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.
The Kom-Pak Sportsman is another one of those campers.
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.
A Rare Mystery
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
If you happen to know any additional information about these campers or the company that built them, drop me a line at email@example.com.
(Images: Seller, unless otherwise noted.)