Airstream Motorhomes: The New Era
By: Lisa Renee Sherman
The very same year that Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory hit the silver screen, Beatrice Companies wished to expand and explore other avenues for the famous Airstream trailer. What better time to enter the world of motorhomes, than when the Bee Gees, John Denver, and Janis Joplin could be streaming over the radio? The 70’s proved to be just as much of a change for Airstream as it was for the American culture. Check out these Airstreams on Ebay right now!
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By this time, Anti-war protests became the norm, and the civil rights movement was gaining momentum. The classic image of the typical 50’s family had been shed and much of the free and liberal ideology from the 60’s had become standard. With the entire country shifting and struggling to re-identify itself, it isn’t hard to believe that new ownership of an established company, such as Airstream, would face radical changes itself.
The major food processing giant of Beatrice Companies was connected to major household names such as Hunt’s, Krispy Kreme, and Butterball. This is merely a sampling of brands that Beatrice oversaw during the lifespan of the company. It was a large household name, and numerous of their products are still name brands today.
In 1894, a small town in Nebraska became the birth of a tiny milk and egg food business. Beatrice Foods, named after the town it resided in, grew and prospered. This family owned farm grew over the years into one of the largest distribution companies in the food industry. One of the most significant focuses that Beatrice Companies brought to Airstream was the desire for Airstream motorhomes.
The production doors in Versailles, Ohio flew open and soon the assembly of the new Airstream Motorhomes began. By 1979 there were three different styles of motorhomes produced. They were the Argosy, an Airstream (known as a painted Airstream), and then lastly the true “silver bullet” Airstream. Each of these were a test in concept and design. Restorers agree that the last model contained the key trademarks of Airstream.
The first to be unveiled was the Argosy Motorhome. One of the main differences of the Argosy is that it had one complete steel roof section. This differs from the typical Airstream motor home that uses five aluminum panels instead of one complete section. Historians of vintage Airstream note that the interior of the Argosy Motorhomes are adequate, but not at the same standard the other styles of motorhomes.
Many newcomers to the Airstream community are thrown off track by the sight of a “painted” Airstream. Most restores of vintage Airstreams agree that a painted Airstream is virtually the Argosy style but with the addition of the Airstream logo. They were usually painted silver directly at the factory, which also offered a wide red or blue stripe along the side.
Finally, true passionate Airstream enthusiates were enthralled with the development of the “silver bullet” motorhome. This is the style that captured the traits of the Airstream travel trailer and was placed into the structure of a motorhome.
Each of these Airstream classic motorhomes were offered in lengths that ranged from 20’ to 30’. A traditional feature that became established was that of the tambour doors. They started in the early 70’s and still remain in various applications today. In the years of 1970-73 the tambour selected for use was a durable paper backed with a 3/8th strip face. Starting in 1974, the company switched from durable paper to canvas backed and also changed from 3/8th to a ½” strip face.
The wind of change ushered in the 80’s for Airstream with the new ownership of Thor Industries. Airstream was left in troubled water due to the rising of gasoline prices and loss of sales. Mounting requests of newer and more contemporary models met Thor Industries, and soon became a realization. The desire to stay competitive with current industry competition, along with satisfying consumer demands prompted in a new fleet line of motorhomes.
The Land Yacht Motorhome was the first in 1989, followed up by the Safari in 1998. The millennium brought partnership with DaimlerChrysler and the new touring coaches were produced. These newer motorhomes might not have the “classic” look of the vintage motorhomes of yesterday, but still hold the essence of the Airstream brand.
One of the great things about Airstream is that it offers a wide variety to the consumer. If one is looking to relive yesterday, then the vintage models are a perfect fit. With them comes more maintenance, but offer a unique flare that can capture the heart. The new models are much easier to maintain, and offer the comforts of a modern era. No matter what, each model continues to offer consumers the ability to explore, and the freedom to go where ever the wind of change takes them.
If your looking for Airstream motorhomes for sale then search this page above and you are sure to find many for sale!
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