Australia was something of a slowcoach when it came to adopting the RV. In the early 1900s long distances, poor roads and limited tourism infrastructure meant that Australians had to enjoy their leisure time close to home. When RVs arrived on the scene during the 1920s, the motorhome (or 'motor caravan') came first, followed by tent trailers and finally caravans in the 1930s.
Until recently it was widely reported that Australia's first motorhome was that belonging to Gerhard 'Pop' Kaesler of South Australia. His self-built 1929 motorhome called Home from Home looked for all the world like a house on wheels, complete with chimney, roof and painted brick walls. But it was not the first.
Below is a gallery of some of the predecessors of Home from Home, sourced from the newspaper archives of the National Library of Australia's wonderful Trove.
Fifteen Australian Motorhomes from 1923 to 1929
(Owner and chassis names added where known)
As you can see there were a wide range of shapes and styles of motorhome, with self-builders or local body shops being responsible for most of them. As far as we know there were almost no automobile or truck manufacturers willing to take the risk of manufacturing such vehicles in Australia or indeed exporting them from Europe or the USA to a far-away market.
I have a soft spot for RV enthusiasts who are also writers, and 'Pop' Kaesler was one of these. Kaesler in fact built two motorhomes (the second one was called The Cottage), both of which still exist today and can be seen on display in the South Australian towns of Goolwa and Nurioopta. Kaesler was kind enough to write an eight-page booklet about his motorhomes, a copy of which is held in the State Library of South Australia. A copy is reproduced below in honour of Kaesler's important contribution to the development of motorhoming in Australia.
courtesy of the State Library of South Australia
Whilst Kaesler's contribution to Australian poetry (see last page of the brochure) is perhaps less remarkable, we are grateful to him for spreading the word about the joys of the hobby nearly 100 years ago and for introducing the hobby to the Prime Minister of Australia.