RVs of the Apocalypse, Part 5: Daystar
As documented in previous posts, the 1970’s were clearly a high point of motorhome production, including a fair number of start-up manufacturers. The subject of this post is among the more notorious products of the 1970’s boom, and while its merits and overall weirdness are debatable, it certainly has one of the strangest backstories of the period. The basics of the saga, as recorded in the book Mobile Mansions and various websites, are as follows: In 1975, a startup company in Texas offered luxury RVs under the name of Daystar. The name was inspired by Christian legends about the Star of Bethlehem, which claimed that it could be seen even in broad daylight, and is thought to reflect a religious orientation by the manufacturer and/or the target customers. Manufacturing was a joint venture with Taiwanese businessmen, and reportedly included the manufacture of pre-fabricated teak interiors in Asia (at a time when commercial motorhome manufacturers had long since shifted to particleboard for any wood furnishings!) which were imported to the States and inserted into the mobile home bodies, which were designed on a Dodge chassis. Unsurprisingly, the finished products were expensive, with $70,000 being the reported “standard” price, and it is not improbable that actual sale prices went even higher for customers who customized their units. All accounts report that only 16 units were built before the company shut down, evidently under allegations of involvement in money-laundering. Online photos appear to represent about six different units. The one pictured above is subject of a page at the Atlas Mobile Directory, which includes shots of the interior. I believe the same specimen was photographed for Mobile Mansions, which shows only a close-up of the Daystar mark and the even more recognizable ovoid grill and ornamental star.
Mysteries abound regarding the Daystar. Details of its production are the subject of much hearsay and conjecture, such as accounts of luxury features such as gold and marble bathroom fittings and a custom unit furnished in “buckskin” leather. Unfortunately, no photos are available to substantiate these reports, or even to establish the basic layout of the interior (assuming there was one!) In my view, even the total production run can be approached as a minor mystery: Given the circumstances, it’s at least conceivable that some “lost” units were completed without documentation, or conversely that some units reportedly manufactured were in fact left incomplete or never built at all. Then there are a few anomalies I have noticed in photos, without encountering explanations or even comment. Some photos show a different shape and position of the front door than the one above, but since these are consistently taken from the left where others are taken from the right, it is unclear if this represents asymmetry in the design or a production variant. Photos from the left also show a set of vents on one side of the windowless midsection. My best guess is that these are for air conditioning; the other obvious possibility is that the motorhome had a rear engine.
Overall, I like the Daystar. I find the styling of the front to be quite appealing, especially in comparison to the increasingly angular shapes of the period. It can, in fact, be considered a “throwback” to the “streamlined” designs of the 1930’s and 1940’s. The one disappointing aspect of the design is the tail, which always struck me as giving it a sawed-off look. In incorporating a Daystar into the Re-Deanimator alternate universe, I was happy to rectify that shortcoming by assuming an alternate design where the styling is more consistent. I was very interested to make the subsequent discovery that the Daystar was designed by W.E. Miller, a prominent automotive designer of the 1930’s whose work included quite advanced examples of the “streamlined” style. In a truly ironic twist, these included a tank truck that not only bears a striking resemblance to the Daystar but has about the same profile I assumed in refashioning the design. Could it be that this was the way Miller wanted his motorhome to look? Is there a chance that something like it was built, and slipped through the cracks? One can always dream…