By Lazelle D. Jones
It was 1953. Songs topping “Your Hit Parade” included “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes” by Perry Como and “I’ve Got The World On A String” by Frank Sinatra. At the box office, From Here to Eternity and Shane ruled. And the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. That same year, in a garage out behind his grandmother’s house in Indiana, a young man named Dick Klingler and his father were busy creating the first ever Holiday Rambler travel trailer. One of the first and most enormously successful RV manufacturing companies in America was getting its start.
First came the travel trailer in 1953, followed by fifth-wheel trailers. Holiday Rambler did not begin building motorhomes until the mid-1970s. In 1975 the company introduced five type C models: the Rambler 5000, the Rambler 3000, the Rambler 1000, the Imperial 5000, and the Statesman 1000. Holiday Rambler introduced one type A motorhome that same year, the Rambler Imperial 5000.
According to a recent interview with Dick Klingler that appeared in Holidays, a magazine for Holiday Rambler enthusiasts, Dick was not particularly enthused about building type As. At first he thought they were too big. But once he began to see the success that companies such as Winnebago Industries were having with their type A programs, Holiday Rambler jumped in with both feet. Even then, Dick remained cautious and took his time in designing and building a type A unit. He discovered that the equity in Holiday Rambler’s name and the company’s reputation for manufacturing towable RVs quickly launched its motorhome-building efforts on a success path.
Dick is credited with originating many items that are commonly found in motorhomes and travel trailers today: the dinette that can be converted into a bed, and vehicle design features such as radiused exterior corners and enclosed underbellies. He also devised a framing process that today is trademarked as Alumaframe Construction.
Holiday Rambler remained a privately held, family-owned company for 33 years. When Harley Davidson purchased it from the Klinglers in 1986, it sold for $155 million.
Consolidation in the recreation vehicle industry was well on the march in the late 1990s, when another suitor emerged. Kay Toolson, chairman and CEO of Monaco Coach Corporation, has a keen eye for companies with equity in their name, and in 1996 Monaco Coach Corporation became the subsequent owner of Holiday Rambler. While on Kay’s watch, Monaco has taken Holiday Rambler and its product lines to new levels.
Holiday Rambler’s motorized RV line today includes the type C Atlantis and gasoline-powered type As such as the Admiral, Traveler, and Vacationer. Holiday Rambler’s diesel-powered coaches “” the Neptune, Ambassador, Scepter, Imperial, and Navigator “” have price points that range from entry level (retailing in the low-$100,000 range) up to 45-foot-long tag axle diesel pushers that retail at just below $500,000.
With such a full spectrum of offerings, Holiday Rambler presents the motorhome enthusiast with a number of ways to join its family. The stepping-stone price points also enable motorhomers to move to the next level of luxury while continuing to let Holiday Rambler be their source for the RV lifestyle.
Kay Toolson is a very accessible and personable man. I asked him what he thought about Holiday Rambler’s milestone this year and what FMCA members and all RVers can expect from Holiday Rambler in the years to come.
“I speak for everyone in our company when I say how proud we are of Holiday Rambler,” he said. “Few names in our industry can claim 50 years in business, and even fewer can claim to have Holiday Rambler’s incredible reputation. Actually, I can’t think of many companies in any industry whose products have made more people happy than Holiday Rambler.
“It’s humbling to think of the thousands of families who have enjoyed Holiday Rambler RVs over the past five decades. We’re honored to carry on the rich tradition that Dick Klingler started many years ago, and we’re looking forward to Holiday Rambler’s next 50 years. We expect them to be just as exciting as the last 50.”
Who would have guessed that an effort to build a 15-foot travel trailer in an Indiana garage would become a key component in a corporation that in 2002 recorded gross sales of $1 billion and net earnings of $45 million?