Airstream first took to the street in 1929 at the hands of a young travel enthusiast by the name of Wallace (“Wally”) Merle Byam. The first design was a tent simply set on a Model T chassis. This design did not fair well in the rain and his wife was not a fan. The tent was cleverly replaced with a teardrop-shaped permanent shelter that sported a stove and ice chest. Now we are talking! The design caught the eye of fellow travelers who asked Wally about it which sparked the idea that building travel trailers might be “a pretty good business to get into.” The success of Wally’s Popular Mechanics guide to building a trailer showed a demand and a business was born.
Building trailers in the front yard seemed like a pretty good idea to Wally but noise complaints from the neighbors spurred him into renting a factory and, in 1931, Airstream had its first factory in Culver City, California (which later moved to Jackson Center, Ohio).
Travel-crazed Americans enthusiastically took to the road and trailer manufacturers sprung up across the country. By 1937, there were some 400 manufacturers – all but Airstream would succumb to the economic hardships of the Great Depression and World War II. During the war, aluminum was hard to come by and Wally shut down the factory and found employment at various aircraft factories in California. The knowledge would serve him well. When the war ended, the plant he was working at (Curtiss-Wright) closed down and Wally saw the opportunity to revive his trailer business in the factory and the Curtis Wright Clipper was born – the first aircraft constructed trailer.
Eager to road test his product and the urge to travel sent Wally and a friend to war-ravaged Europe in 1948. They traveled in . . . what else . . . but an Airstream. This trip was the precursor to Airstream Caravans and the Wally Byam Caravan Club International which is still going strong.
So where did the name Airstream come from? Wally’s dream was to build a travel trailer that would move like a stream of air, be light enough to be towed by a car, and create first-class accommodations anywhere. We’d say he achieved that goal.
During the rally at our campground an “Open House” or as Airstreamers call it “Can Opener” was held. Participants opened their doors, baked cookies, offered spiked cider, and were all too happy to talk about their trailers. On display were vintage trailers lovingly restored, brand new 2015 units that smelled brand new, customized trailers capable of sleeping seven kids (plus two adults), and everything in between. So we invited some friends (and potential Airstream buyers) over for the event and spent hours going through each one.
|We all like the Eddie Bauer "Base Camp" trailer that is a toy hauler.|
|This 1988 motorized Airstream was all original including the mauve colored couch.|
|And in case you are looking to take seven kids with you, bunks are the option of choice.|
|We especially loved this restoration by a women who has great taste and had never restored one before.|
It’s back to work for three days before heading to the Tampa RV show (just to look!)