Even if you’re not in the market for a travel trailer, it’s still fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at made in America products-especially one as recognizable as Airstream’s bullet-shaped “silver palace.” Although Jackson Center, Ohio is off the beaten path, the next time your travels take you through the central part of the Buckeye state, stop in and tour the Airstream factory.
With the release of the first model-the Clipper-in 1936 at a price of $1,200, Airstream founder Wally Byam kicked off a new industry as well as a new free-wheeling lifestyle. Wally firmly believed in his wind resistant design and named his company Airstream because his trailers “rode on a stream of air.” Over the last 75 years, that distinctive shiny silver shape has become an American icon.
Airstream factory tours begin in the lobby of the Service Department where the shiny aluminum registration desk looks like the back end of an Airstream trailer-complete with bumper and tail lights! Although our tour guide, Don, is officially retired from Airstream, he continues to enthusiastically conduct tours for the thousands of RV enthusiasts who stop by each year. Since Don held many positions within the company during his 35-year tenure, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about Airstream-it’s nearly impossible to stump him! After listening to a brief introduction of the company’s history, everyone will be given protective eye goggles and earplugs before heading across the parking lot to see the factory in action.
On the way over, you’ll notice several Airstreams from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s on public display. Once restored, these trailers are remarkably just as shiny and functional as they were when first built. And what’s especially interesting is that the basic trailer design has remained practically unchanged over the years. Airstream owners must definitely agree with the company’s philosophy of “Let’s not make any changes – let’s make only improvements” because over 65% of all Airstreams ever built are still rolling down the highways today, and new ones are still being ordered!
Once inside the cavernous manufacturing facility that’s been in Jackson Center since 1952, tour groups visit each workstation responsible for making or installing all the comforts of home-from cabinets and sinks to mattresses and flooring. And, of course, you’ll see how the trademark aluminum exterior is shaped and riveted together. It can really get loud if the riveters are at work!
You’ll also get a good look inside trailers in varying stages of production- some just empty silver shells with wires sticking out of the floors and walls, others half furnished and decorated. If you order one for yourself, you’re welcome to visit the factory as often as you wish and watch your home on wheels being built by hand. If you prefer a drivable model, Airstream also manufactures several large touring coaches and motor homes right there in Jackson Center, too.
Until you see first-hand the quality and craftmanship that goes into each Airstream trailer and RV, you can never fully appreciate the uniqueness of Made in America products-especially one that continues to endure after 75 years.
419 West Pike Street
Jackson Center, Ohio 45334-0629