Autocamping — traveling with car, tent, and portable, home-like furnishings for cooking and sleeping — was a very popular family activity in the 1920s. When autocamping became popular again after two decades of depression and war, many vacationing families slept inside their station wagons because of the convenience, economy, and comfort that this ubiquitous postwar vehicle provided.
Some families made tents that rested on top of their station wagons. This type of unit provided more space and head room than the car’s interior and retained the advantage of distance from insects, snakes, animals, and the cool, damp earth.
In 1961, Edmonds Guerrant, an autocamper and mechanical engineer in Fort Worth, Texas, began manufacturing a car-top tent unit that rested on the rain gutter, a metal drip rail around the roof of a sedan or station wagon.
The Camp’otel became popular in Texas and was marketed nationally through Sears, J. C. Penney, Western Auto, and other retail stores. Loyal Camp’otel owners travelled in groups, formed an organization called the Penthouse Campers Association, and published a newsletter.
The Camp’otel Corporation went out of business during the gasoline shortage of 1973-1974. A contributing factor to its demise was the gradual disappearance of rain gutters on new cars
Sources – The Smithsonian, Flickr and Wikipedia