Calif. Resort Restores, Rents Vintage Airstreams

June 14, 2013 by · Comments Off on Calif. Resort Restores, Rents Vintage Airstreams 

Airstream rental at Flying Flags RV Resort

A hint of yesteryear is beginning to take shape in the unique “Airstream Alley” at Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, an upscale resort located along California’s Central Coast near Solvang and Buellton, north of Santa Barbara.

The first vintage Airstream travel trailer, a 1964 Safari, is open and available for bookings and was soon joined by other vintage trailers, a 1971 Sovereign Land Giant and a 1955 Whale Tail, that will be rented as a tent cabins (no bathroom). They’re going in to the heart of the resort, close to all the special amenities that appeal to campers.

When complete, “Airstream Alley” will be comprised of six vintage Airstream trailers situated along a pathway landscaped to match the period. Each awning will be striped a different color to differentiate the units.

“It will be like walking through the ‘50s and ‘60s when you walk through that area,” predicted Dan Baumann, general manager of Flying Flags, which is managed by Horizon RV Resorts.

Several RV parks around the country are adding Airstreams to their rental inventory, but none to the extent of Flying Flags which hopes to add as many as 20 of the iconic trailers in the next year or so.

These totally renovated “silver bullets,” built nearly a half century ago at Airstream Inc.’s facility in Jackson Center, Ohio, provide a unique camping experience to those who harken back to an earlier era of camping but still prefer modern amenities, explained Baumann.

The resort’s owners are buying vintage Airstreams as they become available on the open market, Baumann explained. The purchases represent “a significant investment” for the owners, he added.

A special design team, headed by Eric Hawkey, is restoring the units with modern-day amenities such as mosaic tile, stainless steel kitchen fixtures, flat screen TVs, microwave ovens and air conditioners.

No two will be alike.

“All will be slightly different. Some will have queen beds, some will have split style beds a la Lucy Ricardo (in the “I Love Lucy” series) and some will have an integrated bunk bed. All will give a different experience and give people an opportunity to go the gamut with stripes, textures and bold colors. All will be very nice.”

“Airstream Alley” is being landscaped with 1950s-style landscaping, as well as a fire pit, outdoor furniture and globe outdoor lighting.

After the first six go into the “Alley,” the remainder will either be sited on the perimeter of the resort, away from all the hustle and bustle for guests who require more quiet surroundings, or can be integrated anywhere into the resort upon request.

“We look to have them before the start of next season,” he said.

The remaining units will be rented out and placed on a site at the customer’s request, Baumann said. He hopes to have three or four other Airstreams on site by autumn.

The resort has been planning the Airstream component for some time and put the word out that it wants to buy vintage units. “We’re searching for them high and low, buying them one at a time from individuals,” Baumann said.

Renovation process is lengthy on vintage Airstreams

Flying Flags gets good leads on available Airstreams through the Vintage Trailer Bash it holds each fall. The third annual event is coming up in September. Some 160 RVs from the 1940s through the 1960s come together for the event, with some of the participants being Airstream owners, he said. “We have made a lot of friends over the years with those folks who have fixed up their rigs,” he said. “We’re drawing on those resources as well as others we have made over the years.”

The introductory rate for these Airstreams ranges from $140 to $220 a night, depending upon the time of year.

Flying Flag’s design team, headed by Hawkey, has not gone to Airstream directly for guidance on the project but instead has called on several firms in the West that specialize in restoring the iconic trailers, Baumann said. The actual restoration goes on in a warehouse in Palm Springs, Calif.

“Some of them have come to us to take on the project and contribute to get their name out in the resort,” he said.

The learning curve on restoring the Airstreams is “humongous,” he said. “As we complete one, the next one will go faster.”

“When you buy parts, it’s not like walking down to a Ford dealer and buying trim parts. Only a few guys out there know what they’re doing and have parts available for us,” he said.

The resort’s owners feel that with the demographic that patronizes Flying Flags and the nation’s nostalgia craze, the investment will be worthwhile.

“The feedback thus far has been very good, Baumann said. “We’re not doing this in a hokey style but with little hints of nostalgia that will be integrated into a complete, modern camping experience.”

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