Things You Don’t Know About Airstream

by | Mar 18, 2019 | RV Spotlight

We know you love to travel, be outside and take on all sorts of adventures in your RV, but just how much do you know about the brand of it? When you’re talking about classic RVs, Airstreams are most definitely brought up at some point in the conversation. Over the years, Airstreams have collected lots of fans and attention.

Before we get into some pretty neat facts about Byam and Airstream, let’s talk about how much of an iconic American Wally Byam was. As the founder of Airstream, he built the epitome of what an RV should be. Born in 1896, Byam attained his desire for travel from his grandfather, who led a mule train and would bring Wally with him. As a teen, he worked as a shepherd and then he started designing trailers, beginning with simple DIY plans then working his way up to creating the silver bullet shape we’re familiar with today.

Below are some neat facts and things you might not know about the classic silver bullet trailer.

The Airstream trailer was developed by an attorney and started as a pastime.

When the founder of Airstream, Wally Byam, built his first trailer, he published an article to let the public know the plans for it. This article sold over 15,000 copies for $1 a piece very He realized there was actually a market for this kind of lightweight trailer for the American family.

Byam built his own trailer to convince his wife to go camping with him.

Byam’s initial importance was comfort. His first attempt was pitching a tent on top of a Model T platform. He wife was understandably not a fan, so he constructed a more permanent teardrop shaped trailer with the addition of an icebox and stove.

The first airstream sold for way under $2,000.

Though it may seem like a steal in today’s world, it was quite the risk for Byam, who had just released his article on how to build the trailer for just $100 each. The Airstream trailer was founded in 1936 and the first model slept four.

Airstream was the only RV manufacturer out of 400 to survive the Great Depression.

If this fact doesn’t completely surprise you, I don’t know what will! When Airstream began as a company, others followed suit and started up to support the growing industry. By the end of the Great Depression and aluminum rationing of WWll were done, Airstream was the only company still thriving.

Byam almost decided to have colored Airstreams.

He originally planned on making colored models to match the trend of pastel vehicles of the 1950s. Once he saw the color of a gold Airstream, he completely abandoned the idea and went with all silver instead.

Early Airstream models were completely DIY and made out of wood without a bathroom inside.

The first models were made with Masonite, which was a type of hardboard made of fibers. They were also sold as kits with model names like Model 2 and Silver Cloud in magazines. We didn’t get the bullet shaped trailer made out of aluminum until 1936 with introduction of the Airstream Clipper. And though Byam found a solution for his wife’s complaints about not having a kitchen or bed when camping, he still hadn’t installed a bathroom. Original models were equipped with a bedpan.

It takes 280 man hours to build just one Airstream trailer.

If just one man were to work all 280 hours himself, it would take him seven 40-hour weeks. In the manufacturing world, this is an eternity. If you look at Toyota’s website, it gives an estimate of 17-18 hours to build even their most lavish vehicles. This goes to show how much time and effort Airstream truly puts into each of their trailers and how much they care about the customer’s comfort and safety.

7 out of 10 Airstreams ever manufactured are still road able to head out on the road in 2006.

This goes back to the time and care taken in each of the manufacturing steps, and it also includes trailers that were used for offices during atomic bomb testing, which were possibly exposed to extreme radiation. It’s why so many people looking for a classic RV to rebuild will choose an Airstream time and time again for its stability and its classic look.

Each Airstream undergoes extreme weather testing before leaving the factory and they all must be water tight.

Each trailer that is made is subjected to a water test once manufacturing is complete. In an area specifically designed for this, each Airstream is sprayed with water at one hundred pounds per square inch for forty minutes to make sure each window, door and all the crevices are sealed tight.

The Airstream is like a second White House.

Many US presidents and their families have spent time in Airstreams. JFK used one as a portable office while previewing brand new army weapons in White Sands, New Mexico, and First Lady Laura Bush used her own private trailer while she was overseas visiting troops in Afghanistan. Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden have also traveled around in them.

Did you know celebrities love them, too?

That’s right. Actors like Johnny Depp, Adrien Brody, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Sean Penn are all major fans of the classic camper. Perhaps the most outspoken about his love for Airstream is Matthew McConaughey, and with good reason, seeing as he lived in one for several years before buying a house.

Things You Don't Know About Airstream

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