The Pop – Up Camper: A Coleman Retrospective

As we all know, Coleman folding campers closed its doors earlier this year. Coleman has been a household name among camping enthusiasts and even those with just a passing interest in pop up camping since 1967.


The history of the Coleman company starts like a Horatio Alger story. In 1905, a young, bespectacled man named W.C. Coleman first saw a gasoline lantern that burned with a bright (and consistent) white flame. The lantern was a welcome change from the flickering yellow light of the kerosene lamps he was used to, and allowed him to read the small print in books and on medicine bottles with ease, despite his poor eyesight. Seeing the huge opportunity in front of him, Coleman began to produce these lanterns for himself, eventually establishing a company that over the years has stood above the rest as the symbol of quality and become synonymous with outdoor adventure.


After a long and storied involvement in World War II, Sheldon Coleman, the son of W.C. Coleman, established the Coleman folding trailer division in 1966. The folding camper division maintained the lofty tradition of Coleman quality and by 1979 the company was producing many of the top selling folding campers in the country. These new campers appealed to serious RVers and hobbyists alike as they were lightweight and could be pulled by a wide range of small to midsized vehicles and would last for years and years.


The company continued to grow until well into the 80s, seeing handsome profits and solid returns for investors. It was eventually sold to Fleetwood in 1989, who knew better than to compromise on the now legendary Coleman quality, continuing to sell the same Coleman RVs under the Fleetwood name for years. In fact, through a restructuring of company operations, Fleetwood saw Coleman through its most profitable year yet in 1991 and continued to grow it for years afterwards. In 1996, revenues topped $1.2 billion dollars.


A string of acquisitions had put the company in debt, but in 1998 some smooth moves by the new CEO quickly turned around their fortunes as some savvy cost cutting maneuvers allowed them to save considerable amounts of money while keeping up Coleman’s tradition of quality. In 2008 a new licensing agreement allowed the folding trailers to again don the Coleman name, and new models of camper were released until 2011.


Eventually in 2011 the Coleman folding campers division was forced to close its doors for the last time. This ended with a massive liquidation of all remaining models and parts, which were purchased by an RV dealer you may have heard of…Beckley’s!


There’s still time to get some great deals on used and new Beckley’s folding trailers and trailer parts so don’t wait – stop into Beckley’s today!!

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