One of the main goals of our trip is to visit the Airstream Factory and take the factory tour to see Airstreams being made.

For a history of Airstream, click HERE.  Airstreams were originally made in different areas of Southern California, such as Van Nuys, Downtown LA, Sante Fe Springs, and, finally, Cerritos.  However, in the early 1950s, Wally Byam set out to find an eastern factory site, since so many Airstreams were being sold to owners who lived the Midwest and in the East.  In 1952, Wally Byam found an abandoned bazooka factory, left over from WWII, in a tiny hamlet in central Ohio called Jackson Center.  He bought it for $5,000, and in 1952 the first Ohio-made Airstream rolled out the factory doors.  In 1979 they closed the factory in Cerritos, and today Airstreams are only made here in Ohio.

Airstream provides a trailer park (they call it The Terraport) for use by visitors and people bringing their Airstreams in for service.  We parked the Villa, took a short walk through Jackson Center (a very short walk…), then waited for our 2:00 tour.  On the tour we learned that it takes about 4 days and 40 hours to build an Airstream. A brand new fully complete Airstream rolls out the doors at a rate of about 80 per week, about one every 30 minutes… Airstream has about 850 employees and will probably have 1,000 by year end.

The aluminum skins (exterior and interior) come in giant rolls from Alcoa.  They have a baked on finish similar to the paint on a car, except that it is clear to show the aluminum… These sheets are automatically cut and punched, but they are stretched over the ribs and riveted together by hand. The same is true about the cabinets and other furniture – The wood is cut precisely to fit, then it is assembled by hand. All the wiring and plumbing and ducting and insulation and doors and windows and everything else is connected, attached, and finished by hand. The finished shells are extensively tested for water-tightness before the interiors are installed. Everything inside an Airstream – cabinets, furniture, bathroom showers – fits through the door…

The building where Airstreams are made is over 100,000 square feet, and it is a hustling bustling place. We also saw the original bazooka factory across the street. We were not allowed into the R & D building, and we were not allowed to take pictures inside the plant.

It was a very interesting time to see this huge plant producing these iconic Airstreams…

This place is huge!


The original bazooka factory building:

2017-06-20 Airstream Jackson Center - 02


Wally Byam’s gold Airstream, used on the Capetown to Cairo Caravan in 1959-1960:

2017-06-20 Airstream Jackson Center - 13


Various shots of Airstreams; new and old…


Our spot in the Terraport:


And an enjoyable time was had by all…