13 Great Centennial RVs – 1 of 13

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July 6, 2010 by   1 Comment


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Bob Wheeler, president of Airstream

Bob Wheeler, president of Airstream

According to Airstream Inc. President and CEO Bob Wheeler, “A monocoque shell is a perfect design to build a long-lasting travel trailer.”

It is also, apparently, a perfect design with which to build a long-lasting travel trailer company.

The Thor Industries Inc. subsidiary has in fact been in business since 1936, making it the oldest continually active manufacturer in the RV industry. Not surprisingly, the riveted aluminum shape has become the unofficial silhouette of the RV industry. While “Winnebago” has entered the lexicon to become the generic equivalent of “RV,” the Airstream has come to represent the look of the lifestyle.

The Airstream wasn’t company founder Wally Byam’s first foray into trailer manufacturing. His earliest efforts — the Torpedo Car Cruiser — were egg-shaped units produced in 1931. When Byam acquired the assets of the Bowlus-Teller Trailer Co. in 1936, the familiar monocoque design soon graced the first Airstream Clipper.

The rest, to used a well-worn cliché, is history.

The consummate promoter, Byam toured the world in his Airstreams, which grew in size and complexity — and, eventually, into self-propulsion. After a series of starts and stops — and well after the debut of the Argosy, known as the “painted Airstream” in 1972 — Airstream finally plunged into the motorized sector in 1979. The company continues to offer both motorized (Class B) and travel trailers around the world.

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One Response to “13 Great Centennial RVs – 1 of 13”

  1. Dale "Pee Wee" Schwamborn on July 6th, 2010 2:53 pm

    John Long, from Ontario, Canada recently attended the Airstream Life and Airstream Trailer’s Alumapalooza held in Jackson Center, Ohio. John spent 10 years restoring a Bowlus trailer. He was so interested in the Bowlus history he contacted family members and found a trove of historical data.

    John also went into State, County and City records in California to search for additional information.

    One of the myths in the Airstream World was brought up to date. Wally Byam began manufacturing the Airstream Clipper, while Bowlus was still in production. So Wally took the aircraft construction concept and made it is own with his touches.

    Bowlus did go out of business but after Wally Byam began his production of the aircraft designed Airstream Clipper.