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Camper Shells- A Short History
This article discusses when camper shells first became available for consumer-marketed light trucks and how they have changed during the last 50 years.
Every truck owner knows about camper shells. Whether you choose to add one to your vehicle or not is another thing, and the trend does come and go, but this accessory is still as much a part of truck culture as anything else. Even during times when the use of shells has been less popular, they still have a solid following among workers who need to keep equipment clean and dry as they move between job sites and people who regularly haul cargo that has to be protected from moisture and wind.
What a lot of people do not realize is that the camper shell is only about fifty years old. Manufacturers started making them from a variety of materials in the 1960s, and right away they took off as a sensible solution that allowed consumer pickup trucks to be used in a variety of new and useful ways. While the first designs were a little bit boxy and functional, they quickly evolved.
While camper shells were originally billed quite literally as a way to allow truck owners to sleep out in their vehicles instead of camping in tents, their usefulness in converting a light truck into, essentially, a mini box truck was soon recognized. From there individual customizations of the interior, like adding organizers, racks, and toolboxes, soon became available.
The gas crisis in the 1970s had a profound influence on camper shell evolution as well. With pressure on everyone in the automotive industry to be responsive to the rising cost of fuel, designers at the major suppliers began to design for sleeker, more aerodynamic shells. Some even claimed, and used some solid demonstrations to show, that their shells improved a truck’s profile enough to gain fuel economy from the reduced wind resistance.
By the time 1980 rolled around, shells were available in a variety of styles and profiles for practically every pickup on the market. Both plexiglass and genuine automotive glass were used in various designs for window panels, and the shells themselves were available in fiberglass and aluminum, with some homebrew options using wood frameworks to support panels made from more water-resistant material.
Today, the camper shell is known by a variety of names, some of which are branded and some of which are functional, like “caps.” Increasingly, durable and low cost designs made from new plastic composites and other innovative materials are making appearances, but the traditional aluminum and fiberglass shells still offer a wide range of versatile and functional options for today’s truck enthusiast.
To find out more about camper shells in Murrieta, check out this website.
Justin is a certified car nut and writes about all car topics. He has a special interest in performance parts, wheels and rims. Share his enthusiasm at Tumblr blog.
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