In today’s society, everything old is becoming new again. The Airstream Trailer is one of the most coveted vintage items on the road today. Though it has been around in one form or another for the better part of a century, modern society holds the essence of this travel trailer dear.
Some have even gone beyond using them as a thing operated solely for recreation, but they have turned them into homes. The Airstream trailer has become a virtual shooting star streaming down the highway, and no one in their right mind can ignore its silver majesty.
A true trailer enthusiast who does not own one of these American-made beauties finds nourishment at the very sight of her. Yet, regardless of how much effort is placed in attempting to keep pace, this silver bullet inevitably shoots away and leaves its lover wanting, hoping to one day fulfill their dream of owning a piece of automotive history.
Streaming Began With Dreaming
In the 1920s, a man named Wally Byam dreamed of creating a portable trailer, much like a tent on wheels, that could be transported anywhere, pulled by a car, and offer its owner accommodations that could serve as a home away from home. With that, the Airstream was born.
The initial model was nothing more than a tent attached to a Ford Model T chassis. Inspired by his living quarters as a child, a self-contained wooden wagon, Byam was determined to create something aerodynamic and lightweight where every square inch of its interior served a purpose.
Byam found that his invention could only improve by trial and error as with any prototype. Eventually, others approached Byam, letting him know they were impressed with his invention. He then decided the idea could turn into a successful business venture. And when you’re right, you’re right.
Streaming Into the 30s and 40s
By 1931, Byam’s initial venture brought him to build similar trailers for friends and neighbors. Because he worked tirelessly on the orders in his front yard, Byam was met with multiple citations for noise complaints, which prompted him to start his first factory in California.
In just a few short years, Airstream orders grew from 50 per year to over 400. However, like with most new business ventures, just when things seemed to look like they were rocking along without a (trailer) hitch, a kink found its way into the works, and Byam’s business took a massive unexpected hit: the Great Depression took its toll.
At this time, over 50 similar manufacturers were making similar products. Today, Airstream is the only one still in production. This is a testament to the determination of the man behind the bullet.
Even though the Airstream survived the Depression, it would not be a smooth ride for its future just yet. Shortly after recovering from the devastation of economic disaster, World War II hit.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Byam opted to cease manufacturing the travel trailer, as he considered it a luxury unconducive to the war effort due to the amount of aluminum needed to produce the Airstream.
It was almost a full two years after WWII’s conclusion that the little trailer that could would resume production. However, the trailer’s time not in production wasn’t lost on its founder. Byam joined the war effort making aircraft, and he used the experience gained in this venture to improve output on his pet project.
Also, during this “downtime,” Byam took multiple trips in the Airstream across war-torn Europe and uncharted South American territories. He used the knowledge gained from his journeys to improve the trailer’s functionality.
The Fabulous 50s and the Sad but Successful 60s
After the war ended, Americans gorged upon the luxuries denied to support Allie’s efforts. The demand for the Airstream skyrocketed through the stratosphere. Byam’s sticktoitiveness paid off, and he surpassed the buying public’s expectations.
Because of his continued commitment to give the people more than what they were looking for in a travel trailer, the Airstream was able to go beyond direct factory sales to selling the units at dealerships. Americans continued to respond by patronizing the company.
Byam developed the first completely self-contained travel trailer during this decade, offering hot water and electricity. These features made the Airstream capable of taking travelers farther than any other trailer on the road and offered them virtually every comfort they could find in their own homes.
In 1962, sadly, the company’s founder went to that great travel trailer in the sky. Thanks to his never-ending commitment to his dream and business, Byam’s predecessors continued to ensure that Airstream thrived.
After Byam’s passing, the Airstream received its first significant facelift in three decades, transforming it into the silver bullet we know today. It was longer and broader, making it even more accommodating for travelers.
Also, during the 60s, giving credence to its out-of-this-world appearance, the Airstream became the temporary home for the first NASA astronauts returning from outer space, and it continues to be an essential part of today’s space program over five decades down the road.
The Road Never Ends
Over the next fifty years, the Airstream has come under new ownership and taken on new ventures, including motorhomes designs and the creation of clubs that only allow membership to units over 25 years old.
Around 70% of all Airstream trailers produced are still roadworthy and in commission. That statistical anomaly is more than simply an impressive feat. It is a testament to the craftsmanship instilled upon the manufacturers by the vessel’s creator and good ole American know-how and ingenuity.
It is clear that Airstream will continue to travel down frequently traveled paths and those less taken. If an Airstream has your vehicle’s back, then the road never ends.