Friday, December 23, 2005

Return of the Land Yacht

Not all ideas make it off the drawing pages. Some remain on napkins, scraps of paper or lost in computer files. But Howard Doss got this dream off the paper and into actual use. A combination of a lot of interesting people, talent and ambition created America’s first production motor home, the Howard Safari. Built by Howard Industries of Saginaw, Michigan, the Safari rolled off the assembly lines from 1953 to 1956. More interesting than that is how the concept began. In an earlier blog entry, I refered to a study which showed how heterogeneous (mixed) teams produce the most creative things. Well, Doss and his team back in the 50's proved this.

Doss had been building trailers since the 1930's. But it was a well know comedian of the time, Herb Shriner who wanted to be able to drive the trailer and not tow it. Doss and his team discussed it, designed it and made it happen. The original self-propelled motor home was a 22 ft. structure set on top a GMC truck chassis. Doss brought in an up-and-coming designer to give the Safari a new look. His name was Albrecht Goertz. A quick Google search showed that this is the same man who went on to design the 240 Z for Datsun. He would also go on to work for BMW.

Apparently, "product placement" is not such a new idea. The original Howard Safari appeared in the movie Ring of Fear. It was also seen on movie reels of the day, and made an appearance on the Today Show with Dave Garroway and Jack Lescoulie.

This next bit has a little to do with genetics and history repeating itself. It’s now fifty years since the last of the Safari’s rolled off the assembly lines and in comes Marcel Berman, grandson of Howard Doss. If everything goes as planned, Berman hopes to return motor home greatness to the streets by way of the Howard Safari X8 Land Yacht (seen above). In fact, it's a completely new concept and if it's produced, it will be the first Super Sport Recreational Vehicle. You could even call it a "hot rod motor home." Whatever the wording, the potential for this vehicle is unlimited. It could be a promo vehicle for a learning or cyber lab… I used to work for ATT’s Cable in the Classroom program, which offered a CyberLab to students, teachers and general public. The idea was to bring the lab or classroom to the people, unload laptops and equipment and set up shop anywhere there was electricity and a DSL or cable connection. Operating out of the X8 Land Yacht would have been far more attractive – had it been available. I can also see this as a PR tool for a company, a mobile unit for police, fire, sportscasting, etc. Does John Madden need a new bus? Let's not forget any number of celebrities, silicon valley executives and movie studio lots too.

I’m thinkng out loud or on paper here, but what about getting noted car collector Jay Leno in on this as a sort of modern Herb Shriner. I think Jay would love driving a finished product. I’m sure Berman would love to provide him one (at a discount) if he were given some time on the show to promote it. There's other possibilities with TV. To generate enthusaism for the unique design and possibly generate some venture capitol, get the folks over at Discovery’s Monster Garage to add the cool factor, and now you’ve got Jessie James and his mechanics working on the next great Land Yacht. Again, just thinking out of the box here, but what about getting a high tech school or community college involved in the design and development. A percentage could go to them by way of scholarship money and the rest to the rightful heir... Howard Doss' inventive grandson.

You can reach the designer, Marcel Berman, personally at

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