Ok – hands up – I don’t like caravans. They tend to be ugly and baulk the free flow of traffic. If you could chose to have an away day at the seaside regardless of the weather why would you chose to stay in a fibre-glass shed with limited ventilation and the ever present aroma of damp and the chemical toilet?
On the other hand, with a face clad in a pair of classic Ray-bans – please see our previous post here – Ray-Ban Wayfarers you’d be more than happy to freeze at a windy beach, shrink your intimate regions to the size of raisins to catch some great waves, if you knew at the end of the day your temporary home was a warm aluminium-shelled beach cabin with every mod-con! Enjoy our earlier outdoor posts of other American branded icons here Morey Boogie boards and Frisbee
Yes, the Airstream trailer – American for “caravan” – is less a motorway frustrator and more a cigar tube with benefits! These wonderful portable homes ooze charm and scream American icon.
Company founder, Wally Byam, in Los Angeles in the late 1920’s, started to build and market trailers. Airstream’s distinctive shape, with its curved, riveted and polished aluminium body, has its roots in aircraft building and the 1930’s designs of Hawley Bowlus, the engineer responsible for Lindburgh’s “Spirit of St. Louis”. Bowlus designed a trailer that Byam marketed and in 1936 he acquired the Bowlus company which included the trailer re-launched by Byam as the “Airstream Clipper”. It had a sleeping capacity for four, its own water supply and electric lights and cost $1200.
Closed during the war years due to the scarcity of raw materials, by 1948 Byam’s was back in business opening a new factory in Jackson Center, Ohio in 1952, where today the company, now a part of Thor Industries Inc. employs more than 475 people and manufactures more than 2000 trailers per year.
Interestingly, Airstream make European models that are slightly smaller in dimensions than their US versions as European roads tend to be narrower and the SUV vehicles used to tow their trailers tend to be less powerful.
In many ways Airstream is one of those companies whose reach is beyond their brand and a stimulus to development of a sub-culture. The Wally Byam Caravan Club International – which he founded and led – helped to stretch the horizons of its members by seeking out parts of new and fascinating locations.
In many trailer park locations, the Airstream has provided families with a static camping option with jacuzzi’s and outdoor cooking – see our previous post here – Weber Grill
Perhaps the iconic status of the Airstream can be best summed up in the words of Geoff Wardle, Chair of Transportation Design at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, who is quoted a having said, “The Airstream is a pure object, which is why it has lasted.”
Given its iconic status companies that already have a very defined aesthetic, like Bentley – for their 4×4 Bentayga – and Tesla, have used images of their vehicles pulling Airstreams to make a connection with, particularly an American audience.
To support Tesla’s launch of its SUV crosser Model X in 2016 it launched a series of Airstream trailers which travelled the US as portable “design studios” to demonstrate the car’s towing ability.
Wanna know some more? There’s an excellent publication by Patrick R. Foster that documents the first 80 years of the Airstream – click the link below the image to pick up a copy
For those who already love Airstream’s trailers – why not show the world? Get this Airstream image long sleeved T shirt – click on the link below the image
I particularly like the vibe of this natural canvas bag – click on the link below the image to get one
Interest to be part of the Community why not connect to Airstream’s own online newsletter – “The Rivet” – click here to sign up – The Rivet
Image Credits courtesy of Airstream, Bentley and Tesla with grateful thanks
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