VIDEO: Airstream & Porsche

Posted In: Airstream, Blog, Essays

As I roll out my first novel, The Lost Spyder, I’m sure that a few readers of our Long Long Honeymoon blog are scratching their heads. This particular mystery/suspense novel begs the question: “Sean, what are you thinking – just what the hell does Porsche have to do with camping!?”

That’s a fair question. And to be frank, Porsche doesn’t have much to do with camping. To my knowledge, no one’s ever made a racing camper.

The Lost Spyder @ Ted’s Garage from Sean Michael on Vimeo.

But if you look a little closer, you’ll see that Airstream and Porsche actually share a great deal in common. In fact, I was a Porsche nut before I became an Airstream nut. Allow me to explain.

Both Airstream and Porsche are companies that attract more than mere consumers – they attract enthusiasts, people with demonstrable passion for the product. The analogy that Airstream executives sometimes draw is with Harley Davidson motorcycles, but it works with Porsche as well. The owners are…how shall I say it? … a little nuts. I am guilty as charged.

A lot of people don’t simply buy the product and use it. They buy the product and are excited to own it, so they join a club and gather together with other people of a similar mindset. They buy clothing and art that celebrates the product. Heck, if they are really gung ho, maybe they get a few tattoos. So far I am tattoo-free, but you never know what the future holds.

Both Airstream and Porsche have legendary founders. For Airstream it’s Wally Byam, the man in the blue beret. For the boys in Stuttgart, it’s the good doctor Ferdinand Porsche, automotive design supergenius.

On that note, both companies have a long and storied history. Airstream’s origins date back to 1931 when Wally Byam started drawing up his own plans for building a travel trailer. Airstream is now BY FAR the oldest RV manufacturer in America. Although the Porsche firm was founded in 1948, its origins really go back to the turn of the century when Ferdinand Porsche was designing the world’s first hybrid car. Porsche later designed the Volkswagen Beetle, the world’s most successful automotive creation with over 20 million units sold.

Both companies build products that are designed to last. There’s a saying in the Porsche world: “there’s no such thing as a used Porsche – only a new owner.” Airstream likes to brag that over 70% of its travel trailers built since 1931 are still in use today! These quality products are not disposable; if worn out, they are often restored to their original glory.

Both companies make products that are priced at a premium in their class. There’s just no denying this reality, although if you take the “built to last” factor into consideration then the prices seem more reasonable. You pay more for an Airstream or Porsche, but it will probably last longer if you take care of it. New Airstreams cost more than the average new travel trailer; new Porsches cost more than the average new car. Whether the products merit the extra cash is a personal decision, but plenty of people have decided that they do.

With that said, it’s also true that with a modest sum of money, ANYONE can “join the club” by purchasing an Airstream or Porsche of any age or condition. You don’t have to plunk down $100,000 on a triple-axle 34-footer to be an Airstream owner; you can instead plunk down $500 on an empty shell and restore it yourself. Similarly, if so inclined you can pick up an old ‘beater’ Porsche for less money than the average minivan or Ford Taurus. Heck, I read an article by a guy who paid $500 for his Porsche – and it actually ran!

Both companies make products that reflect their national character. Airstream is a quintessentially American product, while Porsche is a quintessentially German product. Airstream embodies the American spirit of exploration and adventure. Porsches are all about German engineering precision.

In each example, “form follows function.” The aluminum exterior of the Airstream is not only beautiful, it is purposefully shaped to maximize aerodynamics. In the Porsche world, every element of the cars (especially the race cars) is honed with performance being the top priority. They often happen to be beautiful, too.

Both companies have large and active ownership clubs. For Porsche, it’s the factory-approved Porsche Club of America. For Airstream, it’s the WBCCI (Wally Byam Caravan Club International) and a host of other independent clubs.

What about snobbery? Exclusionary groups of any kind invite snobbery and politics. From what I’ve seen, there’s not much snobbery in either group, at least with regard to the products. In other words, I’ve seen $5000 Porsches parked alongside $350,000 Porsches. Similarly, in the Airstream world, the vintage campers happily coexist with new units. If anything, the older cars and campers are revered for their charm and character, perhaps more than the shiny new ones.

As for politics? The Airstream owners club is famously political; there’s often been a lot of infighting amongst different factions. The strict “militaristic” members are concerned about the proper wearing of blue berets and display of membership numerals. They also like to argue over which Airstream products are considered Airstreams (it sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?).

From my vantage point, there are fewer political debates within the Porsche community. While I’m sure there’s been some squabbling over the years, the Porsche Club seems free of the division that has occasionally beset the Airstream club.

There’s a phrase in the Porsche Club that I believe also applies to Airstream: it’s the people! Although owners are enthusiastic about the products, it’s really THE PEOPLE (fellow club members) that make the ownership experience special. Airstream enthusiasts gather in special rallies. Porsche owners do the same on regional and national levels (they call the annual national gathering the Porsche Parade). In the end, meeting great people is what it’s all about. My approach is usually to avoid politics altogether, and just enjoy the social experience.

When we went shopping for our first RV, these considerations steered us toward the Airstream brand. We not only wanted to go camping, we wanted to join a community. So far, so good.

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Essential RV Camping Gear

Scout365 – Our Inflatable Boat!
Counter Assault Bear Spray
Oxygenics shower head
Antisway bar

Inverter generator
LED spotlight
Sean’s Tilley hat
Merrell Jungle Moc shoes
Walkie talkies
Boeshield T-9 lubricant
Weber portable grill
OBDII code reader
Water “jerry can”
Eye masks for sleep
Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries
RV water filter
Dry shampoo
The Next Exit book

Airstream Essentials
Trailer Aid tire changing ramp
Britta Bella water pitcher
Pink flamingos

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