Book review: Airstream: America’s World Traveler

The shiny aluminum Airstream is one of three vehicles most likely to be pictured when the average American sees the word “camper.”  (The other two, for the record, are the classic heavy-browed Winnebago Brave and the 1973-78 GMC Motorhome.)  Airstream maintains one of the strongest followings in the RV industry, with club whose annual rallies date back to the 1950s.  Airstream has been around for 85 years now, and the sight of a sea of polished silver trailers at an Airstream gathering remains one of the coolest campground sights around.

COVER JPEG Airstream: America’s World Traveler is a comprehensive history of the beloved polished-aluminum camper, tracing the brand’s history from its inception as the brainchild of founder Wally Bynum’s wanderlust to its quality and innovation-driven growth into an industry leader.  Airstream has thrived in part thanks to a singularity of purpose that has made it an icon in the RV industry, and through a genuine enthusiasm for its industry.  The brand’s dedication to luxury travel and maintaining a close relationship with its customers have served it through many ups and downs over the years.  High adventure in Central America!  Corporate infighting!  Master engineers and classic cars!  This book has them all.

Airstream: America’s World Traveler is as much the story of Wally Bynum’s philosophy on life and approach to living as it is about the company he created.  That’s fitting, as the brand itself often acted as a tribute to the way Bynum wanted to see the world.  The massive Airstream caravans that traveled all around the globe served as a unique way for the founder to share his vision with his customers, and helped to establish the active Airstream clubs that still gather today.  It’s tempting to say that companies aren’t run like this anymore, but then we live in a very different world now.  The story of Bynum and Airstream makes for compelling reading nonetheless.

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Author Patrick R. Foster is best known as an AMC historian, and he lends a charming tone to the narrative of Bynum and Airstream’s saga.   Airstream: America’s World Traveler (ISBN: 978076034999)is a handsome, 192-page coffee table book that’ll look right at home on your RV’s folding coffee table, perhaps.  It’s available from Amazon and other retailers.

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