An American Icon: Winnebago

Not everyone wants to spend their free time in one place. Many prefer to pack up, travel the country, and experience the great outdoors. Recreational vehicles make it possible to camp in style and comfort without sacrificing modern amenities.

When people think of RVs, one leader comes to mind: Winnebago. Before shopping around for a used Winnebago for sale, most buyers in Rocklin, CA, want to find out everything they can about this well-known brand. It’s time to explore the history and learn a few fun facts about this American icon.

The Rise of the Winnebago

Back in the 1950s, suburban life first became popular. Families enjoyed the convenience of modern appliances, and many wanted a more comfortable way to bring these amenities with them on vacation. John K. Hanson saw the need for a full-service recreational vehicle, and in 1957, he opened a dealership that sold travel trailers. Only a year after launching his business, he and two fellow businessmen acquired a manufacturing facility on the banks of the Winnebago River. He named the company Winnebago Industries.

RVs weren’t a new invention. By that time, Ford had built some on the Model T chassis. However, Hanson wanted something bigger and better. He dreamed of manufacturing a home on wheels. It should be roomy enough for families but compact enough to drive on newly built highways. Hanson began his entrepreneurial journey towards making this vision a reality.

The Making of a Legend

Hanson started designing and building trailer prototypes. In 1966, the first Winnebago left the factory, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Gas prices were affordable, and families enjoyed rising salaries. Additionally, a freshly paved freeway system made traveling more accessible than ever. The Winnebago was an instant hit. Hanson enjoyed this success for a few years before retiring in 1970.

Life as a new RV dealer was good for Hanson. Winnebago quickly became a household name. Television shows and movies often featured the popular trailer, and people referred to every other RV by the brand name. The company went public in 1970, and the stock price soared by a staggering 462 percent.

The company hit troubled times when the fuel shortages of the mid-70s took hold. Sales came to a standstill, and after a very brief retirement, Hanson retook the reigns. He led Winnebago Industries until he died in 1996. To this day, Winnebago remains a beloved piece of Americana.

Fun Winnebago Facts

Although most people recognize the Winnebago name, some lesser-known facts are still worth mentioning. Before he started the company, Hanson ran a funeral home. He even earned a college degree in mortuary science. Making the switch to trailer dealer was a considerable jump.

The term Winnebago is often used synonymously for all RV makes and models. Some common types are motorhomes, fifth wheels, travel trailers, pop-ups, and truck campers. Whether the driver wants a simple camper or a five-star resort, they will find a trailer that suits their needs.

Although the most popular brand, Winnebago didn’t invent RV trailers. America’s fascination with luxury camping started decades before. As early as 1910, the first camper trailers hit the scene. Models included the Hunt Housecar, Kozy Kamp Tent Trailer, and the Telescope Apartment.

Many classic box office hits featured RVs. “The Long Long Trailer” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” are among the most notable. Ironically, both of the movies are comedies.

Today, baby boomers help to keep the RV industry afloat. Many of them choose to travel during retirement and want to enjoy the luxury of a fully-equipped trailer. Millennials have also begun to purchase campers, and sales peaked during the Covid-19 pandemic. On any given day, it’s common to find multiple generations shopping for their next trailer at an RV dealer in CA.

Travel the Country in Style

The rise of the Winnebago finally meant that Americans could drive across the country in comfort and style. They would no longer need to find a hotel to rest. Instead, they could set up camp at one of the many national parks without giving up modern amenities. It’s no wonder so many people of all ages continue to purchase RVs for personal use and enjoyment.

Bill Eads RV is a one-stop-shop for RV buying, trading, and servicing in Rocklin, CA. We carry a wide range of RVs, including new and used models. Our no-hassle, no-pressure philosophy ensures every buyer drives away in a recreational vehicle that’s perfect for their lifestyle.

The history of Winnebago is an interesting one, and because of the brand’s continued success, countless other manufacturers built competing luxury RVs and campers. These “homes on wheels” are sure to stay on trend for decades to come.

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