What Is An Airstream?

If you are new in the caravan world you might have been in a conversation with fellow caravan enthusiasts and heard the name Airstream, and then thought ‘What is an Airstream?’

In this article, we will not just explain what it is but give you some history of the company as well and what makes an Airstream so special.

What Is An Airstream?

An Airstream is an all-aluminum travel trailer designed and built by Thor Industries in America.

Interestingly, the body has remained largely unchanged since the 1930s. The original designer Hawley Bowlus is the same designer and engineer that oversaw the construction of the Spirit of St. Louis airplane.

The company is located in Jackson Centre, Ohio, United States and employs over 800 people, and is the oldest caravan company in the industry.

What is an Airstream?

History of Airstream

The company started back in the 1920s when, founder, Wally Byam started making trailers in his backyard in Los Angeles. 

He also published and sold a magazine where he had ‘how-to’ kits for people that wished to build their own trailers.

In 1936, the first Airstream rolled off the production line, named that ‘Airstream Clipper’, which was actually just a rebadged 1935 Bowlus Road Chief. Back then, the Clipper cost $1,200.

Airstream was the only travel trailer company out of 400 others to survive the great depression during World War 2.

In 1979 the last California-built Airstream was produced and all the production moved to Jackson Centre, Ohio. In the same year, they started manufacturing Class A motorhomes.

Class B motorhomes from Airstream made their first appearance in 1989 on Ford Econoline and Dodge B-Series van chassis.

Airstream bought out NEST, an Oregon-based company, in 2016 that made a trailer out of molded fiberglass and integrated them into the Airstream line, providing some deviation away from the classic Airstream ‘look’ (only to discontinue the line up 4 years later in 2020).

Production Units

After the latest factory expansion in April 2016 Airstream bumped up its production numbers from 50 trailers a week to 72 trailers a week. This in turn also bumped up the annual production from 2,600 to 3,744.

The last info received from Airstream they were planning to boost production again up to 77 trailers a week.

This is no easy fate as one trailer can take up to 350 hours to build.

Airstream and NASA

Yes, you read that correctly, NASA uses to this very day Airstream trailers and motorhomes to transport astronauts to and from the launch and landing sites. 

On the Apollo 11, 12, and 14 missions all the Astronauts were quarantined in modified airtight Airstream trailers.

You will be able to find the 4 Airstreams used in the Apollo missions in selected space museums in the US.

The latest Airstream product used by NASA was the Airstream Atlas (that is based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter) on October 21, 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Makes An Airstream So Special?

The retro aerodynamic design and the full-aluminum construction

There is almost no other travel trailer out there in production that looks as good as an Airstream except maybe Bowlus that shares a lot of the same characteristics of Airstream units.

The amount of hours and quality of work on Airstreams is amazing, it’s the perfect mix of retro styling and modern creature comforts.

What Is The Difference Between An Airstream And a RV?

Compared to modern RV’s the Airstream is a lot narrower and has a smaller cabin size due to the retro aerodynamic bubble design.

The Interior and finish of the Airstream are class-leading, you might not get the space but you get quality in spades.

Another plus point of the Airstreams is their weight because it is smaller and all-aluminum, this can save you on gas mileage and provide better ride comfort on the road.

Do Airstreams have bathrooms?

Yes, even the Basecamp 16 model (the smallest in the lineup) has a bathroom.

It might not be as spacious as its bigger siblings in the lineup, but it is better than doing your business on a porta-potty in the great outdoors.

What is even more impressive is that it even has a kitchen in such a small trailer.

Can You Live In An Airstream?

Yes, you can even be off the power grid with the optional solar power options.

The Basecamp 16 model might be a bit cramped to permanently live in but anything from the Bambi upwards in the lineup is totally doable. 

Is somebody willing to sponsor me to try it out?

Final thoughts on Airstreams

I don’t think it’s just me that finds the Airstream products exceptionally cool, the retro design alone is enough to win me over.

The price tag on the other side might sway a lot of people from buying one. If you’re wondering why they are so expensive have a look at this article.