- Updated: 17 May 2015
Welcome to the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, Inc. (WBCCI)—fun, fellowship, and adventure for owners of the world’s finest RV, the Airstream.
Founded in 1955 by 39 charter members, the WBCCI today is one of the largest recreational vehicle organizations in the world with more than 12,000 members.
The WBCCI has touched the lives of Airstream owners for nearly sixty years and continues in the spirit of Wally Byam, inventor of the Airstream, who introduced glamour to trailer travel.
Dedicated to fostering friendships and a passion for travel through a common interest in Airstreams, the WBCCI offers caravans, rallies and activities through the more than 122 local units throughout the United States and Canada.
The WBCCI is a non-profit organization, directed by volunteer members. A minimal paid staff manages the WBCCI international headquarters in Jackson Center, Ohio, .8 mile east of the Airstream factory on State Route 274.
Wally Byam (1896-1962) - Inventor of the Airstream travel trailer
The history of Airstream began with one man—Wallace Merle “Wally” Byam—whose dream was to build the perfect travel trailer. It would provide first class living conditions anywhere in the world, be light enough to be towed by a standard automobile, and “move like a stream of air.”
The first prototypes of the iconic Airstream trailer were built in the late 1920‘s in the backyard of Byam’s Los Angeles home. Now, nearly 85 years later, Airstream, Inc. remains the longest continuously operating recreational vehicle company in the world. Nearly 70% of all Airstreams ever manufactured—including some built from Byam’s original blueprints from the early 1930’s—are still rolling down the highways, and vintage trailers continue to be restored each year.
Byam was a born wanderer. As a boy in Baker City, Oregon, he traveled with his grandfather’s mule team; later, as a shepherd, he lived in a two-wheeled, covered donkey cart. After graduating with the class of 1916 from Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, Byam served in the Merchant Marine. Stanford University in California was next, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in history in 1921.
As a businessman, Byam launched his own advertising agency, and became the publisher of several magazines.
One of his do-it-yourself periodicals, Popular Mechanics, included an article describing plans for construction of a travel trailer. After readers complained about the plans, Byam tried them himself and agreed they were flawed. He built his own model—the “Torpedo”—and published an article about the improved trailer which could be constructed from plywood for less than $100. Byam sold the plans for five dollars and continued building better versions—adding chemical toilets, ice boxes, gasoline stoves, and hand water pumps. He raised the ceiling to allow campers to stand inside, striving for a trailer, in Byam’s words, that would be “always home wherever your wheels may stop.” In 1931 Byam’s RV company was born; the Airstream name was adopted three years later.
Airstream trailers—at this time, built with Masonite—were selling well when Byam again improved on the design in 1936. He introduced the “Airstream Clipper”, similar to the Bowlus Road Chief, which incorporated aircraft construction methods that improved the strength-to-weight ratio of the trailer, minimized wind resistance, and maximized fuel efficiency. With its riveted aluminum body, the Clipper was the first of the iconic “silver bullet” style Airstream trailers, and marked the beginning of the widely recognized American brand.
Still popular today, the aerodynamic body style has been significantly revised only a few times in 80 years, upholding Byam’s motto, “Let’s not make changes, let’s make only improvements.”
Byam married his wife Stella in 1952 and together they traveled in their Airstream, stenciling their destinations one by one on the curbside front of the trailer as they toured the world. Byam lead caravans of Airstream enthusiasts around the globe, to Mexico, Central America, Canada, Cuba, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Airstream trailers have survived millions of miles over some of the roughest roads in the world, realizing Byam’s dream as stated in his well known creed.
“In the heart of these words is an entire life’s dream,” he wrote. “To those of you who find in the promise of these words your promise. I bequeath this creed. . . my dream belongs to you.”
- To place the great wide world at your doorstep for you who yearn to travel with all the comforts of home.
- To provide a more satisfying, meaningful way of travel that offers complete travel independence, wherever and whenever you choose.
- To keep alive and make real an enduring promise of high adventure and faraway lands, of rediscovering old places and new interests.
- To open a whole world of new experiences, a new dimension in enjoyment where travel, adventure and good fellowship are your constant companions.
- To encourage clubs and rallies that provide an endless source of friendships, travel fun, and personal expression.
- To lead caravans wherever the four winds blow, over twinkling boulevards, across trackless deserts, to the traveled and untraveled corners of the earth.
- To play some part in promoting international goodwill and understanding among the peoples of the world through person-to-person contact.
- To refine and perfect our product by continuous travel-testing over the highways and byways of the world.
- To strive endlessly to stir the venturesome spirit that moves you to follow a rainbow to its end, and thus make your travel dreams come true.
Byam died in 1962. The Airstream company, founded on Byam’s technical and organizational skill, continues to flourish.