Franken-Camper: 1959 Oldsmobile Camper

Unique and certainly interesting, the cut up 1950’s cars that became campers are somewhat strange, but were certainly a stepping stone to what campers would become in the future. Cadillac’s seemed to be a popular choice due to their luxuriousness and peppy V8 engine, but this ’59 Oldsmobile shares more in common with Frankenstein’s monster. With a mash up of drive-train parts this camper is a strange but cool classic that would be an awesome project to revive and enjoy. Guaranteed to get attention no matter where it may go, this camper project is offered for a reasonable $3,500. Take a look at it here on craigslist out of Parkersburg, Iowa. Our reader and friend Randy Zimmermann sent us this way too cool and unique camper that’s just begging to hit Route 66. Thanks Randy!

Within the camper section you will find a refurbished camping space. There is a bed up high, two benches down low, and a fold up table. I would guess that the bench areas could double as a sleeping areas as well. It would appear that the “fastback” section of the camper lifts up and is the entrance into the camper section. As far as the refurbishment, it looks like floors and benches were updated. There appears to be old luan plywood on the walls and some fresh plywood on the bench sections. Faux hardwood flooring has been added giving a slightly classier appearance. Quite simple, there is potential to update this camper and make it more user friendly in this modern day and age. An interior view of the back section of the camper would have been nice to get a better grasp of the layout and features wrapped up in this classic. There are a few service doors and possible storage areas on the driver side exterior of the camper, but it isn’t quite clear what features this camper may have.

Packing power windows, a power seat, and a Wonderbar radio, this Oldsmobile was quite deluxe for its time. The cockpit view is quite reasonable, and is mostly manageable. The second hand carpet is an interesting choice, but with a change of carpet, and a bench color change, this interior wouldn’t be too bad to live with. Beyond the goofy carpet, lets talk about the Franken’ drive-train under this unique camper. The engine and transmission are Chrysler units, but no specifics are given. The engine hasn’t been touched, so there is no word on condition, or if it is frozen. The rear axle is a Chevrolet 1 ton truck axle capable of whatever loads you may throw at it while camping and hauling. Interestingly the front suspension has been converted to a 1 ton Ford straight axle, really rounding out the top American auto manufacturing brands all into one camper.

A bit obtuse from the rear view, this camper looks like a solid endeavor with no critical damage or corrosion. The Oldsmobile portion wears some surface rust, but there looks to be no rot. Depending on your taste, this camper could keep its weathered looks, or it could certainly be cleaned up and painted. Perhaps a bit flashy, but the camper section would be cool polished up to a mirror finish. Add a few more modern amenities, or even add some more classic ones to make this camper more useful and enjoyable on your next camping adventure! Where would you go camping in this old Franken Camper?

Fast Finds


  1. DrinkinGasoline

    About as aerodynamic as a brick in a wind tunnel…yikes.
    6 MPG at best pushing 60 MPH loaded with gear and family ? Loose the rear bumper as it no longer serves a purpose and maybe 7 MPG at 62 MPH downhill. Cross winds..?..forget it….it’ll be on it’s side.
    Parked on the back 40 as yard art fun for the grandchildren…..OK.

    • grant

      If you loose the rear bumper it may fall off in traffic and hurt someone. Better to just lose it..

    • Al

      So when was the last time you drove an ’70 Olds 442 ?
      I get 6 mpg in the city, or on the highway.
      When I bought the car new in ’70, I pulled a 17 foot Airstream trailer and still got 6 mpg. (I know, I know) The times were a changing, imagine getting premium gas for 19 cents a gallon, which I did in 1971 in LA, Calif.. I removed the trailering gear in 1973.

      • DrinkinGasoline

        Never…But I did have a 72 W-30 for a while. Would pass everything but gas stations and tire stores.

    • Mountainwoodie

      LOL No compound curves here! Ditch the back end and reconfigure the entrance..then watch the crosswinds. Crazy!

  2. Chebby

    That fastback section is likely a fold-out bed, like Kamp King Coaches used to have. There appears to be a door in the very rear on the passenger side. Seems really odd to mish-mosh the axles and drivetrain with all different manufacturers when the original Olds components would have done the job.

  3. Rodney

    Well, at least your bread would stay fresh…..

    • DrinkinGasoline

      A giant bread box….lol

      • Rodney

        Thank you!

  4. Bernard

    As Johny Cash would say, i did it one piece at a time!

  5. Scot

    ~ Absolutely Chebby, that’s a swing out door on the last section of passengers’ side. Has potential.
    The roof is the important question.

  6. Milt

    Might get slightly better gas mileage if a drag chute was added.

    • Al

      Aimed to the front for tail winds.

  7. Howard A Member

    Looks like the “rat rod” of campers. I’d have to think you’d have no trouble finding a camping spot, everybody around you would start reeling in their cords. Inside looks pretty nice really, outside, it’s hideous. I just love the “backyard” ingenuity on stuff like this. Something my old man would’ve made, the inside, anyway. I’d probably park it at a campground permanently, as driving it would certainly be a task.

  8. Ben T. Spanner

    In the 1960’s and 70’s a used car dealer in Columbus Ohio made similar vehicles out of old hearses. The camper portion was factory built. The alternative would have been a 3/4 ton truck abd a slide in. The Cadillace would have been much more comfortable.

    They were also a dealer for Vouge tires. These were usually seen on hearses and limos and had raised gold sections on the sidewalls.

    • Roger

      Back in the sixties and early seventies I remember seeing several of those converted hearse campers when we would go camping,think one reason those were used because those Cadillac commercial chassis vehicles were built similar to a 3/4 ton truck suspension and axle wise,plus they were extremely long wheelbase which made for more room for living quarters,I remember Dad telling about hauling coils of steel to a company near Bellefountaine,Ohio in the late forties where they built hearses and ambulances on a former farm property,he said there was one field there that was nothing but Cadillac chassis and they formed the body panels by hand using maple molds and assume wooden mallets to shape them.

  9. LAB3

    Although I’m not a fan of the bed portion hanging off the back I give a thumbs up overall! This is the kind of creativity and “Make do” that I enjoy even though it probably is not very useful in the real world, like a show car that was never meant to be actually driven.

  10. D. King

    Cadillac’s seemed to be a popular choice due to their…”wonderful suspension.” There–fixed it for you.

    Sheesh! Can you imagine driving a more incapable vehicle? I’ll bet a Sherman tank handles better. Looks better, too.

  11. Rod444

    Well, ta heck with all the haters, I kinda like it. It would need some paint so the wife would allow it on the yard, but given the propensity of the younger generation to take every good thing we ever loved (Boler trailers, flat nosed Winnebago RVs, any kind of ‘canned ham’ trailer) and “remodel” it with paint, paisley drapes and 1000 Instagram pics, there is definitely a new age hippy out there who WANTS to have this as their next home.

  12. JW

    All I can say is WHY !!!

  13. Jamie H

    It’s an AMC .. .all makes combined.

  14. GP Member

    It has one ton front and rear, There are thousands of one ton box vans on the roads everyday loaded down with all kinds of things. They have higher sides then this and are not laying all over the roads from the wind. ( normal wind)

    • Howard A Member

      Hi GP, that’s true, however, usually these are driven by inexperienced drivers, that probably never drove anything like this, and are just inherently tippy, and it’s not just wind. I’ve seen stuff like this happen in soft ground, only the motorhome went over.

  15. Steve in Charlotte

    Looks like a garbage truck….car…whatever. Scary.

  16. Bob
  17. ron bajorek

    the cadillac were actually professionally converted from hearses and ambulances. I’d really like to get one of those

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