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Squarestream - A Unique Airstream
AIR Editor

Articles submitted by individual members are posted by the AIR Editor
By AIR Editor
Published on 12/24/2007

Manuafactured for several years, these square Airstreams were unique in the Airstream line. Well built but never well accepted, their brief history is detailed here.

The history of the Airstream Land Yacht 1989 - 1991

This article was written and compiled by AIR Forums member and squarestream owner Jimmini.  Several in-depth and on-going discussions are available on the Air Forums about this subject. 

Many improvements and upgrades to Airstream travel trailers where often tried first on Argosy travel trailers (made by Airstream) and if successful, were incorporated into the Airstream trailer line. Experimental Argosy Trailers were first produced 1972 -1979 and were similar to Airstreams in construction and shape. The Argosy line was easily distinguishable from Airstream as the trailer body was painted tan. In 1986, Thor Industries introduced the first square Argosy trailer and followed with the first Argosy Fifth wheel in 1988.


This new Argosy trailer body had a squarish bonded aluminum sidewall skin made from a special alloy and tension leveled for smoothness. The skin was then permanently bonded to the structural cage with a proven space age adhesive and painted beige. These square Argosy trailers where produced through 1988.

In 1989 Thor Industries produced trailers similar to the Argosy, painted them silver and branded them as the Land Yacht. Airstreamers were not amused and called it a squarestream and would not allow owners of the new Land Yacht into the Airstream club (WBCCI). They were rejected because their coach wasn’t acceptable, shunned at Airstream get-togethers, called the "Airstream Edsel" and even the "New Formula Coke." They did not sell well, perhaps because when originally introduced in 1986, these trailers were priced well below the classic Airstream and often considered an inferior product. As time went on, the price rose and by 1991 the price for Land Yacht matched that of the classic Airstream. A typical MSRP for a Land Yacht in 1989 was $30,355.00. Not many units were made, perhaps as few as 289 and 1991 was the last production year for the squarestream.

The 1989 and 1990 Land Yacht exterior was painted with baked enamel finish that required the same care you would give you car. Paint was Dupont Silver poly, PTJ-DBU 34651, Centauri 441-46-A and Smoke PPG-DBU 3843. On the 1989 Land Yacht the blue Airstream stripe ran from the door around to the other side in the same area just below the windows. On the 1990 the strip ran from the front of the trailer to the back of the trailer just below the windows and another blue stripe from the front to the rear just below the roof joint seal.

The 1989 and 1990 travel trailer had options for twin beds and double doors on trailers equipped with a double bed. They were manufactured in 27 ft, 29 ft, 32 ft and 33ft with front kitchen. The 1989 Land Yacht Owner’s Manual was printed on plain heavy paper with at least one page that still said Argosy instead of Airstream on it. Similar Airstream publications for the 1989 Classic Excella and Limited where printed on heavy glossy paper. Both the Land Yacht and classics came in the "Airstream Silver Key Delivery" 3 ring binder. The Land Yacht owners package did not include any of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International information for membership that was traditionally included with other Airstream owner packets. WBCCI annual membership dues were $25.00 at that time.

The Argosy/ Airstream 35 foot fifth wheel was built in 1988 as an Argosy and in 1989 as an Airstream Land Yacht. Only about 125 fifth wheel trailers where made and only 5 with one slide out on the left side. 1989 was the last production year for Land Yacht fifth wheel models. The dry weight for this trailer was 9100 lbs, Hitch Weight 2000lbs and GVWR was 11,000 lbs.

Both the travel trailer and the 5
th wheel trailer had vehicle recalls in Canada. Recall #1996152 read:  "All vehicles require bilingual GAWR and GVWR on VIN label. Travel trailers require front and rear clearance lights. Fifth wheel trailers need lower front side reflex reflector and front and rear clearance lights. Correction: Labels will be replaced on all vehicles and clearance lights and reflectors will be added to trailers."

In 1996 and 1997 Thor tried the fifth wheel market again with the "Integrity" By Airstream. This trailer was a laminated fifth wheel looking very much like a re-badged Dutchmen fifth wheel. Interestingly, Thor Industries Inc. annual report dated 10/16/1996, Airstream section read; ".....It also manufacturers "Integrity" laminated fifth wheels." This trailer has been referred to by some as a "Tupperware trailer". It was made with two slide-outs on the left side and came in 30, 32 and 36 foot models.

In 1989 Airstream brochure "Innovative Technological Leadership" included the following information:  "Airstream Land Yacht are perhaps the first truly innovative travel trailers engineered from the ground up to be better than the competition. Designed for easy tow ability with a full bodied interior for unsurpassed livability. They are tested for long term durability at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio. With Airstreams 55 years of experience, they are built to have higher resale value and last longer than their competition, yet are incomparably designed for comfort and livability. Land yacht used the leading edge of modern aerodynamic design with smooth flush-fit construction techniques and gentle flowing contours. The result is better gas mileage, noticeable better handling under towing and a trailer that is easier to maintain. Compare Land Yacht’s unique features and important extras against any other travel trailer in their price class. Compare their kick-off-your-shoes comfort and value down the road. When you do you’ll move up to a new standard-the all new Land Yacht."  Coach descriptions included:

"Structural Strength - Part of the Land Yachts superior durability comes from an internal structural cage made of specially extruded aluminum far thicker than those used on any competitions trailer, welded for additional strength and firmly attached to the chassis. It is significantly more curved at the corners and the sides than a conventional trailer to improve aerodynamics and handling."

"Heavy Duty Chassis - An extremely rugged chassis made of high strength steel alloy rolled to exacting specifications was designed specifically for use on the Land Yacht . An aluminum skin and 2 ½" of fiberglass insulation beneath, provide improved aerodynamics and weather protection. With ½" Blandex floor above it form a solid base on which all else rides."  (*note the frame was 5" high when most Airstream trailers where 4")

"Integrated Gas Bottles and Spare Tire Storage  - Unique horizontal placement of the gas bottles within the A frame provided maximum protection and insulation from severe weather. By mounting bottles lower than on other trailers and on rollers they were easier to remove and replace. The sculptured bottle cover enhanced overall aerodynamics and improved the front end appearance. Protected under the A frame extension to the front of the trailer the spare tire easily cranked up or down for maximum convenience. Other manufacturers might not have thought of this, but at Airstream we did."

"Holding Tanks - The water holding tanks integrated into the sub-floor assembly are insulated and warmed by interior heat from above to reduce the possibility of freezing."

"Incomparable Suspension - Our Dura Torque axle is the best handling rubber torsion suspension in the world with fewer working parts and ground clearance than conventional axles. Even if a tire goes flat and must be removed a Land Yacht can still be towed a short distance, thanks to its Dura Torque axle which prevents the hubs from touching the ground. Along with the lowest maintenance it also absorbs 50% more road vibration for increased vehicle durability."

"Advanced Construction - Our exclusive Monoloc process joins the aluminum roof and sidewalls with unbelievable precision. Like all seams on the Land Yacht the result is a double seal leak free bond with greater strength and the ability to distribute forces over the entire body. This results in a trailer with better fit of internal furniture and components with enhanced long term durability. The exterior aluminum sidewall skin double the thickness of some other trailer is a special alloy, tension leveled for smoothness. The skin is then permanently bonded with a proven space age adhesive to the structural cage."

In 1991 the Land Yacht again underwent change when the aluminum was changed to new high-gloss fiberglass. From the Airstream brochure: "The Airstream Land Yacht travel trailer is back – all new and better than ever. New high-gloss fiberglass construction gives you greater strength, easier maintenance, and lower cost. In addition to all the Land Yacht standard features, you get these great new features for 1991: Dometic Air Conditioner with heat strip, Easy-lift Blinds, Hinged Horizontal Bottle Cover, All-new Recessed Stone Guard."

The 1991 Land Yacht came in 29 and 33 foot models with option for double door on models with double/queen beds. The other option was twin beds. The 33' model had a front kitchen and dinette. Airstream brochure read "Watch for the 26' Land Yacht Travel Trailer coming soon" however it is unclear if any were ever actually manufactured.