For some strange reason, in the early Seventies, you could walk into a GM dealer and buy either a Chevy Vega, Buick Apollo, Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Ventura (in the USA), or Pontiac Astre (in Canada) with a tent. Yep, thirty years before the Aztek and it’s infamous tent option, GM did the same thing with the equally infamous Vega.
Why was this an option? Who the hell knows. Perhaps it was because hatchbacks were still new to the North American car buying market and GM wanted a way to show off their practicality. Perhaps John Delorean did way too much cocaine one day while overseeing the Vega project and because he’s John Delorean nobody could say no to him. Either way, Vega tent.
And, apparently, you could also get the tent on the Nova, as this terrifying ad with a man dressed in a bear costume demonstrates. That family is all to happy to be potentially mauled by a bear. Perhaps it’s because they made the huge mistake of buying an early Seventies GM. I’ve also found an article mentioning that the Isuzu-based Chevy LUV had the option of a tent, but I can’t find any pictures, likewise with the tent option for the Vega wagons, which was also apparently a thing.
After 1974, the option seemed to be discontinued on all the cars it came on, fading into obscurity until weirdos like me could accidentally discover it while looking up pictures of the 1973 Pontiac Astre (don’t ask why).
Oh, and you thought it was just GM? Wrong. Apparently AMC went crazy too. AMC and their predecessors offering camping kits actually goes back quite far, to the days of the Nash brand.
After the Nash-Hudson merger, AMC continued offering camping kits until at least the early Seventies, culminating in offering a tent for the AMC Hornet hatchback, one of the Vega’s main competitors.
Why were manufacturers in the early 70s so keen on putting tents on cars? Honestly, nobody will ever really know. There could be other examples of early hatchbacks with tent options but honestly this is a rabbit hole that I’ve gone way too deep into already so I’d like to get out.