Bob Wheeler still gets the question sometimes when people find out he runs the company that builds those shiny aluminum campers: “Airstreams? They still make those?”
Not only are the retro-looking “silver bullet” travel-trailers still being built by hand at the same western Ohio site that has produced them for 60 years, but the company also can’t roll them out of there fast enough to meet the demand these days.
The Associated Press reported that the instantly recognizable silver bubble design — inspired by airplane fuselages — hasn’t been tweaked much since the first Airstreams took to the open road in the 1930s on the way to becoming an American icon. The polished campers have cameoed in Hollywood movies and even quarantined the Apollo 11 astronauts when they got back from the moon. They have also inspired a legion of devotees who socialize with one another at Airstream caravans and rallies all over the world — including an annual Ohio jamboree known as “Alumapalooza.”
“Any time we’ve seen an Airstream, it’s like the clouds part and an angelic choir starts singing,” says Cliff Garinn, a 49-year-old college career counselor from Dallas. He and his husband bought a new one in April and are already trading up to a larger model for frequent weekend camping trips and summer vacation.
Airstream builds 50 travel trailers every week at the plant in Jackson Center, all gleaming and aerodynamic and riveted by hand. The backlog is about three months, and ground has already been broken on a major expansion at the factory north of Dayton that eventually will increase production capacity by 50%.
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