco catalytic heater for those cold days.

1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D (5)
Chris Werstiuk
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Chris Werstiuk
1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D (8)
Chris Werstiuk

Other goodies include a three-burner stove, composite countertops, an oven, a sink, and new holding tanks. The listing notes that both the fresh and grey tanks are 15 gallons, each. Like most campers, the dinette also transforms into a bed, so this could sleep four adults if it needed to.

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Badging on the side of the front clip suggests this car started off life as a Coronet 440. Its original V8 engine was replaced in 2016 with a 489 cubic inch V8 lowered into its place. According to the book of service records included with the camper, the engine is 383 V8 from a Coronet 440 with a stroker kit. Modifications to the engine include camshaft and lifters, aluminum cylinder heads, electronic ignition, a 600cfm carburetor, an aluminum radiator, and more. The seller does not estimate power output but does say that a TorqueFlite 727 three-speed automatic was installed at the same time.

1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D (7)
Chris Werstiuk
1966 Great Dale House Car 1965 D (10)
Chris Werstiuk

The camper comes in at 20 feet, 3 inches long, 7 feet wide, and 8.42 feet tall. Add the roof vent and its cover and the camper maxes out at 9.25 feet tall. The seller says the camper weighed 6,300 pounds before restoration. Now, it should weigh about 7,000 pounds. Included in the sale is a color-matched storage box that hooks onto the back. You also get a tow hitch in the rear so you could haul a trailer and a tow ball up front as well. It’s noted that original Great Dale House Cars ended up only a bit heavier than their donor cars. Despite that, at least one review stated that driving a Great Dale House Car was “fun,” not something you often hear about any RV.

If you want in on this piece of history, you might be able to get it for an affordable price. As of right now, bidding is at $5,500 on Bring a Trailer with four days to go. If you need any more evidence of how cool this camper is, the owner says the rig has been on a track and even drag-raced other campers. You won’t see a modern Class A coach doing this!

(Images: Bring A Trailer seller Chris Werstiuk, unless otherwise noted.)

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MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
2 months ago

Ah, the days when things were body on frame, RWD and with minimal safety systems or regulations. You could put together all manner of things like Auto-legos. Not so much anymore. Kudos for this guy and his wife for carving out an interesting living.

Ron888
Ron888
2 months ago

A great idea for a small scale manufacturer. It’s ugly,but the cool car section wins out.I’d own one.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
2 months ago

That’s a motorhome I would definitely like to have. I would think that 600 carb is a bit too small though, would probably be better with a 800-850.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
2 months ago
Reply to  67 Oldsmobile

Either way, you’re going to be filling up the tank at every gas station along the way!

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
2 months ago

I love things like this, and this is why the common attitude in the classic car world of declaring certain cars to be “not worth restoring” frustrates me. Who says you have to restore it to its factory condition? Unless it’s a %100 mangled wreck, there’s nothing so bad a little creativity can’t save it by building something new out of it. My favorite cars to think about are the ones nobody else wants to save, because they’re the ones you have free reign to get creative with and make the most of what’s left of them.

Which is exactly what Dale did, and I love these for it. I bet you can still find tons of cars like that rotting in fields or old junkyards, with intact front clips but “unsalvageable” bodies from the firewall back. Turn them into motorhomes! Why not? It’s a much better use for them than declaring them a lost cause, or dismantling them for parts and scrapping the rest.

Like, a while ago I saw a youtube video of someone wandering through a salvage yard and finding a 1969 Mustang convertible with the middle bent like a taco where the doors used to be as rain had pooled in the open interior and rotted the frame rails in half. The front end was still intact though, so that would be a car you could conceivably cut the back off of and weld the back half of a truck frame to to build a Mustang motorhome.

Finding creative ways to salvage the unsalvageable is one of the best things you can do with car builds, and I love seeing people do this kind of thing.

Last edited 2 months ago by Austin Vail
Old Hippie
Old Hippie
2 months ago

Do I want this? Is a bear Catholic?

But… Marmoleum? Is that made from marmots or Marmite? What does it smell like when wet?

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
2 months ago
Reply to  Old Hippie

It’s a material developed for constructing marmot mausoleums.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
2 months ago

This is awesome and I want it!

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
2 months ago

Damn…I bet that thing *moves* with a 489 stroker. That’s a beast of an engine.

Millermatic
Millermatic
2 months ago

I… would pay $5,500 for this. I _really_ hope that it goes much, much higher… or I may be looking at marriage counseling.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Yeah, if I bought this, my wife would make me live in it full time… Although I could think of worse places to live…

Millermatic
Millermatic
2 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

And it’s still at $5,500. Dammit.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Oh dear … *sweats nervously*

Jimmy7
Jimmy7
2 months ago

Look to the left. See that avatar? That one was mine. It was never this nice. Last seen it was in England. Here’s a sighting from the ironically named Practical Motorhome:
https://www.practicalmotorhome.com/news/cadillac-camper-up-for-ebay-auction
I’m writing this in a Winnebago right now! You’re pouring a shot in front of a recovering addict.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  Jimmy7

Perfect!
I love the Autopian commentariat [thunmbs up]

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
2 months ago

Ah, the freedom of a time before unibodies, automobile electronics, liability, and expensive gas.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

The house that Dale built

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
2 months ago

“ Helping him along was his wife, who aided in keeping the businesses running while also assisting with the car mating process.”

Stand alone pull quote of the day!

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
2 months ago

You know, with that color scheme inside, that pretty much IS already the Autopian RV…

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

That red stove and sink combo is gorgeous!! I definitely would not have thought of putting that color in a turquoise interior.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
2 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

The only way it could be any better would be to spray stove & sink in the Coronet’s color

Hans Sjodin
Hans Sjodin
2 months ago

I saw one sitting at a gas station in Colorado Springs for years. Eventually they sold it. It was Cadillac based and I had a picture of it I’ll have to tack down.

Data
Data
2 months ago

I feel like I would be bashing my knees on those speakers.
I guess the inside is wider than the donor vehicle, though.

Last edited 2 months ago by Data
UnseenCat
UnseenCat
2 months ago
Reply to  Data

It looks essentially like the same way a truck “doghouse” is integrated into a school bus body.

The (narrower) original cowl is connected to the surrounding sheetmetal of the larger coachwork — in this case the rest of the camper, which includes a wider windshield. In fact, the work here looks tidier than some school buses.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Data

The foot well looks exactly the same width as in the donor car, which is quite spacious – that area with the speaker is just where the body’s been widened for the camper, added dead space in the front seat area.

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
2 months ago

@mercedes, got a typo in there “According to the Bring a Trailer listing, this 1966 Great Dale House Car started life as a 1955 Dodge Coronet.” That’s a 65 Dodge Coronet.

That is a super interesting story, I (like most) have never seen one of these, although I have seen a number or really bad backyard attempts to do something like this.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago
Reply to  Hiram McDaniel

Yeah, I’m sure a lot of us have seen more amateurish jobs like this, but its interesting to see how much thought went into building the source material

Hiram McDaniel
Hiram McDaniel
2 months ago

Drifting with 31hp would be far more impressive. 🙂

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
2 months ago

How many lawsuits would something like this engender today and how many bureaucracies would squash your vision? This is so neat. People used to be cool.

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
2 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

This is really no different than the coach companies that build limos/hearses. The Great Dale and his wife probably did better work than your average limo.

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