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Summer 2011

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Editor’s Page

Airstream Anniversaries In Airstream Life magazine we like to talk about the history of Airstreaming as much as the present. Only Airstream can claim the incredible legacy of caravans, people and trailers, going back many decades, that have made it a true icon of the American spirit. When you buy an Airstream, you’re not just getting a great product -- you are joining a long line of adventurers who wanted to explore the world, just like you. When we write about past world-spanning caravans, or Airstreams of the past (such as in Fred Coldwell’s series, which is continued in this issue), I think of them as having happened just recently. To me, the people and the trailers are still with us in spirit. Having read the stories and seen the pictures of their amazing experiences, it feels like Wally and Stella Byam are dear friends only recently departed, and the famous “Cape Town to Cairo Caravan” was no further away than my high school graduation. But in fact it has been much longer. In 2009-2010 we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the African caravan. Most companies in the travel trailer industry today can’t even claim to have been around in 1959, but by then Wally Byam had already spanned Europe, North America, and Central America in his Airstreams, with dozens of eager fellow 1961 Airstream Bambi at the Museum of travelers in his wake. Modern Art This year marks another important fiftieth anniversary, the arrival of the most famous Airstream model ever made. When neophytes think of Airstreams, they often think “Bambi,” for the oh-so-cute 16-foot model first introduced in 1961. Produced only through 1963 (and then as the “Bambi II” in 1964), this tiny trailer captured people’s attention so thoroughly that it still resonates in the public consciousness today. The Bambi was not the “best” Airstream ever made (it was later superseded by the roomier and more functional Caravel), nor was it the first small Airstream. But somehow the 1960s Bambi made its mark in a way that no trailer before or since has ever done, which explains why Airstream brought the name back in the late 1990s and continues to produce 16 and 19-foot Bambi trailers today. It is a legitimate emblem of the peak of travel trailers as industrial art. Next year, we will have a more somber fiftieth anniversary, marking the passing of Wally Byam on July 22, 1962. Wally is remembered for his many important contributions to the Airstreaming culture we enjoy today, but I particularly admire the amount of adventure and accomplishment he managed to pack into twelve short years from 1948 to 1960. In that time he brought Airstream from postWorld War II hibernation to one of the leading manufacturers of travel trailers, led dozens of caravans all over the world, wrote two books and many pamphlets, launched a club that still exists today Wally and Stella Byam, 1955



The official Airstream lifestyle magazine Editor and Publisher: Rich Luhr Associate Editors: Tom Bentley Becky Blanton Layout and Design: OneTree Marketing Advertising Sales: Brett Greiveldinger (802) 877-2900 Ext. 2 Editorial Illustrator: Brad Cornelius Culinary Consultant: Eleanor O’Dea Customer Service: Lisa T. Miller Associate Contributors: Jody Brotherston J. Rick Cipot Fred Coldwell Renee Ettline Bert Gildart John Irwin Forrest McClure Charles Spiher Contact Airstream Life 411 Walnut St #4468 Green Cove Springs, FL 32043 Telephone: (802) 877-2900 Fax: (802) 610-1013 Airstream Life Online Edition You can get Airstream Life online, for free! Each issue we select 15-20 pages of the upcoming magazine and make it available on the Internet to readers who sign up at It's a sneak peek, with no cost, no obligation! CUSTOMER SERVICE Airstream Life’s world headquarters are the dinette table of a 2005 Airstream Safari 30 We’re always glad to hear from you, but if you have a simple question, please check our website for help first. There you can subscribe, renew your subscription, change your address, get advertising information, download writer’s and photographer’s guidelines, notify us of an address change,and get answers to frequently-asked questions. See or call (802) 877-2900. Airstream Life (ISSN 1550-5979) is published quarterly by Church Street Publishing, Inc., 411 Walnut St #4468, Green Cove Springs FL 32043. Subscription price is $24 per year. Periodicals postage paid at Ferrisburg VT and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Airstream Life, 411 Walnut St #4468, Green Cove Springs, FL 32043 © Copyright 2011 by Church Street Publishing, Inc. AIRSTREAM ® is the property of Airstream, Inc. Licensed by Global Icons LLC. All rights reserved. Printed in CANADA.


Andy and Connie Charles pause with Tallie Hall at the ancient tomb of Sapor I just outside Isfahan, Iran, during the Around The World Caravan in 1963.

(WBCCI), and created a legacy of travel that can never be matched. Although he has been gone for decades, his example remains a huge inspiration to me, and I’m sure to many of you. If you’d like to explore this history of this amazing leader, consider traveling up to the Baker Heritage Museum in Baker City, OR (Wally’s birthplace). An exhibit will tell his story this summer, with memorabilia and artifacts donated by the estate of Helen Byam Schwamborn. The Oregon Unit of WBCCI will hold a Wally Byam Birthday Party Rally at the site from July 1-5, 2011. Looking ahead to 2013, we’ll have yet another fiftieth. The magnificent AroundThe-World Caravan ran from Singapore to Portugal in 1963, with many stops along the way including the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, and other nations. As with many of the historical caravans, the Around-The-World is one that cannot be repeated today, and which yielded spectacular photography of sights that no longer exist. (For more on this, see Airstream Life, Spring 2009.) All of this is your legacy, as an Airstream owner. Five decades ago Airstreamers just


like you proved that they could go anywhere, do anything, that they wanted to do with their tough travel trailers – if they just put their hearts and minds to the task. These grand anniversaries can remind us that the door to the world is still open to those who choose to explore. I hope every reader of Airstream Life magazine will find a little time this summer to use their Airstream to continue the legacy.

About our cover... After nearly two decades as a freelance illustrator working with clients such as Walt Disney, Warner Bros., and Scholastic, cover artist Bob Brugger decided to cultivate his original interest in oil painting. These days he balances both careers, explaining that the traditional tools of oils, brushes and canvas are a nice break from the largely digital creation of commercial art. His paintings are on display at galleries throughout the south bay area of Los Angeles. Bob resides with his wife and daughters in Redondo Beach, CA.

Travel well,

Rich Luhr, Editor & Publisher

What's Coming: • Streaming with Lewis & Clark • Airstreaming In Japan • Bluegrass Festivals • Caravanning



new paint job and floor. We’ll pick it up in the Spring and head down the peninsula in search of warm weather as we do every end of winter. My first copy of your magazine is the Fall of 2005 and have loved each and every issue. However, I don't recall ever seeing any article, not even a mention, of the Argosy as an Airstream model. Have I missed something? I would love to know more about these vehicles. SINCERELY, TICO NAVARRO DURANGO, CO Airstream Parks Dear Airstream Life, I’m proud to be a charter subscriber. I look forward to every issue! Then, I share the magazines with my parents who own the Airstream. I also share the postcards in the middle of the magazine with other Airstream owners I meet. Have you ever been to Holiday Park Campground in Grawn (Traverse City) Michigan? It’s an Airstream Park, or was at one time. It’s a beautiful park! When I share with other Airstream owners about the park they say they have never heard of it. I’ve taken note that this park is not listed in Airstream Life – what a shame! KRISTA GABLE AMHERST, OH The “Airstream Parks” advertising section is limited to parks that are primarily Airstream-only. Holiday Park was apparently an Airstreamonly park at one time but has since branched out. Still, we welcome advertising from any RV park in our general advertising pages. What About Argosy Trailers? Rich, I have been the proud owner of a 1966 Caravel which went recently to my son who said “This baby must stay in the family.” It is now back in El Paso, Texas where it was first brought to market. I then found a 1979 Argosy (by Airstream) and fell in love immediately. We are in the process of fixing it up (new water heater, furnace, water pump). It is now wintering in Ensenada and getting a

Winter Camping Isn’t Always Easy Hi Rich, I went to go camping in Conn., but I realized my driveway was too small! ENJOY, ED. BEAUCHAINE


We love the Argosy trailers too. Long-standing readers will remember the “Vintage Thunder” series that ran in the magazine during 20042005. That trailer was a 1977 Argosy 24. But you’re right, we haven’t done much on Argosy since then, and it’s probably about time we did. A Six-Year Labor of Love Rich: Love to read Airstream Life. I’ve been restoring a '68 Airstream for about six years so I will enjoy the articles on restoring. I’m just at the polishing part. I don’t want to screw that up. That’s an art but I hope I have the skills for it. I am plaster/stucco by trade. THANKS, JOHN F DONNELLY Good luck, John. You’ll do fine. Send us a picture when the job is done and we’ll publish it here. How Much To Go To Europe? Dear Sir, One compelling reason for me to buy magazines such as Airstream Life is to find “how to” pieces and articles that guide and inform me with relevant information such as the sections in the Spring 2011 edition on National Parks and trailer sway. You can therefore imagine my disappointment with the article “Airstreaming in Europe” subheading “Take Your Own Trailer?” It promised information on a subject that I am seriously considering. The article’s only observation and conclusion, after a very cursory treatment was ‘No, too expensive.’ I have been researching this very option and considering a two or three month trip to Europe in my own rig. The cost of shipping my I subscribe to your magazine and enjoy the feature articles very much. You may note by the attached photo that of our “high brow” snow sculptured nosed Airstream is in “cold storage” within our back yard (presently -20 degrees C) awaiting a spring thaw sometime in March or April. BRUCE CLEVELEY Springtime will be all that much sweeter for what you folks have endured! We’ll see you on the road!



23' Airstream and Dodge RAM 1500 from Halifax to Southampton is $2,300—not $5,000. That cost is for me to assess not the authors. Having concluded that the mistaken $5,000 was too much they simply drop the subject. Nothing on modifications needed for propane tanks; whether the ball and safety chains are acceptable in Europe for a visiting outfit—nothing else at all in fact. A pity. And a “F” on the article. Yours truly, RM BOURASSA Sorry that you felt the article was inadequate, but we didn’t see the point in going into all the details since hardly anyone chooses to convert US-spec trailers for short-term European use, once they see the full cost. Instead, we warned that it would be extremely expensive, which is true. As the article mentioned, the cost of shipping is only the tip of the iceberg. EU regulations require considerable modification before US trailers can be towed on their roads. As Michael Hold noted: “… The US version ... would not operate over here if not converted to compatible electrics, gas, brakes, road lights, heating, water systems and so on.” We don’t want to discourage you from doing your own research into the subject. It’s a big topic and there simply wasn’t room to discuss all the relevant details in this article. That’s why we noted, “The job involves considerable modification to the trailer, so look for companies that have experience converting to EU specifications.” Short Notes From Subscribers Less travelogue stuff – that’s AAA stuff. More Airstream photos, customizations, pricings, art and novelties. — JH I will not be renewing as your magazine is going from an Airstream magazine to a travel magazine – let me know when you refocus. Thanks — PM

Custom Greeting Card Dear Rich, We love to get our Airstream Life magazine each quarter. In the Spring 2011 issue, I see that you mentioned changing the magazine up a little and that is a good thing to always be moving forward. Certainly, the articles that are being dropped, like eBay, can always be revisited at another time. Reading the article about Miranda Lambert’s vintage Airstream was so much fun and I noted on your Editor’s page that you mentioned Matthew McConaughey's three Airstreams. I don't remember seeing the end result of his vintage Airstream that the magazine was following during its restoration. Lastly, I am enclosing the business card we hand out to other Airstreamers. We came upon this idea after meeting such nice people and being asked for our e-mail, etc. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to put a name and face with the e-mail address?” The other side of the card is a fish-eye image of our Airstream door. Thanks again for such a wonderful magazine. BARBARA & JACK DELLA-BITTA CAMBRIA, CA Matthew McConaughey's vintage Airstream was eventually completed, but sadly we never received photos of the final product. We’ve heard it is now being used as a guest house at his home in Malibu CA. And although eBay Watch is gone, we are working on a replacement column on a similar buying/selling topic.

Airstream Life is an excellent magazine. I can’t see paying $24 for 4 issues. When you revise the price please contact me. — LR Love the magazine. Love the artful renderings. More Airstreams please. — JB We love the magazine and finally got our trailer: 1986 Excella named Stella. — SS We like to see interior remodels and refurbishing that people have done. — W&SF Great magazine!! Two year renewal. — B&LC We love Airstream Life! — MF

Whoops—No Floorplan! Unlike Steven Horn, I find the balance of articles to be fairly appropriate (articles and pictures about Airstreams vs. articles about “parks”). Your articles about places to go and things to do with our Airstreams are inspiring. Two complaints about the Spring 2011 issue: (1) The editing was not up to its usual excellence (grammar, syntax, spelling, etc), and (2) the “Floorplan Review” of the Eddie Bauer Airstream did not include a floorplan. SARAH GOODMAN


Wow, you caught us! In our defense we should point out that the floorplan of the is basically the same as all of the other 25FB (Front Bedroom) floorplans. Still, we should have included it with the article. Here it is.



An Airstream for the Future By Marcia Hahn • Photos by Alison Turner

s your trailer a designer home for year-round travel, or a rugged camper outfitted for a weekend fishing trip? A team of architecture and interior design students at the Interdisciplinary Design Institute at Washington State University-Spokane see a day when the interior of an Airstream can convert from one to the other with little more than the flip of a lever. That’s the concept behind “The Airstream Project,” a 1958 26’ Airstream Overlander that the team of WSU students is retrofitting as a prototype for how Airstreams could be designed in the future. Their idea is to install technology systems, including electricity and plumbing, under the Airstream floor with outlets on the surface to connect to interior components. “The students call it ‘plug-and-play’,” said Todd Beyreuther, WSU clinical assistant professor. “A designer creates a component, such as a sink or chair or shower unit, and owners can choose which components they want to plug in to their trailers. Any component would work as long as it has a standardized connection. If successful, it could transform the whole trailer industry.” Installing a sink would involve a flip of a lever to lock it to the floor with an automatic hook up to water. Some of the components could be parts of packages based on how people pre-pack for different types of outings. “A user might own many components but would be able to customize the trailer for each trip—a cross country tour would require different components than a weekend fishing trip,” Beyreuther said. Some components would be very simple or ‘dumb,’ such as a sitting component, while others might be very smart with ubiquitous technologies that work together to adjust lighting and temperature as a person moves about the trailer. Beyreuther says the project is being developed for the aftermarket, but the students also see potential for it in design for new Airstreams. TOP: The iconic aluminum shell is the only design element the students working on "The Airstream Project" will retain. Beyreuther credits the concept to From left to right: Prof. Todd Beyreuther, with architecture and design students Aaron Pasquale, Shona Bose, Kate Trippsome very talented students of design, Addison, Ashlee Holtman, and Brandon Patterson. BOTTOM: Cardboard designs are used to explain the process. architecture and engineering who have been working on the project since last summer. The students started modify, so the task became to design something appropriate inside,” by exploring the Airstream culture and learning what it means to be Beyreuther said. The students dismantled the Airstream and polished the shell. an Airstream enthusiast. “They decided right away to preserve the iconic nature of the trailer. The shell is something they wouldn’t With no interior walls to impede space or ideas, they designed and





LEFT: The Airstream shell temporarily braced and ready for its new interior. ABOVE: Professor Todd Beyreuther works with Brandon Patterson on design.

built the floor in varying heights and contoured shapes to define the living spaces. The floor’s stacked layers of wheat board were elevated with bolts, which also represented where plug-ins to plumbing, wiring and other infrastructure might be placed. “They needed a conceptual design without walls to get people to think differently about how the inside of the trailer could be configured,” Beyreuther explained. That conceptual phase of the project received positive reviews when the WSU Airstream and the students’ designs of futuristic interiors were exhibited last fall at the Design Research Conference on the Spokane campus. The goal now is to complete the interior with realistic components that all Airstream users can appreciate. The final trailer won’t have multi-level floors, but Beyreuther says the creative exercise helped to show how wiring and plumbing could go underneath the floor to create a type of motherboard for interior components. Airstream enthusiasts can follow the project’s conceptual development online and contribute their own ideas on The Airstream Project’s website ( Beyreuther describes the website as a virtual place where users, designers, and manufacturers SUMMER 2011

will connect to share and develop component ideas. Like a virtual applications store, people will be able to order plug-in-ready designer components. Built-in financial mechanisms will motivate users and designers to create many innovative solutions. The website’s open source environment will enable anyone to share an idea for a product— including established manufacturers. “Kohler could design a plug-and-play bathroom sink, [or] Herman Miller could design a plug-and-play chair, similar to the way Airstream has partnered with designers for special edition trailers,” explained Beyreuther. “The model will be successful if smaller designers and individuals from the Airstream community will be able to share creations right alongside—or even sell their ideas to—the larger manufacturers.” “The Airstream community is very passionate, and the students feel this project is an opportunity through design to propose innovative and perhaps more responsible living environments to an American icon.” Plans are for the finished prototype to be on tour in late summer/early fall 2011 at museums and Airstream rallies in the Northwest. All of the progress, ideas and tour schedule will be posted on The Airstream Project’s website. •••



• • • • • Rivet



The NASA Astrovan Becomes History Members of space shuttle Discovery's STS-131 crew pose in April 2010 for a group portrait before boarding the Astrovan for a “dress rehearsal,” prior to an actual launch. Left to right: Mission Specialists Clayton Anderson, Naoko Yamazaki of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Stephanie Wilson, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and Rick Mastracchio; Pilot James P. Dutton Jr.; and Commander Alan Poindexter.

aybe it’s the silver cigar shape reminiscent of UFO’s that NASA liked. Or, as astronaut Mark Kelly said in a previous Airstream Life article [Winter 2008]: “Of all the vehicles that are commercially available, the Airstream in particular has a Space Age aspect to its design.” Whatever the reason, NASA selected Airstream as their vehicles of choice over forty years ago, and like most Airstream owners, they’ve stayed with them. When the Space Shuttle program ends for good in June 2011, the NASA Astrovans that tote astronauts out to the launch pad will become permanent museum pieces – giving Airstream lovers a chance to see an incredibly valuable piece of Airstream history. Airstream first became part of the space race when several special, air-tight trailers without wheels were constructed in 1969 to house returning Apollo astronauts. Melpar, an American-Standard subsidiary, won the bid and used Airstream as a subcontractor to construct the one-of-a-kind “Mobile Quarantine Facilities.” In 1984, three years after the Space Shuttle program began, NASA switched from a regular transportation van to a modified 1983 Airstream Excella. Dubbed the “Astrovan,” the Airstream motor home has been the only vehicle used for transporting astronauts to the launch pad for space missions ever since. There will be one more space shuttle flight on June 28, 2011 at 3:48 EDT before the shuttles, and the Astrovan become history. “We’re not sure what will happen to it yet,” Tracy Yates, media spokeswoman for United Space Alliance (USA). USA provides the drivers and security for the Astrovan. “But I’m sure it will end up in a museum or someplace where people can see it, or tour it.” There are actually two Astrovans – the primary, on which the astronauts ride, and a back-up in case something goes wrong or the primary fails. According to Astrovan driver Ronnie King, that has never happened, so the back-up Astrovan has never been used other than to follow the first van out and back. In fact, while the primary Astrovan awaits its last trip to the launch pad, tourists at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's Apollo/Saturn V Center can now see it on display. You won’t see the design and custom features you might expect, but you will see where history has taken place.



After NASA purchased the Airstream motorhome in 1984, it was stripped of everything but a generator, sink, and bathroom. Benches were installed along either side to allow the astronauts to face each other on the ride out to the launch pad. Helmets and the astronauts’ personal air apparatus are stowed prior to their boarding, so they no longer have to carry those items to the van. It may be Spartan, but it gets the job done, King explained. While the interior is simple, it’s meticulously cleaned for each and every ride. “We do a lot of prep work,” King said. “The week prior to the launch the Astrovan is washed, waxed, the tires, rims, windows are cleaned – it’s really polished inside and out.” When it’s not on the road to the launch pad, it’s garaged in a climate controlled garage, out of the elements and the heat. There’s not a lot of opportunity to get it dirty, but it’s cleaned as vigorously as though it was. If you’re wondering what NASA uses to polish the van? “Meguiar’s cleaner wax and we hand buff, wash and wax,” King said. History and Tradition Every astronaut who’s been part of the shuttle program, including 77-year-old astronaut John Glenn, who went back into space in 1998, has ridden in the Astrovan, said King. King is one of four Astrovan drivers and has been with the van since 1986. There was a short-lived attempt to get rid of the Airstream at one time, King remembers, but there was a lot of opposition to the proposal from the astronauts. “The crew wanted to ride in something their predecessors have ridden in,” he said. “They opposed getting rid of it so NASA kept it. It’s steeped in history and tradition even though the only time it’s used is to and from the pad.” It’s Astronaut Hall of Fame names like “John Glenn,” the first American and the third person to orbit the earth in 1962, or Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to perform an extra-vehicular activity in space who give the Astrovan its historic ambiance. Passengers have included John Young, who walked on the moon in 1972; William Shepard, commander of the first international space station crew; and James Wetherbee, the only person to command five spaceflight missions. Even Lisa Nowak and William Anthony “Bill” Oefelein, now more famous for being the first two astronauts dismissed from the space program after a love-affair gone sour, rode the Astrovan.



The Astrovan has carried Barbara Morgan, who was selected as the backup payload specialist for the Challenger to primary civilian rider Christa McAuliffe and finally went into space in 2007, 21 years after the Challenger disaster, as has Mae Jemison, the first female African-American in space. Twin brothers Mark and Scott Kelly, the only siblings who have both traveled into space have made the short trip on the van. Scott is the commander of the international space station. Mark Kelly is a shuttle pilot and among the few astronauts who have stayed in a vintage Airstream, while on a weekend trip to the Shady Dell in Bisbee, AZ with his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The names and the list go on, including film stars who have appeared with the Astrovan in movies, such as Bruce Willis and Clint Eastwood. The iconic mystique, respect, history, and tradition of the Astrovan ride are almost palpable among those who are offered the chance to see it. The ride to launch pad itself is at the top of the list of things rookie astronauts look forward to, King says. After a week of testing and other activities new astronauts are given a ride out to the launch site for TCDT–Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test. It’s the highlight of the week. But not all of King’s memories are good ones. Two shuttle crews and a total of 14 astronauts have never returned from their drive out to the launch pad. The sevenperson crew of the Challenger, destroyed when it disintegrated during ascent on January 28, 1986, never re-boarded the Astrovan. Neither did the seven-member crew of the Columbia, 17 years later. “I was the driver when the Columbia went out and that crew never came back,” said King. “My heart sank to my feet. We were out there on the runway waiting for them to come in. We all get ready like four hours before landing – the whole landing crew, probably a couple hundred people. We were all there on the runway waiting for it to [sonic] boom boom and we never heard it. I had Jerry Ross and some of the ex-crew members ride out there on landing to help with the off-load operation, you know because they’ve been-there-done-that. Jerry, you could tell he was upset. He told me, ‘We need to go to the crew quarters right now because the family members [of crew] are at the O&C [Operations and Checkout building].’ It was a bad day for NASA.”


Astrovan Security Famous people have bodyguards, and so does the Airstream Astrovan. While the only threat that the Astrovan has ever faced is the same threat every shuttle has encountered – the weather – that doesn’t mean the potential for danger isn’t there. “They (NASA) won’t even let ‘em get out of the bus if there’s a level two weather warning,” King said. But NASA and King are prepared for any possibility anyway, and even have their own SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. All drivers are trained in escape tactics from terrorists and the van is surrounded by a high level security force with machine guns at all times. “There’s an air escort helicopter, security front and back, an armored attack vehicle called a Bearcat, and a flight team of doctors and surgeons in an escort vehicle that don’t go all the way out, but stop before the LCC [Launch Center Control],” King said. The trip from crew quarters to the launch pad isn’t long – about nine to ten miles, King said. The road is all within the confines of the base as well. But security is extreme. All traffic on the base is stopped while the primary and backup Astrovans and the security detail make their way to the launch pad.

Airstream, Making Dreams Come True They have walked on the moon, walked in space, orbited the earth, touched the universe in ways none of us ever will. They strap themselves onto rockets, endure incredible G-forces, leave their families, and risk death each time they undertake a mission. When security shuts down the roads, and an armed helicopter and guard pulls into position behind the transport vehicle there are ten miles of long flat road to travel. Ten miles to a shuttle that will hurl them into space again as the world watches in awe. Media, scientists, spectators, all waiting. All watching. On the return trip, there is relief at having completed another mission. And Airstream is part of it in a warmly familiar way. On TCDT days (non-launch days), when this elite, highly trained group of men and women traverse that ten miles of concrete, what do they do, what do they talk about on the way there or the way back? “Well,” King said, “sometimes we look at alligators. We'll see one on the road; they get to be about 14 or 15 feet long you know. And we'll stop the bus and get out and look at it.” The astronauts may have walked among the stars, but no matter who you are, when you’re in an Airstream the remarkable view is always just outside your window. •••



• • • • • Rivet


Airstreams Sprout in South Africa STORY AND PHOTOS BY IAN EVANS

A few acres in a South African orchard make a fine place to grow Airstreams.


fter opening an Airstream trailer park in the sky above Cape Town, entrepreneur Jody Aufrichtig now has his feet more firmly on the ground. But far from turning his back on the American icon, he has bought another 12 of them and built an eco-friendly park on the banks of a pine forest, an hour’s drive from the city. Glistening under the African sun, the silver bullet trailers are half consumed by wooden lodges offering guests a part-trailer, part-cabin holiday. “I love these trailers and yes, you could say I am obsessed. They remind me of youth and the way things used to before we had the complications of modern day life,” says Jody, 37. Two years ago Airstream Life featured his first Airstream venture when he opened a trailer park on top of his Grand Daddy Hotel in Cape Town city center [Spring 2009]. The hotelier had hoisted seven Airstreams on to the roof by crane and then built a little bit of America, complete with themed interiors, bar, outdoor cinema and US-style mail boxes. “It was a great success and we had an occupancy rate of around 80% when the average rate in the city is 45%. It was probably a 50/50 mix between South Africans and tourists. I remember once going up on the roof at 7:15 a.m. when it was still a bit cold and there was this couple in their late 60s suntanning on the deck. They had been staying in the five-start Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town but heard about the Airstream park. “They said they didn’t want to be in a tourist hotel and wanted to do something different. We also had many advocates [lawyers]


staying and then going off to court in the morning. It was fantastic but I did learn a few things – mostly that they were too small.” Jody later sold the hotel but retained the naming rights and concentrated on his next Airstream venture which was to be an eco-friendly trailer park near Elgin, in vine and orchard country. He teamed up with a local black empowerment trust 18 months ago which owned 320 hectares (790 acres) of land where they farmed mostly apples and pears. They told the businessman that they had a spare 1.5 hectares of land which they could lease out with a view to Jody employing local people and especially youngsters. Jody relates: “I went to meet them and explained what I had in mind and they loved it. We wanted to give kids an opportunity other than farming and the plot of land looked ideal – they couldn’t use it for farming because it was on a slope, poor soil quality and had trees on it. “We had to get the land rezoned and we had a lot of opposition from three local farmers who just didn’t want to see change. We were confident we’d get it through and so the next stage was getting hold of some new Airstreams.” Jody worked out that he would need around 12 Airstreams and the best place to start looking was Ohio. “I contacted Bob Wheeler at Airstream who told me to come over. He said over the last thirty years, people dropped off Airstreams at the factory when they’d finished with them. Old ladies whose husbands had died and knew they wouldn’t be used, would take them back to the factory – a sort of ‘going home’ journey.”



TOP: Vintage trailers from Ohio make up much of the suites. BOTTOM: The Dirkie Sanchez Airstream suite pays homage to a Mexican wrestler.

He bought six Airstreams at the Jackson Center site, mostly 25-30 feet long – larger than the smaller ones on the hotel roof – paying a total of $40,000. Jody then bought another five from Steve Ruth of P&S Trailer for $23,000 and arranged to have them shipped to South Africa. “Last time I waited months and applied so many times for import permits, but this time, because they knew me from last time, I got them in two days. The shipping was meant to take 35 days but ended up being nearly four and a half months.”


The twelfth trailer he found near the Zimbabwe border in Limpopo province. The 20-footer had taken part in the Cape Town to Cairo Airstream caravan in 1959 but the owners had failed to get proper import documentation for its return entry to South Africa so it had just remained there since 1961. Jody paid R48,500 ($7,000) for the trailer which was dirty but in good condition. Like the trailers on top of the hotel, Jody wanted the twelve Airstreams at Elgin to be themed and decided to use the same branding for the park calling it the “Old Mac Daddy.” Designers were



“Give Bees A Chance” is one of the wacky themes that resulted from a design competition.

asked to submit their entries over a three-day period which resulted in 1,340 suggestions. They were shortlisted to twenty designs and the final twelve decided by Jody and a small team. The result is a dozen weird and wacky interiors designed by local and international artists. They include Give Bees a Chance – a play on John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” The trailer is kitted out in yellow and black with honeycomb and bee imprints with a nod to the local fruit orchards. Keeping with the yellow and Beatles theme, there is a Yellow Submarine with nautical clocks and dials and a working periscope. The King Midas suite offers luxury and all things gold while Digit is a homage to figures and arithmetic with numbers festooned across walls and ceilings in different guises. Slightly more adventurous is the Metamorphosis suite, sponsored by brewer Grolsch where the interior design is ultimately up to the resident. The shelving, lights, and jigsaw wallpaper are all magnetic so the guest can switch them around to their liking. The Airstream also includes an electronic magnetic clock designed by the University of Cape Town and works by a guest dropping iron filings on the clock dial which are then attracted to the minute and hour arms. Other trailers include Life before Colour which celebrates black and white photography, smoked mirrors, laced curtains and a general Victorian-era feel. There’s the Mills & Boon trailer – a sugary and kitsch love nest for the more romantically inclined. The Private Life of Plants doffs a Panama hat at evolutionist Charles Darwin with the Airstream full of bell jars, textbooks, plants and cages while The Dream celebrates artist Henri Rousseau’s painting of the same name and is alarmingly green. The Dirkie Sanchez suite in homage to the Mexican wrestler includes a mini boxing ring with wrestling-inspired,coloured interior which probably requires sunglasses. Realizing that South Africa


should not be forgotten, Jody has one trailer dedicated to old style Afrikaner living called For Better or for Boerwors – a South African barbecue sausage. All trailers have queen-sized beds, cotton sheets, Smeg fridges and air conditioning, with access via a door into the adjoining wooden lodge. There is also a separate, stand-alone villa and a giant converted barn where visitors can eat in the eco-park. But it is the Airstreams which offer the most fun and the venue’s x-factor. According to Jody, “These are works of art in trailers which are a work of art themselves. They are an international brand and to me, represent the breaking away from the complexities of life. You can go in them and forget about your problems. “We’ve got bookings months ahead and people have bought into the fun concept. I could have tripled or quadrupled the size of the park and still done well which is testament to the business idea and the Airstreams.” Because of his devotion to the aluminum trailers, he gets emails from overseas and South Africa offering him old models. At his offices in Cape Town he is currently babysitting a 1970 Excella for an old lady from Johannesburg who didn’t have room for it. “It’s one of the smaller models and a bit too new – I prefer 1950s and 1960s models but it’s a nice little thing. We rent it out for shoots and it’s a bit of an attraction.” He would like to return to Ohio to look for more Airstreams once the business has settled and he has room for expansion. Pointing to his computer he shows me an e-mail from Dave Schumann at Airstream. “Dave’s sent me a picture of a 1960 Pacer which they’ve got there and is wondering if I want it. He knows I love them and find it difficult to say no. I’d love to open another park – another one on top of a hotel maybe in Manhattan. That would be phenomenal, or maybe Barcelona, Paris, London – we could do them all round the world.” •••






From the Archives “Globetrotting with Wally Byam” was the name of a monthly magazine column Wally wrote in the early fifties for the west coast magazine Trail-R-News. In it, he recorded his travel adventures and invited others to join him in two-lane freedom. Before the Wally Byam Caravan Club was formed by a number of his close friends in 1955, Wally’s caravans were open to all brands of travel trailers. He believed owners of other brands would quickly see in person the superiority of Airstream construction when compared side-by-side to their trailer. It was a hands-on way to win new customers. This month’s photograph captures Wally leading the Western Canadian Caravan in the summer of 1954. The scene is just outside Banff National Park, as the Caravanners line up for the next leg of their journey, towards Calgary. Wally chats with a local policeman about the upcoming journey. The Airstream behind Wally is a 1954 Ohio-built model with a 13 panel converging rear end cap, as indicated by the lowest rivet line coming off the bottom of the rearmost side window. The year, early 1954, is indicated by the position of the side marker light, at the rear of the side panel. Wally’s trailer is next in line, behind his Cadillac. His is also an Ohiobuilt Airstream as indicated by the same bottom-of-window position of the rear end cap lowest rivet line. But the different position of the side marker light, on the rear of the front panel, tells us his is a later 1954 or 1955 model. Behind Wally’s trailer, Airstreams outnumber other brand trailers by a 2-to-1 margin. Take a deep breath, AAAHHH-H-H-H, and you can smell those pine needles . . . ••• - FRED COLDWELL




• • • • • •

Floorplan Review

Airstream Expands B-Van A stylish interior puts the Avenue at par with the Interstate, but at a price point about $30,000 lower.


“We are seeing more entrepreneurs and business owners looking at [the Avenue] for both personal and professional use.” Mark Gauthier was one of the first customers. As a single and self-employed Marketing and Public Relations consultant, he was frustrated with the challenges of traveling by air to client offices in British Columbia, Washington DC, New Hampshire, and Florida. After some research, he realized that an Airstream Avenue would be perfect for his lifestyle: a “hotel room” for evenings after a day of work that is nimble enough to navigate urban areas and fit in a regular parking space. Mark also realized that eating healthy food was a lot easier when he had his own kitchen, and he was able to travel with his two dogs. Airstream is finding that people who have never owned an RV before, like

Mark, are looking at the Avenue. Some just want a touring vehicle with a bathroom, some want a family vehicle that is more capable than an SUV, and some want a backup to traditional hotel/motel rooms. The Avenue fits the bill well due to its Swiss Army knife-like capabilities. It comes with a hefty tow rating of 7,925 pounds, far more than the prior year Interstates (which were limited to 5,000 pounds). This means the Avenue can tow most Airstream trailers, or any car. A 155 inch wheelbase gives the Avenue noticeably better turning in tight spots, compared to the 170 inch wheelbase of the Interstate, and the Avenue is also almost two feet shorter overall. Seating inside varies by floorplan, but the Avenue will have ultraleather seats for two to four people up front, and a lounge with power sofa that seat three more in the back. The initial Avenue floorplan has four captain’s chairs up front plus three seat on the sofa for a total of seven seats (six of which will have three point seating harnesses). The big difference buyers will notice is the lower price: a solid $30,000 less than the Airstream Interstate (MSRP about $95,000). Primarily the cost difference comes from the Chevy gas chassis, which features a high output 6.0 liter engine that is E-85 compatible. This puts Airstream in the B-van market with a product that is price-competitive with the big players: Roadtrek and Pleasure-Way.



he last five years have shown Airstream that, at least in motorhomes, smaller is bigger. Airstream’s big Class A mohos ended with the 2005 model year, while the relatively tiny Class B Interstate based on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis has continued to surge ahead despite a solid six-figure price tag. Now Airstream has broadened the line with a new Chevy-based B-van called the “Avenue” — shorter, less expensive, gaspowered, and still with all the amenities that make it qualify as an Airstream. But rather than just being a gas-powered clone of the Interstate, the Avenue is finding its own market. “The Avenue is not only attracting traditional B van buyers,” says Tim Garner, Airstream’s Touring Coach General Manager.


Line With Chevy


AIRSTREAM “AVENUE” SPECS Engine: Fuel: MSRP: Tow Rating: Wheelbase: Dimensions:


6.0 liter V8 Chevy Gasoline (Flex Fuel / E-85 compatible) $95,000 7,925 pounds 155 inches 21.1 feet long, 9.1 feet tall, 6.7 feet wide



• • • • • •

Floorplan Review

Two floorplans are available at present, with more in the pipeline.

“Yes, we are going after ‘the other guys’ but we’re kind of doing it uniquely,” says Garner. “We’re offering higher fit and finish quality. [Inside], everything’s almost identical to what you see in the Interstate.” The Avenue also offers some safety features exclusive to Airstream, including driver and passenger head curtain side-impact air bags. Estimated fuel economy for the Avenue is about 15 to 16 MPG, a bit lower than the diesel Interstate, but still a reasonably economical level for such a useful vehicle. Mark Gauthier notes that his fuel bill is actually lower than when he was driving an SUV, in part because he’s no longer commuting to client sites. Now he just parks overnight in their lots while he enjoys his mobile “hotel room.” In fact, he’s found it so useful that he has barely returned to his home in Gloucester, MA since buying the Avenue. “Whenever I stop at a gas pump, it’s like a magnet,” with people coming up and asking for a closer look, says Mark. “As soon as I show the interior they can’t believe how beautiful it is.”•••




Here’s what’s in the Summer 2011 print edition of Airstream Life! Subscribe today to get this issue!

Summer 2011 The official Airstream lifestyle magazine




Old Aluminum: 1954-1957 Airstreams

14 NASA's Airstream "Astrovan" Retires 16 Floorplans: Airstream Expands B-Van Line 20 Hot Airstreaming at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 26 From the Archives: Globetrotting with Wally 29 Bicycling Across America 32 Interiors: A Hands-On Approach to Design 36 Great Ideas: Eyes in the Back 38 Airstreams Sprout in South Africa 42 Chiricahua – Off The Beaten Path 49 Fun Page

Future Future Airstreams, Airstreams, page page 50 50

50 Airstreams Head Back To the Future 56 WSU's Airstream For The Future

Albuquerque Albuquerque Balloon Balloon Fiesta, Fiesta, page page 20 20


64 Last Mile: Interview with the Huts

Airstream Airstream Avenue, Avenue, page page 16 16

Profile for Church Street Publishing, Inc.

Airstream Life SUMMER 2011  

This is the Online Edition of Airstream Life magazine. This version contains a small portion of what you'll find in the print magazine.

Airstream Life SUMMER 2011  

This is the Online Edition of Airstream Life magazine. This version contains a small portion of what you'll find in the print magazine.