Airstream Legacy Part of ‘Truck Trend Legends’
There are so many quintessentially American aspects of the Airstream story: cutting-edge designs, visionary marketing, plain hard work, breathtaking scenery, and the romance of the road being just a few.
It all started with a set of instructions called “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars.” Wallace Merle Byam, aka Wally (onetime sailor, shepherd, law student, ad agency man, and magazine publisher), sold more than 15,000 of these plans for a buck each — the equivalent of around $13 today — back in 1927. He’d already learned the hard way that pitching a tent on a Ford Model T chassis was not a good idea, but he persevered with the principle. Byam soon heard from DIY trailer-makers, however, that his plans contained errors. So he went into his Los Angeles backyard and started constructing his own out of Masonite and plywood, to get to the root of the issues. Passersby saw his creations and offered to buy them, and making the trailers soon became his full-time occupation.
But the Airstream as we know and love it didn’t come into being until Byam (born on July 4, just to add to the American-ness) teamed up with aero designer and builder William Hawley Bowlus, who was working in aluminum and had made Charles Lindbergh’s famed Spirit of St. Louis airplane. If the vehicles doing the towing weren’t aerodynamic, at least the trailers behind them were. Bowlus had the designs; Byam had the selling smarts.
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