Vintage vs. Modern

I recently read a post at a popular Airstream forum that went something to the effect: “I’ve got a 90’s model Airstream, and a new Airstream owner commented that I should ‘upgrade to a new model’… in my opinion, newer isn’t an upgrade, but a vintage model is.”

Let’s start with what a technical explanation of what an Airstream is: An Airstream is a travel trailer, utilizing a semi-monocoque construction with an aluminum shell.  This has not changed since Wally dreamed the first one up in his garage.

up·grade
verb
 ˈəpˌɡrād,ˌəpˈɡrād/

1. Raise (something) to a higher standard, in particular improve (equipment or machinery) by adding or replacing components.

Construction and Materials
As far as interior furniture and cabinets go, the modern Airstream enjoys far superior construction. Vintage models are essentially particle board, sometimes plywood, with plastic laminate veneer. My 2008 has solid, well-made hickory panel fronts and frames. Galley countertop is Corian construction, as opposed to formica on particle board in the models of past.  Fabrics are also higher quality with better performance (stain resistance, durability).

Can an argument be made the Alcoa and Kaiser HT copper alloyed clad aluminum sheet in .032″ thickness, used on ’40 and ’50’s models is “better” than the currently used Alcoa Bright Versatrim 3004 H18 in .040″? Or how about the 2024 T3 in .032″ used on the ’60’s models? ‘Decontenting’ happened with the Beatrice Foods dynasty, when they switched to the less expensive 6061 T6 beginning in 1969. With that said, 2024 is considered ‘aircraft grade’, having a higher yield strength and fatigue resistance than the 3004.  So, an argument could be made that vintage have a better shell- if polishing to a mirror finish is considered an ‘upgrade’.

Technology
What about all the amenities and technology upgrades we take for granted? I’d like to know how many smug vintage owners would give up their radial tires, microwave, separate grey tank, three-stage battery charger, inverter, flat screen TV, PEX plumbing, dual fuel refrigerator, and photo-voltaic charging systems. Of all the vintage Airstream restorations I’ve seen, I’ve never seen one factory stock (no modern amenities). Think about it.

That’s not to say there isn’t value in simplicity. I’m not arguing against the benefits of simplicity. Einstein said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” That mindset and camping go together like peas and carrots. But, where do you draw the line? I would submit the fundamental activity of camping in a RV is wholly different than Thru-Hiking the Appalachian.

Nostalgia
Which leaves us with why we camp. Camping is the thing of memories.
If you’re like me, the childhood memories of traveling with my family in my parents Airstream is 99% of the reason camping wouldn’t work in any other RV.  A lot of newer is an upgrade but, older is not always better.  Meaning, I’d love to have a mint condition, vintage 1976 Sovereign to go camping in with my family- but, it would be upgraded with all the modern amenities…

See You Down the Road

 

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