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You’ve seen those iconic silver bullets going down the highway. Airstream RV has been around so long that it’s become a part of American history. These trailers are as “American” as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. But who owns Airstream RV?
Let’s take a closer look at this one-of-a-kind company.
The History of Airstream RV
Wally Byam built his own travel trailer and soon after, his neighbors also wanted their own. In 1931, he opened a small factory in Culver City, California. He probably had no idea how quickly his business would grow.
In the 1930s, the travel trailer industry exploded. By the time World War II started, there were around 400 manufacturers. However, wartime took a toll on most of them. Airstream RV was the only company that remained.
In fact, Airstream didn’t just survive; it thrived. By 1952, the company had outgrown its facility in Culver City. Wally decided to expand east and found a factory for sale in Jackson Center, Ohio.
Although the California plant closed in 1978, the manufacturing operations in Jackson Center continue today.
Most of the first 40 years of Airstream were spent manufacturing travel trailers. In 1974, the Argosy motorhome debuted. It didn’t see much success and was discontinued in 1979. However, it birthed new innovations that led to later motorhomes and touring coaches.
Today, Airstream RV produces both travel trailers and touring coaches. Its headquarters remain in Jackson Center, Ohio, and its annual revenue reached almost $10 million in 2022.
If only Wally could see how his garage-front business has become a multi-million-dollar company.
Who Owns Airstream RV?
After he suffered a heart attack, Wally began preparing for retirement. In 1957 he turned over Airstream RV to Andy Charles in Ohio and Art Costello in California. Just five years later, Wally passed away after battling cancer.
Over the next few decades, Airstream had several leadership changes. But it remained hugely successful.
Wade Thompson and Peter Orthwein, owners of Hi-Lo Trailers, sought to acquire Airstream RV in 1980. After this purchase, they formed a new company called Thor Industries.
About Thor Industries
After the purchase of Airstream in 1980, Thor Industries acquired the Canadian company General Coach in 1982. By the late-90s, Thor had added ElDorado Bus, Dutchmen Manufacturing, Four Winds International, Komfort Corporation, and Champion Bus to its family of brands.
Today Thor Industries is an RV empire as the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational vehicles. Its family of brands includes 16 North American RV manufacturers, 16 European Caravan manufacturers, and 17 other companies in the RV industry, like Dicor and Maxx Air.
What Types of RVs Does Airstream Manufacture Today?
Airstream RV manufactures nine travel trailers and six touring coaches. Some are suitable for a family, while others are better for overlanders. Let’s take a closer look at each class.
The largest and most expensive line is the Classic travel trailer. One floorplan measures 30 feet long, while the other is 33 feet. The Globetrotter, International, and Flying Cloud series also have 30-foot options. The Flying Cloud 30FB Bunk model sleeps the most people with room for eight.
The two smallest travel trailers include the Basecamp with 16 and 20-foot options and the REI Special Edition with a 16-foot model. The Caravel and Bambi round out the smaller options with floorplans from 16 to 22 feet long.
The REI Special Edition and Basecamp models don’t have a designated sleeping space but rather feature convertible options. They also have a wet bath and kitchen with a sink, two-burner stove, and refrigerator.
The larger Airstream travel trailers, except for the Bambi 16RB and Caravel 16RB, have dry baths. They also all have a dining area and a separate sleeping space. The Flying Cloud 30FB is the only Airstream travel trailer with bunk beds.
Airstream RV has five touring coaches built on the Sprinter chassis and one unit built on the RAM ProMaster chassis. The most expensive option, the Atlas, is 24 feet long and features a Murphy bed that pulls down over a three-seater sofa.
It also has a full dry bath in the rear, and a kitchen with a two-burner stove, sink, convection microwave, slide-out pantry, and refrigerator with freezer.
The Interstate 24X is also 24 feet long. However, it has a wet bath and a large lounge space in the rear of the unit that can you can convert into a sleeping area.
Like the Interstate 24X, the Interstate 24GL is 24 feet long but offers nine seats for easy traveling with friends. It has five seats in the rear and four seats in the front of the unit.
The last of the 24-foot Interstate models is the 24GT. It’s similar to the 24GL with the five rear seats, but instead of the additional two seats behind the cab, the 24GT has more kitchen and storage space.
The Interstate 19 is similar to the other models, with lounge space in the rear, a wet bath, and a full kitchen. It’s just smaller at 19 feet.
The Rangeline, which is the only Airstream Class B built on a RAM ProMaster chassis, is the cheapest option and measures 21 feet long. It has a two-seater booth behind the cab for additional seating during travel. The Rangeline also has a European suspension system that supports a full-size bed and provides underneath storage.
What Makes an Airstream RV Unique?
The most unique feature of Airstream travel trailers is their iconic silver bullet design. It has no slides, but the interiors are functional, sleek, and modern.
Many Airstream owners enjoy their spaces because they don’t have to worry about slide failure but still have ample room to move about because of the excellent interior design.
Keep in Mind: Before you decide to buy an Airstream, see these 5 regrets of owning an Airstream RV
Are Airstream RVs Good Quality?
Another reason Airstreams are so special is they’re built so well. Airstreams are often passed down from generation to generation. They come so durable they can outlast many of their owners.
It’s likely you’ll find a used Airstream that may have been manufactured in the 1980s for more than a new travel trailer produced by another brand.
The furniture comes tailored to fit the unique shape of the travel trailers. The aluminum shell is aircraft quality. So you’ll find that the reason for the high cost and high quality.
How Much Is an Airstream RV?
You’ll have huge price differences among the various models. The travel trailers range from $46,000 to $188,100, and the touring coaches range from $147,570 to $289,911. The price will vary depending on the line (like the Classic, the Bambi, the Rangeline, etc.) and the specific floorplan.
However, it’s also important to note that even though new Airsreams come with a high price tag, they also resell for much higher than their counterparts. They retain their value for much longer rather than depreciating tens of thousands of dollars when you drive them off the lot.
Keep in Mind: It’s no secret Airstreams aren’t cheap! Here’s Where to Find Used Airstreams for Sale That Aren’t a Scam
Is an Airstream RV Right for You?
Even with the top quality, unique design, and numerous floorplans, an Airstream RV isn’t for everyone. First, not everyone can afford one.
But secondly, these trailers and coaches are mostly designed for two or three people. With only one model with bunk beds, most families likely won’t look at an Airstream for their next RV.
But if you want a high-quality RV built by a well-respected brand in the RV industry, perhaps an Airstream is right for you. But with so many options, which one will you choose?