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Home > History of the Airstream

History of the Airstream

Airstream trailers were first created in 1929 by Wallace Merle “Wally” Byam. At the time an Airstream was nothing more than a tent contraption, carefully maneuvered to sit on top of his Model T chassis. Later, the tent idea was scratched and adjusted into a more permanent teardrop-shaped shelter, that was more durable and added protection from inclement weather.

Invention & The Great Depression

By 1932, the word of Wally’s Airstream trailer had spread and demand for one of their own Airstream trailers grew so he opened a factory in Los Angeles, California.

In late 1932 the first-factory version of the Airstream trailer was released, called the Torpedo Car Cruiser, similar in the teardrop shape, such as his first attempt in 1929. Unfortunately, Wally was forced to take a break from building Airstream trailers during The Great Depression in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s.

During this time aluminum was regulated for war use and was a sparse material to come by. Wally used this time to work in factories using aluminum to create airplanes for the war and build on his experience with crafting and maneuvering aluminum.

1940s - 1980s

Once The Great Depression and WWII passed, Wally was able to rebuild his business and open a larger plant in Jackson Center, Ohio where Airstream trailers are still manufactured for consumer purchase today.

Improvements to the Airstream trailer began in the 1950s and they were able to implement the first hot water system inside of trailers and full freedom external trailer hookups for outside sources of power. More improvements were made in the 1960s with an internal remodel and exterior and structural design change.

These changes created the Airstream trailers we see today that are the popular, rounded “bullet” shape. The bullet shape came with an additional length and width for additional space.

A few years later, in 1962, Wally passed.

By 1978 all manufacturing of Airstream trailers moved solely to the Ohio facility where it became the world’s most modern trailer manufacturing facility. In 1980, a resurgence in the RV market brought together the founders of, Thor Industries, a family of RV manufacturing companies that bought out Airstream in 1980 and allowed the production of Airstream trailers to continue and grow.

Modern Day

By the 1990’s interest in restoring older Airstreams became popular amongst a newer generation of travelers who were younger and took pride in renovating and refurbishing Airstream trailers into a mix of vintage and modern styles.

Not only were they restoring old trailers, but they were also purchasing their own airstreams, a smaller Airstream trailer version called the Safari.

In 1994, the Airstream was given a final yet new makeover, with an interior change and additional width, to create the bigger and more comfortable trailer that we see on the road today. As Airstream trailers regained their popularity this prompted new businesses to grow that coincided with the growing RV business.

These businesses focus on helping consumers learn the art of refurbishing and often offer tricks and tips on how to “do-it-yourself” and completely rebuild and remodel their Airstream trailer.

At Vintage Trailer Supply you can find the answers to all of your refurbishing, restoring and repairing questions when it comes to fixing up your Airstream trailer. At Vintage Trailer Supply, DIY is made possible with help on exterior, interior, electrical, plumbing, vintage decor, and more.

Owning an Airstream Trailer

Often, Airstream trailers that were built 60 or 70 years ago are completely functional today. Most young travelers are using Airstream trailers to downsize and live minimally.

While doing it yourself is possible, it’s not always easy. You’ve got to master the electrical system, braking system, plumbing and several other very important mechanical systems to ensure that your Airstream is capable of going through a remodel and will be safe and fully functional while on the road.

Vintage Trailer Supply offers DIY enthusiasts “how to” books on managing and fixing these systems and service manuals so that fixing up your Airstream from the 1970s is a little bit easier.

Not only does Vintage Trailer Supply offer help with how to keep your Airstream up and running smoothly, there’s a whole list of non-commercial vintage trailer groups that you can reach out to. This will allow you to get connected with a DIY connoisseur who is already living small that may have answers to the things that you don’t know.

Once you’ve mastered the mechanics of your DIY refurbished Airstream, you’ll just need to add in your interior and exterior fixings to give your trailer that “at home” feel.

Vintage Trailer Supply has all your vintage needs , with items ranging from posters, fabrics, pillows, clothing and kitchen supplies. Doing it yourself can be hard, but at Vintage Trailer Supply fixing up your trailer can be a little bit easier with access to all of our resources and products when it comes to living small.

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