Heilite Trailers, Inc.

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The Heilite Camping Trailer is one of the more popular and well known pop-up campers. I have identified two web sites dedicated to them. Both have lots of great photos of the actual trailers and some brochures. You will definitely want to visit them. The first site, SingleWheel.com, is dedicated to vintage single wheel trailers which Heilite's original trailer is a part of. You can also see some material on Valiant and the Viking models. The second site, HeiliteTrailers.com, is a site dedicated to the Heilite Trailers and camping gear. This site contains material on all 3 Heilite models as well.

Heilite Trailers, Inc. was founded by Theodore Heil in 1950 in Lodi, California. Theodore Heil was born in Harvy, North Dakota but moved to Victor in 1905. Theodore was a natural entrepreneur and has several patents credited to him. He was always looking for a better way to do things. He also took an active role in his community participating in the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce, Lodi Industrial Group, Lodi chapter of American Historical Society of Germans From Russia and Lodi Council of Churches. He helped found and served as the first exalted ruler of the Lodi Elks Lodge. Theodore sold Heilite Trailers, Inc. in 1964 and later worked in commercial and industrial property as a sales representative. He died at the age of 95.

Theodore Heil built the original model in 1935, but I have no record showing that he went into production during the 1930's or 1940's. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day) he applied for his first trailer patent. He was awarded US Patent 2,383,192 on August 21, 1945. After some well-thought-through modifications (like using aluminum for the body) he applied for a new patent on March 23, 1948. He was awarded US Patent 2,513,411 on Juy 4, 1950. (He appears to have a knack for important dates). While he did not incorporate his business until 1953 Heilite started production of camping trailers in 1950.

Heilite's first trailer manufactured came with either a standard sized tent or the "Big Tent". Both versions sold for $420 or $456 respectively, or $3,218 and $3,500 in 2007 dollars. Made from lightweight aluminum the trailer weighed only 200 lbs or 220 lbs with the "Big Tent". Total capacity of the trailer was 500 lbs.

Throughout the 1950's Heilite Trailers had very little, if any, real competition. True to his nature though Theodore continued to innovate. The Car Topper, first sold in 1957, proved to be very successful for Heilite during this time as well. It was essentially the same tent structure but instead it rode on top of the car and folded out from there. Click here to view Des. 186,429. As the 1950's drew to a close competition did heat up as new manufacturers arrived on the scene like Apache, Bethany and Nimrod.

Heilite introduced a two wheel version of its trailer in 1960. The single wheel model sold for $545 while the two wheel model sold for $575, or $3,904 and $4,119 in 2009 dollars. The two wheel design was targeted at small foreign and compact cars. In 1961 Heilite added a pickup camper to the mix, made in the same likeness as its tent where you drive the truck out from under it once it was setup. By this time single wheel trailers, while safe, were falling out of favor with the buying public.

In 1963 Heilite introduced a new model referred to as Heilite 170. The original Heilite Camping Trailer was referred to as Heilite 161 or 162 with the "Big Tent". Theodore Heil filed for a patent for this trailer on May 17, 1963 and was granted US Patent 3,170,724 on February 23, 1965. Most notible in this new trailer was a crank mechanism that moved the two storage-bed compartments outward allowing the tent to bow and then spring outward. Trailer size was 12 feet long by 7 feet 2 inches wide, but only 48 inches high when closed for travel and storage. With 10 inches of road clearance underneath the trailer weighed only 500 lbs and was priced at $745, or $5000 in 2007 dollars. The Heilite 161 trailer was priced at $575 or $3,855 in 2007 dollars.

Theodore sold Heilite Trailers, Inc. in 1964. At the time of this writing I do not have the facts on the sale and who purchased the company. Please contact me if you know anything about the sale. Soon the new owners made changes, as could only be expected.

Going into 1965 Heilite Trailers slightly modified their Heilite 161 model and added a sun canopy as standard equipment. It was renamed the Viscount. The Heilite 170 was renamed the Viking. A third model was introduced, the Valiant. It was basically the same as the Viking but with single beds instead of double beds. This served to economize a bit on the Viking and keep the price down.

In 1966 the Valiant model was slightly altered, reflecting more of the look-and-feel of the Viking. But the model line-up was kept the same. After 1966 I have no more facts regarding Heilite Trailers, Inc. I have no information regarding when they quit manufacturing camping trailers. I did find one blurb on the internet about some guy who had worked for Heilite Trailers, Inc. until 1972. But I can find no advertisements for Heilite after 1966. Please contact me if you have any information regarding this or the sale in 1964.

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Website created by Joel Silvey, 2009