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The 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar Is What Fancy RV-ing Was All About
Once past a certain age, you get that “back in the day, things were better” feeling about everything much too often. This isn’t one of those times.

The 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar Is What Fancy RV-ing Was All About

The 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever madeThe 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar was a custom RV, one of 3 ever made
Throughout the month of July, autoevolution is getting into the summer holiday spirit with an RV Month theme. The current offer is more than exhaustive and intriguing, with a variety of recreation vehicles of all sizes, and for all tastes and budgets. But every once in a while, nothing beats taking a longer walk down memory lane.

This is it for today: a closer look at one of the most famous RVs that you probably never heard about, which still exists and is still in pretty neat shape. It’s not better than modern units, even if you look at it through nostalgia-tinted sunglasses, but it’s still incredibly awesome and memorable.

Meet the 1928 Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar.

Its name really says it all: it was a proper house-car at a time when most people could hardly afford a personal vehicle. It was the epitome of luxury, designed and built only for the most well-heeled customers, and it was a custom unit as well, so reserved only for a very few select customers. The builder was carmaker Pierce-Arrow, at a time when demand for its famous luxury automobiles had dwindled and it was trying to branch out onto the budding luxury RV market.

This attempt wouldn’t last long. In fact, only three units of the Fleet Housecar were ever built and all of them before the 1929 Wall Street crash that put an end to dreams of traveling the country in the lap of luxury. Of these three, only one has survived, and it’s now located at the Recreational Vehicle / Motor Home (RV/MH) Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, where it ranks as the second most valuable display.

This 1928 Housecar, dubbed the Privateer, is based on a Fleet truck chassis (a Fleet Arrow Wagon, Model FA, of which 500 units were built in total), with the body built on commission by a company in San Diego. At the time, Buffalo, New York-based Pierce-Arrow had been making prestige vehicles for almost three decades and had long established itself as a staple with royal heads, politicians (and even U.S. Presidents), and the biggest movie stars in Hollywood.

A Pierce-Arrow automobile was a status symbol, and while not many were made even at the height of fame, the company became synonymous with motoring luxury, on par with the likes of Rolls-Royce and Packard. Sadly, as economic struggles worsened, in 1928, Pierce-Arrow became a subsidiary of Studebaker. It continued to make cars, but it would never again enjoy the same kind of popularity as it did at the beginning of the century; in 1938, it went bankrupt and out of business completely.

Pierce-Arrow cars were massive and reliable, besides luxurious. This made them excellent choices for truck conversions, including for top-of-the-line housecars, as seen here. The Privateer benefited from the extended wheelbase and offered enough space to host a small party, or even to live comfortably on the road.

For those times, it was high living for sure, including a full kitchen and a separate dinette, a porch at the rear on which you could sip your tea (or spill some with a good friend), and a bathroom that comprised a toilet and sink on one side, and a shower on the other, separated by doors. There was a wardrobe at the rear and plenty of storage in the kitchen, and finishes were of the highest quality. Again, considering this is an RV from 1928, you have to appreciate the effort that went into turning a vehicle into a proper home on wheels.

For how rare the Pierce-Arrow Fleet Housecar is, details about it are very scarce. From what we could find, before it was acquired by the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum, it was part of the antique car collection at the Old State Prison, Deer Lodge, in Montana. As of the time of press, it’s still on display in Indiana, but if you’re not in the area, you can catch a short video tour of it at the 5.10-minute mark in the video below.

Since the Fleet Housecar was a custom unit, pricing remains unknown. However, a later and more cheaper production RV from Pierce-Arrow, the smaller Model C Travelodge trailer, retailed for $784 in 1937, which would be a hair over $15,800 in today’s money. This is just to emphasize the idea that the Fleet Housecar, what with its custom layout and luxury amenities, was priced accordingly. One unit of a Model C Travelodge in mint condition sold for $44,800 in 2019, which would virtually make the one-of-one Fleet Housecar a wildly-priced collectible.

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