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A mystery no more – the Fabulous Ferber

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The mystery motorhome is a 1971 Ferber Motor Coach. Photos and scans by Geoff Hacker.

[Editor’s Note: A lot has happened since we last wrote about Geoff Hacker and Undiscovered Classics’s “find” of a mystery RV.  In Geoff’s own words, here’s the tale of the now-identified Ferber Motor Coach.]

I love adventures. Those that have to do with cars, that is. And sometimes, trucks and RV’s (like this Ultravan, rescued in 2006). Little did I know that about 2 weeks ago, I would start my next RV adventure.

1971 mystery motorhome

Typically, my co-conspirator in research, rescue and restoration, Rick D’Louhy, and I search for handbuilt American sports cars of the 40s, 50s and beyond. Some were built from aluminum, others steel and most fiberglass. Grantham Stardust, Kurtis, Meteors, Byers, Glasspar… these are but a few of the cars we search for, find, sometimes restore, write about and celebrate. So when I was visiting a friend in the Orlando, Florida area – Tom Devereaux – about the restoration of his 1952 LaSaetta sports car I spotted something I didn’t recognize: a relatively small size RV that looked like it was made from a bread van.

On closer inspection, it really seemed to be something quite different. First, it was fully built from aluminum. The bottom rear half of RV was not flat but carefully shaped to flow into a flat front, much like a Spanish galleon of yore. Every seam where metal came together was welded and ground flush. Nothing was done in a quick or careless way, and every piece was form fitted together, with not a rivet in sight. Overall, the construction was very interesting, and not typical for most vehicles of this period.

1971 mystery motorhome

What was it? A special-construction RV? A homebuilt RV? A custom truck? A special-purpose vehicle turned into an RV? So…I was hooked. After all, Rick and I always say that “we specialize in finding vehicles no one’s looking for,” and it looked we found another.

Of course we started talking price. It turned out the RV was owned by a friend of a friend, but in short time the mystery RV became ours for a reasonable sum. But time was of the essence and we had to extract it from its resting place in a Florida field. That should be easy – famous last words.

I didn’t take measurements but I remembered it was a “small” RV, so I brought my trailer with a 23-foot bed. It turned out we needed every foot of it! Lucky for me, good friend and champion of unusual vehicles – Kyle Feller – was down in Florida for a visit. Kyle joined me on the pick up day for the RV – a day that would live in infamy. And when we loaded the RV, it made my Chevrolet Suburban look like a Nash Metropolitan pulling a semi.

Ferber Motor Coach

Bringing the Ferber home – slowly.

The trailer can hold up to 5,000 pounds, and the Suburban was rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, but the title for the RV showed “Ford” and “7900  lbs.”  We all got together in a huddle, discussed our choices and moved forward. We would load the RV and drive really slow, a decision that fits with my motto for projects: “Ready…..Fire…..Aim.”

When we finished loading it (we had to first break loose a frozen brake drum), Tom said we were lucky – there was still space above the trailer tires (they didn’t mash up against the fenders). He told me “You should be fine all the way home – the suspension is sitting on the axle and there is plenty of room between the tires and fender tops.” Oh boy….

Ferber Motor Coach

Ok….back roads home it was. During the trip I made two phone calls; the first was to AAA to get their RV insurance so I wouldn’t have to tow it again, while the other was to my friend Ralph Smith who can make anything “run” (engine) and “stop” (brakes). Luckily he agreed I could drop it off at his place which meant we only had to take 80 miles of backroads and not 100+. How lucky can a car guy get?

So we made it to Ralph’s and the RV didn’t fall off the trailer. Nor did we blow any tires, or get stopped by the police – I think they were laughing too hard as we passed by them at our top speed of 45 MPH. Ralph jumped on the project right away and got the RV running in just a few days.

Ferber Motor Coach

Now that we’d gotten it home, exactly “what” did we have? That, as they say, is the right question, and I knew the right audience to pitch the question to – Hemmings readership.

I contacted Kurt Ernst who I quickly learned was an RV enthusiast. Already I seemed on the right path. Kurt enthusiastically embraced my interest for the history of the mystery RV and ran a story on July 5 entitled Can you help identify this circa-1971 motorhome? My favorite comment was the first from “DougD” who said “Aaaahhh!! My Eyes!” and who also offered his positive thoughts and words of encouragement.

But there were many comments – 60+ of them – that offered glimpses of what I had thought too. I also contacted the RV Hall of Fame/Museum in Elkhart, Indiana to see if any more info might be gleaned from their archives and historian. Alas….they couldn’t find anything in their records – or recall seeing anything quite like it.

Ferber Motor Coach

Again, I was very curious about the history of this vehicle. After sharing the story and photos on Hemmings and involving automotive historians Alden Jewell and Bob Cunningham, I had exhausted all possible avenues of research save one – eBay.

I started with 1971 (the year of our RV) and worked forward using simple search terms – “1971 RV” and so forth.  Then….I went back to 1967 and moved forward and voila.  You gotta love Walter Miller and his great source of historic automotive literature.  When I hit “1969 RV” I found it – The Fabulous, Fantastic, Forgotten “Ferber”  – “Ferber Coach” that is.

Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach Ferber Motor Coach

Walter Miller had a 1969 brochure on the auction site titled “Presenting the Ferber Coach – The Aristocrat of Motor Homes.” And…the look, style, method of construction, materials and all other details confirmed that this was the 22-foot version of their Ferber Coach – the larger 27” Coach was pictured in their brochure with back porch, sliding doors and leopard skin seats and couch. The brochure starts with the words:

Here is a coach designed for safety and built to last. A completely welded body, constructed of 1/8” aluminum, guards against rust, leaks, and highway fumes. The interior is reinforced with specially formed and welded aluminum braces to make the body a complete unit. Full insulation and safety padding inside protects against temperature extremes and road noise.

I then started searching the internet for info on “Ferber Coaches” and found only one source – the Library of Congress. This was the copyright information for their brochure and perhaps marks the beginning date of their company – November, 1969. My RV was titled 1971 and these were good bookends to begin to date company production: 1969 to 1971.

After sharing this brochure and copyright information with Bob Cunningham, he put the RV “pedal to the metal” and came up with more information (now that we knew the name and a bit of the history of the vehicle.)

Ferber Coach

Ferber Coach

First he found the two ads above in the Milwaukee Journal from 1972 and 1973, which extended our “bookends” from 1969 to 1973. Bob also shared information he located as follows:



Here’s some helpful information from Modern Metals, Volume 26, Page 94, 1970. Note the details about the molding along the center of the body.

Motorhome features unitized, welded construction

All aluminum unitized construction is the basis for a new concept in motorhome design by the Ferber Coach Co., Milwaukee, Wis. The entire body shell of the vehicle, including formed aluminum structural members, braces and body panels, is welded together to form an integral unit. The panels forming the sides, base, and top of the body are clamped in special production fixtures and the interior braces are welded in place. These sub-assemblies are then tack-welded together prior to final welding with straight edges to insure proper alignment. Each body seam is then MIG-welded and ground smooth. All body panels are formed from 1/8- in. thick 3000 alloy sheet, supplied by the Earle M. Jorgensen Co., service center in Skokie, Ill. Hinged doors allow access to water, butane and fuel tanks and weatherproof luggage or equipment storage. An aluminum molding along the center of the body encloses the wiring, and is removable for easy access. Two body styles are built in models 27 and 22-ft. long. Both are 8-ft wide and slightly under 10 ft high. The 27-ft model has a sliding rear patio door and a reinforced aluminum patio. The coaches are marketed as complete luxury motorhomes for travel, sales offices, traveling display showrooms, and field offices, with completely furnished interiors, with custom interiors to owner’s specifications, or as unfinished shells.”


But the curious thing in all of this research is that we didn’t find another reference to “Ferber – The Aristocrat of Motor Homes” on the net. For a company that was around from at least 1969 to 1973, we would have thought there would be at least one other reference to someone having a Ferber Coach out there. Maybe another photo, a memory or a brochure. Hmmmmm… The construction methods alone make this RV a neat conversation piece (and to some, a fine piece of craftsmanship.)

So at this time our attention has shifted to two areas. First, finding other Ferber Motor Coaches that may still exist, since I would hate to be the only member of the newly initiated “Forever Ferber” Motor Home Society.

And second, to locating the family and employees who built them. In doing this, we would help preserve the legacy of a company and their employees for others to enjoy and appreciate in the future – much as what we have done with our Undiscovered Classics and Forgotten Fiberglass websites.

There are 3 locations shown in brochures and ads for the company:

* 1969 Brochure: 219 South Second Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53204

* 1969 Brochure: Address stamped in green on front: 6510 River Parkway, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin 53213

* Newspaper Ad – The Milwaukee Journal – October 31, 1972: 511 Oakland Avenue, Mukwonago, Wisconsin, 53149

Hopefully family members and/or employees may still be close to some of these addresses. Bob Cunningham initially found Ferber family members in Mukwonago and Milwaukee. However, attempts to reach these folks have been unsuccessful, and perhaps the “Ferber” name is from an investor or something other than a family name. Time will tell as more information is uncovered.

I offer great thanks to Hemmings and their readership for sharing their thoughts on what this might be and the importance of how it was built. Thanks also to Walter Miller and his staff for offering such a diverse amount of automotive literature to enthusiasts. I really got an education concerning the diversity of Motor Home companies in the early years looking through the 1967 to 1973 or so literature. And…much appreciation to automotive historians Bob Cunningham and Alden Jewell for their willingness to canvas their vast collections and put forth their research skills in uncovering mysteries – which we all love to put to rest.

I should also note that Mike Gleeson also found the same literature we found on ebay and posted it to the Hemmings Facebook page. Thanks Mike – all help is appreciated and we add you to the “team” of those who helped with sharing information and what they found on our quest to uncover the identify of this motor home and the company who built it.

To recap, these questions still remain:

* Can we find employees of families of the Ferber Coach Company of Milwaukee, Wausatosa and Mukwonago Wisconsin that can help us fill in the history gaps of this neat American company?

* Will we find other Ferber coaches that were produced from 1969 to 1973+ years?

We invite the readership of Hemmings to help us answer these questions and have fun doing it, too.  We hope to have our Ferber Coach restored and ready to go next year – just in time to participate in its first show. In fact, it has already been invited to a Midwest concours d’elegance pending its forthcoming restoration.