Airstream: A Triple-Axle Shop on Wheels

Renowned for years as the most glamorous of caravans, Airstream has been a household name for more than 70 years, and now a Californian design team has found a new use for the original King of the Road—a shop on wheels.

Aetherstream exterior; the finished Airstream on display in Los Angeles (Credit: Chris Jefferies/caravantimes.co.uk)

The Aetherstream is the brainchild of former film producers Jonah Smith and Palmer West, who came up with the idea as a more affordable way of taking their outdoor clothing line Aether Apparel across the United States on a coast-to-coast tour, Caravan Times reports.

Following its public debut in October (2011), the Aetherstream garnered widespread interest from both fashion and design gurus such as GQ and Inhabitat, but this project also gives ambitious RVers plenty to admire.

Smith and West have been long-time admirers of Airstream trailers, but when they finally purchased their own version of this classic icon they were thoroughly ruthless in stripping out the interior—after all, they wanted to build a shop on wheels, instead of a home on wheels.

With the help of French designer Thierry Gaugain, the Aether team came up with the idea for a pop-up shop that incorporated display cabinets, a changing room, a wooden worktop in the centre, and a real working fireplace, according to Caravan Times.

A sizeable shell was needed to contain all these bold ideas, so the Airstream that was selected was the gigantic PanAmerica triple-axle model, which measures 34 feet from nose-to-tail.

Aetherstream interior; the wood-burning stove was imported from Canada. (Credit: Chris Jefferies/caravantimes.co.uk)

Smith and West then turned to renovation expert, Rod Beltran at D&G Trailer, to take on the job of ripping out the interior.

Convincing an Airstream lover to gut out all the insides of such an antique was a tricky process—Beltran’s initial reaction was considerably less than enthusiastic.

“You want to do what? Take it all out? What, like, all of it?”

Eventually, he reluctantly agreed and the team set about refitting the floorboards with reclaimed oaked panels, before adding Parisian light fittings and repainting part the exterior in matte black with Aether decals.

Once the basics had been taken care of, the Aether Apparal team set about making their new trailer unique, with a custom-designed leather couch in the nose end and a real working fireplace, according to Caravan Times.

The latter proved to be a real challenge, with American Homeland Security taking exception to their wood-burning stove, which had to be imported from Canada.

With everything in place, the team was delighted with the finished look, triumphantly describing it as “the ultimate guy’s workshop, an adventure lab on wheels, mobile man cave.”

After several weeks of hard work, the Aetherstream finally opened its doors to the people of Los Angeles on October 8.

Since then, the team have moved on to New York City, with the help of a custom-painted Land Rover Defender working as their sturdy tow car—and bringing a touch of British class to the whole project.

Aetherstream interior; the nose-end has a custom-designed sofa. (Credit: Chris Jefferies/caravantimes.co.uk)

Given its enormous size, the Caravan Times concludes, it’s unlikely we’ll see the Aetherstream on British roads any time soon, but it just goes to show what you can achieve with a classic caravan, a few licks of paint and plenty of ambition.

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Worth Pondering…

I saw a peanut stand, heard a rubber band,
I saw a needle that winked its eye.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an Airstream fly.

—music and lyrics by Oliver Wallace and Ned Washington, in Dumbo

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