For decades, Americans have explored the highways and back roads of America in Airstream trailers. With their signature domed shape and shiny silver finish, Airstreams are among the most recognizable American icons. Millions of people have spent their summer vacations camping in these surprisingly spacious trailers.
As families eschew the vintage Airstreams in favor of larger RVs and campers (or head to large resorts instead), though, many Airstreams have been left neglected and unused, rotting in junkyards and garages. Unwilling to let the icons die, though, some enterprising folks have restored and remodeled old Airstreams into restaurants, creative spaces, advertisements and more.
These days, food trucks – mobile restaurants serving specialty foods – are one of the biggest trends in cities all over the country. Why stand in line for a greasy burger when you can grab a tasty waffle or taco from a food truck and enjoy an impromptu picnic?
And as cool as food trucks are, the fact that some of them are housed in vintage Airstream trailers makes them even cooler. From New York to Los Angeles, and everywhere in between, creative chefs have turned Airstreams into vehicles for selling everything from Korean barbecue to decadent desserts.
For example, in Seattle, seek out Skillet, a 1962 Airstream trailer selling an ever-rotating menu of cutting edge dishes, including a burger topped with the trucks signature bacon jam. Or head to Austin to get a gourmet crepe filled with salmon and dill at Flip Happy crepes, served from a 1966 Airstream Avion. In fact, Austin is the unofficial capital of truck food. So if crepes aren’t really your thing, locate one of Chef Mike Rypka’s Torchy’s Tacos trucks for a twist on Mexican cuisine.
For some people, simply grabbing a bite to eat at a restored Airstream isn’t enough – they want to actually live in a restored trailer. With space at a premium – most Airstreams run around 150 square feet – making an Airstream your permanent home requires a commitment to minimalism and the ability to use small space creatively. However, it is possible to include sleeping, dining and living space into an airstream, with the added bonus of the ability to hitch up and move to a new place, whenever you’d like.
If you have a family or just think that cramming your entire life into a 10 foot by 15 foot space is just more than you can handle, restored Airstreams have been converted into mobile studios, offices and other workspaces. For example, San Francisco landscape architect Andreas Stavropolous turned a restored 1959 Airstream into his primary residence and studio, giving him both a comfortable home and an opportunity to share his design sense with potential clients.
Art, Advertising and More
Think an Airstream is only meant for land-based activities? Think again. The U.S. Air Force has actually converted several Airstreams into mobile command centers, known as “Silver Bullets,” to bring on board aircraft heading overseas. The Airstreams serve as meeting rooms or more comfortable quarters for visiting dignitaries flying with the troops.
Back on land, companies ranging from small rum manufacturers to corporate behemoth Nintendo have used Airstreams to peddle their wares. In fact, outdoor retailer Aether uses an Airstream as a mobile shop. In Vegas, you can actually bowl in an Airstream. The Silverton Casino moved a vintage camper indoors and converted it into a scaled down two lane bowling alley.
And of course, Austin, Texas, where Airstreams have a devoted following, has more than just food trucks. Next to the Crepe Mill food truck, you can adopt a new four-legged friend at a puppy adoption center in a converted trailer.
On the artistic front, Airstreams play prominently in music and art around the world. In Florida, an RV dealer created “Airstream Ranch” by upending eight trailers into the ground as a tribute to the brand. In England, the recording studio Rockhopper turned a 1966 Overlander into a mobile recording studio, traveling around the country to record local bands. And country star Miranda Lambert doesn’t travel in a standard tour bus, but instead heads to gigs in an Airstream.
While Airstream trailers have a long history of family vacations and exploration, the silver icons endure in other forms. From gourmet food to pop art, the Airstream continues to be an unmistakable part of the American landscape.
This post was written and contributed by Tim Simis. Tim has been an RV and trailer enthusiast for more than 10 years and loves writing about his experience. He bought his last airstream from arbogastrvs.com