This is a remarkably original 1976 Airstream Argosy Motorhome that remained with its original owner for the first 46 years of its life in Pennsylvania, before being acquired by the current owner (and now seller) in 2022.

The Airstream Argosy Motorhome model range was first offered for sale in 1974, it proved a strong seller for the company and became a major competitor for the Winnebago models in the same size and price range. Thanks to the semi-monocoque aluminum body of the Argosy Motorhome, many of them have survived to the modern day.

Fast Facts – The Airstream Argosy Motorhome

  • The Airstream Argosy Motorhome, introduced in 1974, was a significant new model for Airstream. Built on a Chevrolet truck chassis, it combined the semi-monocoque aluminum body of the Argosy trailer with motorhome practicality. This model competed with a number of Winnebago models in size and price. The Argosy line started as lower-priced travel trailers, manufactured in a new factory in Versailles, Ohio, with the goal of attracting customers who might later upgrade to full-sized Airstreams.
  • Airstream’s history dates back to 1931 when Wally Byam founded the company in California. Inspired by his childhood experiences living in a mobile wooden trailer and his wife’s dislike of tent camping, Byam developed innovative travel trailers. His designs considered aerodynamics, unlike many competitors. After seeing a Bowlus Road Chief, Byam realized aluminum’s potential and released the Airstream Clipper in 1936. Despite launching during the Great Depression, Airstream survived while over 400 other American travel trailer companies failed.
  • The 1976 Airstream Argosy Motorhome featured here is an original example in worn but usable condition. It’s built on a Chevrolet truck chassis and powered by a Chevrolet 454 cubic inch (7.4 liter) V8 engine with a 3-speed automatic transmission. The interior reflects its 1970s origins, with brown carpeting, wood veneer, and retro styling. It includes modern amenities such as a kitchenette, bathroom with hot and cold running water, a dinette set, and a rear bedroom with a double bed.
  • This particular Argosy Motorhome remained with its original owner in Pennsylvania for 46 years before being acquired by the current owner in 2022. It’s now being offered for sale on Bring a Trailer, located in Cape Saint Claire, Maryland. The listing includes recent service records and a clean New York title in the seller’s name.

Airstream: A History Speedrun

Airstream was founded by Wally Byam in 1931 in Culver City, California. Byam had been born on the 4th of 1896 in Baker City on the Oregon Trail. He would grow up working with his uncle on a sheep farm, and living in a wooden trailer that could move with the herd.

Wally Byam Airstream

Image DescriptionThis is a picture of a young Wally Byam, the man who would be the founder of Airstream, and one of the most famous travel trailer manufacturers in the world. Image courtesy of Airstream.

The trailer had a bed, a table and chair, a stove, water, and food – it would later go on to inspire Byam to create what is now the best-known travel trailer in the world.

Byam would work and support himself through college, graduating from Stanford and initially working in the related fields of journalism, advertising, and publishing. He retained his love of the outdoors from his early life working on the farm, and used to take his wife Marion Byam camping, but she couldn’t stand sleeping on the ground in a tent.

As a result of his wife’s dislike of roughing it, Wally built a “tent contraption” on a Model T Ford chassis that was far more civilized than a normal tent, but still left a lot to be desired from a comfort and practicality standpoint.

He soon replaced the tent with a teardrop-shaped hardshell permanent shelter, and it was this design that soon attracted the attention of other campers he met on the road – some of which asked him to build one for them too.

It was this interest from people he met on the road that first sparked the idea to create his own travel trailer company, which he did at first by building them each by hand in his front yard. Noise complaints from neighbors resulted in him soon moving the enterprise to a proper factory.

His early trailer designs were unusual in that they took aerodynamics into account, whereas many other companies simply made wooden boxes on wheels that offered the aerodynamic coefficient of a house brick.

Airstream Argosy Motorhome

Image DescriptionThis is an early photograph of an Airstream Argosy Motorhome from a 1970s-era brochure. These motorhomes sold well and are still sought after by collectors today. Image courtesy of Airstream.

In the 1930s Byam would see a Bowlus Road Chief for the first time, a travel trailer designed by Hawley Bowlus, an aerospace engineer and the builder of the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft.

In this instant he realized that aluminum was the perfect material for the job, offering far better strength and longevity than the wood and Masonite trailers he had been building up until that point.

In 1936 he would release the Airstream Clipper, an aluminum travel trailer that would revolutionize the industry despite the fact that it was released in the midst of the Great Depression. Of the 400+ travel trailer companies that existed at this time in the United States, today only Airstream remains.

The Airstream Argosy Motorhome

The Airstream Argosy Motorhome represented a major step forward for the company, it was essentially an Airstream Argosy trailer that was redeveloped and fitted to a Chevrolet truck chassis. It retained the semi-monocoque, stress-skinned structure of the Airstream Argosy but now included expansive wrap-around windows up front to ensure the driver would have optimal forward visibility.

The Airstream Argosy line started out as a lower-priced series of travel trailers that were developed to appeal to younger families and less-affluent buyers, who Airstream brass hoped would upgrade to a full-sized Airstream one day down the road.

Airstream Argosy Motorhome 17

Image DescriptionThis Airstream Argosy Motorhome remains in remarkably original condition throughout. It could do with some restoration works here and there however it does appear to be usable as it stands.

An all-new factory was built to manufacture the Argosy, in Versailles, Ohio just 36 miles from Airstream’s main Jackson Center facilities. Construction began in the fall of 1971, it was to be a large 117,000 sq. ft. factory and remarkably, production of Argosy trailers began just seven months later in March of 1972.

These Argosy trailers would be notably less-costly than the full-sized Airstreams. They were initially offered in four lengths, 20’, 22’, 24’ and 26’, and they featured aluminum body shells that were painted rather than polished as with full-fledged Airstreams. This also meant that occasionally, damaged aluminum panels that were unsuitable for use on Airstreams could be used on Argosys.

In 1974 the Argosy Motorhome would make its debut, featuring classic Airstream styling but now not requiring a tow vehicle. These motorhomes offered excellent value for money as well as all the modern conveniences of home, including a kitchenette, dinette, double bed, bathroom with hot and cold running water, and some event came with air-conditioning.

The Airstream Argosy Motorhome Shown Here

The Argosy Motorhome you see here is an original example from 1976. As you would expect, it’s built on a Chevrolet truck chassis and it’s powered by the original Chevrolet 454 cubic inch (7.4 liter) V8 which is mated to a 3-speed automatic transmission.

Inside you’ll find a decidedly retro interior, befitting the decade it was built, with dual captain’s chairs up front, patterned brown carpeting throughout, and ample wood veneer. There is a kitchenette with hot and cold running water, a two-burner cooktop, and a propane-powered refrigerator/freezer.

Airstream Argosy Motorhome 18

Image DescriptionUp front there are two captain’s chairs with fold-down arm rests, with an engine cover in the middle.

There is a bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower that has hot and cold running water in a layout often referred to as a “wet bathroom.” The motorhome also has a dinette set, a rear bedroom with double bed, curtains throughout, as well as ample cupboard and storage space.

This 1976 Airstream Argosy Motorhome is now being offered for sale on Bring a Trailer out of Cape Saint Claire, Maryland with recent service records and a clean New York title in the seller’s name. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

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Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer

Published by Ben Branch -