The Airstream Heritage Center Honors the Legacy of This Iconic RV Brand

As more people find opportunities to work remotely, working while traveling has also become more popular. Airstream recognized this trend and introduced the new Flying Cloud Office in conjunction with the company’s 90th anniversary in 2021. The following year, and this summer, the RV maker will open the Airstream Heritage Center, which is designed to share the story of this iconic brand. 

What is the Airstream Heritage Center?

Airstream Heritage Center
Airstream trailer | Francisco Ruiz Troyano/Moment Editorial via Getty Images

Airstream reported building a 750,000-square-foot facility in 2018 in Jackson Center, Ohio. The facility marks the RV brand’s first new manufacturing plant in 50 years. It provides a “continued commitment to the quality and craftsmanship” by offering better lighting, more efficiency, and process controls to promote better product quality. 

The Airstream Heritage Center occupies part of the new plant and gives visitors an immersive history of the Airstream RV brand and the people who inspired it. The Airstream museum is currently scheduled to open this summer.

Who founded Airstream?

Wally Byam is the founder of Airstream. In 1931, when Byam opened his first small trailer factory in Culver City, California, he probably never dreamed that one day his trailers would sell for upward of $200,000, Forbes reports. 

However, the Heritage Center likely aligns closely with Byam’s vision for his company. After all, at its roots, Airstream’s mission is “to create well-designed, high-quality products that allow people to follow their dreams and explore the world in home-like comfort.”

The story of an iconic RV maker

Wally Byam’s first Airstream trailer, a teardrop style he called the Torpedo, debuted in 1931. It didn’t resemble the image that springs to most people’s minds when they think of the iconic silver Airstream travel trailer. However, that changed in 1936 when he introduced the Airstream Clipper, with its riveted aluminum body and curvaceous exterior. The Airstream Clipper also featured insulated exterior walls, wood-finished cabinetry, and customizable floor plans. 

After the company struggled through the Great Depression, Byam closed the Airstream production facility while the United States restricted the use of aluminum to prepare for World War II. During the war, Byam worked in the aviation industry and emerged with new engineering and manufacturing skills that inspired the creation of the Airstream Liner in 1947. 

Then, in 1951, Byam organized a caravan comprising 63 travel trailers of all kinds to cruise from El Paso, Texas, to Managua, Nicaragua. Though only 14 trailers made it all the way, the event provided media coverage that resulted in untold marketing reach, showing people how easily and comfortably they could travel in an Airstream trailer

Though Byam said he would never attempt another caravan at the end of the Nicaragua trip, he led several more trips throughout the 1950s and formed the Wally Byam Caravan Club in 1955. 

In 1958, Airstream released its International travel trailer as a self-contained camper capable of boondocking without hookups. To highlight the International’s capabilities, Byam led a caravan of 106 people from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt, in 1960. 

Visit the Airstream museum in Summer 2022 to learn more about Airstream’s history

The Airstream Heritage Center opens in Summer 2022 and will house 90 years’ worth of memorabilia, from “rare vintage Airstreams to displays of caravan treasures, never-before-seen films, and more.” Airstream describes the Heritage Center as “a celebration of the hard work, creativity, passion, and adventure that made the past 90 years possible and continues to inspire the road ahead.”

And though the company’s founder died in 1962, Byam’s adventuresome spirit lives on at the Airstream museum. If you’re interested in learning more about this iconic RV brand, visit the Airstream Heritage Center in Jackson Center when it opens later this year.

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