Things to know about the enduring Airstream

AP News
Posted: Dec 26, 2014 11:00 AM

The western Ohio plant that builds Airstream travel-trailers is seeing such hot demand that there's a three-month backlog on orders, and ground has been broken on a major expansion that will increase production capacity. Some factoids about the Airstream:



Wally Byam built the first Airstream trailer as a tent contraption on a Model T chassis, eventually replacing the tent with a teardrop-shaped permanent shelter. The riveted aluminum, aviation-inspired design emerged in the 1930s and hasn't been tweaked greatly since then. Since 1952, they've been built at a factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, north of Dayton. Byam would spend much of the rest of his life leading Airstream caravans around the world.



Airstream owners are enthusiastic, loyal and love to hang out with one another. Organized chapters of the owners association — called the Wally Byam Caravan Club International — put together rallies around the world and stay in touch through active message boards and social media. An annual camping event at the Ohio factory sponsored by Airstream Life magazine draws 120 to 150 units. It's called "Alumapalooza."



The first stop for Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins when they got back from the moon in 1969 was a modified Airstream trailer. They were quarantined until doctors cleared them from any harmful germs they might have brought back from space. President Richard Nixon congratulated the astronauts from the window. A drivable Airstream RV shuttled astronauts to the launch pad for years.



Airstream trailers have been a part of American culture for decades, so naturally they've rolled through dozens of Hollywood movies and TV shows, ranging from "Raising Arizona" and "Independence Day" to "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." Matthew McConaughey spent a month on the road in his Airstream promoting his 2005 movie "Sahara." He told Architectural Digest his home on wheels was "a beautiful piece of art."



An RV dealer named Frank Bates buried eight Airstream trailers halfway in the ground alongside Interstate 4 just outside of Tampa, Florida, in 2007. Known as Airstream Ranch, the "sculpture" has survived despite a legal battle over local government efforts to get rid of it. Some people call it art. Some people call it an eyesore. It's definitely become a tourist attraction.


Sources: Airstream; "Airstream: The Silver RV," by Tara Cox; Wanderlust: Airstream at 75," by Russ Banham.