Elkhart, Indiana- Since restoring his 1962 Shasta travel trailer, Michael Dragoo has welcomed opportunities to show off the retro unit. Though most inquiring minds have been Dragoo's fellow camping enthusiasts, the most recent interested party was none other than Meijer, a chain of one-stop shopping super centers that combine a grocery with a general merchandise store. Meijer is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Dragoo's 6 X 9 ft. house-on-wheels is a prop in a soon to be released Meijer TV commercial.
Creative planners behind the commercial picked the travel trailer to set one of several scenes that appear in the 30-second spot. "We were looking for a unique setting and a retro-looking, teardrop travel trailer to use as a prop," explained Tim Wallis, Executive Vice President and Creative Director at Meyer & Wallis in Indianapolis. A call to Shasta Industries in Elkhart linked Wallis with Dragoo, who happens to be the advertising manager for the recreational vehicle company.
Meijer approved the creative group's selection because they believe the Shasta helps communicate that the product featured in the commercial fits anyone's lifestyle - whether a homebody or frequent traveler.
The scene was shot just north of Indianapolis in early winter 1999. Dragoo accompanied his trailer to the shoot and watched as a film crew worked for hours to set up and film a scene that is only a few seconds of the entire commercial segment. Colorful lights and a stunning sunset surrounded the travel trailer and its fictitious owner who sat in a lawn chair near a smoking grill.
"It's a beautiful shot," said Mark Brewster, advertising director at Meijer. "Because we are on such high ground, you can't tell where this guy is - he could be a guy at a midwestern campground grilling hotdogs or a surfer on the California coast watching the sun go down."
The Shasta enhances the nostalgic nature of the scene. Countless Americans have fond memories of the little pointy winged trailer made popular after World War II.
"People who see the trailer inevitably have a story or a memory and love to share it," Dragoo said. Brewster was one such individual. "I used to own one," the Meijer representative said.
Not yet released, the commercial is slated to air soon in a variety of TV markets in the five states Meijer serves. Exact timing and placement has not been made known.
Shasta Industries, founded in 1941, is America's oldest continuous manufacturer of recreational vehicles. A producer of class C motorhomes, fifth wheels and travel trailers, the company has manufacturing facilities in Elkhart and Middlebury, Indiana. Shasta is a division of Elkhart-based Coachmen Industries.
Elkhart, Indiana- The small "building on wheels" that stole Americans' hearts in the 1940s is on a pace for a repeat performance in the new millennium. This time, however, the house trailer's availability will be on a much smaller scale - 1/43 scale to be precise. Brooklin Models, producer of hand-built model vehicles, recently announced the release of its latest addition, the 1958 Shasta Airflyte. The Airflyte joins the elite ranks of only three other travel trailers produced by the company based in Bath, England.
"The fact that a Shasta travel trailer was selected by Brooklin Models is an honor for us," commented Robert J. Adasiak, Shasta president. "We're very proud to have the Airflyte be part of the Brooklin line."
The idea to include the Airflyte in the Brooklin line originated with Paul Bender, owner of Brasilia Press, Elkhart, Indiana. Brasilia Press is the importer of Brooklin Models for the entire Western Hemisphere, with the exception of Canada. "Brooklin did some trailers before and they did quite well," Bender noted. "Then, I had the idea of doing the Shasta."
Bender was fascinated by Shasta's story, and in particular by the little trailer with wings. Shasta Industries' history began in Northridge, California, during World War II when Robert Gray, founder of the company, launched his trailer manufacturing business in 1941. Gray's small, wheeled buildings with those distinctive wings on the upper rear panels, were perfect for remote military operations. And they were perfect for a host of other purposes, according to Bender. "People used to hang their clothes out to dry on them."
When the war ended, demand for the travel trailer that Americans had taken to their hearts exploded. As GIs and their families answered the call of the open road in increasing numbers, the popularity of Shasta's "house trailers" soared. In fact, the little Shasta trailer with its prominent wings became one of the most familiar of all travel trailers. "The mercury wings on the back end are a real trademark," Bender noted. "You can always recognize an old Shasta - the wings make it a very distinctive trailer and that's why we picked it."
Through the years, Shasta owners continued to identify with those wings and their loyalty has been legendary. Brooklin's reproduction of the Airflyte is a tribute to Shasta owners and their trailers that are still found in large numbers all over the United States. The Brooklin model represents a Shasta trailer from 1958 and is finished in a typical color scheme of the time. The top half of the trailer is white and the lower portion is yellow.
Getting the Shasta completed took a little time and effort. Bender worked with a previous owner of Brooklin Models to get the Airflyte project on the production schedule. But the model never made it to the line. "I inherited the project from my predecessor," explained Nigel Parker, current owner of Brooklin Models and a resident of England. "It had been in the pipeline for about two years when a decision was made to put it on the production schedule."
Parker was intrigued by the Airflyte and thought it fit in well with the Brooklin line. "It was a case where we wanted another caravan (travel trailer) in the range and this one was a nice complement to the ones we'd done," Parker said. "I also liked the Shasta Airflyte because it was unique - a nice stand alone piece - a good period piece that would evoke the memories of those who once used them."
Once the project was earmarked for production, it took roughly one year to make it through the research, development and assembly process. "It took six months to make a brass master," Parker said. "It was difficult because we only had a couple of photographs and some statistics to go by. We used that information to extrapolate the dimensions to come up with our brass master."
Bender provided the pictures that Parker used to create the Airflyte brass master. "I took the pictures of the Shasta unit that is on display at the Recreational Vehicle/Manufactured Housing Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana." Bender also recorded important measurements of the unit. "Then I made a bad discovery," Bender recalled. "The wings (on the unit in the Hall of Fame) were missing."
Bender approached Shasta Industries for some assistance and they came through, providing him with a wing. "I knew where they were placed," Bender said. "I got the rest of the information I needed from conversations with people and through product literature."
Parker and Bender recently visited Shasta Industries and unveiled the new product. "To be honest, I was surprised when Paul said we were going to visit Shasta because I didn't know the company was still in business," Parker shared. "He told me that indeed it was still around and that it was owned by Coachmen Industries. A panic went over me because I wasn't sure we were on target with the model."
Parker's anxieties turned to relief as Shasta officials confirmed that he hit the mark with the reproduction. "We found out that we were extremely accurate," Parker said.
Although only in circulation for a few months, the Airflyte model is already receiving lots of attention. "We took it to a collectors' show in Chicago and it generated lots of interest," noted Bender. "I think it will continue to do well. It's going to be one of our better sellers," Bender predicted.
Like other Brooklin models, the Shasta Airflyte will be available in limited quantities. "The rarity is a value to collectors," Parker explained. "And, because the models are not manufactured per se, over a five year period we may only make and sell 3,000 units of any single model." <
Brooklin models are made by hand and are completely dependent on the application of skilled labor during production. With the selection and research of a new model complete, a brass master is hand made and then developed to the stage where its components can be duplicated in white metal. These primary stages alone will require approximately 400 hours of highly skilled work.
"Not everyone can do this kind of trade," Bender noted, adding, "You can't just pull anyone off of the street and put them on the line to produce a Brooklin model."
"I refer to them as such because that's what they are, really," Bender explained. "It takes five to 10 years to learn to do this well. You have to go through an apprenticeship to learn this craft."
Once the master is finished, production moulds are made and then used throughout the casting room to create the individual parts that make up each model. When all the individual casting stages are complete, the appropriate finish is applied to each piece. Small parts are hand spray painted as are the body shells. With the components in a finished state, the three-week period that it takes to assembe this new batch of models begins.
Brooklin Models produces 1/43 scale models of a variety of typically older vehicles. The vehicles Brooklin chooses to replicate generally aren't available through any other manufacturer. "Big model companies who are manufacturing millions of one type of car aren't going to mess around with a trailer or some of the cars we do," Bender explained. "They will do cars that will be very popular like your Corvette, Mustang or Viper." Instead, Brooklin has included vehicles like the 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, 1947 Wesley Slumbercoach and 1936 Stout Scarab in its repertoire.
High-end collectible pieces, models by Brooklin are available in most industrialized countries, according to Parker. "We have quite a following," Parker said. "We have three dedicated collector's clubs - two in the U.K. and one in the U.S." Parker and Bender said it's very likely that the Shasta Airflyte will be part of individuals' collections in countries like Brazil and Canada, as well as the United States.
"Some people may collect this and put it alongside their railway sets," Parker suggested. "It is ideal for displaying alongside one of our mid-50s automobile models."
Bender intends to make sure some key auto museums have a model for their displays. Museums in Detroit, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; Auburn, Indiana; and Dearborn, Michigan; will receive Shasta Airflytes. "I'll make sure the RV/MH Hall of Fame has one for its display, too," Bender said.
Here is a list of additional specifications. Some less seldom seen or talked about models:
Model, Length, Width, Weight, Comments 1952 Cozy Cruiser, 1400, 14, , 1340, Sleeps 5, Window in door Los Angeles, CA
1952 Cozy Cruiser Model 26, 6", 26 6", , , Toilet/Shower - Two windowed doors
1952 Shasta 35, 35, , , Van Nuys, CA
1954 Shasta 32, 32, , , Two bedrooms
1955 15, 15, , , 1956 1500, 15, , , 1957 1400, 13 8", 6 6", 1150, Tongue weight 155, sleeps 5
1957 1500, 14 8", 66", 1480 , Sleeps 5, tongue weight 175
1957 1600, 15 8", 66", 1800, 225 tongue weight, sleeps 5
1957 18, , , , 1958 Shasta 19 DeLuxe, , , , Toilet, Shower, Sleep 6
1958 Shasta Airflyte 16, 15 10", 7 Considered a BIG deal. More windows/sleek shape, 1800, Over 50 bold improvements. $1095.00 Sleeps 6
1958 Shasta Airflyte 19, , , , Sleeps 6, Toilet/shower
1958 Shasta 1800, , , , Includes toilet/shower
1959 19 Deluxe, 18 10", 7, 2540, Sleeps 6, TS (Height 8)
1959 Airflyte, 15 10", 7, 1800, Sleeps 6 (Height 8) Over 6000 Shastas sold in 1959?
1960/61 19 Deluxe, 19, 7, 2560, Hitch weight 260
1960 Model 25 Deluxe, 25, 8, 4200, Louvered windows in door
1960 Shasta Compact ?, 126", , , 1960 Airflyte, 15 10", 7, 1860, 1961 Astrodome, 16, 7, 2100, Sleeps 6
1961 SC, 16, 7, 1950, Sleeps 5
1961 Airflyte, 16, 7, 1800, Sleeps 6
1961 Compact, 12 6", 66", 1115, Sleeps 5
1961 19 Deluxe, 19, 7, 2500, Sleeps 5
1962 Compact, 12 6", 66", 1115, Hitch weight 130
1962 Airflyte Frt Dinette, 16, 7, 1840, Hitch weight 200
1962 Airflyte Frt Lounge, 16, 7, 1840, Hitch weight 200
1962 SC Front Dinette, 16, 7, 1950, Hitch weight 200
1962 SC Front Lounge, 16, 7, 1950, Hitch weight 200
1962 Astrodome, 16, 7, 2100, Hitch weight 300
1962 19 Deluxe, 19, 7, 2300, Hitch weight 275
1965 Compact, 13, 66", 1150, 1965 Airflyte, 16, 71", 1980,
1966 18' Super, 18', 2650, hitch weight 280
1966 Airflyte, 16'4", 7'1", 2160, hitch weight 267
1966 17 Ultra, 17, , , Trunk at rear
1967 21' Tamdem Deluxe, 21', 3390, 330 hitch weight, rear trunk, fully contained
1967 19' Super, 19', 2650, 330 hitch weight, sleeps 8. Fully contained, rear trunk