10 Interesting Facts about Airstream History


2021 marks the 90th anniversary of Airstream. The past nine decades have been full of incredible travel adventures and legendary moments. Here are just a few of the interesting milestones that have shaped this 90-year legacy. 

  1. Hollywood Ties
    From the very beginning, Airstream has been a popular choice among celebrities. In the 1930s, owners included film stars such as Tom Mix and Barbara Stanwyck. Today, celebrity owners include Mark Harmon, Matthew McConaughey, Sean Penn, Miranda Lambert, Patrick Dempsey, HGTV’s Ben and Erin Napier, and more.
  2. The Ultimate Tow Vehicle
    In 1947 Airstream founder Wally Byam garnered interest in the new post-war Airstream Liner by inviting the famous French cyclist Alfred Letourneur to visit the factory and tow the travel trailer with a bike to demonstrate its lightweight nature. The picture, captured by Wally himself, became the famous Airstream logo.

    Cyclist Alfred Letourneur towing an Airstream Liner.
  3. “Caravan 500”
    In the winter of 1955, Wally Byam led a Caravan of 487 trailers 3000 miles from Nogales, Arizona to Acapulco. Nicknamed the “Caravan 500”, the trip was featured in the February 21, 1955 issue of Life Magazine.

    The Caravan 500 parked in the iconic "Wagon Wheel" formation.
  4. An Atomic Airstream
    In May 1955, an Airstream travel trailer was delivered to the Nevada desert, along with several other brands of travel trailers, to participate in an atomic bomb test as part of a Federal Civil Defense Administration study.

    From left: Airstream associates Virgil Sciullo, Ed Brown, and Art Costello with the Airstream that would be used in the atomic bomb test.
  5. The Gold Airstream
    The 22’ tandem axle Airstream sheathed in gold anodized aluminum is perhaps Wally Byam's most famous Airstream. During the 1956 European Caravan, Wally’s wife Stella designed the floor plan of her ideal Airstream to maximize living and storage space. That dream would ultimately become a reality in the iconic gold Airstream which the pair used on the 1959-1960 Cape Town to Cairo Caravan.

    Wally Byam's gold Airstream on the Cape Town to Cairo Caravan.
  6. An Office Fit for a President
    In 1963 President John F. Kennedy used an Airstream as a mobile office during weapons testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Additional Airstreams were also used at the site as mobile health units.

    President John F. Kennedy touring the Airstream used as a mobile hospital during missile testing at White Sands New Mexico.
  7. Airstream’s Place in Space
    In the late 1960s, fearing that astronauts might bring back an unknown pathogen from the surface of the moon, it was decided that they should be quarantined upon their return. In response, Airstream was selected to build a Mobile Quarantine Facility that would provide comfort and safety to the astronauts. Later on, in the 1980s, Airstream would once again find its place in space when a modified Airstream Excella Motorhome, nicknamed the Astrovan, was selected to transport Shuttle Era astronauts out to the launch pad.

    Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-95 mission crew with the Astrovan.
  8. See America First
    In 1965, President Johnson’s daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson, spent 5 weeks touring the western part of the United States in an Airstream as part of a campaign to “See America First”. The 5-week trip included sites such as the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, the Grand Tetons, and Monument Valley.

    Lynda Bird Johnson with the Airstream she used on her "See America First" journey.
  9. The Funeral Coach
    In the early 1980s, looking for ways to offset the gas crisis and recession, Airstream introduced a modified motorhome known as the Funeral Coach. It could transport 14 family members, a casket, and up to 20 baskets of flowers between the funeral home, church, and cemetery.

    The Funeral Coach was produced from 1981-1991, and a rare 1984 Funeral Coach model will be on display in Airstream’s new Heritage Center.
    The Funeral Coach was produced from 1981-1991, and a rare 1984 Funeral Coach model will be on display in Airstream’s new Heritage Center.
  10. Iconic Design
    An Airstream Bambi is part of the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) as a testament to its excellence in style and design.

For more interesting facts about Airstream history, visit the future Airstream Heritage Center opening late 2021.

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