Pre-War Camper: 1942 Airstream

UPDATE – It turns out that this camper is actually an M-Systems model! Special thanks to Tim Heintz for identifying the correct make and year.

At first glance, you wouldn’t think this camper is nearly 80 years old! Airstream was founded in the late 1920s but didn’t start building trailers quite like this one until 1936. Those early campers were essentially rebadged Bowlus Road Chiefs, which you can see in Airstream designs even today. While this doesn’t have that incredible aerodynamic look of their later trailers, it features that great aluminum body. You can find this pre-war camper here on eBay in Erhard, Minnesota with a current bid of $810 and no reserve.

There can’t be too many of these trailers left, especially ones built right before the US entered WWII. As manufacturing shifted from consumer goods to military products, aluminum surely would have been a hard to come by commodity. I don’t imagine many were built in ’42 and I’m sure many of those that were were scrapped years ago. At about 23 feet long, there’s a lot of aluminum here that could have been used on airplanes or to make cans, so the fact that it’s survived all these years is really impressive.

The seller notes that this one needs a full restoration. It appears someone modified it and made some poor quality repairs at some point in its past. While the interior is going to need to be gutted and redone, which can get spendy, the real concern is the structure and exterior. To look its best, the remaining paint will need to be cleaned off, any holes repaired, and the entire shell polished. There are a few dents and dings, but you might be able to smooth those out while you have the interior apart.

This trailer might lack the size or well-appointed interior of something like a Spartan Imperial Manson, but this one would be much easier to take on vacation and sure would be cool once restored. Getting it back into nice, usable condition will be a huge undertaking, but given when it was built and what it is, I truly hope someone saves it! If that person is you, how would you do the interior? Would you try to make it as close to original as possible or would you update it with modern amenities?


  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Wow! This is much cooler than the quarter million dollar Spartan…..

    Like 4
  2. Tim Heintz

    First off Airstream was founded in 1932…second the trailer that article is about is not an Airstream nor related to Airstream. It is also not Pre-War, it is actually a 1949 M-System Coach built by M-System Coach Company that was once located in Vicksburg Mississippi .

    Like 13
  3. Rick

    Not an Airstream. Might be a Westcraft… not all aluminum trailers are Airstreams..

    Like 14
    • misterlou Member

      I agree. Airstream was already into it’s iconic shape by the 1930s.

      Like 2
  4. pzak

    Pearl Harbor and our entry into the war was in Dec 1941. Not really knowing if this was built in late 1941 and sold as a 42 means it could be built prewar but probably not. I would not refer to a 1942 vehicle as prewar.

    Like 12
  5. Tim Heintz

    Trailer is not a 1942 Airstream….it is actually a 1949 M-System Coach built in Vicksburg Mississippi

    Like 6
  6. fred nelson

    I’d classify the level of difficulty in restoration to that of a HS shop project – full demolition of the interior, new, modern wiring, new wood, cabinets, modern flooring – mostly a woodshop and upholstery job – IF and ONLY IF the subframe/structure is solid – no rot, no bent frame etc. the outside esthetics are mostly elbow grease – w/ a good metal polish the value would triple.

    Like 4
  7. Josh Staff

    It looks like someone made the seller an offer they couldn’t refuse.

    Like 3
  8. Kenneth Carney

    Why worry about it, it’s already gone.

    Like 1
  9. Arby

    ….I live in a van, down by the river…

    Like 6
  10. Howard A Member

    Now yer talkin’,,,too bad THIS is what people on a budget camp with. HA-HA,keep rolling, pal, we don’t take your kind of trailers,,to be clear, I see people living in shacks like this out here. I wonder if they’re happy?

    Like 1
  11. Al

    I wonder if it still has its original wood burning stove, icebox and hand-pump at the sink?
    Does it have it’s original straw stuffed tick-mattress?
    No mention of it’s john, hopefully it still has its authentic original pail to put under the trailer beneath the toilet?

    If it isn’t authentic, I just don’t want it.

    Like 11
  12. TRH

    Trailer is a 1948 M-System Coach built in Vicksburg Mississippi……it is not a pre-war Airstream.

    Like 2
    • grant

      We heard you, Tim.

      • TRH

        Yeah sorry about that….computer was acting up and did not think it processed my post….

        Like 1
  13. Dave

    “Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.” — Scotty

    Like 1
  14. PJH

    Yeah. Like pzak said:

    We entered the war Dec.7th 1941.
    That wouldn’t make it pre war if built in 42, in my book.
    Guess I would call it WWII era built.
    Have to wonder if there’s any meat left on that old steel frame!!
    Could be cool when restored though!

  15. Phlathead Phil

    Not worth the effort. If you know anything about aircraft construction it is much the same with these coaches. After so many years aircraft are grounded due to corrosion issues. My guess this trailer has much corrosion around the subframe and at the base attachment plates. I have learned it’s easier to fabricate a NEW trailer (and way cheaper) than to attempt a resurrection. Yeah, it may not have the stretched and pressed “O” condition corner skins but who cares. Get the Cleco clamps and rivet guns out and let’s go to town with the “bucking bars”!

    Like 2
  16. martinsane

    When i saw the image and i had to click and read as i thought there must be a joke coming…

    Probably drive past 10 decrepit trailers a day and down give them a 1st look.

    This one definately needs to go back to the earth as it is attempting to do.

  17. grant

    I’m sorry but I can smell that thing through the pictures.

    Like 2
  18. Mark Evans

    Styled by Buck Rogers or was it Flash Gordon from the old Serials. Cool.Home to Ming the Mercilous or Dr Zarkof maybe.

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