Camp'otel car-top camping outfit

Autocamping -- traveling with car, tent, and portable, home-like furnishings for cooking and sleeping -- was a very popular family activity in the 1920s. When autocamping became popular again after two decades of depression and war, many vacationing families slept inside their station wagons because of the convenience, economy, and comfort that this ubiquitous postwar vehicle provided. Some families made tents that rested on top of their station wagons. This type of unit provided more space and head room than the car's interior and retained the advantage of distance from insects, snakes, animals, and the cool, damp earth. In 1961, Edmonds Guerrant, an autocamper and mechanical engineer in Fort Worth, Texas, began manufacturing a car-top tent unit that rested on the rain gutter, a metal drip rail around the roof of a sedan or station wagon. The Camp'otel became popular in Texas and was marketed nationally through Sears, J. C. Penney, Western Auto, and other retail stores. Loyal Camp'otel owners travelled in groups, formed an organization called the Penthouse Campers Association, and published a newsletter. The donors of the Smithsonian's Camp'otel, Robert and Delora French, took their two sons on numerous vacation trips in the United States and Mexico between 1963 and 1976. They installed the tent outfit on top of their 1957 Oldsmobile sedan and later on their 1965 Ford station wagon. Mr. and Mrs. French invested in Camp'otel Corporation and knew Edmonds Guerrant and others involved with the firm. Camp'otel Corporation went out of business during the gasoline shortage of 1973-1974. A contributing factor to its demise was the gradual disappearance of rain gutters on new cars.
Image from sales promotion material housed in division object file.
Currently not on view
date made
Camp'otel Corporation
place made
United States: Texas, Fort Worth
Physical Description
canvas (overall material)
aluminum (overall material)
galvanized steel (overall material)
plywood (overall material)
overall: 70 in x 104 in x 42 in; 177.8 cm x 264.16 cm x 106.68 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Robert L. and Delora S. French
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Family & Social Life
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History