Airstream. Just hearing the name evokes rosy images from the golden age of road trips, with high-socked families piling out in tie-dye clothing to peer at a redwood or gasp to one another about how far the view of the Grand Canyon stretches. Unwaveringly American in every capacity, the iconic design is still produced in Jackson Center, Ohio, the same place it's been since founder Wally Byam moved it there from LA in 1952. As we plow through the dregs of winter while eagerly awaiting the signs of proper road trip weather, here's celebrating Airstream's legacy of domestic travel close to the ground with 16 things you should know about this classic American land yacht.
1. Airstream was invented by a lawyer who started building trailers as a hobby.
His name was Wally Byam, and he was also friendly with the God of Rastafarianism, Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (middle).
2. The idea came about because Wally's wife refused to go camping without a kitchen.
She had standards. He understood and acted accordingly.
3. Launched in 1936, the first Airstream slept four.
And it cost only $1,200 ($20,265.13 in today's dollars). However, founder Wally Byam had undercut himself four years earlier by writing an article called: “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars." It sold 15,000 copies, at $1 each. These original models carried their own water supply.
4. Airstream is the only travel trailer company to survive the Great Depression.
Not to mention the aluminum rationing of World War II.
5. There's a whole culture based on Airstreams.
Wally Byam originally rounded up groups of Airstream owners, or "Airstreamers
" as they were called, for gatherings and trips.
6. Like, crazy international trips.
This one certainly made the rounds.
7. Apollo 11 astronauts were quarantined in a modified Airstream after returning from the moon.
After Apollo 14, the quarantine process was scrapped when they determined you couldn't catch weird alien diseases on the moon. Here's the trailer today
8. The Air Force uses Airstreams in cargo planes to transport officials in a civilized manner.
People like Dick Cheney would hang out in his private Airstream chambers while the plebs rode coach.
9. It takes 280 man-hours to build an Airstream.
That's 1.67 man-weeks.
10. The unique design isn't a style thing—it's there to minimize wind resistance.
But it's also a style thing, obviously.
11. Airstreams are the Rolex Submariners of the motor home industry.
When they're finished, every Airstream spends 40 minutes under 100 PSI of water pressure to ensure water-resistance.
12. In 2006, nearly 70 percent of all Airstreams ever built were still rolling.
Because they made them right the first time. And this is counting the ones that were used as mobile offices during the atomic bomb testing.
13. The Airstream founder was born on July 4th.
And you thought they couldn't get any more American.
14. The penthouse of South Africa's Grand Daddy Hotel has 7 Airstreams.
But sadly no video of the hotel getting them up there.
15. Matthew McConaughey has an airstream with his face on it.
Because he's that Hollywood.
16. Well, he has three, but who's counting?
They are decorated exactly as you'd expect, and he lived in a 28-foot one for several years. Architectural Digest
did a piece on his love for the 'stream a few years ago. Check it out
Ethan Wolff-Mann is an editor at Supercompressor. He hopes that someday, this will all be his. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.