Vintage RV

Vintage RV: 1970’s Aquarius Class C Motorhome

The history of the Empress Motorhome (and in this case, the Aquarius) seemingly is a tangled web of starts and stops, changes of ownership and new beginnings.

An Aquarius motorhome, spotted in Crowsnest Pass.
An Aquarius motorhome, spotted in Crowsnest Pass. — Photo courtesy Keith Powell

We spotted this unique motorhome sitting in storage in the windy Crowsnest Pass. We wondered what the story was behind it.

The Aquarius Class C Motorhome was evidently built in Lethbridge by the Wickes Corporation. As this social media post states, “Apparently, the Wickes Company had a facility in Lethbridge, Alberta but it would seem that it either closed or was bought out by another company in the early 80's.”

As we have stated before, “The history of the Empress Motorhome (and in this case the Aquarius) seemingly is a tangled web of starts and stops, changes of ownership and new beginnings. First produced by a division of the US-based Wickes Corporation based in Canada, the Empress Motorhome.”

One on-line discussion forum states, ”The (motorhomes were) built by HaiCo Manufacturing, a division of Wickes, of Lethbridge, Alberta. It looks like this firm started making RVs in the late 1960s and lasted about a dozen years or so – the newest examples we could find were from the early 80s.”

Here is one of the few mentions of an Aquarius Motorhome the world wide web tossed up—an Aquarius owner posted, “We're in the process of selling our 1977 21' Class C Wickes "Aquarius" product.”

As an interesting sidenote, a February 1970 newspaper reported that Haico Manufacturing struck a deal with the Blood Tribe in the 1970's to manufacture mobile homes, though it doesn't appear that the agreement included the manufacture of travel trailers or motorhomes:

“A unique agreement was recently signed in Lethbridge, Alberta between the Blood Indians of Southern Alberta and Haico Manufacturing Ltd., a major manufacturer of mobile homes and travel trailers. The agreement calls for the construction of an 80,000 square foot plant to be built on a 20 acre site on the Blood reserve at Standoff, 32 miles southwest of Lethbridge. The plant will be in operation by July 1st, 1970 and will employ over 100 men from the Blood reserve in the manufacture of mobile homes and sectional housing.

“The Board of Directors of Kainai Industries will be made up of three representatives of Red Crow Developments and three people from Haico Manufacturing. Mr. Todd Haibeck, President of Haico Manufacturing Ltd. of Lethbridge, will be President of Kainai Industries, and a member of Red Crow Developments will serve as Vice-President. The initiative for the project came from the Blood people through the establishment of an Economic and Industrial Development Committee of the Blood Tribe Administration.

“The Industrial Development Committee assessed several possible industries before they decided on the manufacture of mobile homes. They wanted to establish the plant on the reserve, they wanted to be able to operate it completely on their own within 15 years, they wanted to manufacture a commodity that would sell and they wanted to be able to put to use the abilities and talents that the Blood people have already gained in their work in various communities in Southern Alberta.

“Todd Haibeck, President of Haico Manufacturing has been in business in Lethbridge for 27 years. Mr. Haibeck says that his firm will supply the design and engineering for the project which he hopes will eventually employ 200 Indian people from the Blood band. Fifteen from the Blood tribe have already begun training at the Haico plant in Lethbridge with the assistance of the Department of Indian Affairs.” 

Do you have some insight to shed on the history of the Haico/Wickes Aquarius Class C motorhomes? Share it with us at RV West—[email protected]

 
 
 

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