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Bowlus Travel Trailer
Bowlus was the first all aluminum travel trailer designed by Hawley Bowlus in 1934. The trailer is an ultra-light one weighing only about 1100 lbs. It is made of panels of riveted alclad aluminum that is screwed to a galvanized steel tubing that is acetylene welded together. This constuction method was very similar to the way aircraft were constructed.
“The pleasures of touring and camping and seeing nature at her best has instilled a wanderlust into the hearts of so vast a number of our people that the demand for comfort in this national pastime has reached a point that has engaged the attention of men rich in the knowedge of construction on proven lines gathered thru experience in the aircraft industry, as well as the auto industry. “No longer need we wait for years of experimentation that has characterized the automotive industry, but profiting by years of experience we wish to introduce you to the outstanding features of the BOWLUS ROAD CHIEF.” – Bowlus Road Chief brochure
BOWLUS - TELLER TRAILER as pictured in Popular Machanics Magazine January, 1937
The Soaring Connection Legendary glider pilot and builder Wm. Hawley Bowlus built some rather famous aircraft during his career.
Among these were:
The Spirit of St. Louis. Bowlus was the shop foreman at Mahoney-Ryan Airlines, in San Diego, California, and supervised the 1927 construction of Charles Lindbergh's famous trans-Atlantic airplane.
Bowlus' sailplane #16, built in San Diego, California (1930), is commonly known as the Paper Wing on account of his using kraft paper for his wing rib shear web.
Bowlus' S-1000 and Model A series of sailplanes, also built in San Diego. Both of these two serieses resembled the Paper Wing but had conventional “stick & gussett” ribs. Bowlus broke the one hour duration record (eventually to more than 9 hours) flying a S-1000 along Pt. Loma, in San Diego. Bowlus' friends Charles and Anne Lindbergh flew Model As.
The Bowlus-duPont “Senior Albatross” series of sailplanes. These were the first true sailplanes to be built in the US, and were built in San Fernando, California in 1933 & '34. Of this four glider series, three were built for Richard (Dick) duPont and one for SSA founder Warren Eaton. The Albatross I was used by duPont to win the US Nationals in 1934 and to set a World Distance Record in 1935. The Albatross II was used by duPont to set a World Distance Record in 1934, and Lewin Barringer used it to place 2nd in the 1934 US Nationals. I own the Albatross II, which is currently under restoration.
Bowlus' Baby Albatross sailplane, which was one of the first kit-built gliders offered to the soaring public. Approximately 100 kits were produced in San Fernando from 1936 to 1941. This pod & boom glider is often called “cute.”
The Bowlus-Nelson Dragonfly, built in San Fernando in 1945, was one of the first motorgliders built in the US.
Everyone has a hobby, and Bowlus' was building scale-model live steam trains and was associated with the Los Angeles Live Steamers. His trains plied the tracks of Travel Town in LA's Griffith Park for many years, bringing delight to the thousands of children and adults who rode on them.
Bowlus built several different series of streamlined travel trailers.
These were the Road Chief, the Papoose, and the Trail-Ur-Boat.
Yet that is not all because the Bowlus Trailer product list also includes: The Motor Chief which was what we today call a “motor home”.
The Bowlus Road Chief Two hundred Road Chief trailers were eventually produced by the Bowlus-Teller Manufacturing Company, in San Fernando, California, from 1934 to '36.
To quote the brochure:
“The body and chassis of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' is constructed of rust proof steel tubing, acetylene welded together, covered with duralumin closely rivited.”
“The interior of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' is lined with suitable material for beautiful and attractive decorating.”
“The outer walls of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' are throughly insulated agaist heat.”
“The streamlining of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' is the result of years of experience in aircraft building and wind tunnel experimentation. Proper streamlining insures economy, prevents strain on the auto, creates exceptional riding qualities, and adds greatly to its beauty.”
Dimensions Length—18 feet 6 inches
Outside Height—7 feet 6 inches
Inside Height—6 feet
Weight Approximately—1100 pounds
In fact, the Road Chief is the forerunner of the Airstream trailers. Before he founded Airstream, Wally Byum was a salesman who sold Bowlus Road Chief travel trailers.
The Papoose This was a shorter version of the Road Chief.
Dimensions Length—11 feet 6 inches
Outside Height—7 feet
Weight Approximately—700 pounds
The Trail-UR-Boat This is described as “a sportsman's unit.” It consisted of two aluminum boats which were transported gunnell to gunnell. The bottom boat was the trailer and could be used as the sleeping compartment. The top boat was the boat part and was carried inverted. In this way, with the furnished stancions and storm curtains, it could make a weather resistant camping trailer.
Dimensions Length—10 feet 6 inches
Height—36 inches in transportation configuration
Weight Approximately–300 pounds
The Motor Chief This is what we would today call a “motor home.” Very similar to the Road Chief except that the door is in the side, and it has an engine in the rear.
Dimensions Length—30 feet
Wheel Base—186 inches
Outsie Width—80 inches
Inside Width—6 feet 5 inches Outside Height—8 feet 6 inches
Inside Height—6 feet 4 inches Weight Approximately—3500 pounds
The De Luxe Road Chief This is a longer version of the Standard Road Chief with a chemical toilet!
Dimensions Length—20 feet
Weight Approximately—1450 pounds
In 1935, Bowlus -Teller showed the following models in their 14 page catalog/price list (pictured at left): Motor Chief DeLuxe Road Chief Special Road Chief Standard Road Chief Papoose Trail-Ur-Boat Motor Chief Commercial DeLuxe Commercial Special Road Chief (Commercal) Standard Road Chief (Commercial) Papoose (Comercial)
Front kitchen, Mid Kitchen
The trailer is insulted and trimmed in birch plywood. The galley which is just inside the door at the front came standard with a sink, icebox, water tank, stove. The central area on the left has a couch that converts to a bed and on the other side a table and two chairs that also converts to a second bed. Then there is a clothes closet on the left side and a chest of drawers made out of aluminum on the right. The door to the clothes closet opens to give the rear bedroom privacy. At the back is a bedroom with a V bed and a small cabinet at the very rear. It's 19 feet long and 7ft 6” outside and inside it's 6'1” since I can stand up in it. About 200 were built of which mine is number 149.
Tatra 87 and 1935 Bowlus Road Chief trailer http://www.openthinkinc.com/tatra/3ocean5.html