I got into trailers about ten years ago when I purchased a ’49 Spartan to use as a backdrop for an outdoor food concession at my restaurant. I found it sitting on the same lot in Rhode Island where it had been delivered decades before. It was only ninety minutes away and I towed it home on its original tires, outlaw style, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. The interior was a water soaked, mouse infested disaster and had to be completely gutted, but I still saw the beauty in it.
The initial search brought me to the usual sites and forums like Craigslist, ebay, Airforums, and Tin Can Tourists. All great sources for information and trailers “for sale”. Within a month or two I bought a ’50 Silver Streak in Reno, (picked up by a friend in California) and a ’89 Airstream 325 motorhome in Albany that broke down twice on the drive home. This was the beginning of the manic collecting binge that would follow over the next few years. I drove all over the country, met a lot of interesting people, and pulled a lot of old trailers out of some equally interesting places.
In no particular order I purchased a ’35 Bowlus Road Chief in Los Angeles, a “47 Liner from Ontario, Canada, a 60’s 36 foot Airstream built to be carried on a rail car for the Southern Pacific RR from Austin, another ’48 liner from Ohio, a ’50 Spartan Executive Mansion from Massachusetts, a ’36 Airstream Clipper from California, another Airstream 370 Motorhome from Minnesota, a ‘53 Spartan 37’ double ender from California, another ’53 Double ender from Minnesota again, a ‘72 Airstream Tradewind and another 70’s Airstream that I can’t remember (both from Maine), and the ’48 Curtis Wright now listed here for sale from Saint Louis.
Once the tally reached a dozen, I didn’t need a psychiatrist to tell me that things were getting out of hand. I realized it would take several lifetimes of spare time to ever get at them all. The pre-war trailers were awesome, but so historically precious that they demanded more of a commitment than I was able to make. They have moved on to a loving home in Michigan for extensive restoration. The two Liners are now in England, and the big Spartan Mansion went to Europe. The others have disbursed back across the US.
Somewhere along the line I heard the difference between trailer people and motorhome people described as the difference between sail boaters and power boaters. Having always been kind of a car/motorcycle guy, I’m the latter, and the motorhomes have become the focus of my attention. The 1989 Airstream 370 is the longest of the “Classic” riveted aluminum coaches with only 33 ever made, and only during that one year of production. For me, it’s like my hot rod. I haven’t found the time to travel much with it, so it’s more of a “garage queen” that gets out for an occasional Sunday drive. It is mechanically complex, with all the systems of a trailer on top of everything that can go wrong with a 35-year-old bus. Trailers are neat, but they don’t offer the “driving experience” of sitting high above traffic and looking out through that big panoramic windshield. I also prefer the self-contained nature of the motorhome, and the sense of security it offers. You can pull over anywhere, draw the curtains, crash for the night, wake up, grab a bite and a shower, and hit the road without ever stepping outside. The “72 Tradewind is getting reconfigured to carry a couple of bikes and will be towed behind the coach.
I look forward to attending more events in the future when time permits.
For what it’s worth, that’s my crazy trailer story.