Curtis Wright


Curtis Wright

Made by Curtis Wright Industries’ Aircraft & Trailers (no relationship to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation)

If you are an owner of a Curtis Wright, please add your contact name, email, model, and serial number below. It would be interesting to find as many CW trailers that are still out there. If you need help posting pictures or adding info here email your info, and I will be happy to add it here.

I am also starting a CW Registry to help determine how many of these trailers are still survivors. If you have or know of other CW owners, please contact me so that I can add it to a list. Your info will be kept private.

Cliff Uyeda: cliff.uyeda@gmail.com

If you’d like a Curtis Wright Registry decal – contact Dal Smilie @ dalsmilie@aol.com

Find additional photos, and owners for the Model 2 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/655580971216444/

Find more photos for all models of the Curtis Wright Model 2, 4, 5, and 7: http://www.uyeda.net/curtiswright/index.php/

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Manufacturer Information

…snip… Curtis Wright, who moved to LA from Michigan before the war to start a manufacturing plant, hired Wally Byam. After the war in 1946, they started production of a new post-war travel trailer based on Wally’s pre-war Airstream Clipper & Silver Cloud models at the LA Metropolitan Airport. After some months they went their separate ways, forming the Airstream Co. and Curtis Wright Travel Trailers. This appears to be why late ’30’s Airstreams and 1940’s Curtis Wright’s look very similar. In June 1949, three individuals, Kenny Neptune, Frank Pollito and “Pat” Patterson, who had met each other while working for Douglas Aircraft, acquired the trailer business from Mr. Wright and began producing trailers under the Silver Streak name in south El Monte California -which it continued into the 1970’s as a separate company. source:http://www.vintageairstream.com/FAQ/FAQ_1.html

Curtiss-Wright manufactured airplanes during the 1940’s, 1950’s. The trailers were made at the Curtis-Wright facilities, but a man bearing the name of Curtis Wright (without the extra “s”) took advantage of his name to build trailers, and hired Wally Byam founder of Airstream to continue the Clipper designs. This relationship only lasted for a few months.

Trivia question if someone knows the answer. What is the relationship between the Curtiss-Wright aviation manufacturer, and the man named Curtis Wright? (Al Hesselbart RV Historian for the RV Hall of Fame) – There is absolutely no connection between NY native world reknown motorcycle racer Glenn Curtiss – partner with Orville and Wilbur Wright in Curtiss-Wright Aviation and also inventor of the fifth-wheel hitch and the Curtiss Aerocar (based in Ft Lauderdale, FL) (the first fifth-wheel trailers started in 1917) and Curtis Wright the California manufacturer of Curtis Wright trailers that Wally Byam worked for briefly and using the Airsteam/Bowlus style aluminum segment roof design.

From Douglas Keister:

When I made my first explorations into trailer history in 2001, I was told that Curtiss-Wright Corporation (a huge corporation that was formed by aviation pioneers Glenn Curtiss and the Wright Brothers) made some trailers in the 1940s and was subsequently acquired by Wally Byam the founder of Airstream. When a supposed Curtiss-Wright trailer was pointed out to me, I noticed that the nameplate said Curtis Wright Industries I was told it was a typo or maybe Curtiss-Wright had two “brands”. It seemed unlikely, but that’s what I was told. It sort of made sense because aircraft pioneer Glenn Curtiss developed the fifth wheel trailer in the early 1930s based on aircraft principles.

And here the tale becomes very convoluted. In 1927, a man by the name of Curtis Wright built a small 33-foot wingspan airplane and someone at the United States Department of Commerce erroneously inserted a hyphen into the registration documents, then later documents added an additional “s”. Mr. Curtis Wright even had a small airfield at Halfway, Michigan near Detroit. It was alternately named Curtis Wright Airport and Selfridge Field. By World War II Curtis Wright was making inexpensive trailers, small airplanes and had plans for a small helicopter. In 1944, Curtis Wright Industries was making trailers sheathed in “homosote” a material similar in composition to papier-mâché. After the war, Wally Byam, who had been working for Curtis Wright after Byam’s Airstream company had gone bankrupt, convinced Curtis Wright to let Byam design a streamlined aluminum trailer based on Byam’s earlier Airstreams. That trailer was called a Curtis Wright and bears a nameplate stating Curtis Wright Industries Los Angeles. After a couple years of production, Byam and Curtis parted ways. Byam restarted Airstream and Curtis Wright sold his trailer manufacturing to a company that became Silver Streak. Thus, for a few years Byam’s Airstream actually competed with is own design at Silver Streak. WHEW!

Got all that? There is more to the story, but those are the basics. It is very difficult to research, even on the Internet since search engines ask, “did you mean Curtiss-Wright?” and even when you try to specify “Curtis Wright” in quotes the results are very mixed. See, I told you I could write pages!

Years built

1946-1949 Trivia Question: How many of each trailer models were made under Wally Byams directions, and how many trailers were produced after the 1947 separation. Wally Byam then started Airstream, Inc. in mid-1947. Wally actually started Airstream in 1932 making a masonite and plywood kit trailer looking nothing like the Clipper. The classic airstream design is a result of his taking over the work of Hawley Bowlus and the Bowlus-Teller Company who designed the segmented aluminum roof to look like the sailplanes that he built of wood and silk. Wally worked for Lockheed during the war while Airsteam was shut down by rationing of aluminum and worked his brief post-war stint with Wright before resuming Airstream production.

Curtis-Wright Auction-4-18-49

Models

Model 1, Model 2, Model 3, Model 4, Model 5, Model 7 Lengths: 16, 22, 27, and 31 foot Are there other models/designs? How are the serial numbers sequentialed? How many were made of each model?

Flagship, Cruiser, or Sleeper model? 1948, Serial Number 8180 (no identification tag present, this number stamped into frame near coupling). Possibly a prototype. Built on steel ladder frame. Overall length 28′-0“ x 7′-10” Overall width. Interior height 6′-4“. Two doors on opposite sides. Charly Bournazos clbx@mac.com

Unique features/Options

Advertisments: March 1947 issue of Trailer Topics Magazine. Side, and or front galleys 22′ models under 1,500 lbs.

2-22-08. For a photo of the prewar Airstream trailer that I believe is the design source for the CW Model 2, see my 8 page article in the Spring 2008 issue of Airstream Life magazine, www.airstreamlife.com. If you do not subscribe, this issue will soon be available in certain book stores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. Enjoy! Fred Coldwell, VAC Historian & Airstream Life “Old Aluminum Adventures” columnist.

Model 1

Here is the trailer we just bought back when it wasn’t a project. Chris Chapman and I will go down and get it in early Nov

Here is the earliest known Airstream cousin, the 1946 Model 1 Curtis Wright with its family. Prior to being parked in 1961 after they jackknifed and rolled their Ford Galaxie on its side after hitting a bull in Oregon. I wish it were in this good of shape now.

Here is #429 back in its day

Here’s a couple more trailer pictures. Lots of memories, sycamore flats and camp 15 in Yosemite. That’s a ’49 ford in the first picture. If one could blow up- Enlarge- the license plate it might tell the registration date. When we drove from Yosemite to Manhattan Beach we had to go over the Tejon Pass (Grapevine south of Bakersfield) and the ford only had about 50-55 horse power…so we always boiled. Dad rigged up a system ( ten gallon water tank in the trunk with a perforated copper pipe over the radiator and me pumping a large bicycle pump to put pressure into the tank and squirt water onto the radiator, thereby keeping the system from boiling….an us having to stop, on the side of the road, till the temp went down. It was a two lane road up over the summit with trucks in theft lane and invariably a VW Bug would pull out in front of dad and he would have to slow down and ,,,,,,,,you guessed it. The car boiled and we had to pull over, sometimes till nite fall and cooler temps. I’ll keep looking for photos.

Tried to edit the photo to get better clarity. Looks like De Ette is about two years old, therefore 1949 to 1950. The car was pretty new at that time since it is a 1949 Ford.

Model 2

Find more info and other owners on Facebook for Curtis Wright Model 2. Let everyone know you found this link on Tin Can Tourists!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/655580971216444/

Rob & Shari Davis rob@insideout-design.net shari@insideout-design.net, 1946 Model 2, Serial 5656, Evergreen, Colorado. Former owners.

Jody O’dell jodyodel@hotmail.com, Model 2, serial 5047, Folsom, CA. Earliest SN found so far. Visit webpage for more info on this trailer: http://www.ourtincan.com

Before: 

After: 

Don Connell diggerdude@bluefrog.com, Model 2, serial 5419, Newark, New York

Brad Taylor merc52man@comcast.net, Model 2, serial 5496, Salem OR

James Wright Model 2, serial 5286 pics soon

Steve Hingtgen Model 2, serial 5061. Complete restoration with only minor mods. Uncommon original steel Hehr Standard windows on sides rather than more typical slider windows. (Only steel version of Hehr Standard windows known. The earliest occurrence of Hehr Standard windows known.) Photos available in an album on Vintage Trailer Supply’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.706682689361444.1073741834.107409222622130

Model 3

The only Model 3 Curtis Wright known.


More pictures of this trailer: http://www.uyeda.net/curtiswright/index.php/Curtis-Wright-Model-3/CW-0528?page=1

Model 4

The only known model 4

Model 5

Nathan Stephens: Woodland, CA, nhs@usa.net: 1947 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8015

Mark Darch: S.W. Missouri, markedarch@gmail.com: Model 5, Serial 8036

Stephan Bolliger, stephan.bolliger@bluewin.ch: owner from Switzerland;1947 Curtis Wright, Modell 5, Serial 8039,

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Mike Armbrust: Chula Vista, CA, mike@chulavistaphoto.com: 1947 Curtis Wright, MOdel 5, Serial 8054

Cliff Uyeda, cuyeda@outlook.com: 1947 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8060, Long Beach,CA Please contact me if you are an owner. I would like to exchange info on history, and restoration tips.

Bill Speaker: Tipton, MI, SPYTIMES@aol.com: 1947 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8081

Chris and Pat Huotari: 1947 Curtis Wright pictured in “Silver Palaces” by Douglas Keister, pg.98

Robert Lau:Silverthorne CO, robertflau@gmail.com: 1947 Curtis Wright Model 5, Serial 8086

Ed Francisco: edinla90703@yahoo.com,Cerritos, CA, 1947 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8090

Mark Olson, molsons@telus.net: 1947 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8102

*Owner unknown: 1947 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8103

Bill and Candy Fisher billcanfish@gmail.com: 1947 Model 5, Serial 8124,

Name plate

Philip Dillon, philip_usa@yahoo.com: 1947 Model 5, Serial 8160

Robert Jarrett bobbyjarrett@juno.com 1947 Model 5, Serial 8168 Fully restored.

Dal Smilie, dalsmilie@aol.com: 1949 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8225

Kevin Barnes 1947 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8251

*1948 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8253, now in the UK, owners Suzie and Dani, currently being restored

Bob And Linda Bryan, rbryan@citlink.net, 1948 Curtis Wright Model 5, Serial 8254 Has a dealer emblem: R-K Trailer Co., St. Joseph, MO, Topeka, KS, Booneville, MO

George Sikat, georgesikat@gmail.com:1949 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8265 In Alaska, On Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/1941CurtisWright.Model5

Mark Frey, ohjeeze00@yahoo.com:1949 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8279

Jeremy Burmeister, frockman@gmail.com: Curtis wright Model 5, serial 8283

*Owner unknown: 1949 Curtis Wright, Model 5, Serial 8560

2-22-08. For more exterior and interior photos of the believed Model 5 prototype and a very early production Model 5 Clipper, see my 8 page article in the Spring 2008 issue of Airstream Life magazine, www.airstreamlife.com. If you do not subscribe, this issue will soon be available in certain book stores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. Enjoy! Fred Coldwell, VAC Historian & Airstream Life “Old Aluminum Adventures” columnist.

Dayton Taylor, owner of 1949 Curtis Wright, FULLY restored, available FOR SALE on www.VintageTrailerCrazy.com

Amie French & Rich Simpson, simpsonbuilds@gmail.com, Owners of unknown year Curtis Wright, very rough still but plans to restore, Model 5 Serial 8177….photos pending

MODEL 6

Fred and Tami Rylaarsdam Lynden, WA Model 6 Flagship Model https://www.tincantourists.com/wiki/lib/exe/fetch.php?w=120&h=90&t=1488410941&tok=58895e&media=curtiswright:img_0096.jpg

In restoration process. Will be a frame off project. Serial #7132

http://theladyinthestonehouse.blogspot.com/2016/04/you-can-call-me-lucy.html

Model F7

Steve Bittner, herkypig@hotmail.com, Curtis Wright model F7, Serial 8263

Magazine photos

Curtis Wright Trailer Travel Magazine December 1946

A Linco Level- Load installed on a Curtis-Wright Trailer Travel Magazine April 1947

A good group to chat about Curtis Wright trailers is in the Airstream forums. Go to the “Airstream Knowledge Base”, “Vintage Kin” sections.

http://www.airstreamforums.com http://www.airforums.com/forums/f417/

SPECIAL INTEREST

Earliest-known factory Airstream meets earliest-known Byam-built Curtis Wright trailer

Curtis Wright Model 1 (left) and Airstream Silver Cloud (right). Photos courtesy Dal Smilie.

Somehow it seems fitting that, though the earliest-known factory-built Airstream featured entirely wooden construction, a full sheathing of aluminum nevertheless preserved it, ensuring a reunion of sorts with the earliest-known Curtis Wright trailer — another one of Wally Byam’s creations — this past summer.

Though sleek flanks of highly polished aluminum riveted together in a breadloaf shape have become emblematic for the Airstream, Byam didn’t pioneer the construction method or even use it for his earliest travel trailers. Instead, after experimenting with travel trailers in the late Twenties — reportedly to continue seeing the world after he left the merchant marines for a career in advertising and publishing — he first offered Airstreams in about 1931 only as plans or as a kit that the customer had to source parts for, assemble, wire, and plumb themselves using primarily plywood and Masonite.

While the first riveted-aluminum Airstreams — inspired by Hawley Bowlus’ boattailed 1934 Road Chief — appeared in 1936 with the Clipper, Byam had already moved from backyard builder to full-on travel trailer producer when he moved into a factory on Los Angeles’ West 22nd Street and followed up his DIY Torpedo Car Cruiser with the Silver Cloud. Like the kit-built Airstreams, the Silver Cloud relied on Masonite and plywood — and little else — for their structure and for their sheathing.

During World War II, Byam figured that travel trailers weren’t necessary for the war effort, so he shuttered his factory and went to work for Lockheed and then Los Angeles’ Curtis Wright Industries (an altogether different company from Buffalo-based Curtiss-Wright Corporation), putting his aluminum expertise to work assembling aircraft.

As the war came to a close, Byam reportedly had drawn up plans to start a camping store and catalog business, but Curtis Wright management — looking ahead to a postwar economy that didn’t need quite as many aircraft suppliers — approached Byam with plans to diversify into the travel trailer business. With aluminum in short supply, however, Byam had to revert to wooden construction for the first Curtis Wright-built trailers. Byam’s relationship with Curtis Wright didn’t last long, however: After a dispute over money, Byam left the company and restarted Airstream in 1947.

One of those Curtis Wright trailers, a Model 1 with serial number 429, sold new to Ken and Elaine Hunter of Manhattan Beach, California. The Hunters enjoyed it for a good 15 years until they hit a bull outside of St. George, Utah, while returning from a camping trip to Minnesota. While the bull and the Hunter family emerged unscathed from the incident, the trailer suffered a bowed wall, a gash in the skin, a tweaked frame, and a severe maple syrup spill inside. Rather than scrap the trailer, the Hunters decided to simply remove the wheels and park it for the next 55 years.

Though it had deteriorated over the decades, Oregon-based Dal Smilie recognized the trailer’s significance, bought it from the Hunter family, and turned it over to Chris and Trina Chapman to have it restored. “We tried to do it as original as possible down to the screws,” Smilie said.

At about the same time, Chuck and Toni Miltenberger of Saugus, California, had started work on their 1936 Airstream Silver Cloud, serial number 199, which Chuck found in Van Nuys. While they didn’t get as much of the history of the Silver Cloud as Smilie did with the Model 1, they did discover a relatively intact trailer that retained all of its original wood and fixtures, thanks to a sheath of aluminum over the Masonite installed sometime during the 1950s.

(Sheathing old Masonite exterior surfaces also helped preserve Dr. Norman Holman’s Airstream Torpedo, officially recognized as the oldest existing Airstream, which Holman built from a set of plans he purchased from Byam in 1935 and later skinned in aluminum  in the 1960s to prevent rock damage from gravel roads.)

The restorations on both trailers wrapped within the last couple of years — the Silver Cloud’s in February 2017, and the Model 1’s a year later — and both trailers converged on this year’s Vintage Airstream Club 25th anniversary rally in Bend, Oregon, pulled by a 1937 Chrysler Airflow and a 1948 Studebaker M5 pickup, respectively. While both Smilie and the Miltenbergers acknowledge that examples of their trailers with lower serial numbers could exist, theirs are the lowest-known serial numbers and thus the earliest-known examples of their trailers.

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