A Little Sportsmobile History
Sportsmobile, our original name was Sportswagons, was founded in El Paso, TX in 1961. In 1964 the company relocated to Indiana and changed the name to Sportsmobile North, Inc. Sportsmobile Texas, Inc. was started in Austin, TX in 1984. Sportsmobile West, Inc. was founded in 1990. Sportsmobile Texas is the principal office serving as the coordinating point for design, marketing, quality control standards, etc. Product quality? All three locations receive excellent grades from our in-depth customer report card and other surveys.
Sportsmobile has always specialized in the conversion of vans. To the best of our knowledge, we are the oldest in the U.S. While we convert vans for all kinds of uses, our primary market has always been travel vans, also known as camper vans, Class 'B'; motorhomes, van conversion, custom vans, and recreational vehicles (RVs).
Our first conversions. The vans and our conversions were state-of-the-art at the time, but very basic compared with today’s.
1961 Ford and Chevy
The van’s engine was located between the cab seats. They were a little underpowered, and noisy, frontal crash protection not much. A/C open the windows!
Life was simple back then.
To raise our first top you climbed up the rear ladder and crawled in through the rear, while pushing the top up. To lower – reverse the procedure.
The interiors were functional and attractively furnished. As stated above they were quite basic. The icebox required a block of ice. The toilet was a bucket with a seat. Fresh water was in a 5 gallon jerry can. Etc.
There were no federal safety standards or RVIA codes for electrical, plumbing, and propane. Seat belts, air bags? Not till a couple of decades later.
Fast forward to today. Amazing improvements in the vans and conversions.
Sportsmobile • Dodge • Ford • Chevy
Camper unit transforms the Ford Econoline into a home-on-wheels that’s especially comfortable. Dining area converts to double be, and with 60 inch bed over the engine cover and sleeping accommodations for two adults and two children are provided. Optional cabana tent provides additional camping room. Interiors attractively finished in birch paneling, red or turquoise upholstering, plus matching curtain materials.
- 3-in. Polyfoam cushions, red or turquoise vinyl upholstered
- 15-gal. water tank – Gravity faucet
- Ample storage for housekeeping needs
- 50-lb. icebox
- Decorative wall lamp two dome light fixtures
- Table with Armstrong Carlon top
- Any other features? Nope.
- Life was simple back then.
- Luggage rack, sun deck, ladder
- Cabana tent (colorful candy-strip pattern)
- Padded seat rest, converts to extra bed
- Carlon chemical toilet
- Adjustable flame LP gas stove
- Sling Bed for cab
- Awning-type windows for rear doors.
- Any other options? Nope?
The ’68 Ford Super Econoline was quite an improvement over the early model. Our first full size top utitilized the van’s metal roof with fiberglass panels. To raise you pushed up the spring loaded front and then the rear. It was a little cumbersome.
Good space organization is an enticing Sportsmobile feature. Open floor plan has logical, practical divisions of space for food preparation, dining, sleeping and living. Generous counter space and storage areas.
Roomy, comfortable double bed with 4″ elbow space to rear. Bed is 4″ firm foam covered with Scotch-Guarded Nylon . Makes up easily by using one back rest cushion, with its folding legs, for center section. Large louvered windows let soft evening breezes in for comfortable cross ventilation . Bed can be left made-up during travel. – 1973 text.
Our first pop-top that raised and lowered from inside the van. It provided more space, ventilation, and visibility. Plus you didn’t have to bend over to put your pants on.
The interiors were more comfortable with a lot more features and options in the 70s. An example, the ice-box was replaced with a refrigerator.
Later we developed our "Penthouse" top. Others had elevating tops but our was the first full roof size with a mattress bed in place of a hammock. Plus we engineered our dual u-tube, spring loaded, raise/lower from one position, patented elevating system making it much easier to raise and lower the top.
The Clubcar – A Limited Edition
Much More Than a Conventional Automobile!
The Clubcar was a special model built for VW distributors. It was designed more as an alternative for family use with some camping capability — in place of a car. The rear seat was exceptionally comfortable with a lounge position. That would convert into a bed. A large moonroof was in the ceiling.
The Surfer – A Limited Edition
The congenial way to go in real luxury and comfort — there’s nothing else lie it… SPORTSMOBILE SURFER.
Beautiful, soft, luxurious comfort surrounds you — moves with you… for total enjoyment!
Sir, can I take your daughter to a movie at the drive-in tonight?
Wow! This was quite a departure from our more conservative approach to styling. This wild thing was first popularized in California. We decided to develop our own version with lots of fake fur and shag carpet to see what the market might bring. To our surprise – we couldn’t build them fast enough. However, after a few years sales steadily declined. So we quit.
Sportsmobile • Dodge • Ford • Chevy
Town & Country Pleasure Wagons
Much More Than a Conventional Automobile
“More than 95% of owners enjoy Sportsmobile as the family’s first or second automobile. On weekends a Sportsmobile is a ball! For neighborhood socializing; overnight along the river or in the woods; from football to opera… name your pleasure. Always ready to go on a moment’s notice.” – 1973 text.
This conversion plan was one of our most popular in the 70’s. Still is – updated. Favorite colors were avocado green and harvest gold. Short shag carpet and dark walnut cabinets were also first choices. Plaid upholstery later took over.
4×4 conversions were available for the Ford Econoline vans in the earlier 70’s (1971 Ford in photo). Sportsmobile first used the Pathfinder 4×4 conversions for years. They were tough and rode rough. To engage the 4×4 you had to get out and lock the hubs. Today’s 4×4 have an electrical system that selectively brakes individual wheels for increased traction and stability. Plus many other improvements. Including a nice ride similar to a regular van.