Vintage Trailers: Still the Coolest Caravans on Road

Great American Country takes a look at some restored classic camping trailers like Airstreams and Scotties.
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Where Glamping Started

While the term "glamping" is just now becoming part of the vernacular, camping in style started with our grandparents. They rolled out in Airtstreams, Serros, Shastas and Spartans while modern-day vintage caravan enthusiasts meet almost every night on Facebook pages looking for parts and advice or just to show off interior triumphs. They also hit the road and meet up all across the country every year attending rallies and meet ups. Because let's face it; what's the use of having a cool vintage camper if you can't show it off.

Photo credit: Monica Bennett

Bowlus Road Chief

Hawley Bowlus, an aviation designer responsible for the Spirit of St. Louis piloted by Charles Lindberg, designed the Bowlus Road Chief. Only 80 were produced making an original not only incredibly rare but crazy expensive. A 1934 Papoose recently sold at auction for over $93,000; its original price was $750. The caravans were designed with traveling salesmen in mind, and they only weighed 700 pounds.

Photo credit: Monica Bennett

Road Chief Interior

This is the restored interior of a 1935 Bowlus Road Chief. Tech entrepreneurs John Long and Helena Mitchell recently bought the rights and patents to the trailers and are taking production orders. The husband and wife team have been traveling the country towing their Bowlus and you can keep up with their travels on their Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Bowlus Road Chief

The Classic Airstream

Wally Bynum built the first Airstream in 1929 for personal use, and opened the first factory in Culver City, Calif. in 1931. This is a classic ad from the 50s.

Photo courtesy Airstream

Before: Airstream

Matt and Cheryl Wharton of Bella Vista, AR bought their first Airstream for just under $900. They spent $20,000 gutting and restoring the 1970 Caravel. They decided to rip out the kitchen, which cut the Land Yacht's weight by a whopping 300 pounds.

Photo courtesy Matt Whorton

After: Airstream

The Whartons originally thought their Airstream would be used as a guesthouse and for their kids' sleepovers; however, Clementine (as they named her) has now taken numerous trips with the family. It is available for photo shoots and local camping.

Photo courtesy Matt Whorton

After: Airstream Interior

The walls are birch and the floors are Amish wood. Because of the curved walls and surfaces every piece of wood had to be cut twice. Sharyl found the 1920s vintage light fixture. A local artisan made the quilt and the fridge is from Pottery Barn Kids. What won't they hit the road without? A cast iron pan and a French press.

Photo courtesy Matt Whorton

Serro Scotty Sportsman

Designer Paul Hecht bought his first Serro Scotty for a mere $500. The trailer debuted in 1961 and has a large number of devotees across the country. "During my restoration process, I met several lovely people along the way," says Hecht. "I had the misconception that campers would be surly, overweight straight beer-drinkers, but these people are far from that." He even wrote a book about it: Serro Scotty Travel Trailers available on Amazon.

Photo courtesy Paul Hecht

Before: Serro Scotty Sportsman

Hecht loves the Scotty Sportsman as it was designed with the average family in mind. This is the interior of his Scotty when he plunked down $500 for it.

Photo courtesy Paul Hecht

After: Serro Scotty Sportsman

Hecht's two Scotty trailers are parked on his property in the Hudson Valley north of Manhattan. It is used for a guest cottage and cocktail hours.

Photo courtesy Paul Hecht

Scotty Dog Accessories

This vintage Scotty's kitchen is decked out in a vintage Scotty dog motif.

Photo courtesy Terry Bone

Scotty Dog Accessories

Bob Clark is a retired psychologist and started a Scotty campout a few years ago with only three other trailers. He recently hosted his seventh Kamp Kansas with over 30 trailers and their campers in attendance. Clark enjoys collecting vintage accouterments for his Scotty.

Photo courtesy Bob Clark

Serro Teardrop

Serro rolled out the Teardrop in 1957 and put the brakes on them in 1960. Only 225 were produced making the sleek, wood-sided trailers extremely rare.

Photo courtesy Terry Bone

Cardinal Trailers

The first Cardinal Trailer was produced in 1951 and was nicknamed the "Canned Ham." This is a 1959 model that was lovingly restored by Ginger Brown-Young who takes her baby to vintage trailer rallies including 2014's Vintage Trailer Rally in Rolsyn, WA.

Photo courtesy Monica Bennett

Shasta Airflyte

In 1941 Shasta trailers were originally manufactured as mobile homes for soldiers under the name Cozy Cruiser. In the 50s, they added the trailer line. Daisy Dunnagan restored the yellow interior of this 1958 Shasta Airflyte.

Photo courtesy Monica Bennett

Toasters on Wheels

The first Shasta were called "toasters on wheels." Owners and enthusiasts hold rallies and get-togethers all across the country. In addition, there are numerous online forums and Facebook groups.

Photo courtesy Bob Clark

Spartan Royal Mansion

The Spartans were luxurious rolling homes and had the price tag to match. They were first produced in the late 40s and when marketed had an asking price of $4,000. A large home in those days cost $8,000. This is a 1956 Spartan Royal Mansion very much like the one Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz traveled around in the 1953 film "The Long, Long Trailer."

Photo courtesy Hepcat Restorations