A special thanks to Philip Dodd for providing this website's entire collection of Nimrod brochures from the 1960's. Philip has restored his family's Nimrod Seventy 1970 camping trailer and now uses it for his own family camping adventures. Click the link above to read all about his restoration project. Philip did all the work himself and the results are nothing less than impressive.
Ward Manufacturing, Inc. was founded by Ashley Ward Sr. in 1908 and is still in existence today. Now known as Ashley Ward, Inc. they specialize in supplying machined parts and components for their customers. Their corporate offices are located in Mason, OH. You can visit their website at http://www.ashleyward.com.
Ashley Ward Sr. had already made a name for himself when he patented the Nimrod Pipeliter. He applied for a patent for his unique invention on May 17, 1946 and was awarded US Patent 2,432,265 on December 9, 1947. The Nimrod Pipeliter was selling at a rate of 1 million units per year in the 1960's. It is still sold in stores today and remains very popular.
Ward Manufacturing, Inc. produced two distinct lines of camping trailers, the Nimrod and the Wayfarer. In addition to their own line of camping trailers Ward Manufacturing co-branded Ted Williams campers for Sears, Wizard campers for Western Auto Stores, and the Wanderer campers for McCrory.
The Nimrod story begins in 1957 when Ashley Ward purchased a pop-up camper patent from a man in New Jersey (pending patent identification). With $2,500 ($18,300 in 2007 dollars) of his own money money and $2,500 borrowed from a local banker, Val Boeh, Ashley Ward started theNimrod Equipment Corp. which later became the Nimrod Equipment Division of Ward Manufacturing. The plant was located at 2543 Spring Grove Avenue in Cincinnat, Ohio. In the first year of production, 1957, 8 employees made 425 camping trailers of which 189 were Nimrods.
The 1960 brochure shows 3 models being offered for that year. All three models were of the same design, canvas top with slide-out beds. The top of the line model offered a slide-out kitchen and a canopy covering it. This was very unusual for the time and might have even been a first. Several other manufacturers incorporated this idea into their designs throughout the 1960's.
By 1963 the Nimrod Equipment Division of Ward Manufacturing offered 3 models of camping trailers, all constructed of steel. Top of the line was the new Riviera priced at $639, or $4,300 in 2007 dollars. The Riviera featured to slide-out beds on the front and back of the trailer and a canvas top. It weighed 650 lbs and could sleep up to 8 using bunk bed cots. This trailer's design eluded to what future pop-up campers would look like. Next in the model lineup was the Two Star priced at $599. It was the traditional Nimrod Trailer featuring two slide-out beds on the the trailer's sides. Rounding out 1963 was the low-cost Safari priced at $499. This was more of a tent-trailer combination much like the early Apache camping trailers.
The Riviera camping trailer was a new breed of trailer. It was much larger than its predicessors, so much so that it would not fit in the elevator at the Ward manufacturing plant in Cincinnati. They had to cut a hole in the 2nd story floor so they could get the trailers out of the building. Starting in October 1963 Ward Manufacturing moved its 450-employee camping trailer operation to Hamilton, Ohio occupying the Ford Hamilton Plant building. This move was completed in 1964. The new plant could, and did according to Bill Ward (Ashley Ward's son), produce 1000 camping trailers a day. By 1964 Ward Manufacturing was the world's largest manufacturer of camping trailers taking the title from Vesely Manufacturing (Apache). Nimrod's trademark trailer, the Two Star, had now become the newly restyled Nimrod Pioneer.
The Nimrod Americana trailer was added to the model lineup for 1965. It was basically the same trailer as the Riviera except it came equipped with an indoor kitchen which included a sink, stove and an icebox. Also included was a large bay window and seat. Interestinly enough Ward Manufacturing did not introduce a hard-top model yet as many other manufacturers in the industry had. The retail prices were as follows; Riviera $699, Americana $899, Pioneer $599, and Safari $449.
In 1966 the Riviera was restyled and came in two versions, the original soft-top and now a hard-top made of Royalite plastic. The roof featured a patented spring-loaded mechanism that was raised by hand. Also available on the Riviera models was an optional dinette table. The newly restyled Americana model now came in three versions; Standard, Deluxe, and Hardtop. The bay window was redesigned for more light and air. One could easily lay on the bay window seat on the Standard version as it doubled as a bed/seat. The Deluxe and Hardtop models featured the kitchen that setup in the bay window and would swing back down for storage/travel. This allowed for greater floor space. The Deluxe and Hardtop versions also included a dinette table. Rounding out the 1966 model lineup was the Capri, a restye of Nimrod's original camping trailer. The retail prices for 1966 were as follows; Americana Hardtop $1,299 ($8,200 in 2007 dollars), Americana Deluxe $1,199, Americana Standard $899, Riviera Hardtop $899, Riviera $759, and the Capri $629. 1966 also saw the introduction of the Pickup Coach. By year's end there were over 600 Nimrod dealers nationwide.
An interesting side-note here, in November 1966 Nimrod celebrated its coming 10th birthday by offering a brand new 1967 Camelot Deluxe push-button camping trailer to the owner of the oldest Nimrod camping trailer found still in use. Entries had to be submitted by July 1, 1967. An advertisement ran in September - October Better Camping showed the winners to be the Ed Matmack family who resided in Cincinnati. They were the third owners but received the 1967 Camelot in trade, not a bad deal! The fate of the orinal Nimrod camping trailer is unknown, I'd like to think it will show up someday in someone's private collection ready to be donated to a museum.
Leading the pack of 8 models in 1967 was the new Nimrod Camelot Deluxe. And a first for the industry was the push-button battery operated roof. One push of a button and the roof, made of Royalite plastic, raised up while two 54 inch beds slid out automatically. The camper was 20 feet long opened with 130 square feet of living space. Other features were carpeting, aluminum screen door, complete kitchen, and a dinette table that coverted to a third bed. There was even storage space beneath the two double beds. The Camelot retailed at $1,599. I have identified 3 patents filed on June 1, 1967 assigned to Ward Manufacturing, presumably by employees. You will find them in the Patent.
The American Iron and Steel Institute in New York conferred its 1967 Design in Steel Award for Best Design of an automotive product to Ward Manufacturing, Inc., for the Camelot Deluxe camping trailer. A category that includes all types of vehicles - cars, truckes, and trailers. At the time of this writing I only have facts for the Nimrod Camelot Deluxe. There were 7 other models offered in the Nimrod lineup for 1967. Most likely they were close versions of the lineup for 1966. If you have any information regarding 1967 Nimrod campers please contact me.
By 1968 6 of the 7 models offered featured hard top roofs. Leading the pack for 1968 was the Camelot Supreme. With its permanently attached family room (add-on tent) this trailer offered 200 square feet of living space. Its luxury features included an enclosed shower stall with a pressurize 15 gallon hot and cold water system, complete 2 porcelain sink kitchen with a stove and oven, push-button roof and beds, and electric brakes. I'm not convinced the permanently attached room was a good idea, seems to me more of a hassle in setting the camper up. But the shower was ahead of its time. I have yet to determine the 1968 retail pricing. Here are the remaining 6 models listed from high to low end; Camelot Deluxe, Camelot, Crown Deluxe, Crown Riviera, Riviera (the only tent-top model), and the Crown Capri (beds slid out to the sides of the trailer). See the 1968 brochure for more details.
As 1968 came to a close Ward Manufacturing sold the Nimrod trailer business to Fuqua Industries. Fuqua Industries is a conglomerate with a history of acquiring, reorganizing and then selling companies. They are still around today, although the founder, John Brooks Fuqua, died in 2006. On December 10, 1968 a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fuqua, Interstate Motor Freight System, Inc (a Delaware corporation formed by Fuqua for this acquisition) acquired Ward Manufacturing through a statutory merger in which Interstate Motor Freight System, Inc. was the surviving corporation. Interstate Motor Freight System, Inc. then changed its name to Ward Manufacturing, Inc. At the time of the sale Nimrod had more than 750 dealers nationwide.
It was during this time that Ward Manufacturing started offering the Nimrod Camp Europe Plan. In the late 1960's air travel to Europe was far less common and much more expensive. But Ward Manufacturing owed a factory in Belgium and sold camping trailers to the European market. Ashley Ward took a personal interest in the pilot program which cost about $1,600 ($9,000 in 2007 dollars) per family of four and included air travel from New York to Belgium and a camping trailer with tow vehicle. Ward Manufacturing also setup special financing at $60 per month. At the time of this writing I have no details regarding when Ward Manufacturing expanded into Europe or whatever happened to the Belgium plant upon the sale of Nimrod to Fuqua Industries.
At the time of this writing I have no specific details available for the exact model lineups for the years 1969 and 1970. 1969 did not see much change, although 1970 did.
1970 saw the introduction of the Nimrod Seventy (appropriately named for the new decade). It was a new, somewhat strange looking, concept for camping trailers. Philip Dodd of Houston, Texas has restored one. Click HERE to read his story. The trailer's inventor, Albert Stevens Bernard, applied for a patent on March 5, 1970 and was awarded US Patent 3,608,953 on September 28, 1971. The Nimrod Seventy featured a hard-top, offset from the body when raised, a drop down rear deck allowing access to the pull-out stove and icebox, and 3 large flip-out beds (2 on the sides and one on the front). It was priced at $1,599, or $8,500 in 2007 dollars.
As part of the effort to shore up their debt-to-equity ratio and raise capital Fuqua Industries sold the Nimrod Division in the Fall of 1970 to a private investment group for six million dollars. On October 6, 1970 Ward Manufacturing was disolved and all its assets and liabilities passed to Fuqua (sole shareholder). Subsequently Fuqua sold all the assets to the new company, Ward InterFinancial Corporation. John M. Morrison, chairman of Franklin National Bank, headed the group of investors.
The Nimrod camping trailer was once again under new management. The investment group also acquired El Dorado from Fuqua and merged the two operations. It was now renamed Nimrod / El Dorado Industries, Inc. John Morrison was the new president. James Tucker was the vice president and general manager of Nimrod and Robert Stewart was the vice president and general manager of El Dorado.
1971 saw an almost total change in the lineup of camping trailers offered. The unique Nimrod Seventy trailer was largely improved upon giving birth to the modular Nimrod series of camping trailers. In Nimrod's own words "modular simply means that sink, range, refrigerator, furnace and other conveniences are self-contained units or modulars. They're available in many standard and optional combinations in different Nimrod models. You choose, add, substitute as you like." The top-of-the-line model was the Redwood. Following was the Birchwood, Cypress (Versions 1, 2, and 3) and the Crown Riviera. With the Crown Riviera as the exception each trailer featured 2 standards beds that would slide out to the sides of the trailer and an optional third bed that flipped out to the front of the trailer. The rear panel of each trailer dropped down to make a porch where the door was placed.
Late in 1971 James Tucker (VP Nimrod) and two other executives, Dale Freeman and Harold Sader, formed a buyout group and acquired the Nimrod Division of Nimrod/El Dorado Industries. Nimrod, Inc. was established to produce and sell the Nimrod camping trailer with James Tucker as its president and CEO. According to June 1972 Better Camping the change in management sparked a significant change in Nimrod's product concept. This acquisition launched James Tucker's career where later he founded Tucker Partners, a private investment firm focused on acquisition, management and growth of middle market businesses.
Under new management the model lineup from 1971 was scrapped and a new design set forth for 1972. Nimrod offered 3 models in their 1972 lineup. Actually it was one basic unit fitted out as Series One, Series Two, and Series Three. The low-end was the Series One model and came without the kitchen appliances. The Series Two included the kitchen appliances and the Series Three featured a furnace, power converter and electric brakes. The design was unique with two beds that flipped out to the sides of the trailer like the prior year's models. The kitchen was placed at the back of the trailer featuring a large picture window above it and outdoor access while in transit. The doorway was on the side towards the front of the trailer. The outside resembled more of an octagon as the walls of the side beds tapered inward. The trailer weighed 1,750 lbs and was priced at $1,495 for the standard model.
Going into 1973 and 1974 Nimrod Inc. offered 7 models in their lineup. One of the models was the Granada priced at $1,695. Next were the trailers introduced in 1972, the Series I, II, and III. Rounding out the lineup was the Camelot and the Rivera, Standard and Deluxe. But then came the 1973 energy crisis as the Arab nations of the Middle East declared an oil embargo against America for resupplying Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The price of gas skyrocketed as resources dwindled. This had an immidiate impact on the RV Industry as Americans stopped buying. Nimrod's sales plummetted and during the summer of 1974 manufacturing operations were shut down and remaining inventory sold. It was during this time E-Z Kamper acquired a large inventory of precut canvas for Nimrod trailers which helped launch their business in a new direction.