Making our way down a random street, as we are apt to do, in an industrial section of Calgary, we stumble across an interesting pair of motorhomes not far from each other. Both are pretty darn old, dating from the 1970s or thereabouts, and are known as an Empress and Cabana respectively. Neither is or was a terribly common make, especially so for the latter model, which is the first of its type we’ve ever seen.
The Empress was built by HaiCo Manufacturing, a division Wickes Corp (sometimes called Wicks, Wilkes or Wickers, all in error I guess, is some documents found), of Lethbridge Alberta. It looks like this firm started making RVs in the late 1960s and lasted about a dozen years or so – the newest examples we could find were from the early 80s.
This one, based on its appearance, is an early to mid-1970s model.
You’ll notice a Dodge logo on the front grill, which was the firm that supplied the motorhome’s chassis. The drive train, suspension and electrical parts, and other associated components are the same as those found in a one ton truck from that maker. As such, this means most mechanical issues can be fixed cheaply and easily.
The front and rear caps and roof of the motorhome are molded fibreglass while the fluted sides may be fibreglass or something else. We couldn’t tell. In that era, fibreglass-bodied motorhomes were less common, as a result of being more expensive to manufacture, then those that were made with flat walls clad in metal siding. Fibreglass did offered up some distinct advantages. For example, molded material allowed for a more stylish and streamlined bodywork.
It appears that for a time HaiCo also made camping trailers which from what we can tell are super rare, not the motorhomes are particularly common.
Next up is a Cabana, with it’s pronounced front prow, made by Cabana Motorhomes Inc, a division of Forest Grove Industries, in Oregon. This firm seems to have started in the late 1960s and lasted about ten to twelve years – the 1960s and 1970s were a boom period for the industry but there was a big shakeup at the start of the 1980s and many firms went out of business then. Funny that both the makers discussed here were founded around the same time and later succumbed around the same time. Their time lines are remarkably parallel.
The Cabana is much like the Empress in construction and is either all fibreglass or a composite of fibreglass with side-walls made of another material. The chassis is likely from a commercial maker, much like the other motorhome and is probably a Dodge, which was by far the most common one from the era. Based upon photos of other Cabanas we’ve found online, this one seems to match best with those listed as mid-1970s models.
You’ve got to love that very retro green colour. I was curious what the interior looked like, but all windows had curtains and peering inside was not possible. I can just imagine the shag carpeting, avocado green or harvest yellow appliances, and dark wood paneling. It would be 1970s personified!
It looks like both motorhomes are being lived in on a full time basis. Given the scarcity of affordable housing in Calgary, this is not the least bit surprising to anyone. I’ve come across a lot of hard working people, who are forced to live in trailers, motorhomes, RVs, campers and so on. The Cabana seems to be occupied by a hoarder, and was full to bursting with all manner of junk and stuff.
If you have an Empress or Cabana motorhome, or any other vintage RV that you think we might be interested in, send us an email. We’ll come by and photograph it and put it on display on this website for the whole world to see.
To see other old motorhomes we’ve come across in our travels, go here…
Mystery Machine – Green Machine – Strange homemade RV.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.