The Airstream Dream: What is an Airstreamer?
To some, the word Airstream evokes an image of nothing more than a historically popular trailer. But to those who call themselves Airstreamers, it’s more than the name of an RV- it’s a lifestyle. When Wally Byam created the Airstream in 1931, he probably didn’t realize the impact it would have on RV culture throughout the world. More than 80 years later, the aluminum skinned trailer he created to appease his wife who wouldn’t camp without a kitchen is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road. With a passionate and dedicated following of loyal customers, rallies for “Wally’s Club” are held all over the world, and with nearly 70% of all Airstreams ever made still on the road, restoring and refinishing these trailers is practically a national pastime.
The official name of the “Wally Club,” founded in 1955, is The Wally Byam Caravan Club. As popularity and membership spread outside of the United States, the word “International” was added and the acronym “WBCCI” was often used in reference to the group. Airstreamers are drawn to each other by a mutual love for the Airstream brand and a community spirit based on a love of travel and adventure. Members often participate in large rallies that draw huge crowds of devoted Airstreamers, with a record 4,493 Airstreams attending the 1974 event in Lexington, Kentucky.
A sense of adventure is practically a prerequisite for membership in The Wally Club, and its members are famous for their large caravans. In 1959 more than 100 Airstreamers visited the pyramids of Egypt in “The Cape Town to Cairo Caravan,” a trip that included stops in the African desert and a meeting with the Emperor of Ethiopia. A picture from the trip of the round, silver trailers all parked together in front of a pyramid added to the brand’s appeal and mystique and served to garner more interest in the RVs and in the Airstreamer lifestyle. In 1964, a hundred people set out in 45 Airstream trailers to trace portions of the route Marco Polo took on his monumental trip through Europe and Asia. That caravan traveled over 35,000 miles in 403 days and visited almost every country in Southern Asia and Europe.
Today, the camaraderie and community around the “Airstream Dream” is bigger than ever. The WBCCI boasts almost 6000 members, and still leads caravans around the world. And some very famous faces are in on the craze too- Matthew McConaughey is an outspoken lover of the brand, even living in one for several years before buying a home big enough for the three in his collection. Mark Harmon uses a 1972 Airstream that he restored himself as his dressing room on his hit show, NCIS. The appeal of the Airstream lifestyle is apparent for everyone, and the brand has the history and following to prove it.