This Is Airsteam’s Red-Headed Stepchild

This Is Airsteam’s Red-Headed Stepchild

Have you heard of Airstream’s budget RV, the Argosy travel trailer? If you haven’t, buckle up because it’s kind of a crazy story. We owned and renovated an Airstream Argosy ourselves. Here’s the story of the red-headed stepchild of Airstream: the Argosy travel trailer. 

Airstream’s Red-Headed Stepchild Is the Airstream Argosy

The term red-headed stepchild means something unwanted. And Airstream has one of those in the form of a limited-time production budget RV called the Airstream Argosy. The Argosy was never Airstream’s finest achievement, but it has a cult-like following today. Chances are you’ve seen one on the road or in popular culture.

A Brief History of the *Almost* Airstream: The Argosy

The first Argosy rolled off the manufacturing line in 1973. Known as “painted Airstreams,” Argosy trailers used lower-quality aluminum that they painted to hide defects. These RVs offered a budget-friendly travel trailer to Airstream enthusiasts. The Argosy used many tried-and-true Airstream manufacturing processes, and the trailers looked a lot like the silver bullets already on the road, with a few key differences (like paint). 

Although Argosy trailers were essentially Airstream trailers, the company took steps to advertise them as “almost an Airstream.” The company wanted to make sure that Argosy owners knew they weren’t actual Airstream owners. They even went as far as barring RV owners from Airstream rallies. Airstream only produced Argosy trailers until 1979, with a brief re-introduction in 1986.

Argosy Owners Weren’t Allowed at Airstream Rallies

In the ‘70s, Airstream wanted to make sure that there was a distinction between the classic “silver bullet” Airstream trailers and Argosy trailers. The Argosy wasn’t an Airstream (appearance-wise), and the company wanted to make sure that owners knew it. They banned Argosy trailers at popular activities like Airstream rallies and the Wally Byam Caravan Club. Today, Argosy owners are welcome at both Airstream rallies and the Wally Byam Caravan Club. 

When Was the Argosy Produced? 

Airstream produced Argosy travel trailers for a short time between 1973 and 1979. The factory closed during a fuel crisis in the late 1970s. The fuel crisis took a major toll on the economy. Since Argosy wasn’t Airstream’s finest product, they cut the line. 

In 1986 they re-introduced Argosy trailers for a brief time with some upgrades like fiberglass end caps and a more squared design. The second round of Argosy trailer production lasted only three years until 1989.

Why Are Argosy RVs Painted?

Many believe Airstream painted Argosy RVs to hide the lower-grade aluminum the company used to produce a lower-priced RV. The aluminum used in Argosy production wasn’t as shiny and had imperfections, making it a perfect candidate for a painted RV. Today, Argosy enthusiasts love that they can paint their Airstream. Some paint it in fun colors, while others use the entire RV as a canvas to express their creativity, like Argosy Odyssey

The Argosy Has a Passionate Group of Enthusiasts

Today, the Argosy has a cult-like following of passionate fans. There are a few online communities dedicated to vintage Argosy travel and renovations. Owners love to renovate Argosy trailers and upgrade the interior for modern life and travel. Many Argosy owners love the fact that they can paint their trailer, too. 

How to Spot an Airstream Argosy

If you see a travel trailer on the road that looks almost like an Airstream and has a paint job, it’s probably an Argosy. Airstream Argosy trailers look very similar to the silver Airstreams we all know and love, except for the paint job.

The late-production Argosy trailers look quite different from traditional Airstreams, but they’re still pretty easy to spot. Do a Google Image search for “1987 Airstream Argosy,” and you’ll see what we mean. 

Where to Find an Airstream Argosy for Sale

While Argosy trailers are rare, it’s not hard to find them for sale if you know where to look. First, we recommend looking at popular used RV marketplaces like RVTrader and RVT.com. Utilize other public marketplaces, too, like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and even your local classifieds. Lastly, check out the Airstream Marketplace. You can find many different years and models of Airstreams for sale here, including renovated and original Airstream Argosys.

Would You Buy a Vintage Argosy?

We bought a vintage Argosy and renovated it from the ground up. While it was a fun and rewarding project, it was way more work than we anticipated. We love the Airstream brand and were super happy with and proud of our rig. We only sold it to upgrade for our growing family. Would you buy a vintage Argosy? Why or why not?

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