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May 14, 2013

Dupont’s Camping Auto, ca. 1910s

A Stoddard-Dayton camping car built for engineer and politician Thomas Coleman du Pont (1863–1930). Du Pont used the vehicle during his supervision of the construction of the DuPont Highway through the state of Delaware.


In 1911 and 1912, Thomas Coleman du Pont was involved in building a road bearing his name through Delaware. As there was no road, there were no hotels, and he needed somewhere to stay. A tent made sense, but Coleman was an engineer as well as financier for the road, so he’d be traveling along the 96.7-mile roadbed extensively. He could probably have afforded a team of porters, and an elephant, for that matter, but instead ordered a 1911 Stoddard-Dayton, and had an RV built.

It was described in period articles as being on a 45hp, 115-inch chassis, which doesn’t really match up well with any 1910 or 1911 Stoddard-Dayton offerings.



The top was permanent (not removable), and held four vulcanized boxes underneath, along with specialized racks for maps and flat construction drawings. Similarly, there were narrow, full-length lockers along each side of the rear compartment, which left room in between for a six-foot mattress. Eight more boxes around the car held tent hardware, stove, refrigerator (icebox), battery and so on. All were removable for modular packing and two of them were upholstered to serve as camp chairs. Two final boxes held extra oil, although whether for a stove or engine oil wasn’t specified.

The two big boxes on the running boards held the pair of side tents, sewn not from canvas but waterproof balloon silk; each was supported with three six-foot poles, stakes and guys. With the dropdown curtains on the canopy, it made three rooms when fully assembled. When in camp, electric lighting was courtesy of an extra 150-amp Edison battery, continuously charged by engine dynamo.



Coleman du Pont’s DuPont Road, now US 13 and 113, cost him $4 million of his own money, and on July 2, 1924, he officially dedicated it and gave it to the citizens of Delaware in a ceremony.

(Photos: Library of Congress, via Hemmings)






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