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July 13, 2020

1937 Hunt Housecar With the First Working RV Shower

History has ensured that J. Roy Hunt (July 7, 1884 – October 1972) will be better remembered for what he did behind that camera than behind the wheel. The praise is, well, relative. Despite never getting past the third grade, Hunt was an early Hollywood cinematographer whose work was acclaimed, pre-Oscar, on the Foreign Legion epic Beau Geste, and he later did the camera work for the Oscar-nominated Flying Down to Rio.

Due to the nature of his work, Hunt spent several weeks at a time away from home. He occupied hundreds of places while practicing his profession and he raced cars and motorcycles for a hobby. His strangest past time, however, was building RV’s.

The Hunt Housecar was one of several unique early RVs built by Hollywood cinematographer J. Roy Hunt between 1935 and 1945, considered to be the first mobile home with a working shower.

When it came to cars, Hunt’s taste was very discriminating. Early on, he worked on the design of the steam car and is rumored to have tried to purchase Howard Hughes custom built RVs’ which were used as dressing rooms during production.

In 1937, Hunt purchased the chassis of a Ford truck. He then had a specialist fabricate a fuselage in 16 gauge steel and a flush fitting hatch as well as multi-panel windshield. This would soon become the first mobile home with a functional shower. The Hunt Housecar served as a comfortable dwelling while on location. It had a disappearing toilet which folds into the wall to create more room in the shower.

Little Hollywood star Donnie Dunagana with the Hunt Housecar in a 1938 publicity photo.

Hunt reprised this design in 1941 with an even more radical Housecar, this time with an aluminum body, and a two-cylinder steam engine, the vapor produced by fuel oil, mounted at the rear. Hunt first installed modified White steam power in it, but substituted a more efficient twin designed by Roland Giroux, a fellow steam-car enthusiast. The steam Housecar no longer exists. An undeniably smart and inventive guy, Hunt continued to build experimental RVs throughout his film career, which lasted until shortly before he died in 1972 outside Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Today, Hunt is venerated as the founding father of an industry he may have never envisioned. The 1937 Housecar was restored by David Woodworth of Tehachapi, California, arguably the world’s premier authority on historic RVs. His collection is the centerpiece of the RV/MH Heritage Museum in Elkhart, Indiana, one of the industry’s strongholds.

1937 Hunt Housecar exterior

1937 Hunt Housecar exterior

Inside bedroom

Stove right next to the driver. He (she) could cook a meal while driving!

Folding toilet

(via Hemmings)


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