HISTORY

  • Airstream founder Wallace Merle “Wally” Byam was born on July 4, 1896.
  • Wally published an article, “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars.” He sold 15,000 copies at $1 each in 1927 and then officially started Airstream in 1931.
  • Wally Byam is said to have created the unique aluminum trailer in response to his wife’s refusal to go camping without a kitchen.
  • In 1936, Wally stated that he is in business “to make people’s dreams come true.”
  • Airstream is the oldest manufacturer of recreational vehicles in the U.S. and is the most commonly recognized aluminum travel trailer in the world.
  • When Airstream began, there were less than 48 trailer manufacturers that were registered for business. Five years later, nearly 400 companies squared off against each other. Today of those 400 companies, only Airstream remains.

    PRODUCT INNOVATION

    • The aluminum-skinned Airstream is based on an airplane fuselage, with rounded corners to help increase gas mileage – its aerodynamics cuts drag by 20 percent vs. square “white box” trailers.
    • It takes about 280 human hours to build the average Airstream.
    • Airstream was the first trailer to have a holding tank, the first ladder frame, the first pressurized water system and was the first fully self-contained travel trailer.
    • Some innovations were brought directly to Wally, including Frank Sargent’s innovative toilet valve that used steam pressure to flush waste into a holding tank. Since 1961, Sargent’s Thetford toilets have been used in Airstream models and Thetford is now a major supplier to the RV industry.
    • Before leaving the production floor, every Airstream spends 40 minutes under 100 pounds per square inch of water pressure in a special booth to ensure that it’s water-tight.
    • San Francisco-based Design Within Reach (DWR), a retailer of innovative furnishings and accessories, commissioned longtime Airstream collaborator Chris Deam to develop a holistic model for an Airstream, a tribute to classic modern design. Deam also designed the 2002-2012 International Airstream models.
    • By the 75th Anniversary of Airstream in 2006, nearly 60-70 percent of all Airstreams ever built were still rolling down the highways.
    • In 2009, Airstream partnered with Victorinox Swiss Army to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the original Swiss Army Knife. A customized Pan America trailer toured the US and touted the arrival of the 19’ Victorinox Swiss Army Special Edition Airstream.
    • After 12 months of collaboration, the Eddie Bauer Airstream was introduced at the National RV Show in November 2010. Deemed as the ultimate travel trailer for the outdoor adventurer, it will be available at dealers in spring 2011.

    HOLLYWOOD CONNECTIONS

    • Celebrity owners include: Tom Hanks who was gifted by his wife, Rita Wilson, Johnny Depp, Adrian Brody, Diablo Cody, Steve Carrell, Colin Farrell, Matthew McConaughey, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Sandra Bullock, Matthew Modine, Kate Pierson of the B52s, David Duchovny, Tim Burton, Lenny Kravitz, Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong, John Mellencamp, Eddie Vedder and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson.
    • Matthew McConaughey used an Airstream trailer while promoting his 2005 film “Sahara,” and lived in a 28-foot Airstream in Malibu for several years before buying a home with enough space for his 3 Airstream travel trailers.
    • In season three of his hit reality show, “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump challenged contestants to create mobile business ventures using an Airstream. The silver bullets reappeared several seasons later in “Celebrity Apprentice”.
    • In 2008, Airstream partnered with longtime fan Jesse James to create a one-of-a-kind motorcycle and sidecar featuring Airstream design elements. The $300K Airstream Chopper was built by James’ company West Coast Choppers, in exchange for an Airstream trailer which he gave his wife at the time, actress Sandra Bullock, for her birthday.
    • Airstreams have been featured in numerous films including “Charlie’s Angels,” “Raising Arizona,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Independence Day,” “Mars Attacks!,” “American Odyssey,” and “The Hills Have Eyes,” and “Wall Street II.”
    • A customized 1957 Airstream was, for many years, prominently displayed at MTV’s headquarters in Santa Monica, CA.
    • Airstream began appearing on television in the late 1950’s when it was featured in “Troubleshooters”, a series depicting the brawling adventures of a globetrotting construction crew. More recently, the trailers have been seen on NBC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Hero’s” and “CSI LA”, on “The Simple Life” with Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, CBS’s “Promised Land", and the Food Network’s “The Surreal Gourmet.”
    • Mark Harmon currently uses a 1972 Airstream trailer that he restored himself as a dressing room on the set of the CBS hit show “NCIS.” The trailer features avocado green bench-tops.
    • “Wheels World Wide” provides customized Airstream trailers to the European film market. Today Celebrity occupants include George Michael, Hugh Grant, and Geri Halliwell of the Spice Girls.

    UNIQUE USES AND COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

    • In 1955, the United States military used an Airstream in atomic bomb testing in the Nevada desert.
    • President John F. Kennedy had a mobile Airstream office which he used during a visit to White Sands, New Mexico, where the Army demonstrated its latest weaponry for the President and his staff.
    • In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Lynda Bird toured America in a caravan of Airstreams to help publicize the nation’s beauty in the, “See America First” campaign. Both National Geographic and McCall’s magazine covered the tour.
    • In 1969, Neil Armstrong and members of the Apollo 11 were quarantined for three weeks in a specially-built Airstream after returning from the first voyage to the moon, until it could be determined that there was little likelihood that they were carriers of “lunar pathogens.” President Richard Nixon visited them while they were quarantined.
    • Several specially-built Airstream trailers are commonly used to transport American officials around the world. The trailers are strapped down inside a military cargo plane, usually a C-17 Globemaster III. Vice Presidents, First Ladies, Generals and Admirals are among the more frequent travelers.
    • When flying across Afghanistan in 2008 to visit the troops, First Lady Laura Bush was cocooned in her own private Airstream trailer which had been towed on board The Spirit of Strom Thurmond. Vice Presidents Dick Cheny and Joe Biden have also occupied
    • For decades, NASA has used a fleet of Airstreams to transport astronauts to launch pads.
    • Ralph Lauren created the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation to benefit medically underserved persons. In 2002, he and his creative team transformed and auctioned off four vintage Airstreams in to benefit the foundation. Airstreams that Ralph Lauren decorated include: Adirondack Caravel, Western Bambi and the Utility/Surplus Airstream.
    • A 1960 Airstream Bambi Travel Trailer is part of the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) for excellence in style and design.
    • Architect Paul Welschmeyer bought his 1958 “Traveler” and completely revamped the inside in hopes of creating a dual purpose mobile office and family vacation home. With the help of his wife and two sons, Paul received the Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects for his design (beating out lavish $8 million homes) and is the proud owner of a truly unique work of art.
    • In 2009, the world’s only penthouse trailer park was built atop the luxurious Grand Daddy Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. Seven Airstream trailers are surrounded by tiny gardens, an outdoor movie theatre and the alluring outline of Table Mountain.

    AIRSTREAMERS

    • Airstreamers are a group of RVers who share a community spirit because of their mutual love of the brand. Wally Byam began leading groups of owners on travels to many parts of the world where the towed trailers were quite remarkable. Photos taken of the trailers in front of many famous tourist sites were common. This promoted a mystique which surrounded Airstream and continues to this day.
    • The Wally Byam Caravan Club formed during the 1955 rally in Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada. Later the word “International” was added to the club name, resulting in the acronym “WBCCI” and more commonly known as the “Wally Club.”
    • In 1951, the first Airstream caravan left for Central America traveling from Mexico to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
    • The Cape Town to Cairo Caravan began in Africa in 1959. More than 100 caravanners visited the pyramids of Egypt and the camels of central African desert. They met Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and visited a Pygmy enclave.
    • A caravan of 100 people in 45 Airstream trailers set out from Singapore in 1964, to trace portions of the route that explorer Marco Polo had traveled in the late 13th century. They covered 35,000 miles in 403 days – visiting almost every country in southern Asia and Europe, including the western Soviet Union.
    • In 1974, a record 4,493 Airstreams attended the WBCCI International Rally in Lexington, Kentucky.
    • The first caravan to China departed in 1985.