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Shasta Finds Retro Sweet Spot With Its Airflyte
When Shasta RV decided to release a true-to-the-original update of the 1961 Airflyte, company leaders figured it would go over well.
“I thought it would be popular, I thought there would be a lot of people who would think, ‘That’s cool,’” said Mark Lucas, president of the Forest River Inc. subsidiary. “We thought it would be good, but we never anticipated that it would do this. A lot of the people who are calling us retailwise don’t even own a camper.”
Indeed, it’s struck a chord with people. In the two weeks since dealership Mount Comfort RV of Greenfield, Ind., posted a video of Lucas showing off the new retro trailer, it’s had more than 21,000 views. Sites like retrorenovation.com and smalltrailerenthusiast.com have latched onto the news. As Lucas said, “It’s gone completely crazy. The New York Times has been in touch with us, too,” he said. “I don’t remember the last time a product launch has made this kind of national news.”
Shasta announced the pricing of the trailer Aug. 12; by Aug. 15, they’d signed 721 orders of the limited-edition run of 1,941 Airflytes — in honor of the year Shasta started, 1941.
The way the 2015 Shasta came about involves a little serendipity. “”I’m a car guy and I bought a 1960 Cadillac convertible,” Lucas said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get a 1960s Shasta to pull behind it?’” He found a 1971 trailer, but it just wasn’t the right style to go with the car, so he found a 1961.
It needed some rehabilitation, so he brought it into the factory. “Two days later they took it down to a bare frame. I said, ‘I don’t want a new Shasta, I want a ’61.’”
The rehab project generated some excitement in the plant. Original suppliers dusted off tooling and made replacement parts, and the idea of duplicating it grew out of that. “It’s exciting top to bottom. It’s neat when a guy from the floor department comes and asks, ‘How are sales going?’,” Lucas said.
“The suppliers have been fantastic. It really has created an excitement and a passion that I’ve never seen,” Lucas explained.
While it meets modern codes and adds new features hidden inside — a wet bath, a bluetooth stereo, a microwave instead of an oven — the finished product looks like the original, right down to the whitewall tires. “It looks the right way, it feels the right way, it tows the right way,” Lucas said.
There are only two options: Color and length. There’s a 16-foot length or a 19-foot length, complete with an L-style gaucho with a canvas-style hammock above it. They come in three color combos, all with “Polo White” on top, and the choice of “Matador Red,” “Sea Foam Green” or “Buttercup Yelow,” with interiors to match.
Despite the wild popularity, Shasta will stop production at 1,941 units, he said. “They’ll be collectors editions,” he said.
And while Shasta may try retro looks in the future, “this probably is the sweet spot, this canned-ham style. If we were to do anything going forward, I don’t know that we’d be as authentic as we are for the ’61,” he said. “The production process is completely different,” he explained.
Lucas figures the first 1,200 to 1,300 will go right away, but he doesn’t expect to sell out until Elkhart RV Open House (Sept. 16-18), which is also the official unveiling of the green and yellow models.