Peter Farran

Design Classic Number 40: Airstream Trailer

In Design, Design Classics on July 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Airstream TrailerImage by mwichary

Could This Be The Grand Daddy of All Design Classics?


Creator: Wally Byam
Created: 1929
Origin: Jackson, Ohio, USA

I’m not sure why I waited this long to write about the Airstream since it could very well be the grand-daddy of all design classics. The airstream is an aluminum clad camping trailer with characteristic streamlined form. The Airstream was born out of a need for an inexpensive means of living autonomously on the open road.

The Airstream is fabricated from aluminium panels riveted over a hooped aluminum framework. Whilst Wally created his first prototype Airstreams in his garden in the late 1920s and sold self-build plans in great quantities shortly afterwards it wasn’t until 1936 that he started large scale production based on increasing consumer demand.

Although Wally Byam started putting together prototype Airstreams in his backyard in Masonite, Los Angeles, it wasn’t until he acquired an ailing aircraft factory in Jackson, Ohio that he was able to supply Airstreams in larger quantities. Wally Byam was an offbeat inventor, a natural showman and a successful businessman but above all, he had the vision for a design which has brought happiness to many and become an icon of American culture.


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