Monday, June 18, 2012

Postcards From Ohio - Airstream, the Rolls-Royce of RVs

"Adventure is where you find it, any place, every place, except at home in the rocking chair."  
(Wally Byam, Airstream founder)

One of the sightseeing highlights of our road trip through Ohio was our tour of the Airstream RV Factory.  Although we were not allowed to take pictures during the 3/4 mile walking tour through the factory, there were some interesting items I was permitted to photograph in the parking lot of the facility and in the lobby were we met to begin the tour.

Our tour guide was a likable elderly gentleman, carrying a microphone and a portable amplifying system strapped over his shoulder.  He had worked in the factory for 35 years before retiring, then came back to be a tour guide and has been doing that for the last 19 years.  We figure he knew what he was talking about, and he seemed to know every person in the place.  We learned some interesting things about the development of the Airstream RVs and saw some interesting displays, including this motorcycle and sidecar that Jesse James built for his (then) wife Sandra Bullock, and later traded to the Airstream company for a traditional Airstream RV.

Very shiny
As the story goes, Wally Byam invented the Airstream back in 1932 because his wife would not go camping with him unless he could find a way to bring along her kitchen.  He built a sleek, bullet-shaped trailer that included all the comforts of home.  He wanted it to travel the roads like a "stream of air," ----> Airstream.  Little did he know that it would become the Rolls-Royce of trailers, and be used by both common camping folks and celebrities and movie stars.

The oldest Airstream on the property was a 1935 model shaped like a large silver bullet.

There were other old models displayed out in front of the facility:

This was a very interesting and informative tour.  Although I cannot show you pictures from inside the manufacturing area, I can tell you some of the tidbits that impressed and surprised me:

1.  Approximately 4,000 rivets are installed by hand on each trailer.

2.  A high-grade aluminum skin seals the underbelly from beneath.

3.  In a water leak check bay, huge pumps spray hundreds of gallons of water on the top and sides of the RV body.  (We did not walk through this area.  Although we were wearing the provided safety glasses and ear plugs, we were not issued raincoats.)  Simultaneously, workers inside the unit are using flashlights to examine the seams and rivet holes for leaks.

4.  Once the RV shell is completed, the toilets are the first interior objects installed.  (They obviously have their priorities straight.)  

5.  All the cabinets and furniture are built in the plant.

6.  An average of 7 Airstream trailers are built each day.

7.  The workers work nine hour days on Monday through Thursday, and four hours on Friday. 

 My husband and I currently own a Sunline travel trailer with a slide out unit.  Prior to purchasing our camper, we had toured the Sunline factory.  (Since then it has closed up shop.)  It was remarkable to us how different the processes are of these two different companies.  Airstream builds from the upper shell down; Sunline builds the floor and furniture then adds the walls and rubber roof.

Would I want an Airstream trailer?  Possibly, but probably not.  I have heard stories from people who own them and love them, and from others who have had nothing but trouble and repairs.  Would I be willing to pay the ungodly and way higher than other trailers price for an Airstream trailer?  At this point no.  But who knows?  Things don't usually turn out the way I imagine they will. 

I guess that's what keeps life interesting.  

1 comment:

  1. You are correct that Air-Stream trailers set the benchmark for quality in traveltrailers, But today most people want all the comforts of home including space and that you can't find in an Air-Stream trailer. I have seen small to humungus Air-Streams and agree that for the cost have gone elsewhere and been very satisfied.

    It's about time.