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Pierce-Arrow’s Final Offering – The Travelodge Travel Trailer

1937 Pierce-Arrow V-12 Limousine and a Pierce-Arrow Travelodge travel trailer

In an effort to save the Company in 1936 when some of the last cars were being assembled, the once proud Pierce-Arrow Company set a course to enter a new market. The automaker began building an outstanding new product, a luxury travel trailer named the Pierce-Arrow Travelodge.

The thirties and the Great Depression had not been kind to the old line auto manufacturer that started building its first production car in 1901. Studebaker bought out Pierce in 1928, and that arrangement ended in 1933 when the South Bend automaker declared bankruptcy. Pierce-Arrow continued on building only luxury cars and did not offer a lower-priced car. That move had saved some of the other independents auto companies.

  • The lead photo shows the Nethercutt Collection 1937 Pierce-Arrow V-12 Limousine and a Pierce-Arrow Travelodge travel trailer, two of the last vehicles to roll out the door before the end came in 1938. 

 Pierce-Arrow Travelodge travel trailer

  •                           The 19-foot Model “A”  Travelodge was the top of the line with room for four.

The Travelodge was introduced late in 1936. This time Pierce tried to hedge its bets with three models. The 19-foot Model “A” was the flagship of the line with room for four. Also offered were the smaller and less luxurious 16.5-foot Model “B” and the 13.7-foot Model “C”. All three were built around a strong all steel framework, supported by an axle with independent suspension equipped with lever action shock absorbers and hydraulic brakes. The 19-foot Model “A” (above) was the flagship of the line with room for four.

The outside of the trailer was covered with an 18 gauge aluminum skin. Insulation was applied to the inside of the outer covering, and it and an air space between the fully finished wooden interior protected it from heat and cold. Inside, the trailer offered all the comforts and quality construction that Pierce-Arrow was known for. All models had: a “Pullman” dining area, comfortable sleeping arrangements, ice box, propane cook stove, and a heating stove that burned either coal, briquettes or wood.

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Despite the new trailers being widely advertised, sales were slow with approximately 450 of the Travelodge trailers being produced. The production run ended early in 1937 when the Company went out of business. The final liquidation of the Buffalo, NY firm came later in 1938.

  • Three sections of the Travelodge brochure are courtesy of Knee-Action and are from the “AACA Forum.”

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After finding the photos (below) taken at the Packard Proving Grounds in 1937, we can’t help but wonder if the Packard Motor Company was evaluating the Travelodge. Charles Vincent the grounds manager is seen with a late-1920s Packard coupe with one of the trailers. The Vincent family lived in the Proving Grounds Lodge during the thirties. His daughter Roberta Vincent poses with the rig in the (lower) photo.

You can also view earlier features here on The Old Motor covering the Pierce-Arrow.

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  •                                                Photos courtesy of the Packard Motor Car Foundation.

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36 responses to “Pierce-Arrow’s Final Offering – The Travelodge Travel Trailer

  1. PA did not use a surge brake system . The trailer brakes were actuated by the towing car’s vacuum power boost system, via a hose connection.

  2. And one year after Pierce-Arrow ended in 1938, the Travelodge motel chain was founded. That’s what I thought of when I saw this post.

  3. One statement in the text should be corrected – insulation does not fill the gap between the outer covering and the wood interior. In my Travelodge, and as clearly noted in your pictured brochure, a thin coating of “Spraytex” lines the outer skin and there remains a dead air space between inner and outer walls. The brochure states that this results in a vacuum bottle effect.

    • Bob you are correct, my mistake. I looked at the illustration which describes it as “Heavy coating of plastic Spraytex” and the arrow at the time appeared to me as though it pointed to the larger section that is in fact the air space.

  4. Was Travelodge the one with the bear with the sleepy eyes and nightcap and nightshirt sleepwalking
    just like the Bear Mfg. alignment equip. bear,later copied by the Grateful dead?
    See how everthings connected?

    • Yes, it was. There used to be a Travelodge near downtown Grand Island, Nebraska with a huge sign with the bear on top. Travelodge moved out of that location to another in town. Wyndham Hotels now owns the chain but the bear is still the mascot.

  5. I’d like to see that vacuum booster hose connection on the brakes. It doesn’t make sense. Vacuum in the booster is at a relative constant negative pressure. The booster acts as a resevoir and only drops pressure (negative that is) during repeatative brake action, loss of engine vacuum ( via broken hose), or ruptured diaphragm. The trailer must still have a reaction type mechanism to apply the hydraulics. The slight change of negative pressure in the booster(if so equipped) during braking would not be enough(especially through a lengthy hose) to have an affect on a remote unit. Engine vacuum is at it’s highest during deceleration and idle, both of these conditions are usually present during a braking situation. A high loss of vacuum needed to apply these brakes seems unlikely.

    • Well my Dad bought a new farm trailer in the 1970s: it had a master cylinder and vacuum booster mounted up on the tongue, and there was a vacuum hose and quick-connect to the pickup. I am not certain of the details of how it all worked, but engine vacuum was somehow modulated to control application of the trailer brakes, which were all hydraulic from the tongue back. We would routinely haul two farm tractors on this trailer.

    • Some used a vacuum booster and hydraulic system, in others the vacuum booster was connected directly to the brakes by rods, as in a modern truck’s air brake system.

      There was a hose or pipe from the booster to the car’s intake manifold which was the vacuum source. In the line was a valve to control the vacuum. They could have a hand operated control where the driver could reach it, or a valve connected to the brake pedal.

      In operation applying the brakes meant opening the valve and allowing the engine vacuum to apply the booster. The power of the brake action could be controlled by the valve. Closing the valve released the brakes, there was a small hole to allow air into the line breaking the vacuum.

      The vacuum brakes were quite powerful, powerful enough to lock the wheels and skid the tires which is all any brakes can do.

  6. You have to wonder why a struggling luxury maker would turn to making travel trailers to save itself. Can you imagine a luxury brand doing this today?

    Perhaps the culture was different at that time. After all, wealthy men such as Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison were famed for their camping trips. It’s possible that the rich considered this a fashionable thing to do.

    Maybe a historian could shed some light on this.

  7. The 1936 to 1938 Pierce Arrow cars had a large vacuum canister and remote brake valve installed of every car. The connection to the trailer used a large hose as well as a wiring connector. The trailer had a Lockheed master cylinder with a Briggs Vacuum canister that applied the brakes. The entire unit was fabricated by Pierce from off the shelf components and held together with angle iron. It works well on my trailer. Most interesting is the trailer had a modern independent suspension with shock absorbers. The trailers tow very well.

  8. There was, in fact, a craze for travel trailers going on in the mid-1930s– at least for those who could actually afford one, though magazines published plans and instructions for those who wanted to build one themselves (and some in fact did).

    By mid-1936, Pierce-Arrow was getting desperate. They had a lot of overhead and other fixed costs, and a lot of unused capacity in their Buffalo, N.Y. factory. These were problems faced by other luxury car companies, of course, which was what led Packard to introduce a middle-class model simply to survive. Key differences, though, were that demand was a lot stronger for cars than travel trailers, and that Packard had brought their company-saving models out in the 1935 model year, a couple years earlier in the Depression. Between those two factors, Pierce-Arrow simply couldn’t trade enough on its reputation in time to save the company. The trailer-travel craze declined markedly late in 1937, but P-A was more or less in its coffin already.

    It’s usually estimated, based on serial numbers of surviving models, that fewer than five hundred Travelodges were built. Something like fifty or sixty are known to exist today.

    • In one of his Krazy Kat color Sunday strips from the mid-1930’s, artist George Herriman incorporated a veritable parade of travel-trailers and little cars, in varying shapes and colors, piloted by the various principal characters.

      Each trailer had its own nick-name on the side…

    • Packard made what we would call today as an rv or motor home. Does anyone know if packard also made a trailer? Or if they ever offered a trailer to be specially made?

      • Almost anything was available– you could even get empty Travelodge shells, which, IIRC, the company suggested traveling salesmen could customize to show and sell their goods– but I haven’t seen any literature offering that as a specific option.

  9. For not knowing a thing about the trailer, I was positive it had some other type of device to assist braking.
    Thanks Ed

  10. I have a friend who has one of these trailers restored (don’t know the model or year) but he tows it with his ’31 Ford pickup or his ’31 Chevrolet pickup. Quite a combination and a great trailer.

    • If your friend has a Pierce Travelodge, he might be interested in knowing about the discussion board for it; just click my username for that link.

  11. We just purchased one this month, from a family that had it sitting in a deer camp for 30 some years. The father passed away and the sons were going to send it to the scrap yard. Lucky for us, another brother decided to throw some wheels on it, pull it out and list it on Craigslist. It’s going to be an amazing restore for us. It’s a Model A and for being almost 80yrs old, is in pretty decent shape. We didn’t even realize what we had when we bought it, we just knew that it was cool and needed a new home.

      • Greg, I just bought a model c and would love any guidance you could enlighten me with. We have owned and or restored over 40 vintage trailers but no Pierce Arrows

    • You and Greg should post your stories and photos on the Pierce Travelodge discussion forum (just click my name, above). Chris, can you also post your serial number? Very few Model As have survived and I think yours would be a new addition to the survivors’ roster.

  12. I acquired a 1936 Pierce Arrow Travel Lodge, Serial Number 005, that was found on the Morongo Indian Reservation in Cabazon, California. The insides had dried out and collapsed into the trailer. All the news papers and items inside were dated 1956. I was the first person in the trailer since then. The sand storms over the years had blasted all the paint of and it was shiney like an Air Stream. There was just a few spots to tell it was black when it left the factory. The windows, door, sink, stove, ice box, floor and etc. were gone. There were three hinges, one light fixture, one gas light, cloths hanger, one latch, roof hatch and the water tank left in the trailer. I almost have it restored.

  13. Pierce Arrow did offer a Travelodge Display Coach, built to be used as a showroom or office. I have the factory literature, showing a shoue store, office, appliance store, and a few others. Many were custom built, two were made for a young lady on Long Island so she could change clothes several times a day while out on the town.

  14. Pierce Arrow did try to market to a broader market with its 1934 836A. Costs were kept down by using earlier
    year’s components whenever possible and removing side mounts, right tail lights and the archer got axed. The
    problem was that the 836A had all the quality that its top of the line car had and that 836A sales were cutting into
    their more expensive offerings and thus profits. About 750 were made. They were in the same price bracket as a
    Buick Limited, but had the same type of braking system as a Rolls Royce and Hispano-Suiza! Bankruptcy happened
    in 1934. Pierce-Arrow did not have the financing to do what Packard did with the 110 and 120. The odd thing to me,
    is that out of the 12 listed in the P-A Society, most are salon models, loaded with “goodies” when new. I am a care
    keeper for one of the two 4 doors left with a rear mounted spare tire and no right tail light.

  15. Your article states that all models had a propane cook stove. That is incorrect. The cook stove was a Coleman white gas stove. Mine still sports its original decal and I could send a pic if you wish.

    • Bob, Thanks for letting us know about you unit what we posted is what the Pierce literature that was found stated. As often happens there must have been a change after the brochures were printed?

  16. My husband just recently acquired a camper and we are trying to identify what kind it is. A friend suggested that it is a Pierce Arrow but we are unsure. Could anyone possibly help?

  17. I purchased a trailer as well and have no idea what it is. It has a lot of diffences from the pierce arrow. But experts in the field can not identify my trailer. I restore trailers professionally, it is frustrating not able to identify this awesome trailer! But there were so many business starting and ending so quickly there is thousands of different makers out there! With trailers they didn’t have a system to keep track of every brand, year, model and vin number. Sadly a lot of the history is by word of mouth from people who were actually there.

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