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The last Airstream built before WWII

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When this 1941 Airstream Clipper came up for sale, the Gulleys were extremely excited and jumped at the chance to own another piece of trailer history! Thinking it may be a rare piece, they didn’t hesitate to seal the deal and take possession. Turns out it wasn’t the trailer they were told it was; however, it did have an even more desirable provenance!

41 Clipper
1941 Airstream Clipper

Phase one

The restoration process’s first phase was to determine the history of this particular 1941 Airstream Clipper. With its unusual windows, skylights, fireproof safe, and tandem axles, we knew it was like no other trailer. Thankfully, a week after the trailer arrived, Joe Peplinski (WBCCI/VAC Historian and Expert) and Ken Johansen (Airstream Aficionado) spent several days examining every inch of this trailer. Almost immediately, Joe knew exactly what we had discovered. Once he pulled up historic Airstream photos, ads, and production records, the puzzle was complete.

Wally Byam and Clipper
Wally Byam far right.

1941 Airstream Clipper

We were looking at a 1941 Airstream Clipper, the last one ever built and possibly the last Airstream made before the company closed for WWII in March 1941. Joe showed us a famous picture in the “Airstream Wanderlust” book. The picture was in front of the Airstream factory at 1908 S. Main St., Los Angeles, California, taken in February 1941, showing Wally Byam and three other gentlemen in front of the trailer.

Clipper Interior
Restored to original

Practical luxury

Upon further investigation, Joe found another picture with the door open and one interior photo of the front living area. To our further excitement, a February 1941 ad was found in the LA Times advertising a 1941 Clipper called the “Clipper Ship.” It was described as “unquestionably the last word in practical luxury.” A 27-foot duraluminum plane-type trailer featuring a birdseye maple interior, Frigidaire refrigerator, central heating, a ship flushing toilet, and a fireproof safe. It sold for $3,250, which you could make with a low down payment and two years to pay.

1941 Airstream Clipper
1941 Airstream Clipper

For more information and photos see issue #64 of the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine.

About the Author: Paul Lacitinola and his wife, Caroline, have published the Vintage Camper Trailers Magazine for ten years. The Lacitinolas also host The Trailerfest Vintage Trailer Rallies and the CampNation Expo They have authored two books on vintage trailering and are advocates for the hobby from coast to coast.

##RVT1077

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Dennis
23 days ago

Why would they close down the factory in March 1941 because of WWII? The USA didn’t enter WWII until December of that year.

Impavid
23 days ago
Reply to  Dennis

I believe that happened as the U.S. was making and supplying war products to Europe.

KellyR
23 days ago
Reply to  Impavid

Correct. Prior to the USA entering the war we were producing planes (aluminum) to Britain and France. It took Pearl Harbor to finally drag us into the actual fighting. The “sleeping dog” was awakened.

Tom
23 days ago

Very nice. Useful and historical.

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