|John L. Nixon is the holder of patent #
3,188,134 - this is the patent for the Sundial bed. Mr. Nixon is
also the owner/designer for Sundial Camper in Edgemont, California.
Here is a brief history of the company as told by his son Jeff in an
email sent to me on 7.16.2004;
My dad was the owner/designer for Sundial.
Back around '60 he started Caravelle Campers in Home Gardens, Ca. near
Corona and here is the
He moved the business to Edgemont, Ca. (Now part of Moreno Valley) in
the mid sixties and renamed it Sundial. He moved into other brands of
vans and at one time had over 100 employees. The oil embargo of the
early seventies killed the business so we moved to northern cal. where
he started a small van conversion business called Kaleidoscope. It
didn't get too far so he bought a portable toilet company and after 25
years sold it last year and is now retired. He still has a van he did
but it's a chevy, I think.
I replied back thanking him for the
contact and asking for any information.
I'm glad you
enjoyed the info. I was born in '62 so my parents would be more helpful.
The Sundial shop in Edgemont was an old skating rink. When we bought it
it still had all the skates and these life size silhouettes of young
couples skating that stayed on the walls for years. My dad also made a
small tent called the "Pee Pee Tee Pee" made out of the same canvas as
the VW cabanas and it was just big enough to put a fold-up toilet with a
plastic bag hanging under the seat. We tested the campers all over the
western states and Mexico. The family in the old pics is my aunt
Ruth and her family.
|Paula Nixon, the wife of John emailed me the following.
I was delighted to find all the stuff about Sundial! I'll give you a
We got married on July 17, 1960. In Jan. '61, John's sister Mary, then
Blankenship, and her husband Ben were EZ Camper out of Concord, CA. VW
had their own campers at that time but the layout left a lot to be
desired. Mary asked John to come up and learn the business and be their
So. Cal. representative. So we did. Three months later we came home,
and worked out
of the garage. Then John rented a building in Homegardens, outside of
Mary and her husband split. So Mary, her accountant and her husband,
and John and I started up American Camper. Then Mary went back to her
husband and wanted to take the new business with her. We knew they
together, so the accountant and her husband and we, changed it to
Carousel Camper. They manufactured the parts and sent them down to us
to be sold and installed. John wasn't happy with the quality of the
parts so he had to
keep buying machines to fix them himself. Finally we agreed to split
the company and they kept the No. Calif. area. That was the beginning
of Sundial Camper. All of this took about a year to happen.
VW wanted to move their vans so they required the dealers to buy a
certian number of van and Kombis to be able to buy their cars, so the
dealers were delighted to have a way to move these vans. John would
take the precut parts to the dealers, cut out holes for the windows,
install the new windows, paneling, insulation and everything and then go
on to the next dealer. On some days he did three camper installations
at three different dealers. Long days. After quite a while the
powers-that-be required all installation to be done in the shop. John
was always inventing new ways to make thing better. He did all the
upholstery, wood parts, and awnings. (Someone was questioning the
awnings. We always made our own, plus the Pent tents on the roof racks.
I haven't seen those mentioned.) I made a lot of the curtains. I was
John's go-fer, getting the parts he needed so he wouldn't have to get
out of the van to get them. John did all the designing until the
business was sold in 1975.
Little by little we would hire new people and we bought a skating rink
in Edgemont, on the outskirts of Riverside, that our son Jeff mentioned
for our new shop. That was the fastest way to get into a big enough
We always had a display at the LA County Fair. A reoccurring comment I
heard was, "Isn't that the cutest little thing?" One year VW had a
mysterious new design of the van. The dealers hadn't even seen pictures
of it. We wanted one for the fair, so John's sister that lives in
Germany got one for us and flew it over. The guys went down to get it
in our covered truck. While unloading, they dropped it!. It had to
have body work on it before John could design the new interior. He had
10 days to get it
designed, installed and in the fair. He did it.
Then the "chicken tariff" and other governmental problems came up which
made vans hard to come by. First we could mostly get Kombis, then VW
decided they wanted the camper market for themselves and vans were
extremely hard to get so we began doing the American vans and then mini-motorhomes.
John even designed a beautiful Class A motorhome shortly before the gas
We finally sold the company in 1975 after the disastrous gas crunches.
We have absolutely no idea how many vans we did over the years.
Thousands? We had over a hundred employees those last years.
Then we moved to Auburn, CA and began a small van business,
Kaleidoscope. A talented Sundial employee, Charlie Gregory came up with
us. Kaleidoscope was very successful, and soon outgrew our location.
We leased a new building that was just set up for us, and we had just
achieved full production when the next gas crunch came up. We just
closed the business.
I was in real estate and noticed a small portable toilet business on the
market. I thought it might be a nice change for John to be able to
drive around the beautiful countryside instead of being inside a small
room designing all the time. He built that business up to about 500
plus toilets. He built many toilets himself over the years, until we
switched over to plastic. Next thing we knew it was 23 years later. We
that business Oct. of last year.
We will be moving to ------, this year where our grandsons are
waiting for us. We don't know what we will do next. John hates to
sit around. His hobby was desert motorcycle riding. He was in the
same races as Steve McQueen (and beat him) and James Garner. He and one
of his employees ran the Baja 1000
in a car John built.
John's work ethic is a family affair. Another sister started Joy Camper
in Maryland. She began by buying units from Sundial before she made her
own. Hope this all helps. John feels like he doesn't remember
much more than all
this, at least off hand.
Picture of John Nixon taken in 1971
comments from his son Jeff
"Heres a picture around '71 probably. Building all those busses
and yet he never saw the dead. He liked "The Mama's and the Papa's" and