STREAMLINE TRAILER CO. HISTORY and STREAMLINE TRAILERS
by Thomas Detweiler (11/10/17)
Streamline Trailer Co. Founded: 1957 Closed: 1974
10840 Central Ave., El Monte CA, and 1213 W. Main St., State Rd 47, Thornton Indiana
Principals: Pat Patterson (Pres.), Harry A. Lovett (Pres., then VP, retired 1962), Forrest Lovett, Gen. Mgr.
Most material available on the web about Streamline Trailer Co. comes via the efforts of Tom Patterson, a very dedicated Streamline owner and researcher. I want here, to thank Tom for his input, corrections and help. He has
so much trailer lore in his head and on his website, I had to contact him. His knowledge extends to Silver Streak and Airstream trailers as well! I recommend a visit to his web site; those looking for information on their trailers will not be disappointed, and now, this history will be published there as well.
This Streamline information is what he provided me, and that gleaned from his marketing ephemera, comments from ex-employees, owners, forum members, books, magazine articles, etc. and in the interest of preserving its history, if anyone can contribute any information, please do, by going to www.tompatterson.com, or or Tom's Royal Rovers (Streamline Trailer Club) website at http://www.streamlineroyalrovers.org -- and the Facebook Streamline Vintage Trailers group. Streamline owners and collectors, this information is intended as a starting point for what I hope becomes an ongoing project-- but for that to be true, YOU the Streamline owner reading this, are requested to contribute your input. If any Streamline owners want to add their information, by all means contact me directly, or Tom Patterson.
Travel trailers were constructed in different ways using different materials over the years. Methods of building, sheathing, framing, flooring, wiring, plumbing, and equipping them changed even within the same model or product lines. Although some assembly line techniques were used to build them, most trailers were built one at a time, with
plenty of variations in construction or equipment. Naturally, I used my 1964 Countess as an example trailer, and have examined all the Streamlines I have found at parks or at rallies and talked to their owners. Nevertheless, nothing about Streamlines (or other trailers) is identical, so if you have an interesting variant or something that just seems different, please contact Tom Detweiler or Tom Patterson and let us know!
Streamline was only in business for 17-18 years, and much is unknown about production: how many trailers were built during that time, how many employees it had at its peak, or even how many different models of Streamline trailers were built althogether, especially before and after the 'Royal Line' marketing campaign ended.
Streamline opened its original factory in El Monte, CA and produced travel trailers for both recreation or park living; later they also opened a factory in Thornton, IN where Streamline Travel Home motorhomes were also built.
While Streamline's production is unknown, Tin Can Tourist quoted an ex-Silver Streak plant manager who said, "Silver Streak never built over six trailers a week". If so, considering the similarities in design, construction, materials, options etc. between Silver Streak and Streamline, if Streamline's production output was similar, then Streamline may have built as many as 5500-6000 trailers over their 17 year operation, about 350 or so per year.
Any information about the company from former Streamline employees or dealers is appreciated and acknowledged.
Streamline began production with a "standard" model, then started their "royal line" marketing strategy in 1959. Based on lengths and features, trailer models sported "royalty badges" such as Prince, Duke, Countess etc. and all models were given their distinctive two tone aluminum and gold livery. They built trailers in sizes from 19 to 33 ft.
Known Models: Standard, Prince, Princess, Duke, Duchess, Count, Countess, Empress, Emperor, and Custom commercial (lunch wagon etc); Guerdon models featured different naming for lengths, such as the 'SL230' at 23'.
|Model||Lengths ||Other, Trailer Weight, etc.|
|Standard||unk.||57-59; single and dual axle|
|PRINCE||19'||dual axle, from Prince onward|
|PRINCESS||21'||intr. 1968; single axle, double axle version|
|DUCHESS||22'||incr. from 22 to 23', 1968; may have had one axle versions, 1962|
|CUSTOM||Var.|| Commercial uses included food trailers, movie studio cast trailers, engineering company and construction site trailers, and the like|
|STREAMLINE TRAVEL HOME||produced in Elkhart IN facility. That division was sold to Newell and became the Newell Motor Home.|
"Crown Imperial" and "Regency", were apparently not Streamline models per se but marketing, indicating degree
or type of luxury features added to Streamline's various models, and badges on the trailer designating it.
Pre-60 Streamline Models did not have a 'royalty badge' attached to them, just the Streamline logo front and rear.
The "Royal" set of descriptions and advertising theme ran for many years, but after the Guerdon Corp. became
the majority owner that labeling was dropped and models reverted to being described by their length.
VIN or Serial Numbers:
Streamline VIN numbers are found stamped on one tongue rail, and on the chrome ID plate near the door.
CA registered Streamlines also have a metal CA ID tag with a 'permanent' Trailer ID number on it. Unfortunately,
that does not mean you pay your registration only once!
I first assumed Streamline serial numbers corresponded to the number of trailers built. That is not the case.
(Note: "California" means the original El Monte plant, and "Indiana" means the Elkhart, IN plant). Tom Patterson contributed: "...you should know that the "6" appears to mean that your trailer is a Countess model. It seems that Streamline started off with a low number (which may have been 1 or other low number) for a VIN in 1957 when they began
operation, but it changed along the way. In 1959, various ranges of numbers were assigned to each trailer length.
In 1962, a separate range was assigned to each model. The various sizes of Streamlines beginning in 1959 and various models of Streamlines beginning in 1962 were each assigned a range of numbers.
For example, in 1962, the Duchess was assigned the 5000 range, the Dukes were assigned the 2000 range and Countesses were assigned the 6000 range, etc.
Further, for California models (but not Indiana) the year of manufacture was indicated by an alpha digit: 1962 was A, 1963 was B, 1964 was C and so on. This holds true for a while, but seems to be off a letter in later years." (Perhaps a partial year due to a change in model designations was involved, or later conglomerate owner Guerdon Industries dictated the change. )
"Also for California models only, a two digit numerical field was added which represents the length of the trailer!
I am not sure in which month Streamline's fiscal manufacturing year began - it may have been in September. Whatever, there seem to be a number of discrepancies between the year of manufacture given for a particular unit by Streamline, and the year used on the titles by many owners. Perhaps the titles used a calendar year vs. a manufacturing year, and these each began with different months, or titles might have been year of purchase vs. its year of manufacture." Owners with any such information are encouraged to contact Tom and share it.
Pre-Streamline: A Brief Travel Trailer History:
Streamline Trailer Company evolved from founders, designers, engineers, and builders that grew out of earlier travel trailer companies. Wm. Hawley Bowlus is credited for the first aerodynamic, lightweight riveted aluminum trailer. Bowlus-Teller went out of business in 1936 and was acquired by Wally Byam for his new Airstream Co. Post war, Curtis Wright Industries (CWI) also started building small, light, aerodynamic trailer coaches of aircraft aluminum and using aircraft body construction techniques and materials, a natural outgrowth of technology that had produced wartime aircraft. By then, most aluminum trailer bodies were riveted together on vertical ribs into an aircraft style monocoque shell resting on a steel welded frame, with one center-balanced axle. Early trailers looked much like aluminum boats, flipped upside down onto an axle and provided with one door and porthole windows. Some closely
resembled the main character's helmet in the movie The Rocketeer, and kept the name for that style.
Early interiors were spartan, yet adequate for rough camping, and trailers were small and light enough to be towed by the less powerful vehicles of that era.
Airstream restarted in 1948 and improved its designs with stronger longer frames, widening, lengthening and raising the trailer's profile to the now-familiar "twinkie" or "breadloaf" shape that dominated aluminum travel trailer design for decades to come. Versus the flat sided "canned ham" style, the aerodynamic designs challenged trailer builders.
In 1949, CWI sold its design rights to Kenny Neptune, James "Pat" Patterson, and Frank Polito, who founded the Silver Streak Trailer Company. They renamed their coach the Silver Streak Clipper. After reshaping its front and rear Plexiglas windows in 1950, front and rear glass windows that actually opened became an option in late 1953.
At the same time as Silver Streak, other manufacturers were adopting the wider, longer 'breadloaf' profiles.
In 1957, Neptune and Polito bought out Pat Patterson's interest in Silver Streak. Patterson and industry dealer Harry Lovett then formed the new Streamline Trailer Co. Their timing was fortunate: as the postwar economy expanded and returning GIs landed jobs and started families, demand for travel trailers as both postwar starter housing and as recreational travel really began to take off.
With other companies, Streamline's entry into trailer sales came at a time when the market for trailer coaches had
increased annually, for many years. As the public's desire for travel trailers grew, the trailer market drove its own innovation as buyers asked for additional features or comforts in their coaches. Newly organized trailer trade shows allowed participants to see what their competitors Airstream, Silver Streak, Avion, El Rey, Spartan, and others were offering customers! Streamline started adding them as standard features or options in its trailers.
Starting from a basic design for one Standard model, Streamline began adapting its company product line to fit buyers from small family touring, to large park models suitable for full time living in a tight postwar housing market. The postwar economy often required families to relocate for work, and again trailers provided a way to move not
only the family, but their family home as well. Many startup trailer companies benefited from that demographic.
Streamline's first manufacturing factory was in the East LA city of El Monte-- once a concentrated hub of wartime aircraft plants building warplanes for the War Dept. When WW2 ended and its airplane production ceased, federal government subsidies and the location provided aspiring trailer company employers with ready built large factory floors, surplus supplies of aircraft-grade, high quality aluminum, special tooling and factory equipment, and the highly trained, skilled and coed workforce needed to build new Streamline aluminum trailers! Due to that happy circumstance, El Monte became known as the Travel Trailer Capitol of the West, with over 30 different trailer man-
ufacturers in and around El Monte at various times, up to the mid 70's gas crisis and its impact on the industry. Streamline trailers were manufactured in El Monte, and later in its history, Streamline Travel Home motor homes
and some trailers, were also built in Thornton, IN.
Streamline Trailer Company formed in 1957, but few were actually built and sold that year. According to trailer lore, in its first year Streamline's founders disagreed over the initial design, and one partner left to rejoin and reboot Silver Streak, with completely redesigned and rebadged trailers. The departing partner must have taken a big box of trailer plans and drawings with him, because for many years the trailers from both companies, built mere blocks from one another in the same city, were suspiciously identical, inside and out!
Starting in 1960, Streamline adopted its characteristic Silver and Gold livery-- mill finish aluminum body panels, with gold anodized trim positioned to visually break up the expanses of sheet aluminum, and to demark transition areas or for the gravel shield area at lower front. After the 30's "streamline" craze, by then 1950's America wanted "Space Age", and trailer companies (as well as buses, trains, autos and other vehicles) were affecting the streamline moderne aesthetic of the time, with swept curves to the roof, rounded, shiplap airplane style panel corners, and tapering rear tail. Other design touches were added, to evoke the concept of aerodynamics.
Although new Streamlines were nice and shiny with a 'mill finish', at that time they were not mirror polished, and were coated with aerospace polymer coatings to protect the aluminum from dirt or pollutants. Around the end of the 1960's, Streamline shifted to low-upkeep, fully anodized aluminum exteriors, similar to Airstream.
Streamlines also employed the strong, aircraft style riveted aluminum sheet over rib construction that Airstream and many other trailer builders employed, all ideas borrowed from aluminum warplane construction. This 'monocoque'
construction is so strong that the Streamline's entire body shell can be detached from the frame and lifted off as
one piece, a technique used by most vintage trailer restorers to perform a "frame off" restoration.
Reportedly, Streamline's founding partner disagreement was over the trailer frame: One man wanted two full lengthwise frame members (common to most trailers at the time), while the other partner wanted three full frame members, for additional strength and safety. I would appreciate hearing from Silverstreak owners to verify frame information, but I understand Silverstreaks have two frame rails from coupler to rear bumper. Streamlines have three; however the center rectangular-tube steel member in the Streamline only goes as far back as the first axle, then switches to angle iron, incorporated into a strong rigid box between the wheelwells which anchors the axles and rubber bushed leaf springs. Aft of the rear axle, the two rearmost spaces form narrow, shallow voids for the water and waste tanks. For some time, only a pedestal Black Water tank under the toilet, and a steel Fresh Water tank behind the bathroom counter, were installed.
The frame in a '64 Countess is very strong, arc welded, and well made: main lengthwise frame stringers are 6" deep by 2" C-channel, welded on edge to many lighter steel crossmembers corresponding to the shell rib locations. The shell of the Countess has twelve ribs, arcing up from floor to ceiling and back down in one bent, solid unbroken rib. Other models have more, or less ribs. Airstream has a nifty video on YouTube that shows how their trailers are built, and Streamlines were similar, except the interior aluminum sheet used to build Streamlines were not full length, and were broken up into more panels or sections than the full-sheet method for Airstreams. (As a DIY refurber, I prefer the smaller sized sheets, and it does not detract at all from the interior appearance)
Streamline also designed in more crossmember support under the plywood flooring, along with tanks, plumbing, under floor insulation, and a plywood floor screwed to the frame. The floor was then covered with durable flooring such as Marmoleum, before receiving its full length bellypan, which is hung from the crossmembers using rivets.
The preassembled coach shell was then lowered down on and fastened to the frame/floor unit before the interior sheeting went on and interiors were installed. Streamline added many features for occupant comfort and safety. Their options list was extensive, allowing customers to equip their travel or house trailer with the latest in galley appliances, systems and utilities.
Streamlines came with "dual" power systems. For AC, a 30A shore power input, into a small but adequate 30A AC circuit breaker box, was standard equipment. Coaches had a 30A breaker for an Air Conditioner; a 30A master breaker with separate 20A branch circuits for lighting and duplex outlets, dual fuel Frig and other electric appliances or conveniences. Although available, power converters or inverters were not standard, and transformer type AC to DC converters were optional. In the mid-60s generators were large, bulky, heavy and expensive, so not in general use in travel trailer. The same was true of air conditioning-- it was available as an expensive add-on for the time, and the factory option was a huge 1-ton capacity, roof mounted Duo-Therm-- square and ugly but very desirable in hot climates! Like modern A/Cs, it was mounted in the center roof vent and carried on installer roof rails.
In keeping with the 'separate system' design, Streamlines also had a separate, light-duty DC power system, that
originated with the Tow Vehicle electrical system. The Aux tow wire was used to deliver 12V DC throughout the trailer to vent fans, lights, appliances etc. If the coach was disconnected from the tow vehicle, the coach DC ran off the House battery, residing in a box on the trailer tongue. It was charged by the tow vehicle 12V. That battery also powered the emergency breakaway switch, that would engage the electric brakes instantly if the trailer lost coupling or connections to the tow vehicle-- a Bargmann designed, DOT mandated system which is still in use today.
Trailer safety lights included rear turn and brake lights, with a roof-mounted high brake light; a license plate lamp; and a high side marker light, at each corner of the trailer. At that time, no further safety lighting was required, but tow lighting was enhanced by the factory as each set of DOT mandates were implemented by the industry.
Streamline used the Bargmann 7-blade round tow cable connector, which is still in common use today in the US.
Factory Streamline interior light fixtures have separate lamps and switches, 1 for DC, 1 for AC. Confusingly, they use the same Edison-base fixtures and bulbs, except one is DC and one is AC! The trailer DC system could be enhanced with options to provide better boondocking capabilities, or more park comfort features for daily living.
Streamline's DC power systems were a simpler, lighter duty version of the complex wiring found in RVs or travel trailers today, with their higher loads, multiple sources and storage including battery, Solar, and generators.
At that time, there were no "tech" requirements, so a hardwire telephone was the extent of "communication" tech!
The LP gas supply was short and simple, with dual tanks on the tongue and iron pipe back to a tee that split the LP for an LP/AC frig and a space heater to starboard; and the water heater and gas stove, to port. The 60's era water heater was a 6-gallon Bowen "cookie tin" type, probably about enough for two birdy-bath showers, and the dinner dishes! Today, new water heaters are roughly the same capacity, but "tankless" options also exist.
When hooked up to park water, the water system ran normally from park pressure. For boondocking, the standard 22-gallon steel fresh water tank was pressurized by a small 12V air compressor sitting atop the tank. The combo
bath/shower stall with sprayhead provided bathing even during boondock camping. Interior plumbing in Streamlines was soldered 1/2" copper for all lines, and most pipes ran behind counters or cabinets in the interior. Plumbing was uninsulated, and every piece I removed during rehab of my Countess was split open from freezing.
Adding to comfort was a marine toilet perched atop its own 14 gallon black water tank, mounted both below and above the floor giving the toilet a 6" riser. Black water tanks were equipped with waste valves and couplings so tanks could be drained and flushed, but were large enough so the trailer could provide basic comforts for extended boondocking, with no septic hookup needed until the tank got full. The blackwater tank and systems could be hooked directly to park utilities, for park living situations or "guest trailer" use.
Even in the 60's, Streamline coaches could provide a lot of comfort, with self contained heating, refrigeration, water pressure, lighting and anything that worked from 12V DC, LP, or 120VAC whenever connected to shore power.
In the blessedly quiet era before portable TVs, boomboxes or highpower audio, PCs, cellphones and other noisy electronics, a 12V or battery radio (or perhaps musical instrument) was probably the extent of camping trailer entertainment! In 1964, affordable portable TVs were still mostly for House Trailer use, with roof mounted twinlead antennas for off-air broadcast TV. To me, less TV = more social and outdoor enjoyment time!
In the noisy complexity of today, I sense that many of us long for a return to a time when people went camping to quietly enjoy nature, spend most of their time outdoors, fish, and meet other people rather than sitting in luxurious isolation inside giant buslike ego blimps, in front of 50" TVs or other electronics, or on cellphones ignoring nature, everything and everyone else-- or worse, disturbing neighbors with their generators or other thoughtless noise!
StreamLine body aluminum was .028" Alclad (aka Duraclad) 12-24 ST, which Wikipedia says is a strong alloy layer sandwiched between outer layers of pure aluminum-- an aerospace material. It is very strong, yet malleable and flexible enough to be rolled, formed, shaped or bent without stress cracking while cold, and able to take complex forming or stamping, using heat annealing.
It is still used by companies like Airstream, and takes a high polish. Anecdotally, vintage trailer fans or pro trailer polishers say "Streamlines had a much better metal than the Airstreams available at the time", and polish up very
well. Pro polisher Jim Weston of Tulsa said that it probably made a difference where the trailer was manufactured: El Monte CA trailers seemed to have a better grade aluminum, due to the war surplus Alclad available there. Streamline used a protective polymer exterior coating called Aero-Gard, an aerospace clear coat for aluminum aircraft to prevent oxidation or salt corrosion. It is so good, that even though blotchy after 50-plus years, it requires industrial aerospace stripping agents to remove before polishing. As mentioned before, pre-70's trailers were built with the Alclad skin, enabling those trailers to be polished to the mirror surface some enthusiasts love.
Streamline and Silver Streak construction methods, materials, interior layouts, options and other items are so similar they look like clones, right down to the textured, gold anodized trim on the outside skin. Their designs are so alike that most non-owners can't distinguish between them, without reading the roof badges.
Both had the similar streamlined, breadloaf shape with aircraft style construction, mill finish aluminum skin with overlapping dome riveted panels, and even similar design and color schemes-- the livery for both is aluminum, with gold textured trim for splash shields or transitional areas of the outer skin. Although the body panels were sealed with mastic, the anodized trim was not and was just overlapped, making it part of the actual exterior skin. (Caulk it!)
With fuselage-like lines, rounded corners and roofline and other aerodynamic touches, among afficianados these trailers are called bread loaf or chrome twinky style vintage coaches.
Both makes had a slightly out-tapered rear profile, but a Silver Streak front profile is straight up and down, while Streamline used a gradual inward slope starting beneath its front windows. The inward front slope and outward Whale Tail downslope are ten degrees. There are slight differences in design used to build the outer, aluminum shiplap style roof corners. Streamline shiplap corners employ 5 panels per corner; the Silver Streaks, four.
Both trailers employed dome head aluminum aircraft rivets to achieve a watertight outside shell and modern aero-dynamics. Inner ribs go up from within a floor U channel, and curve overhead and back down the other side for a continuous, one piece solid rib made of a thicker, harder allumaloy. Between the ribs and within the walls, lighter aluminum U channel is used for vertical and horizontal spacers, some of which anchor interior attachments, counters or cabinets. They were built with lots of rivets, that take much time to remove and replace-- blind rivets on the exterior, and ordinary aluminum pop rivets for interior wall panels, radius assemblies and cabinets.
60's-era interior end caps were one piece molded fiberglass, in most standard models. Previous or custom-ordered models used shiplap style aluminum, birch plywood or decorative cover materials for end cap interior trim.
Both Streamlines and Silver Streaks were built with off the shelf stock parts from manufactures like Hehr (vents, eyebrows, handles, locks, fans, access doors, panels and windows), and appliance makes like Dometic, Magic Chef, Coleman, and others. Streamline offered a very extensive list of options, most related to the number of persons each model could sleep: twin or double beds, bunk beds, front folding sofabeds, etc. Floor layouts, or additional electrical equipment, larger tanks, heaters, etc. for comfort or utility, and furniture such as bureaus, beds, or sleeper sofas were built in, or were options chosen by the customer from Streamline's extensive catalog.
Each trailer model had several floor plan options, which could be preordered or custom configured from the factory. The dual wiring was so remarkably similar to Silver Streak that I used a Silver Streak wiring diagram, for my 64 Streamline Countess while upgrading its wiring, and I noted few differences, at least on paper.
Streamline interior cabinets and work counter structures were aluminum, very ingeniously bent and formed into well designed, sturdy modules. Cabinets had a solid bearing wall and one partial, riveted prop wall that used the next or prior module for support. Modules were riveted in place in either a Standard Model configuration or a "custom" one, that probably had commercial use with movie studios, construction offices, food trailers, etc., all of which were being implemented in the mid 60s, and are still in use today.
Kitchen and bath counter tops were lightweight fiberglass, either polished to glossy smoothness or laminated with formica and held in place by undercounter, riveted molding with vinyl welting. Walls were factory painted with standard hues, or colors selected by customers, and original paint finishes were quite durable and long lasting.
Few Streamlines I have seen except restorations, have had a bright metal aluminum finish inside anyplace. While
some owners seem to like it, the polished interior metal has a dizzy, "hall of mirrors" effect I personally don't like.
There were apparently many interior options-- some have aluminum interiors, others have masonite woodgrain print paneling, from floor to 2/3 up the walls, in the twin bed and living areas. Paneling was held in place by a combination of plastic channel on three sides, with aluminum rivets at the floor, or self tapping sheet metal screws with trim rings. The mill finish, metal angle trim around the windows is riveted in place.
Initially, wall panel spaces between inner and outer skins were insulated with 2" unfaced fiberglass, or later, with expanded foam-in-place products. Panels were vented, by means of small Hehr top or lower aluminum vents in each rib space, that Streamline said were there to prevent condensation, in cold climates. Vintage trailer forums still debate whether the vents should be blocked, or left open-- but in CA, my vents were open and I've noticed no past condensation issues.
Aluminum cabinets, hollow core doors, light materials of all kinds, and Streamline sales literature, indicate that Streamline's primary design goal was to make their coaches as lightweight as possible, to make towing economical and easier for vehicles available at the time. Many of their print ads show a Streamline hitched to a large family sedan, station wagon, or even a Tbird! With the powerful V8 engines then available, power was not a problem but
suspensions, radiators, brake controllers and other modifications were needed for truly safe trailer towing.
Streamline achieved what it set out to do: my 26' Countess factory empty/dry weight was 3500#. A modern canned ham trailer of the same length now, is often double that weight or more due to use of much heavier materials and
"luxury" items like slideouts, granite, hardwoods, tile showers and more. Gas economy today has been forgotten.
With its rigid monocoque body, all aluminum riveted construction and cabinetry, Streamlines are still some of the sturdiest, lightest vintage travel trailers around, easier and less costly to tow -- good reasons for their continued popularity and desirability as a vintage, yet fully usable travel trailer.
At one time Streamlines numbered in the thousands, but their numbers have declined since the company closed in 1974. While in business, Streamline sponsored a trailer club called the Royal Rovers, and Tom Patterson has set up
a new website, http://www.streamlineroyalrovers.org since Streamlines began reappearing and gaining popularity as vintage travel trailers. The Houston TX group was once the most active club, and still has its contact info on Tom Patterson's web site, which features information on several makes of travel trailers including Silver Streak and Streamline. Tom's site will manage the club memberships and enroll new members, and there are online apps for it.
The Airstream Forums "Vintage Kin" forum include a lot of owner information, and Tin Can Tourists and Facebook have a Streamline page. You can now find hundreds of pictures of Streamlines of all models, on Pinterest or using a good search engine. Streamlines have a "following" of enthusiast owners, and they are now often seen at vintage trailer shows, restored or in progress (guilty!) and tucked amid other rarer types, or more common and numerous Airstreams.
Streamline Trailer Co. also made motor homes in limited numbers, the Streamline Travel Home. That Elkhart division was eventually sold and became the Newell motor home. Today, Streamline Travel Homes are rare.
Travel trailers in the 60's were built for light weight and towability, meaning better gas mileage and handling for the tow vehicle pulling them. Manufacturers of modern canned hams seem to be shortsighted, with a careless disregard for weight or economy, focusing instead on luxuries, electronics, and use of particleboard, laminates, granite countertops, tile, and other heavy homebuilder materials. Pulling those coaches requires powerful, fuel hungry vehicles like full size pickups or large SUVs. More "stuff" adds weight. Hauling all that particleboard, granite, tile, toys and luxuries around costs their owners dearly in added fuel costs, whether they recognize it or not, and most seem not to-- or to care! Yet.
But a caveat is in order: currently, gas is cheap. With US oil supply and demand temporarily stable and its supply diversity seemingly improving, good gas mileage has again become "optional" for many US buyers. But anyone who lived through the Oil Crisis knows oil supplies are finite. Demand still exceeds supply because China and other foreign demand is growing exponentially, and the US is already competing with other nations for oil supplies.
Current gas inventories cannot stay high indefinitely, and I think a time will come again when the huge bus-frame ego blimps and big, heavy trailers will all be parked out behind the barn, used as spare guest rooms, rental or family member housing, or even owner housing. It has happened before and we'd be mistaken to think it can't happen again.
The mid-70's Oil Crisis tanked the US economy, neutered Detroit, and brought RVing to a temporary but ruinous halt. The RV industry was hard hit, with many travel trailer and motor home companies forced to close, or purchased by RV conglomerates. Guerdon Industries bought and owned Streamline as early as 1969, because Streamline is listed as a division of Guerdon Industries in Streamline advertising. It is not known if Guerdon just shut Streamline
down or went out of business carrying Streamline along-- but it is thought the latter. The Guerdon company next resurfaced in 1977 and was not building travel trailers. 70s model Streamlines feature blue anodized trim, rather than gold, and some feature an imprinted "SL" on the front window rock guard, if one is present. An SL230 example from 1974 features the aluminum with blue livery, and some feature a Guerdon logo as well.
For more information on Guerdon and Streamline's various ownership, please refer to Tom Patterson's "History of
the Royal Rovers" on his http://www.streamlineroyalrovers.org website.
Among the companies closing in the mid Seventies, was Streamline Trailer Company, which closed in 1974. Streamline "had a good run" as they say, building trailers from 1957 until 1974-- a 17 year period of operation and still longer than many previous travel trailer companies had been able to survive.
There was a persistent rumor that Streamline had left behind a storehouse of parts in Elkhart IN, to honor their warranties, but it has never been located yet it makes for a fun piece of "Streamline mythology".
Tom Patterson does not have original manuals, although there are some owner manual scans on his website and
other materials are slowly joining the Resources section on the Streamline Travel Trailer forum of Facebook. Blueprints, wiring diagrams and similar items seem to be rare. Tom was a major source of information for this story. Anyone having blueprints, wiring diagrams, owner manuals or other materials are encouraged to scan and donate the scans to Tom Patterson, or the Facebook Streamline Vintage Travel Trailers group, so we have a central repository of information sure to be sought out by most Streamline Travel Trailer restorers and DIYers. Other trailer companies such as Silver Streak, were apparently slightly better at documenting their trailer's technical information.
It was thought the RV/MH Heritage Society (now called the RV/Motor Home Museum, in Elkhart, IN.) may have some
Streamline data. Both Elkhart and nearby Shipshewana, Indiana are still manufacturing centers for travel trailers, motor homes and luxury RV "bus homes". Airstream still has a facility there. In this era, it has more to do with the availability of highly skilled Amish or Mennonite craftsmen for custom wood cabinetry, than it does surplus aircraft aluminum!
Streamline's story, as well as that of Silver Streak, Avion, Airstream, and other aluminum aircraft style travel trailers, are a fascinating part of American transportation history. Spawned by wartime technology, the travel trailers have given countless thousands of Americans, a key to adventure and family companionship while traveling.
From the Conestoga Wagons of Studebaker, all the way to the present day, Americans have seemingly always been on wheels, seeing the natural wonders and visiting the fascinating historical features of our beautiful country.
-- By Tom Detweiler, writer and '64 Streamline Countess owner
-- History, much information, editing, commentary and revision by Tom Patterson, website and Streamline owner
-- Streamline Trailer Co., Wikipedia
-- Streamline Trailer Co., Tin Can Tourists website
-- Mid Valley News, East LA CA weekly newspaper
-- Airstream Forums Vintage Kin group within the AF website
-- Facebook "Streamline Vintage Travel Trailer" group
-- "Wheel Estate" by Allan Wallis, 1991