Hawley Bowlus was an aerospace engineer of many talents. He played a major role in building the Spirit of St. Louis that Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean. He also trained many early glider pilots, including Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow.
Bowlus also was the first to produce an aerodynamic and riveted aluminum-skinned travel trailer, starting with the 1934 Bowlus Road Chief.
Bowlus produced around 80 trailers of varying sizes before returning to the aircraft industry in 1937. More than half of those original trailers still exist, cherished by collectors (and selling for as much as $187,000 at Gooding & Company’s 2011 Scottsdale auction).
The reborn Bowlus Road Chief company has begun production of a new and modern and updated Road Chief called Endless Highways, and you can get one for $185,000. If that’s a big high for your pocketbook, there’s also a smaller and less-expensive version, On The Road, for $137,000.
Among the owners of one of those vintage Road Chiefs were John Long and Helena Mitchell, Canadian tech entrepreneurs who also are a married couple. They found a 1935 Road Chief in a field in Washington State and did a complete restoration.
Interesting family: They decided they needed a travel trailer after a 3,000-mile family road trip that included dipping a tire of their 1947 Tatra into the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans.
They took their Road Chief to the Modernism Show in Palm Springs and then to South by Southwest in Texas, where they met up with their children. The Long-Mitchell family was at South by Southwest to look for possible investments, and their children suggested they launch their own company to revive the Bowlus brand.
They obtained the trademarks and their daughter, Geneva Long, is chief executive of Bowlus Road Chief.
While the new travel trailers have the same aerodynamic shape as the originals, they incorporate a lithium-ion-phosphate battery system for off-the-grid power for a full week between recharges. Or the batteries can run the 10,000-BTU air conditioning system for 4 hours on a single charge, the company says.
A power-producing 120-watt solar panel is optional.
Standard equipment includes a mobile router with embedded 3G/4G modem and GPS and private WiFi network. There are USB charging ports and stations.
The galley has a high-efficiency 12-volte refrigerator-freezer and a battery-powered microwave, as well as a two-burner Italian cooktop.
There are sleeping facilities for four people, a teak-floored shower and “continuous hot water” system. A hydronic heating system provides in-floor heating.
With a base weight of 3,300 pounds, the company adds that even the Endless Highways trailer can be towed behind “crossover SUVs and electric SUVS, such as the Tesla X.”
Or, we’d suggest, perhaps behind a nice vintage vehicle.