Home » U-Haul Used To Build Fiberglass Campers And The ‘Holy Grail’ Is Up For Sale

U-Haul Used To Build Fiberglass Campers And The ‘Holy Grail’ Is Up For Sale

Grail Haul
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Every day, I scour the internet for the most special RVs I could find. Many old rigs make me smile, and I’m usually enamored by unique design or offbeat features. Through all of this, I’ve found that there are few campers that make my heart skip a beat quite like the incredible fiberglass U-Haul campers of the 1980s. I just found a unicorn, the true Holy Grail of U-Haul campers. This 1985 U-Haul VT16 is one of just perhaps 56 ever built, and it can be yours.

Before I continue, I should note that my own U-Haul CT13 is still around! Admittedly, I haven’t started restoration work on it, but I have done some preservation work so it’ll stay in “cold storage,” so to speak. The siblings of my little CT13 are highly sought after with fans of vintage campers. U-Haul built fewer than 2,000 of them and the rental giant made them for rental service, so they’re pretty durable. This VT16 is slightly larger and better equipped, and it’s so rare it puts most of our Holy Grail cars to shame.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

From U-Haul’s Wildest Era

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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

Throughout much of the 1900s, Americans discovered a new way to spend their free time. Instead of more traditional vacation ideas, they hit the road, bringing along a living space for them. Camping vehicles evolved with the times, growing from a basic wooden box slapped onto a wagon to elaborate palaces on wheels. The late 1960s and the early 1970s brought on a rise of a different construction material. The fiberglass camper promised lower maintenance, lighter weight, and a distinctive style.

Americans were downsizing in this era thanks to fuel crises, tightening vehicle emissions, and a worsening economy. A lot of Americans no longer owned vehicles that could tow a huge camper, but still wanted to explore this large country. This helped pave the way for fiberglass trailers to become a favorite for some. Meanwhile, U-Haul – the do-it-yourself rental giant – saw an opportunity.

U-Haul via Lunchmeat VHS

Today, U-Haul is known best for its fleet of durable rental trailers that you cannot buy. U-Haul will also put you behind the wheel of a truck with a 26,000-pound GVWR or allow you to store your stuff in preserved historic buildings all over America. But there was a time when U-Haul was known for more than just moving equipment and storage.

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Back in the 1980s, U-Haul was trying its hand at letting Americans rent essentially anything. Watch this commercial below and you’ll see what I mean:

I’ve told this story before, but it’s so silly that it’s worth mentioning again. In the 1980s, you could enter a U-Haul rental store and walk out with a belt sander, an ATV, a Jet Ski, a VHS player, a tractor, and a Winnebago if you wanted to. U-Haul even had a humorous spy thriller-themed ad where a discount James Bond-type fella suited up in U-Haul’s colors escapes from some bad guys first in a truck, then a three-wheeler, and finally a Jet Ski before arriving to a woman in bed.

The best part is that all of this equipment had U-Haul branding and colors all over it. To this day, I wonder if any of the U-Haul ATVs and Jet Skis survived.

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When it came to camping equipment, U-Haul offered a choice of motorhomes or two different towables. The motorhomes came from the likes of Winnebago, but when it came time for U-Haul to offer rental towable campers, it ran into a problem.

U-Haul Builds Its Own Campers

Mercedes Streeter

For decades, fiberglass camper enthusiasts have given us best guesses and assumptions about how U-Haul’s splendid campers came to be. A long-time popular rumor is that U-Haul nabbed some molds from Burro Inc. and just made minor changes to create the smaller U-Haul CT13 Get-A-Way Camper. This is believable, as Burros and U-Hauls look like they could be siblings! Others have said that U-Haul made a deal with Scamp and U-Hauls were just Scamp models with new stickers and a slightly different layout.

Here’s a Burro for reference. It’s easy to believe U-Haul took Burro’s molds. However, Burro was still in production at this time, so that would have been unlikely.

Burro Inc.

Back in 2021, I decided to answer this question once and for all by reaching out to the U-Haul Media Relations team. It was a shot in the dark, but maybe someone there knew how the campers were built. As luck would have it, I was able to speak to the last engineer still employed at U-Haul who still had knowledge of the camper trailer program.

As the engineer told me, when U-Haul was executing its plan to rent out lightweight campers, the company’s engineers examined the campers then on the market. Apparently, the engineers liked the features they saw but weren’t convinced existing units could survive years of abuse as rental trailers. To solve this, U-Haul decided to build its own ultra-durable camper.

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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

The engineer told me that U-Haul’s design process involved buying some of the most popular fiberglass trailers on the market, and then hauling them into U-Haul’s warehouse. Those trailers included a Burro, a Scamp, and other then-popular brands. The engineers were then told to examine each trailer for its strengths and weaknesses.

Engineers would then create their own trailers with their favorite strengths, without the downfalls of other units, and backed by U-Haul’s proprietary frame. Getting into campers apparently fulfilled a dream of U-Haul founder Leonard Samuel Shoen.

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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

 

The engineer told me that while a U-Haul CT13 and VT16 look similar to offerings from other brands, U-Haul wasn’t using anyone else’s molds. In this case, a CT13 looks like a Burro because the engineers loved the Burro design so much they decided to copy it.

With the designs locked in, U-Haul’s campers were manufactured by U-Haul subsidiary Rec-Vee World, as well as Dayton Trailer Manufacturing Company in Ohio, Youngstown Trailer Manufacturing in Ohio, and potentially a couple of more companies. Despite the might of U-Haul and the large number of manufacturing plants involved, you’d there would be a lot of these campers out there. However, U-Haul produced campers for just two years, 1984 and 1985.

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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

Sadly, while U-Haul did preserve records of the program, including production numbers, the gentleman that I spoke with couldn’t find them. He spent weeks digging through U-Haul’s archives without any luck. The Media Relations team told me the records could have been lost during an office move. The best guess came from U-Haul CEO Joe Shoen, who loves the campers so much he has his own CT13. He said that there are less than 2,000 CT13s in the wild. And the VT16 just barely exists with anywhere between 59 and 80 units made. How many of either are left in functional condition is also unknown.

At any rate, U-Haul succeeded in its mission. The CT13 Get-A-Way Camper (also sometimes just called Camper in graphics) and the VT16 Vacation Traveler were trailers constructed out of double hulls of thick fiberglass and rode on U-Haul’s strong proprietary frame. Like U-Haul’s cargo trailers, the campers were designed around the idea of being easy to use, easy to hitch up, and easy to tow. My CT13 is one of the easiest trailers to hook up with a tongue light enough to handle by hand and a confidence-inspiring hand-wheel coupler lock.

Inside, you got everything you needed and nothing you didn’t. CT13s came with a front seating area that turned into a bunk bed, a dinette that also turned into a bed, and a central area consisting of a basic kitchen with an icebox and a manual pump sink. On the other side of the trailer is a somewhat spacious wardrobe. Basic features included rear stabilizer jacks, a swamp cooler, a furnace, a solar panel, and a stove. The CT13, which featured a 10-foot box, a 13-foot total length, and a weight of about 1,100 pounds, was designed to be the camper your family rented for a short weekend getaway.

Uhaul Int
Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

 

If you wanted to camp out a little longer and could find one to rent, there was the VT16 Vacation Traveler. As the name would suggest, this camper added three feet of length. More than that, VT16s have an air-conditioner instead of a swamp cooler, a refrigerator instead of an icebox, and the extra space allowed for a small bathroom consisting of a sink and a toilet. The VT16 clocked in at about 1,850 pounds empty, which still allowed a variety of vehicles to tow it.

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This 1985 U-Haul VT16

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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

Normally, a U-Haul trailer’s life ends when the company is done renting it. U-Haul destroys most of its trailers once their service lives are over. It’s sad because U-Haul builds some of the best trailers money cannot buy. However, the CT13 and VT16 trailers were an exception to the rule. The company rented the trailers until about 1992 when it was decided to pull out of camper rentals. Instead of just scrapping the campers, U-Haul etched “Not” in front of “Property Of U-Haul” on the trailers’ tongues and then sold them to the public. 

That brings us to today’s VT16. Most of the photos in this piece are of the trailer for sale today. It’s not in 100 percent original condition, but it presents in great shape. Besides, if you’re going to wait for an original you may never find one.

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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace
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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

On the exterior, obvious changes include custom graphics, a new porch light, a removed window on the left side, a replaced rear window, and new lights. This trailer also still rides on its factory steel tube frame While these trailers were strong, their frames are known for rotting out. There is some rough rust present on this unit’s frame, but it could be fixed.

The interior has been given an update as well. From the factory, this trailer would have had pretty drab gray fabrics and U-Haul logos over every conceivable solid surface. While the bathroom has a new door and the cushions are now blue, you can still see some original U-Haul cabinet doors. The bathroom appears to have its original sink, but a newer cassette toilet. Also different is where the kitchen used to be. Now it’s just one large butcher block countertop with a newer refrigerator underneath. The lack of a propane bottle up front suggests any propane features no longer work.

Uhaul Int1
Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

So, it’s not a perfect trailer, but it’s still a good version of an absurdly rare unit. I would definitely want to restore the kitchen and try to find the probably unobtanium left window. Honestly, just seeing one of these for sale is almost breaking my brain. Usually, when a VT16 shows up for sale it disappears before I can even let out an “Oh my gosh” and dream about owning it.

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Roy, the seller out of Sebastian, Florida, is asking $10,000 for the unit. There was a time when you could get an original U-Haul in good condition for $6,000, but those days are long over. Now, a clean original sells for $15,000 or sometimes more. This one seems like it’s priced within a fair range. I never wanted a loose $10,000 in my pocket more than I do right now. So, one of you has to become the new caretaker of this awesome piece of history.

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Roy Munson – Facebook Marketplace

(Images: Roy Munson, unless otherwise noted.)

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Mic1964
Mic1964
9 months ago

This one is the holy grail. Just sold for $15000. But, I’m biased towards Saabs so I’ll admit that up front.

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/1964-saab-saabo-camper/

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
9 months ago

Hey Mercedes, cool article. I do want to point out one thing; in the fiberglass boat market, every single company claims their hull designs are completely original/not copies, and while that may be true in recent history, it was not always so in the past. In the 50s/60s/70s, boat companies would buy the competition, test them, and quickly flip them over, make a mold, add a few subtle changes, and claim it was their own.

I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but I am saying it was possible something similar happened: They made a mold from someone else, modified it a bit, and then started popping out slightly different parts. Not familiar enough with them to understand completely.

Major Malfunction
Major Malfunction
9 months ago

Saw comments about towing something like this and some of the vehicles being mentioned. Listen folks, your tow limit is practically meaningless. It’s all about your payload and you’ll run out of that way before you hit your tow limit. If you can tow 2000 lbs with your vehicle, you’ll want 12-15% of the trailer GVW at the tongue. That being said, that can be 250lbs. The tongue load limit is lost likely 200lbs for that vehicle, so forget about it. And that assumes you have nothing else in your vehicle. Add passengers, cooler, dog, and bike; and you probably long exceed payload of the tow vehicle. Usually once you exceed tongue or payload, the tail starts wagging the dog on the road and it’s white knuckle time. Lots of people obviously don’t know this stuff and but trailers WAY beyond what they should be towing, especially first time buyers.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
9 months ago

I’ve found the exact opposite. Everyone thinks they need a pickup to tow a small fishing boat or jet skis. It’s ridiculous.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

in the 70’s and 80’s it was often Station wagons(or Full Frame Cars) and V8 Cars that seemed to always have a U-Haul installed hitch. Incidentally their use of Schotch locks for lighting should have been criminal. But I even got my first car a 351 Mach 1 from 1971 with a horseshoe hitch bolted to my bumper when I picked it up from the seller. Quite enjoyable to guess what, if anything could actually be towed by unibody car using the bumper only. but I guess I towed many a boat with a Ball in the hole just in front of the license plate on the bumper of many a Chevy trucks.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
8 months ago
Reply to  JDE

I did that with my old 94 dakota and the bumper literally snapped near the ball mount.

Piston Slap Yo Mama
Piston Slap Yo Mama
9 months ago

We threw all caution to the wind when I moved from Austin to Tampa, at least where my tow vehicle is concerned. We pulled a 2500lb Triumph TR6 on a 2000lb trailer behind a Mazda B2300 with 5-speed, probably exceeding our truck’s rated tow capacity by 3X. The car was full of spare parts, the bed of the truck had a couple hundred pounds of books and a topper. With the weight properly distributed and some Timbren bump stops and a trailer with electric brakes it was smooth sailing though we never got it out of 4th gear. What a great truck.

Flip side: don’t try this anywhere that isn’t flat as Kansas.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
9 months ago

I think it’s the newer vehicles that really get people into trouble. Something with the same payload as that old Mazda but 2x the power is going to fool someone into thinking it’ll tow a much bigger trailer. And it will, but not safely.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago
Reply to  Defenestrator

Certainly thing like Chevrolet’s Traverse, being as big as it is has a real problem for people looking to tow with one and not getting the Tow Package. the rating without a tow package from the factory is likely less than that Mazda was. but with it, the capacity jumps into older V6 Ranger territory.

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
9 months ago

Well, that’s really just a Ford Ranger in disguise! (depending on what year you B2300 was) That makes the tow rating “unlimited”!

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
9 months ago

The ’92 Firebird that came up when I clicked that Facebook link was looking pretty boss too for like $6k. 90’s teal blue, gold rims, convertible. Who cares if it is probably a V6.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
9 months ago

I’d love to pick up one of these someday, but I’ve already got two campers as it is, and that’s one too many – with what I’ve been going through trying to sell the one, I’m kind of soured on the whole concept, since it seems you can’t just get rid of them like a car when you’re ready to move on

Theresatimetocomment
Theresatimetocomment
9 months ago

“a VHS player” – I read this and had to backtrack because something seemed off. Then I realized VCR must be generational jargon at this point. ROFL.

Beatle
Beatle
9 months ago

Looking at the picture, it might actually be a VCR and not just a player. Though you’re unlikely to be able to record much of anything in an RV, the button to the left of the play button does appear to be record button with the round icon.

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
9 months ago

At the time, you could choose between VHS and Betamax . . .

Liamlunchtray1
Liamlunchtray1
8 months ago

VHS and Beta were both stocked for rentals at that point and the machines used for rental were frequently player only and would be labeled VCP instead of VCR. They were like 1/2 the width of a full VCR and didnt include a TV tuner.

Theresatimetocomment
Theresatimetocomment
8 months ago
Reply to  Liamlunchtray1

Come to think of it, I happen to have owned an old VHS player from my grandparents. Never Betamax though. I remember playing VHS on an old black and white TV before we owned a color TV. Memory lane

DadBod
DadBod
9 months ago

Back when these were rentals, can you imagine how revolting the interior was? Who on Earth would want to spend a vacation in a rolling pay-by-the-hour hotel/crackhouse?
If I was going to buy a used one I would budget for some time to boil the entire unit.

Last edited 9 months ago by DadBod
Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
9 months ago

This is only a few miles from me. I saw it on marketplace last week. It’s a little heavy for my car, I’ve been on and off somewhat seriously looking for one of the 13 footers.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
9 months ago

That’s very cool! It’s still too small for my family, but I love it!

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
9 months ago

Very, very tempting. However, the cost/work needed to get the bathroom/kitchen back to its original function might not make it worth it for me. I hope someone else jumps on this!

Oh, and speaking of lightweight campers, I’ve been talking with LIV. As Mercedes hinted back in her story, they are working on a smaller camper. Reps have sent over the plans for a 17′ model that still includes a bath/shower. They believe it should have a dry weight closer to 1,500 lbs. than 2,000 lbs…which is perfect for the Mav! If I play my cards right, I may get a chance to see the prototypes up close.

Matt Dieter
Matt Dieter
9 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

Thanks for the mention of the LIV camper. As a fellow Mav owner, I’d never considered a camper before, even when I had a full-size truck. But something about the Mav makes me want a camper. Interestingly enough, when I re-read the linked article, I saw that their only dealer in Indiana is only miles from some family! Looks like I’ll need to stop by there.

Also, wild timing on this article! My wife and I literally just saw one of the smaller ones last weekend!

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Dieter

I’d be curious to see what you find at the Indiana dealership. I’m hoping LIV is exactly what I’m looking for but I’m reading a fair amount of quality control issues on Facebook. The thermoplastic also appears to lead to a lot of condensation in the camper, though most campers have moisture issues. Maybe it can be solved with a layer of insulation on the camper’s interior walls?

Matt Dieter
Matt Dieter
9 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

As someone who loves in a tiny house, I can totally see the condensation being an issue- we fight it all the time. I would at least feel more comfortable with it in a LIV with the plastic walls, as there should be nothing for it to impact, aside from maybe gathering dust/dirt/grime faster?

Sklooner
Sklooner
9 months ago

I know an RV tech who had one, said they fibreglassed all the wiring in place so it is impossible to repair he was contemplating making a slide out in his when somebody threw him a bucket of money for it

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
9 months ago

Wow Roy Munson selling a camper. Probably the best thing to have in case you get all Munsoned out in the middle of nowhere.

Billywa
Billywa
9 months ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

Came here for this. Faith in humanity restored…

Lardo
Lardo
9 months ago
Reply to  Billywa

I missed this and am very disappointed in myself. One of my favorite movies. It was also the F bros. favorite that they made, they didn’t understand why it wasn’t a bigger hit. They Munsoned it. One of the Bros. was at a party. He told the well known hypochondriac Warren Beatty. if the bro should be worried about a growth he had on his stomach. Warren’s ego went into effect, said it could be series. Let me see it. The Bro. lifted his shirt. Pushed down his belt line a little. Warren stepped closer. The Bro had pulled the head of his P out above the top of his pants. That’s no growth…

Last edited 9 months ago by Lardo
George CoStanza
George CoStanza
9 months ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

I guess Roy added the butcher block, since it would be easier to sand out any hook damage.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
9 months ago

Mercedes, as you pointed out in your CT13 review, the seam joining the two halves of the U-Haul campers is, uh hmm, vertical in contrast the horizontal seams in Scamps and similar trailers available today. Have you seen any water leakage from the seam in your trailer? How are the two halves joined?

1600 lbs for this trailer is incredibly lightweight. A 2-door Wrangler could tow one of these. (EDIT: Oops, 1800 lbs. That’s still towable for a small vehicle.)

Last edited 9 months ago by OverlandingSprinter
10001010
10001010
9 months ago

Having grown up basically in a marina it’s always interesting to me how much fiberglass campers and RVs have in common with yachts.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
9 months ago
Reply to  10001010

Yes, they both suck money out of your wallet! ఠ_ఠ

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
9 months ago
Reply to  Shooting Brake

Hopefully, fiberglass sucks less compared to traditional campers (ㆆ_ㆆ)

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
9 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

I own a Class A fiberglass RV, and like a boat, it has to be waxed/rubbed out at least once every season, (it really should be done twice a season if I am being honest), and traditional campers usually are clad in aluminum and I think they would be more maintenance intensive but I do not have any experience with aluminum clad RV’s as mine have always been fiberglass.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
9 months ago

I agree and that is why I’ve always had fiberglass RV’s.

( My current one is a Class A Holiday Rambler, which I chose because of its ALUMAFRAME® construction and a one piece fiberglass roof)

Last edited 9 months ago by Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
9 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

The big game is tomorrow, Go Blue! d(ˆڡˆ)b

Last edited 9 months ago by Shooting Brake
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