Hille Engineering - Ranger
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Manufactured from the years 1954 to 1956 by Hille Engineering in Anaheim, California the Ranger camping trailer is considered the first modern pop-up camper. Only 200 units were ever produced. Walter E. Hille applied for a patent on March 15, 1954 and was granted US Patent 2,798,760 on July 9, 1957. The trailer continued to be manufactured throughout at least 1957 by Forlyn Manufacturing Co located in Minneapolis, MN. During this time it was referred to as the Sport Ranger. At the time of this writing no other facts are known about their relationship with Hille Engineering.
The Ranger camping trailer holds the distinction of being the first manufactured pop-up camper to be made of fiber-glass and polyester-resin, both the body and top of the camper. An interesting side note here, Popular Science ran a small blurb in January of 1953, Low Camping Trailer Raises Roof To Give Standing Room. In this article John Dudley of Anaheim, California built his own 800 lb trailer of fiber-glass that sported a hard-top and canvas sides. While smaller it has many of the same features incorporated into the Ranger Camping Trailer, although it never went into production. None-the-less it does not lesson the significance of the Ranger Camping Trailer.
Another new and very important feature introduced by the Ranger Camping Trailer was the slide-out bed on the back. It was 39 inches wide and resembled a dresser drawer with a canvas roof. It could sleep 1 adult or two kids. Typical tent trailers of the time featured beds that flipped or slid out to the sides and were supported underneath by braces. The bed on the Ranger supported itself, much the same way a dresser drawer does.
Much effort was put into designing the hand-crank system that raised the roof and dropped the canvas, much like today's pop-up campers. This system is well documented in the patent. The crank was on the front driver's side of the trailer. It was very durable and built into the sytem was anti-sway brackets that raised with the roof. The trailer top raised to give 6 feet 3 inches space inside. Total trailer length was 12 feet long and 82 inches wide. The trailer weighed 1,100 lbs. It sold for $1,500 in 1954 or $11,500 in 2007 dollars. It was an expensive pop-up camper for the 1950's and most likely is the reason it did not stay in production very long.
The Ranger Camping Trailer caught the eye of Popular Science who featured an article on it in May 1954. The article is included in the photos and advertisement section for Ranger. Today only a handful of the trailer survive. One is displayed in the RV Founders Hall in the RV/MH Heritage Foundation Museum located Elkart, Indiana. If you have anything regarding this trailer please consider donating an electronic copy. The importance of this trailer deserves better documentation.
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