There’s a reason why Airstreams are so universally loved, and it’s not just the iconic design and tight-knit community: it’s because they can be anything. They’ve been sanctuaries for families on vacation, offices for US Presidents, homes for many people (including, for a while, Matthew McConaughey, alright alright), and something for those who lust for the road to dream about, all at once. They’ve cemented their place in history, and remain endlessly appealing… and fascinating too. Here are a few of the weirdest and coolest Airstream facts that you never knew you never knew.
Airstream fact 1: NASA was a huge Airstream fan
After the first astronauts landed on the moon, NASA took some pretty wacky “just in case” precautions. One of them was to quarantine astronauts when they landed safely back on Earth in a mobile facility, because moon disease. Or something like that. The Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) was made of a converted Airstream trailer that had lower pressure inside and filtered vented air, and astronauts were contained within until it was assured that they weren’t carrying any potentially dangerous lunar pathogens. The MQF had living and sleeping quarters inside for the three crew members, a doctor, and an assistant to clean and cook for them. Ah, if only every Airstream came with an assistant cook/maid.
There were also comm devices inside, so they could give interviews; Richard Nixon addressed them in the MQF after they arrived back. The stopped using them after the Apollo 14 mission confirmed that the moon was devoid of life. There were four total, and three are currently on display. One is at the National Air and Space Museum, one is at the U.S. Space and Rocket Museum, and one is at the USS Hornet Museum. NASA also used Airstreams to transport astronauts to shuttle launches.
Airstream fact 2: There’s one gold Airstream
Wally Byam, the founder of Airstream, made a very special Airstream just for his wife, Stella. It was the first 22-foot trailer to feature tandem axels, featured a special partition that allowed Stella to keep sleeping when Wally woke up in the middle of the night and listened to the radio, and, most special of all, was a magnificent shade of gold, from anodized aluminum. It made its debut during the 1957 Kentucky Derby Caravan and served the family during many trips. You can see it on display during an Airstream factory tour!
Airstream fact 3: The world’s only penthouse trailer park is made up of Airstreams
South Africa’s Grand Daddy Hotel is home to the world’s only penthouse trailer park, and of course, the only trailer fit for a penthouse is the Airstream. There are seven sitting on the roof of the hotel, and they all come with the works: en suite bathrooms, TVs, AC, running water, mini bars, room service, gardens, vintage mailboxes, and the outdoor Pink Flamingo Cinema for movie screenings on the roof. Each trailer has a theme and is decorated to perfection as well; trailers themes can run the gamut from Afro-Funk and lace to Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Pleasantville.
Airstream fact 4: An Airstream Hearse
Yep, Airstream made a hearse in the 1980s. They billed it as an “innovative alternative” to the old-school “big black limousine”. They boasted its “mobile serenity”, an “island of tranquility” and “soothing comfort” that could carry up to 14 people and 20 baskets of flowers, along with one casket. Oh, and it gets 10-12 miles per gallon, so it’s cost effective, too. They also boasted the versatile design; it can go from a funeral to busing kids to a football game (almost) seamlessly.
Airstream fact 5: Wally Byam is a gosh darn American hero
Born in 1896, Byam got his love of travel from his grandfather, who led a mule train and would often take Wally along. He worked as a shepherd, living in a two-wheeled cart, as a teen, and then started to design trailers, starting with DIY plans and working his way up to crafting the iconic silver bullet we know and love today. He was one of the first people to really tap into the romance and appeal of road travel. As if you need any more convincing, here are a few choice quotes from Wally that really sum up why he was so badass.
“Adventure is where you find it, any place, every place, except at home in the rocking chair.”
“Don’t stop. Keep right on going. Hitch up your trailer and go to Canada or down to Old Mexico. Head for Europe if you can afford it, or go to Mardi Gras. Go someplace you’ve heard about, where you can fish or hunt or collect rocks or just look up at the sky. Find out what’s at the end of some country road. Go see what’s over the next hill, and the one after that, and the one after that.”
“If you don’t know what else to do, drink beer.”
Disclosure: Airstream is a long-time friend and client of Roadtrippers, but this article was not contracted by Airstream. We just wanted to write it.