“We love the Shastas and all the canned hams, but there is a lot of shiny aluminum here this year,” said Dal Smilie, Tin Can Tourists member and host of the Bend Classic Vintage Trailer Rally held this month. Among the many mid-century trailer models were Airstreams, Silver Streaks, Boles Aeros, and a smashing renovated Neutron, all gleaming in the Central Oregon sun. “The health department called, they said we’re creating a hotspot,” Smilie joked.
Local visitors oohed and aahed over the posh and polished trailers during a weekend-long open house. Smilie believes that the ongoing passion for vintage rigs out West reflects a nationwide fascination. “You’ve not only got baby boomers having fun with stuff that they remember or grew up with, but you’re seeing young couples with kids enjoying them, too,” he said. “You can get into these things from $300 up—way up—and then start restoring. Even when you put too much money into a vintage trailer, it might still be cheaper than a new one. And it’s light, and it’s interesting. And it’s part of a community.”
Smilie says he can’t even back into a campground without being surrounded when he tows his 1949 Curtis Wright with his old Studebaker pickup. “They mob you!” he laughed. “I have to say, ‘just let me park and then we’ll talk’.”
Smilie found his Curtis Wright 18 years ago in Palm Desert, at the time a wreck of a trailer with “a swamp cooler on top, the door laying off, a couple of windows out, and black and white zebra-striped upholstery. But we thought it was neat,” he said. “So we fixed it up and started camping in it.”
Those interested in Wally Byam and the early history of Airstream could study the similarities and differences between the early Wally/Curtis models at the rally. Parked in a cluster were Smilie’s 1949 Curtis Wright, a 1952 Silver Streak Clipper, and an early-50s Airstream. “All three of them together looks like a chart on the wall of family roots,” said Smilie. “They’re all cousins.”
By RG Coleman