RV’ing, ’20s style

Published 12:44 am Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Andalusia native Herb Spies shows off his replica of a 1920s camper that attaches to a Model T. He said it folds out “like a Swiss Army knife.” He and his wife also have collected period enamelware and camping accessories.

Hands down, Herb and Sidra Spies had the most unusual entry in the Andalusia Classics & Streetrods’ 8th Annual Family Fun Day Saturday.

The couple brought a 1924 Motel T with a camper they just recreated, along with antique camping equipment.

Spies is an Andalusia native whose interest in cars might have come naturally. His grandfather, Charles Dunson Ward, had the first car in Andalusia. Family history has it that Ward, who was an optometrist and owned a bicycle shop, was in Atlanta buying supplies for the bicycle shop when he saw the vehicle. He had it shipped to Andalusia on rail, and when it was unloaded at the depot, he had to back it up South Cotton Street.

Fast forward and Spies, who retired from Civil Service after having been in charge of all computer systems at Eglin Air Force Base, buys old cars, too.

He had the Model T, and had heard about campers that were sold for the vehicles. There is one original in an RV museum in Elkhart, Ind., so he drove there to see it.

The owners allowed him to photograph and measure it. He also found a very old Popular Mechanics article about the campers, and the replication was on.

Originally designed and patented by Gustav De Bretteville of San Francisco, there are only two known campers in existence today. When it first became available, it cost $100.

The Model T’s trunk is removable, and the camper fits right on, Spies explained.

“(The camper’s) sort of like a Swiss Army knife. It just keeps opening.”

The camper folds out to provide more space for sleeping, and has fold-out storage, and a table for cooking.

The Spies have collected vintage cookware and camping items for their set-up.

As soon as the couple decided to recreate the camper, they started scouring Ebay, and have added accessories, like a period Coleman lantern, and portable camp stove, a folding table, and vintage dishes and utensils.

The couple said they haven’t actually camped in the vehicle yet, but say that they will.

They have restored, enjoyed, and sold several vehicles. They also have a 1955 Chevrolet, a 1963 Airstream and a Corvair.

Mrs. Spies said that she helps with the restoration process, particularly bead plasting.

They make their home in Shalimar.