The History of Airstream Trailers

Posted on June 27, 2012 by Happy Camper

Mr and Mrs Happy CamperNo doubt about it, Airstream trailers are one of the most distinctive looking recreational vehicles in the industry.  Both retro and futuristic looking at the same time, it is hard to miss one of these silver beauties when you see one traveling down the highway.

While Mr. Happy Camper and I are currently truck camper owners, we have always been drawn to the shiny silver allure of the Airstream.  I recently had the pleasure of corresponding with one of our We Camp Here campers who is also an Airstream owner, and I have started dreaming in silver once again.  My interest was piqued and I decided to do a little research into the history of the Airstream trailer.

It turns out that the Airstream brand is the oldest in the industry that is still in production today.  The first Airstream was manufactured in 1936 from designs created by Hawley Bowlus.  Bowlus was the chief designer of Charles Lindbergh's aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis which explains the trailer's  distinctive aviation look and feel.  The 1930's were not an easy time for a manufacturer in the leisure industry, and out of over 400 trailer manufacturers at the time, it was the only one to survive the Great Depression.  The company started by Bowlus did have to halt production during WWII due to aluminum shortages, but when the war ended and people's attention once again turned towards leisure travel, the company was able to resume production.  Airstream was acquired by Thor Industries in 1980 and they began producing Airstream-badged Class A motorhomes at that time.  Originally these Class A beauties were aluminum clad like their travel trailer counterparts.  In the 1990's they changed to a more traditional fiberglass design for their Class A motorhomes, only to discontinue the line in 2006.  They continue to manufacture their traditional aluminum trailers to this day, which just goes to show you... if it ain't broken, don't fix it!

Airstream owners are a close knit group of campers, due to their mutual admiration of their silver bullet campers.  They hold yearly rallies and there are even RV parks that require membership in the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) to be admitted.  Want to know more about becoming an Airstream owner?  Check out the Air Forums, where you can find information on all things Airstream, from buying a new unit to restoring an old classic, get information on rallies or just spend time drooling over all of the pictures that the members post of their Airstreams.

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About Happy Camper

I am the administrator, developer and chief cook and bottle washer at We Camp Here. Along with Mr. Happy Camper, I recently embarked on a new adventure - full time RVing, first in our 26ft Winnebago Sightseer (AKA Shorty) and more recently in our Itasca 33c (AKA Homey).

This entry was posted in Camping Tips and Tidbits and tagged Airstream