Re: How did you hear about Sportsmobile Forum?
Sorry to take so long to respond. The Sportsmobile was born in a little town called Andrews, Indiana. The company was called G.E.M.co.(General Engineering and Manufacturing Company) and was opened in 1959. That was also the year that I was
My Grandfather was named Earl Wallace. There were several business partners involved in the creation of this company. They were Charles Vorskey, Milt Smith,and Fred Defengaugh. I remember that grandpa wanted some kind of a camping vehicle that was portable and could be taken with you everywhere you went. Grandpa was a man that stood 6’2” tall. I remember him saying that that camper was nice but way too uncomfortable for anyone tall. That sparked the idea of the “Penthouse Top”. The very first top made was aided by an old Kentucky moonshiner that got involved in the project in the basement of the downtown plant. It was said that an employee named Castle Little saw what Grandpa was trying to do and advised him that he needed something like a still to create the formula to make the fiberglass top. He and Grandpa worked at making the still and low and behold the formula was perfected.
These tops were being made at the plant in the beginning. The screening and canvas material was the next thing to be made. It was hand sewn by several of the women in the sewing department. If any of you are familiar with the Skamper pull behind trailer, you will notice the material and designs are a lot alike. Skamper of Bristol,Indiana was a big customer of GEMCO.
The Sportsmobile continued to grow in popularity throughout the 60’s as many changes and improvements were made. If memory serves me correctly, Fred Defenbaugh bought out the Sprtsmobile division and moved it to Huntington,Indiana in the late 60’s to very early 70’s. It looks like the Sportsmobile is still going strong with a plant in California,and Texas also. I asked Grandpa one day why he used the Volkswagon bus for this camper. His response was it was the most economical van on the road at the time. For God’s sake gas was reaching $50 cents a gallon then!!
Gemco also made customized vans into the early 1980’s and also the wood burning stove known as “The Earth Stove” . Grandpa passed away in 1983 and the company pretty much died a quick death due to mismanagement and bad leadership. There were at one time 300 to 400 people working at two plants by that time.
I really miss the old stories I have been told. Then again this proves that an old red headed Irishman with a 6th grade can make ,run, and, manage a good business.
I feel so fortunate that I have been able to see the Sportsmoble start up and carry on for many people to enjoy.