Home » The Rare Kom-Pak Sportsman Is A Gorgeous Fiberglass Camper With A Roof That Turns Into A Boat

The Rare Kom-Pak Sportsman Is A Gorgeous Fiberglass Camper With A Roof That Turns Into A Boat

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Back in the 1950s, post-World War II America experienced a boom. Americans had money to spend and a lot of them were finding new hobbies, including camping. Recreational vehicles also saw their own boom in the 1950s with new ideas and designs hitting the road. One of these new campers was the Kom-Pak Sportsman; it offered utility that is rare to find in a camper even today. The Kom-Pak Sportsman combined the looks of a ’50s Ford with a fiberglass body and low weight. But it also had a trick up its sleeve: The roof was a boat that you could use to go fishing. Here’s the kicker: It’s believed that fewer than 20 of them were ever built.

Believe it or not, I have a list of campers to write about should I ever find an example in good condition for sale. So many unique RVs have popped up throughout history and disappeared without much of a trace. Some rigs weren’t even lucky enough to have any documented history of surviving after production. For example, the Apache Cub was a utility trailer, a camper, and a boat all in one. But it apparently sold for just a single year in 1981. Good luck finding one of these at all, let alone one totally intact.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The Kom-Pak Sportsman is another one of those campers.

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They’re hard to find in any condition, let alone the gorgeous state that this camper is in. Ok, well, a lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s believed that fewer than 20 were ever built, and of those, maybe a handful or so survive. If there ever was a holy grail of travel trailers, this might be it.

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A Rare Mystery

1953 Kompak Sportsman 1552352036
Bring a Trailer Seller

Before I continue, if you do a search on Google for “Kom-Pak Sportsman,” you will find at least 12 of these Kom-Pak campers, and many of them were auction listings. Toss in the one I found today and now you have 13. It’s been reported that just 6 of these survive, but to my eyes there does appear to be more than just 6 out there. And those are just the ones that have made it onto the internet. Of course, the question is how many of those are around today and there isn’t a definitive answer. There could even be more than 20 of them out there, but it appears nobody really knows for sure. In fact, as you’re about to find out, information about these campers is about as rare as the campers themselves.

Not a ton is known about the company that created this camper or that company’s motivations. According to the sole advertisement I could find, Kom-Pak Industries assembled the campers in Medford, Oregon, and charged $1,595 for the trailers.

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The advertisement, which may have been intended for California customers, shows four dealers in the state. A business search reveals that Kom-Pak may have had a presence in Indiana in the mid-1960s as well. So, Kom-Pak presumably had a distribution network of some kind running. A definitive timeline hasn’t been established, but it’s reported that these campers were built between the early 1950s and the mid-1950s.

I’ve done hours of digging and haven’t yet been able to produce any additional information than what has already been reported out there. There’s nothing on the Wayback Machine and I’ve had no luck digging through historical listings on eBay, either. If you have any information about this company, I’d love to know!

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Thankfully, while not much is known about the company that built these trailers, we do know a lot about the trailers themselves.

The Kom-Pak Sportsman

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According to the advertisement for the trailer, the Kom-Pak Sportsman is constructed out of fiberglass. This camper comes from the early days of fiberglass campers, long before Boler hit the scene and helped popularize the material for camper construction. It measures in at 13 feet, 8 inches long, and 6 feet, 5 3/4 inches wide. A Sportsman sits 6 feet, 9 inches tall, and has 13 inches of ground clearance so it can get down rough terrain. I like how Kom-Pak sized this camper so that it could fit in a garage!

The trick feature of the Sportsman is its roof. Look long enough and you’ll realize the roof is actually a fiberglass boat. The boat weighs 135 pounds and measures 12 feet long. Kom-Pak says that the boat has a 54-inch beam and a 23-inch depth. The seller hasn’t provided a picture of the boat detached but here’s one from a Bring a Trailer auction.

1953 Kompak Sportsman 1552352494
Bring a Trailer Seller

This is more of a fishing boat than a pleasure craft and Kom-Pak recommended an outboard with a power range of 3 HP to 10 HP.

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Since the boat is the camper’s roof, when the boat is removed from the roof, canvas becomes the camper’s roof. As for the boat’s outboard, the Kom-Pak is designed so that the outboard motor mounts to the tongue when the boat is being used as a roof.

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Another highlight of the Sportsman is its design. The fiberglass body was molded to match the car design of the era. Hemmings notes that the trailer specifically matches the era’s Fords. Kom-Pak notes that the trailer rides on 15-inch tires and hubs taken from Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler products. An advertised feature is that the wheels of the trailer are interchangeable with your tow vehicle, though I’m not entirely sure what practicality that has.

Standard equipment included a work table, vents, cabinets, a 5.3 cubic-foot ice box, and an 8.4-gallon water tank. The boat also rode on rollers so one person could extract it from the roof. You got all of this for $1,595, or roughly $18,200 in today’s money. That’s not bad for two vehicles in one! Sure, you couldn’t stand up in a Sportsman, but it was a lot better than sleeping in a tent. You got all of this in a trailer that weighs just 1,180 pounds, too!

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This 1954 Kom-Pak Sportsman is said to have been given a full restoration complete with documentation. During the restoration, the camper was painted to match a 1954 Ford Crestline Victoria. Kom-Pak offered custom paint color matching, so giving it Ford Coral paint is technically period-correct!

The seller really wants to sell the trailer and car as a pair, so let’s talk about what you’re getting for a tow vehicle. The 1954 Ford Crestline Victoria comes with a 239 cubic inch V8 making 130 HP. This is believed to be the original engine and it sends power to the rear wheels through a three-speed column-shifted manual. It has 61,000 miles on the odometer and is said to be rust-free.

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Output

Not The Only Camper Boat Thing

The concept of a camper that converts into a boat didn’t die with the Sportsman. In the 1960s, the idea was continued when the Trailorboat Engineering Company introduced the Trailorboat. That too was a camper with a boat on its roof. Later, the aforementioned Apache Cub was put into production. Other companies have even expanded the concept even further. We wrote about the Ship-A-Shore Combo Cruiser before, which was a camper and a houseboat in one.

In the modern day, the camper with a detachable boat lives in the American Dream Trailer Company’s Classic American Dream Trailer, which has a classic look that harkens back to the older trailers in this piece. Though, this company hasn’t updated its website or its social media pages since 2017, so the company’s status is unclear.

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Image (13)

If you want the ultra-rare Sportsman, the seller wants $53,500 for the pair, and honestly, that almost seems like a good price. Who knows when will be the next time a Kom-Pak Sportsman comes up for sale? And who knows if that trailer will be in good shape and come with an equally-fantastic matching tow vehicle.

This is something you’d see selling for tons of money on Bring a Trailer, so I’m somewhat surprised to see it lurking around Facebook of all places. If you’re looking for a piece of obscure history, reach out to the seller and maybe, bring this camper home from Spokane Valley, Washington.

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If you happen to know any additional information about these campers or the company that built them, drop me a line at mercedes@theautopian.com.

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(Images: Seller, unless otherwise noted.)

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James Patterson
James Patterson
1 year ago

The purpose of having the same wheels as your tow vehicle is that you only need to carry one spare tire. Back in the 50’s people got flat tires all the time.

Doug Kretzmann
Doug Kretzmann
1 year ago

thanks Mercedes.. that camper is absolutely fabulous, and the matching car oh my.

I used to have a Subaru Legacy wagon, with a sunroof that leaked. Fixing it was outside my budget, I could have siliconed it up tight but I liked having the sunroof. Luckily on most long road trips I’d have a canoe on the roofracks, and built-in waterproofing for the sunroof 😉

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

I learned of a Type 2 with a boat on top back in my air-cooled days, but had never heard of these—this is cool! The lack of headroom inside is pretty severe, though. Total height 6’ 9”, subtract 23” for the boat, then, what, 2’ from ground to floor inside (13” ground clearance given), so you have maybe 3’? A bit more between the boat’s seats. I wonder if the canvas top has hoops to raise that?

$52k seems like a good deal for the right person. This is cool enough that you wouldn’t even have to sport it ironically: “No flat-screens or granite-topped fripperies for us; just Atomic Age awesomeness “. Plus, these have already been around for almost 70 years, and, from what Mercedes has shown us lately, I wonder whether a lot of the current stuff produced will last a 10th of that.

CSRoad
CSRoad
1 year ago

At some point in the late ’60’s or early 1970’s my friend’s neighbor had a fold out tent trailer which used a short fat fiberglass fishing boat as the cover. The basic concept does seem to come and go like a campfire beer.

Erik Hancock
Erik Hancock
1 year ago

I love the look, but I prefer the functionality of the American Dream Trailer. I’ll take the extra bit of fiberglass weight to give the trailer a permanent roof rather than having to deploy a canvas one every time. Looks like a lot of snaps and potential for leaks. Boats can also get dirty when in use – I wouldn’t want to dump that stuff into my open trailer at the end of the trip. Maybe you rinse out the boat before you reassemble it, but do you have to dry it out as well?

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 year ago

Honestly the car alone is probably worth between 20-30k, so yeah this seems like an amazing deal for a car and camper of any sort. You’ll be painfully slow on the highway of course, but everyone will smile as they pass you so it’s okay. I would’ve expected this pair to be worth a lot more.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

Just stay in the right lane, you’ll be able to hold the speed limit, but, of course, the speed limit is going to be 20mph less than the rest of traffic wants to go

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 year ago

That’s a nice pairing in the lead image with the color matched car and camper. Somebody should compile a list of boat and camper combos. I saw a clip on Instagram yesterday from the early 60s showing a British rig built around a Mini Van with a boat on the roof and integrated camper trailer. On arrival the rear part detached and they drove the Mini off to go fishing

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 year ago

CLC Boats should bring this back for a second trailer design accompanying their successful teardrop. While the latter can be outfitted with a roof rack, an integrated design would be especially cool, though I don’t know what current boat they have that would work as they’re more narrow-beam for efficiency than would work for a trailer.

Aceto Balsamico
Aceto Balsamico
1 year ago

I sure hope this doesn’t awaken something in me

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago

Carved in fiber reinforced plastic
so rare and undoubtedly unique.
Endowed with natures fortune,
the perfect camper of which I speak.

A trailer of unmatched power,
to ward every dark cloud from the sky.
So lustrous in its beauty,
that it just captivates my eye.

A something so uncommon,
to fire and ignite my imaginative mind.
So magic and so elusive,
dreams and hopes of such to find.

Glimpses of the wonder and the beauty,
that have caught me in their spell.
A desire to tow the Kom-Pak,
With matching coral Crestline down life’s trail.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago

A Ford in coral is a treat
Matching camper is truly sweet
Down life’s trails I’d happily tote
Holy shit its also a boat.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  Chronometric

(Nice!) That’s what I meant to say.

Harmon20
Harmon20
1 year ago

ok, I don’t often say this kind of thing about inanimate objects, or even animate ones truth be told, but that thing is sexy.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago

Huge boat guy, I own 4 of them. Storage is always the most annoying part of boat ownership, and I really don’t understand why more companies have not tried this. A boat hull is hydrodynamic, which means it’s aerodynamic. Put on roof of RV = you get storage space in the RV, and boat takes up zero storage space. Brilliant. Should be attempted by a modern company. Don’t get why nobody is on this.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Let’s bring in some designers from Crystal Kayak for this venture. If I’m camping, I want to see the night sky when I lie down to sleep.
“Is that Alpha Centauri?”
“No… that’s Nymphaeaceae.”
We’re on this.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago

Doubles as a greenhouse!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Yup, as the seasons change it gets repurposed.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

In fact it fits perfectly atop the the raised garden box (sold separately).

Drew
Drew
1 year ago

The biggest problem I would have buying this is that I would want to use it, but would also fear doing so, given the rarity and condition. Really cool, though.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 year ago
Reply to  Drew

At least you could use the car, that’s not as rare but still cool and certainly fun to tool around in, and the camper would be a huge hit at car shows.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

An advertised feature is that the wheels of the trailer are interchangeable with your tow vehicle, though I’m not entirely sure what practicality that has.

That would allow the operator to store/carry just one spare wheel, rather than one for the car and one for the camper, and the car and camper wheels can match (as they do on this gem you discovered).

When replacements are required, it allows the use of commonly-available car-sized rims and tires, rather than requiring camper-specific items. How often do we see small trailers parked at the side of the highway because one tire failed and the driver didn’t have the right size spare?

If we take this a bit further, it would also allow a really complicated tire-rotation ritual, swapping seven tires around (car + trailer + spare). That sounds a little silly but it’s probably also a good idea: it will keep the spare and the trailer tires from aging out while the car tires get replaced. 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by A. Barth
A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

You’re very welcome! Thank you as well for the Kom-Pak piece: it’s very interesting and has given me a new level of inspiration. I shall explain.

After seeing the earlier article about buying U-Hauls, I took a look at their site and was intrigued by the two-wheeled car-hauling dolly. They won’t sell their motorcycle carriers, but what if I took a dolly and added some wide, shallow U-channel, wheel chocks, and tie-down points and made the dolly into a hauler for two motorcycles?

That seems pretty feasible, but it doesn’t offer much aero or protection for the bikes; this is where the inspiration hit.

I was thinking that having the boat on the top of the Kom-Pak means that the roof is genuinely watertight and has an aero benefit as well. What if I took an aluminum canoe – which is symmetrical front-to-back – and cut it in half along the short axis at the midpoint? That would give me two identical streamlined housings that could be mounted to the front of the moto-dolly, one for each bike!

The canoe-ends could sit on their own frames and be secured with clevis pins or similar while in motion. Half of an aluminum canoe should be manageable for one person to lift into place. Or I could put them on hinged frames: lift them up, load the bikes (after removing the mirrors), lower the nacelles back into place, and secure as above.

Depending on the size of the canoe, the pointy end could protect the headlight and possibly the front fender, and the rest would probably cover the bikes at least as far back as the seats. 🙂

Doug Kretzmann
Doug Kretzmann
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

a Grumman aluminium canoe is about 75-80lbs, so half a canoe would be very manageable..

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Kretzmann

That’s good to know – thanks, Doug! I found a few on ebay but had no idea what they actually weighed. I just remembered seeing pictures of canoes carried by two people.

Also learned that a lot of them are in the 15-to-17-foot range, so cutting one in half would result in two really big pieces. However, I could cut a section out of the middle and then use four feet or so from each end, making those pieces even lighter.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I was starting to think about the loss of structural rigidity of a canoe when cut in half and starting to think this was a bad idea for a DIY project until I got to the word nacelles… oh it’s A. Barth, carry on.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

I will take that as a compliment. Thanks! 🙂

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Intended that way.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 year ago

Mercedes, the Internet tells me that a ’65+ Corvair steel wheel works just fine on a CT13.

Steve's House of Cars
Steve's House of Cars
1 year ago

The Volo Museum has a 1961 Trailorboat on display. I saw this article and assumed it was the same camper, but as you noted, it is apparently a common engineering solution over the past 80 years, re-appearing every decade or two.

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