1929 Studebaker House Car: The Fist Motor Home?

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg what information can you give on a 1929 Studebaker House Car? I never really knew that there was such a vehicle ever built. From what I’ve been told and seen, there were 200 of them built from 1925 to 1929.
If this is true, are there any model kits ever built of this vehicle. If there was, I’d like to purchase one as I have over 100 model cars in my collection.
Thank you for all your articles that I’ve been following for years in our Susquehanna County Weekender. I always find them very interesting. Carl Pittsley, Kingsley, Pa.
A: Carl, thank you for your hand written letter and kind words. I am aware of this Studebaker House car as I stumbled across it years ago when looking up information on what is now known as the modern day motor home. Motor homes today number in the millions and are big business.
Although motor homes didn’t really take off until the 1970s, the first motor home that we know of was built by Raymond Frank back in 1958. It rode on a Dodge chassis and included everything needed for self containment. Frank went on to build seven more for customers, expanded his newly named Travco business and the commercial motor home business was off and running. In 1959, Winnebago began its motor home wizardry, and before you knew it many others joined the fray. Even after a slowdown in the 1970s due to the gas crisis, many motor homes were built and they average about 50,000 a year in sales nowadays.
But it’s that 1929 Studebaker House Car you ask about that may well be the first self contained motor home ever built. However, it was not mass produced and was a one-off manufacturing marvel built on a Studebaker truck and bus commercial chassis and cab.
The House Car you speak of started life as one of the 2,225 stretched heavy duty commercial vehicle chassis that Studebaker began assembling in 1925. These Studebaker cab and chassis units came in either 158, 184 and later 220-inch wheelbase lengths powered initially by a six-cylinder engines. By December of 1928, Studebaker replaced the six with a straight eight-cylinder for more power for its truck/bus chassis.
Many coach builders of the day were either hired direct by Studebaker for finishing, or if an owner desired they could decide what coach builder they wanted to finish the job. Although you mention 200 House Cars were built, it turns out there was only the one we discuss here.
The ’29 Studebaker House Car in question rode on a 184-inch wheelbase and utilized the straight eight for power. And what’s truly amazing is that this 1929 Studebaker House Car is still around today in un-restored condition, a real gem for those who might get to see it.
Little is known of the person who commissioned the build, other than that it was a wealthy family from the Los Angeles community of San Marino. It was given the name “Dulce Domum,” which is Latin for the words “Sweet Home.”
According to the coach builder identification plate, it was built by Advance Auto Body Works in Los Angeles, California, founded by Italian immigrant Eduardo Morgan. The company was known for outstanding quality coach work of all kinds and stayed in business from 1919 until 1951 and specialized in oil tankers for noted auto racing sponsor Gilmore Oil.
The Studebaker House Car is said to be similar to a custom railroad coach car of the day with all the amenities needed to live in. From bathroom and shower to gas stove, this special Studebaker House Car was indeed one of a kind.
There is much information available online about this House Car, including recent showings and ownership information. Most notable is that when this Studebaker House Car was officially shown for the very first time on the Exhibition Field at the November 2009 Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance, it resulted in a “Best Un-restored Vehicle” award.
In ending, we’ll give an honorable mention to the 1928 Ford Model A House Car that Henry Ford built at his factory. It is a much smaller, cramped version that did not have all of the “motor home” style built-in extras the Studebaker offers. Still, the 1928 Ford House Car is worthy of note and a major attraction at the Volo Auto Museum, 50-miles north of Chicago in Volo, Illinois. If you are in the area, it’s worth a visit with 33 different auto features and lots of nostalgia of all types to enjoy. (see www.volocars.com)
As for a scale model kit of the Studebaker House Car, there is nothing available to my knowledge. So there you have it, Carl, on this very unique, possibly first ever motor home. Thanks for re-igniting my awareness of this vehicle, motor homes of all kinds and for all your kind words. 
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