Airstream trailer timeline

  • Updated: July 12, 2014 - 2:00 PM
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Airstream founder Wally Byam, left, tours an Airstream with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in 1959.

1930

Wally Byam designs the first Airstream travel trailer, a lightweight model with a shiny aluminum skin that rode along the highway “like a stream of air.” His company introduces the “Clipper,” inspired by the Pan Am Clipper airplane.

1940

Byam and Airstream staff work in aircraft factories during World War II and use that experience to improve Airstream design in later years.

1950

Byam moves the factory from California to Jackson Center, Ohio, where it still builds Airstreams today. The Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) is founded to organize groups of Airstream caravans and rallies worldwide.

1960

The first major redesign of Airstream trailers results in the more streamlined and distinct “bullet shape,” with improved, more comfortable interiors. Byam dies of cancer.

1980

Money magazine chooses the Airstream travel trailer as one of the 99 things Americans make best.

2000

The silver travel trailer has become an American icon and part of pop culture — featured in Ralph Lauren ads, in movies such as “Charlie’s Angels,” as a Hot Wheels model and even an Airstream diner in Los Angeles. The book “Airstream: The History of the Land Yacht,” by Bryan Burkhart and David Hunt is published. San Francisco architect Christopher Deam gives new model interiors an ultra-modern update to attract younger consumers.

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