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1953 Oldsmobile Super 88 Camper!

Back in the mid-20th Century, more cars were converted into campers than you might think. And there were several outfits around the country that pulled these transformations off, some better than others. We’re not told who did this one and when, only that the seller thinks it was done well. The Super 88 that was used as the donor hasn’t run in nearly 40 years, so both it and the camper or going to need restoring. It’s available near Kalispell, Montana and here on craigslist for $7,500. Thanks to our Barn Finds cohort Montana Danford for submitting this tip!

This is pure speculation, but there was a guy named Dale Wasinger who started making these things from wrecked cars, ones where the front half was fine, but the back half could be turned into a camper. It’s estimated that he built 52 to 56 of these things based largely on GM products, which could include a car like this ’53 Oldsmobile. Out of this work the Great Dale House Car was born. We understand they typically rode and handled like a car, and the camper part was equipped with a stove, oven, ice box, three-way lights, furnace, stereo, sink, water heater, twin tanks with pressure pump with hot and cold water and would typically sleep six. Now, whether or not the seller’s car was a Great Dale is just a guess, but it could have followed a similar path to get here. Here’s a pic of old Dale’s handiwork.

Various incarnations of the Oldsmobile 88 series of cars were built between 1949-99. The first generation covered the 1949-53 models, including this one. The likely powerplant here is Oldsmobile’s 303 cubic inch Rocket V8, capable of 135 horsepower (not bad for those days). The Super 88 was the upscale edition of these cars, with a few more creature comforts than the standard 88. The seller says this car/camper hasn’t run in ages, but the motor turns, which is a positive sign. The engine is paired to a 4-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, condition unknown.

This car has loads of patina for those into that, but a repaint would likely be better. We’re told the interior of the Olds is in fairly good shape, but the camper part has fallen into decline over the years, yet is said to be complete. The seller’s plan was to retore the car/camper and use it as a tiny home rental on Airbnb, but a lack of time doesn’t make that a practical goal now. So perhaps someone else with a similar vision can make this thing remarkable (or close to it) once again. Oh, BTW, the title is missing, so dealing with get the ownership change legally will fall on the buyer.


  1. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    I think $7,500 for this less than “Super” Olds is wildly optimistic. Only someone who is a fan of these camper conversions would be willing to tackle this project and there can’t be too many of those guys around. Probably all the mechanicals would have to be rebuilt or replaced and you’d have to paint the cab. That would be after you tackled any rust issues. There are no pictures of the camper interior so that could mean a lot of work there. Definitely not a project for the faint of heart.

    Like 23
    • michael j. small

      2500 “might” be doable…no mo…IMHO.

      Like 7
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    When did they move Kalispell to Idaho from Montana?

    Like 1
    • Russ Dixon Russ Dixon Staff

      Thanks. Corrected. Damn map on craigslist kinda sucks and I’m in Florida!

      Like 2
    • Charles

      The front part is

      Like 2
  3. George Mattar

    What Ford Guy 1972 said.

    Like 6
  4. Shawn

    That’s a lot to ask for with so many unknowns. Restoring this and getting it running would cost a pretty penny. Of course the cheaper route would be a static rental, especially since the title is lost. It’s a cool car, but without someone just willing to take it on as a pet project, it’ll be a tough sale.

    Like 2
  5. Claudio

    Unless these jalopies are suddenly worth 100k , there is no way to build it without pouring money down the drain …
    I get that a passion has a price but this is a loosing situation !
    And i am an avid rv er and love these quirky things …

    Like 8
  6. Fred W

    Even though the guy built over 50 of them, they still look like a backyard build.

    Like 8
  7. Lance

    Why does Red Green come to mind?

    Like 20
  8. CharlesS

    There was a company out west back in the 50’s who bought retired ambulances or hearses, mostly Cadilliac’s and built units like this. If you see one, the raised roof on the front of the cab is a dead giveaway. I wonder if the rear of the ambulance or hearse was replaced with a truck frame, since it would have been lengthened and beefed up when the car was converted for ambulance or hearse duties? I have always preferred units where the front part of the cab with the car doors are retained rather then units where the cab was replaced with camper components. The forerunner to modern Class C motorhomes built on van cutaway bodies.

    Like 2
  9. Dan Gavin

    I don’t know what their smoking in Montana……but I want some.

    Like 2
    • Slantasaurus

      Dental Floss.

      Like 7
  10. Karl

    What a conglomeration of beauty! NOT!!!

    Like 1
  11. Brian Weyeneth

    No words.

    Like 2
  12. Davey

    I’d be more interested in the Airstream in the background!

    Like 3
  13. steve

    It is 1967 and, near the end of a peaceful family trip(joke), the fuel pump quits leaving Glacier NP….
    Look for foot-sized dents in the fender. Dad screamd “Enough!!!” and Greyhound took them home….
    Oh, there is history here!

    Like 4
  14. Chuckster

    In the words of that expert ” unsafe at any speed “

    Like 4
  15. dogwater

    I think that was on a street in Portland

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      Or San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Los Angeles, Seattle,….

      Steve R

      Like 1
  16. stumpwi

    They left out “ran when parked”!

    Like 4
  17. Kenneth Carney

    Maybe it didn’t run when they parked it.
    But ye old LS Chevy and a TH 400 tranny
    would cure almost anything auto related
    though. As for Charles’ comment about
    converting hearse and ambulances into
    campers, I’ve heard that story for at least 50 years now. I did see a hearse
    conversion in the late ’60s at a camproynd near Good field Illinois. The
    poor guy who bought it got screwed as
    the front half still had that death smell
    to it. That’s how I knew it was a hearse.
    I remember very well when Dad managed the Big Rig truck stop and they
    had a ’50 Cadillac hearse they used as
    a parts chaser. On a really hot day, the
    stench would knock you back 10 feet!
    My Mom forbid my Dad from ever bringing that thing around our house
    again! Ooh ooh that smell!

    Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Kenneth Carney,

      I’ve been involved in various ways with funeral homes for decades, and I’ve both driven and owned many hearses, including 1942, ’48 & ’52 Packard Henneys, 1958 Pontiac Superior, 59 Cadillac M&M, and a 1966 Cadillac Superior. I’ve driven hearses for funeral homes, even using them for “first removals” from a house.

      None had any trace of bad smells from human bodies. Hearses carry sealed coffins. These are sealed better than a Volkswagen bug. Having worked in a funeral home, I can tell you a typical embalmed body that is prepared for an open casket viewing, doesn’t put off any offensive odors for several weeks after proper preparation.

      That said, I have found hearses that DID have that “smell of death”, but they were all in junkyards, and the smell was from animals that died in the hearse, not humans.

      I’ve attended major hearse & ambulance national car shows, and there has never, ever been a case where there was a problem with bad smells at these shows. No other owner has said they had such a problem, and if it was even a small number of hearses that had the problem, I’m sure somewhere in the hearse/ambulance clubs there would be a discussion or articles on how to handle the problem. I’ve never read about such an article.

      Not saying your hearse experience wasn’t real, but fortunately it’s the exception, rather than the rule.

      And almost forgot, when I was building my home in the mid 1980s, I owned a 1956 Cadillac Superior hearse that had been converted to a motor home in Florida, back in 1962. It was similar to what this Olds looked like, but mine was a longer RV section, and had much larger windows. I lived in the Cadillac RV for over 2 years until I was able to move into my new abode, and I sold it to another guy who parked it on a rural property as a hunting cabin.

      Thankfully I had other buildings next to the Cadillac RV, so storage wasn’t a problem, and I was able to walk to work. However if I was depending ONLY on the RV to live long term inside, with no other building, I think that would be very difficult, as it’s just like one of these new “tiny homes” in size. [I’m a collector, and I need room for my “stuff”]

      Like 2
  18. Johnny C.

    A lot of “it used to look like this;” photos and maybe 1 current shot… It looked neglected “then” & even worse “now”. Missing trim, busted windows… I think it’s too late for this one. Sadly.

    Like 2
  19. Kenn

    Also left out: Numbers matching. Mileage claim.

    Like 2
  20. Moondawg00

    $7500!!! Somebody in Montana’s been out in the cold too long!

    Like 2
  21. onree

    The car in the 3rd photo is a ’57 Pontiac Super Chief, not an Olds.

    Like 1
    • wcshook

      Good catch!

      Like 0
  22. wcshook

    Good catch!

    Like 0
  23. Tony T

    Two different rigs … WTFWT

    Like 0
  24. Ivan

    This sows ear could not be practically made into a silk purse. Even if you do it yourself [I am speaking from experience]. The costs would be between $8,000 to $11,000 ,plus buying this Frankenstein vehicle . I would not touch it with a 55 foot pole. It could be turned into a neat chicken coup. Any takers,CLUCK ,CLUCK :}

    Like 0

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