The moment Andrew and I saw a Clark Cortez motorhome, it was love at first sight. Truly.
Honest to goodness, the moment I saw it, I gasped so loudly that I even covered my mouth. Andrew sort of had a similar reaction, except he took my laptop from me while exclaiming, “That’s awesome but what the actual fuck is it?!” Listen, there are two things Brits are passionate about and that’s beer and cuss words, and I’m not tryin’ to change my man.
Plus, he had a good point: What the heck is a ‘Cortez’?
Besides being super cute, we were drawn to this vintage beauty because of one word: unique. This is why even though we had never — ever — seen a Cortez, an answer was seamlessly solidified: We were ready. After years of talking about restoring a classic vehicle and dreaming about a life of travel, we were ready to take the plunge and only this motorhome would do. Therefore, with determination to find and buy one, we set out to research all we could on the motorhome’s history . . .
The move to build motorhomes seemed to be smart too because the vehicle immediately filled a void in the market.
Unlike motorhomes before that were “big, tall, ponderous, rough-riding, crude-handling and thirsty,” the Cortez had a different chassis, which revolutionized life on the road because it was now compact, efficient, and advanced.Paul niedermeyer, curbside classic
Basically, all of this means the Cortez can easily fit into one standard parking space.
Mechanically, a four-speed manual transmission was driven by Chrysler’s slant-six motor — Oh, and that sucker has around 140 horsepower, which is actually medal-worthy for the vehicle’s size and time of built. All in all, drivers touted great handling but that wasn’t it either.
” . . . owners tell me it rides better than a luxury car of the same era. That’s quite a statement.”Tony Barthel, stressless camping
The Kents were larger and had features that I personally love, such as the side door. Unfortunately, the success of the Kents came and went quickly too and so the company gave up a short time later.
From there, in an effort to keep the Cortez alive, twenty-six fans purchased the production line and created a new company. They continued to build motorhomes and made a few, but the work proved to be too hard for them as well.
Overall, only 3,221 motorhomes were produced in sixteen years — and in the 1965 year alone, there were only 394 Cortezes made! Today, it is estimated a little more than 1,000 are still expected on the road, though some have theorized even less — only a few hundred.
Regardless of time period though, the Cortez has maintained a fan base. Even now, it still has original owner’s clubs, such as the Cascade Cortez Club. Many of these owners have kept their Cortezes too or they have handed their motorhomes down to family through the generations. For new owners (such as Andy and me), being accepted into clubs like this are more than helpful due to the knowledge and experience club members offer.
So back to our original story: The moment Andy and I saw the Cortez, we truly did fall in love and the more information we learned about this vehicle, the further we realized this motorhome was the one for us.
“Do you think we can find one for sale?” I asked Andy with hope and hearts and dreams in my wide pleading eyes.
For more on how you can track down a Cortez, read Where to Rent and Buy the Cortez Motorhome.
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Interested in more Cortez history and images? Here are the incredible websites I referenced:
- The Van Project
(Thank you for your help, advice, and support from the start!)
- Curbside Classic, which features various vehicles with the slogan “Every car has a story.”
- Cortez Coach
(Thank you so much to site owner John Menke for these fantastic images!)
- Stressless Camping
- Classic Camper Club, which reportedly showcased the Cortez as their featured vehicle for ten years.
- Cortez promotional video
(Thank you to Jimmy Krantz for sharing this video. We have been honored to talk with you.)
- NSS Magazine