Odds and Ends
Hello and welcome to the Great Dale House Car page. We’re new owners and hope that other owners find this page and communicate ideas, experiences, and suggestions.
For those not familiar with the Great Dale House Car here’s a description from http://housecar.com/j003_Dale_House_Car_Story.html
The Great Dale House Car
By Jim Wickel
Recently at a Mercury car show, I spotted an unusual vehicle, a Great Dale House Car on a 1965 Mercury Chassis — or at least half a Mercury Chassis as we would later find out.
When I first saw this vehicle it appeared to be a homemade conversion, using a 1965 Mercury Monterey front clip, and chassis. It became quite clear when entering, however, that this was a professional job.
Doug Fimbo, the owner, told me the House Car was built by the Great Dale House Car Co. of Denver, Colo., and the company was owned by Dale Wasinger.
This unit cost about $8000, new, and Fymbo had owned it for two years, using it almost every weekend for camping.
It rides and handles just like a car with no top heavy tendencies, It is equipped with stove, oven, ice box, three-way lights, furnace, six-speaker stereo, sink, and water heater, twin tanks with pressure pump with hot and cold water, and it sleeps six.
Wasinger had been in the auto body repair business and used car sales for many years, beginning the early ’40s. His only steady helper during these many years was his wife, who ran the used car lot, helped repair cars, and aided the construction of the Great Dale House Cars.
Wasinger had become skillful at the art of buying two wrecks and making one good car from them. This was especially true during World War II when cars were in short supply. Late in 1960 he found a 1961 Cadillac with a crushed rear. He removed the body, leaving only the front clip, and drive train. He then went to a company in Denver by the name of Mitchells — builders of trailers and campers — and requested them to put a camper body on his Cadillac frame. After a long wait they told him they were too busy to handle his project. As a result Wasinger built his own, and the first Great Dale was born. Soon after he obtained a 1962 Oldsmobile that had been hit in the side, and Great Dale number two resulted.
Early estimates indicated that a total of 52 House Cars had been built. Wasinger believes the number could be as high as 56. Those first two examples are different from the rest, having been built with no patterns or drawings to go by. Starting with Dale number three, however, a system was put in place to make each conversion identical.
All chassis were cut behind the drivers seat, and the rear two-thirds of a three-quarter ton Chevy pickup chassis was welded to the front section including pickup springs. Channel iron was then added to the frame to support the upper living quarters, which was wood framed with aluminum siding.
No figures are available regarding wheelbase, since this would vary depending on the make of the front clip used, and as a result body length would also vary by a few inches.
It is most interesting to note that the finished House Car weighed little more than the original donor vehicle. Examples were the Buick or Cadillac, which weighed in at 5000 pounds with some variation depending on customer requests for special equipment. Apparently, this had much to do with their good road manners. The first cars sold were built in early 1962, and the last in late 1966. For the most part Wasinger and his wife did all the work, however, he did occasionally hire one or two part-time helpers. Many of these units were built on wrecks. If the customer brought in a new car then it would be taken apart for construction of the House Car. None of these vehicles were authorized or approved by the original manufacturers and none were built on AMC products. At some point in 1963-’64 Wasinger contacted Oldsmobile headquarters in Detroit, asking if he could buy front clips and chassis. The company indicated this could not be done due to the small volume required.
During his four-plus years of production he used Fords, Mercurys, Lincolns, Chryslers, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Buicks, and Cadillacs. It is Wasinger’s opinion that Oldsmobile worked best due to the original cars power-to-weight ratios. No mechanical changes were made to engine, cooling system, transmissions, front end, or brakes on any of the cars — only the frame and rear springs were modified.
Original prices ran from $4800 to $7200 depending on equipment requested. Some at the higher end included showers, refrigerators, and air conditioning. The base cost for Wasinger to manufacture a House Car in the mid-’60s was $2200. Generally he produced one unit every three to four weeks.
Wasinger never used advertising of any type other than word-of-mouth. There never were any brochures or printed material other than his business card. It never was his intention to expand the business — he was happy to make a living with just himself and his wife working on each car. As the years passed, the cost of parts increased, but the marketplace did not want to pay more for the completed product, so production was terminated.
Wasinger believes that many of the cars are still in use, however, he has heard little from owners over the years.
Wasinger still has the original House Car he built for himself, and he uses it regularly, including a recent trip to Las Vegas. It runs and functions well, and still generates a great deal of questions, and double takes.
One of the early units (he recalls it was a Buick) was taken directly to Alaska for an extensive trip. Upon returning to Denver the owner had to replace the windshield due to many miles of unfinished roads. The owner was concerned about the strength of the welds in the chassis and the effects of so much jarring. When the car was placed on a hoist and inspected, the frame showed no duress.
The first three or four House Cars were titled as cars using the vehicles numbers, however, the State of Colorado stepped in and mandated all further House Cars be assigned new unique serial numbers.
It has been confirmed that 13 examples have been located and there is a good chance many more will be found.
Wasinger is proof of what a person can do with a little determination. He is not an engineer — in fact, he claims little formal education. After stopping production of the House Car, he went into the salvage business, and in the process invented several machines now used in this work, but that is another story.