Why Do RVs Have Those Ugly Swoops?

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an RV on the road with swoops painted on the side

Younger generations appreciate clean lines and simple aesthetics. But the RV industry doesn’t offer many options regarding the exterior look of mainline motorhomes and towable RVs.

You’ll find similar swoops and swooshes across the sides of an Entegra motorhome, Jayco travel trailer, and DRV fifth wheel. 

So how did this standard design originate? And is it here to stay? Let’s look at the evolution of paint schemes in the RV industry.

Where Is the RV Capital of the World?

If you own an RV, it likely came from Elkhart, Indiana. This northern Indiana city produces more than 80% of the RVs manufactured in North America. 

Magazines started calling Elkhart the “RV Capital of the World” in the late 1940s when manufacturers joined Wilbur Schult and his trailer company in Amish Country, Indiana. 

These companies found Elkhart’s highway system and railroads exactly what they needed to get supplies and products in and out of the Midwest.

To read more about Elkhart, Indiana, check out our article “How Did Elkhart Become the RV Capital of the World.”

Are All RV Manufacturers in Elkhart, Indiana?

Even though thousands of RVs leave Elkhart destined for dealerships each year, not all manufacturers call Elkhart home. 

Thor Industries, Forest River, Grand Design, Keystone, Heartland, DRV, Renegade, Alliance, Jayco, and more have production facilities in Elkhart and the surrounding cities. These include Goshen, Shipshewana, and Middlebury. But other top brands like Airstream and Tiffin have their headquarters elsewhere.

Also, many truck campers and off-road trailers are built in other parts of the country. For example, Lance campers are produced in California. 

Taxa Outdoors produces its unique habitats in Houston, Texas. SylvanSport has its home in Brevard, North Carolina. But most of the mainstream motorhomes and towable RVs are built in the Elkhart, Indiana, area.

Keep in Mind: It’s no surprise Indiana is home to the RV capital when they have fantastic places to camp at! These are the 7 best free places to camp at.

Why Do Older RVs Have Straight Lines?

If you’ve visited the RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana, you’ve walked through decades of RVs. The earliest versions were built in the 1920s and 1930s. 

When you look at older RVs, most of them will have straight lines. Think about the old Fleetwood Bounder, with the orange stripe along the side, or the GMC Motorhomes, with the brown and yellow lines.

These RVs had straight lines instead of swoops because of technology. Manufacturers in the 60s and 70s had only tape and their hands. They didn’t have the fancy sprayers and computer art studios to design anything fancier.

An older RV parked on the side of the road with straight lines painted on the side

Why Do Newer RVs Have Swoops?

With the invention of the computer and the advancements in computer programming over the last few decades, manufacturers could change their designs. 

Now computers can create perfect shapes and add depth and details that were impossible before. So the swoops and swooshes on many modern-day RVs are there because technology has made these designs easy and accessible.

However, they likely choose those designs to invoke a sense of movement and travel. These large boxy vehicles don’t have much aerodynamics. Putting moving lines and swoops on the sides can make them seem more swift and adventurous.

an RV parked in a national park with swoops painted on the side

Do All RVs Have Swoops?

However, not all RVs have swoops. If you look at most mainstream towables made by Jayco, Grand Design, Keystone, or Forest River, you’ll find these curved designs. Even motorhome brands that most people can afford will have some kind of swooping patterns. 

However, higher-end, top-of-the-line, fully custom motorhomes like Newell will create full-body masterpieces chosen by the owner. But those rigs cost $1 million or more.

In addition to the higher-end motorhomes, most overlanding vehicles don’t have swoops. Look at the Cricket or Mantis made by Taxa Outdoors.

Their simple design has a basic white body and a single black stripe. These types of trailer companies have gone another route toward the minimalist approach to aesthetics.

Ember RV is another overlanding company that doesn’t create swoops or patterns on its trailers. Instead, it uses a simple paint scheme to make the trailers appear large, like extending the black around windows.

And, of course, we have the iconic Airstream that doesn’t have a single stripe on its aluminum design. So not all RVs have these swoops and swooshes, but most mainstream brands will use them in their designs. 

Now it seems to simply come down to tradition and industry standards. You can recognize any RV by its body paint.

Can You Get a Custom Painted RV?

About 8% of total RVs in America have high-end custom paint. Newell is one of the few brands that offer this type of detail. The design may have swooshes and swoops, but it’s far more complex than a simple black or gray stripe. 

It’s the opposite of the minimalist approach to design that many overlanding trailer companies have. But if you have $2 million or more, you want your motorcoach to look sleek and turn heads.

Keep in Mind Is the paint on your RV starting to look run down and faded? It might be time for a refresh, but should you paint the exterior yourself or higher a professional?

What Is the Future of RV Design?

However, the future of RV design may return to the vintage, minimalist approach. Ashley Bontrager, the founder and CEO of Ember RV, believes that we’ll see a design trend move towards “more minimal, linear graphics in the RV space.” 

Following the lead of companies like Ember RV, other mainline brands seem to move toward fewer swoops. Check out the Grand Design Transcend Xplor and the Forest River Cherokee to see these more modern simple, linear lines.

But the higher-end brands will probably continue to showcase their technology and the talent of graphic design artists. We don’t see Tiffin reducing the swoops and swooshes on its luxury motor coaches.

Are you a fan of the classic RV swoops and swooshes, or do you want to see a new design?

1 comment
  1. I would like to see simpler designs and classier, deep or variegated solid colors. We are buying a higher end Tiffin Allegro Bus 45FP in the next year or two and hope we can convince Tiffin to paint a solid color for us as we will be ordering a new coach from them.

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