Recently, Newell president and CEO, Karl Blade received an interesting email from Tom Patterson, an expert in vintage travel trailers and motorhomes. Tom’s email included a forwarded 2001 Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) magazine article that is an even farther look back at the Newell before it was a Newell. Below, a slightly edited version of the article originally written by Steve Ault offers an interesting glimpse into the materials that made up the Newell’s direct predecessor—the Streamline Travel Home. It’s a reminder that, like other highly sophisticated organisms and machines, the Newell motorcoach of today is a product of evolution.
By Steve Ault
The Streamline Travel Home built in El Monte, California, in the 1960s was the luxury motorcoach of its day. It was a lightweight, aluminum-skinned coach that featured both side and rear doors and a rear “porch.”
In those days, the use of lightweight alloys and plastic was still in its infancy; today’s motorhomes are constructed of better-quality aluminum and steel alloys that provide strength without the weight of older materials. Indeed, the plastics, fiberglass, and vinyl that highlight coach exteriors and interiors are durable, lightweight and strong. Can you imagine an automobile or RV without these products today?
At 32 feet long, the Streamline was a monster for its time. Powered by a 390‑horespower Ford engine, it could motor down the road at a reasonable speed and do well on hills, depending on the gearing. The modified Streamline I recently inspected had a Ford 460 engine with headers, dual exhaust, and a Gear Vendor Under/Overdrive. The owner was not certain of the rear-axle ratio, but seemed pleased with its performance on California highways.
One of the best features I saw on the Streamline was a set of wheels custom built to accommodate 33×12.50×16.5 radials (singles at the rear versus duals). I suspect this modification had a tremendous impact on ride and handling. On the front of the coach is an inverted 1960 Ford pickup grille. The coach is equipped with 10 flood-type lights (two backup lights and eight yard lights, four per side at window height).
The owner told me that Robert Kennedy once spoke from the “rear porch” of this particular coach. The same loudspeakers used for the speech were still in place at the time the owner purchased it. A generator and propane bottles were mounted in the rear “boxes” on the porch. What a feat for 1964—a motorhome more than 30 feet long that weighed only 10,000 pounds!
Apparently, Streamline officials felt that Americans weren’t ready for a motorhome with a $15,000 price tag. The company ceased production shortly after it started and sold the motorhome division to Newell Coach Corporation in 1967*. Both coaches were built on Ford platforms; however, by mid-1967, Newell came out with a 534-cu. in. Ford V8 gasoline-powered rear-engine chassis, and in 1971 introduced the adventuresome diesel pusher. Both the rear engine location and the diesel power were industry firsts.
*For the colorful story of how L.K. Newell ended up purchasing the motorhome division of Streamline, see Our History.