(This article originally appeared in Hemmings Classic Car #106, July 2013)
The Nation is Your Playground
“To the realm of trailer-land, the Travelodge rings a new measure of utility, convenience, luxury – a new thrill and zest to the art of gracious, mobile living.”
The quote above was the first attempt from Pierce-Arrow Travelodge sales literature to lure prospective buyers into an already popular trailering lifestyle in the late 1930s.
As discussed in the sales literature article in HCC #103, Pierce-Arrow went bankrupt in 1938 partly because of their unwillingness to offer a cheaper and lesser vehicle to the public. What they did try, however, was to become profitable by briefly selling travel trailers.
The venture officially began during the summer of 1936 when a new division was formed to focus solely on trailers. By September of that year the division announced to the public that rumors were true; Pierce-Arrow would become the first passenger automobile company to enter trailer production. The Pierce-Arrow Travelodge would be offered in three models with a price starting at $595 for unfinished units and $785 for fully outfitted trailers. The top price for the largest offering was $1282.
The few pieces of sales literature produced for the Travelodge highlighted the unit’s independent wheel suspension and metal frame and body. Most trailers of the day incorporated wood into their structures and Pierce-Arrow was quick to capitalize on this fact. Other features described in sales catalogs included the trailer’s birch and gum wood interiors, linoleum floor, Bendix Vacuum Booster Hydraulic brakes and Houdaille shock absorbers.
In describing more details of the “spacious home for fine and hospitable living” sales catalogs proudly advertised a gasoline cook stove, a writing desk and a 26-gallon water tank. Men were targeted with images of the trailer in hunting and fishing scenes while women were assured that “interiors are commodious and well arranged in accordance with the dictates of feminine council.” Also provided were images comforting women with the fact that they could prepare every meal indoors and maintain their “feminine charm” inside the Travelodge’s 26” X 26” lavatory. That lavatory, with a drain built into the floor, could be “converted into a shower bath by removing the toilet and the linoleum covering the floor.”
Unfinished Travelodge units were marketed to roaming salesmen as display coaches. These traveling showrooms could be fitted to sell any product from shoes to lamps. Illustrations in the display coach catalog will produce a grin as they make the 19’ X 6’ 8” trailer appear significantly larger than an actual photograph would have.
The Travelodge line, which began as a happy and optimistic venture, would not even see a first birthday as production ended by November of 1936. The trailers were sold through the existing Pierce-Arrow dealer network but less than 500 units were manufactured. Some Travelodge trailers occasionally find their way to auction but Travelodge sales literature is even rarer. If you ever stumble upon any Travelodge brochures or catalogs be sure to snatch them up and remember, “When your home is a Travelodge the nation is your playground.”