I’ve long said that if you want a camper that oozes style, look to the past. Long before the camper was just a box on a frame with some swoops, manufacturers were putting out elaborate designs that I’d say could qualify as art. Last weekend, I found what might be one of the most gorgeous campers ever built. This 1947 Aero Flite Falcon is simply stunning from every angle and the breathtaking beauty doesn’t stop when you hop inside. Its also ridiculously rare as the company that built it apparently assembled just 120 trailers in the just four years it was in business. Of those, perhaps 25 exist today.
A lot of readers have been sending in vintage campers. So many of them are oh so pretty and I promise to try to get to them all! One thing is pretty clear, a lot of you like gazing at the perhaps endless creations from decades ago. I can’t blame you. While a handful of independent camper makers today have distinctive, head-turning designs, it can be argued that they have nothing on the campers from about half of a century or longer ago. Back in those days, a large swath of camper producers all created what they felt were the future or the best camper you could buy. In the 1940s, Aero Flite called itself “The Nation’s Smartest Trailer” with an all-aluminum construction built like an aircraft.
The story for this camper takes us back to the early days of aviation. As the San Diego Air and Space Museum writes, in 1910, a young Wally D. Timm started working as a mechanic for Al Wilson in exchange for flight lessons. In 1921, Timm flew from Venice, California, to Lone Pine, California, and landed in Bishop, California. This flight set a record time of four hours and five minutes.
Timm was known for air racing, being a flight instructor, and flying for Hollywood productions. Timm and his brother Otto didn’t just fly planes, but also built them for clients including the aforementioned Hollywood productions. Notable aircraft include modified planes for the 1930 Howard Hughes film Hell’s Angels and the Golden Shell Special for Shell Oil. Timm also launched a Curtiss JN-4 from the Los Angeles Railway building for the 1921 film Stranger Than Fiction.
As the San Diego Air and Space Museum writes, in 1934, Timm would found the Timm Airplane Company with Otto. He would also create the Wally Timm Company. Both companies, which were based in Glendale, California, developed innovative aircraft. Eventually, Timm sold the Wally Timm Company in 1942. The successor company, which was based in the same location, was called Aero Services, Incorporated. Aero Services was a Civil Aeronautics Authority-certified repair station for civil and government aircraft.
As a history by Aero Flite owner Kevin Reabe claims , Aero Services was successful until work orders began drying up after World War II. At the time, J. Gordon Hussey was at the helm of company. Hussey had a prior business relationship with Timm when, in 1941, Hussey was running Aetna Aircraft Corporation and purchased the design for the Timm Aerocraft 2AS. The Timm Aerocraft 2AS was itself a trainer developed from the Kinner Sportwing that was designed for the U.S. government-sponsored Civilian Pilot Training Program that trained civilian pilots before and during WWII.
Hussey apparently decided to branch Aero Services out into building trailers. In 1945, Aero Lines was created for this venture and that year, Aero Services aircraft engineer Frederick C. Hoffman designed what would become the Aero Flite trailer. This prototype trailer was shown to the public in 1945 before getting put into production in 1946.
The trailers would be built at Van Nuys Airport at the factory where Aero Services rebuilt aircraft. That year, Frederick C. Hoffman filed for a patent for a “new, original, and ornamental design for a house trailer.” Aero Services would also cease business that year. Hoffman’s patent was granted in 1948.
The Aero Flite Trailer
Aero Flite Trailer, through its parent company Aero Lines, sold an estimated 110 to 120 trailers over the span of just four years between 1946 and 1949. Apparently, there are a lot of rumors and tales as to why Aero Flite failed, but the likely reason is that Aero Lines just couldn’t find enough buyers for its fancy trailers.
That’s a shame because the trailers that came out of the other end are breathtaking.
Aero Flite offered two designs to the public. The first was the 13-foot Eagle and the other was the 20-foot Falcon. It’s unclear if Aero Flite built more than just the single Eagle prototype. I couldn’t find any out there, even in the Wayback Machine Internet Archive. It is known that Aero Flyte did build about 110 to 120 trailers in total before closing up shop. Of those, it’s estimated that maybe 25 are still out there. This Aero Flite Falcon is one of them.
The 1940s after WWII were a time when trailer builders came up with designs inspired by aircraft. The era saw teardrop builders finding a way to incorporate aircraft aluminum into their trailers. It was also a time when Airstream went back into production with its own aluminum trailers.
Aero Flite differentiated itself from the pack with even more extensive use of aluminum than the competition. Aero Flite trailers feature an aluminum chassis and attached to it is an aluminum body. Magnesium was also used in the construction of these monocoque trailers. Aero Flite frames featured aluminum C-channels, aluminum plate, and aluminum crossmembers. On top of that chassis was an aluminum or magnesium floor with balsa-core aircraft plywood layered on top.
The riveted aluminum body also had some neat tricks going on. The louvers up front are functional. This was before air-conditioning made its way into campers, so the louvers helped provide filtered fresh air inside. The roof was also designed in part for this. The center of the roof sits a little bit higher than the rest of the trailer to provide headroom. A ventilation system up there exhausts hot air out of the trailer. Meanwhile, the trailer’s rear end hangs some 36 inches off of the frame. This area wasn’t given a full-height roof as it’s where the bed is and thus, not an area where you need to stand.
Inside, the high style continued with mahogany wall panels and cabinetry, hardwood ceiling panels, and an aluminum and stainless steel kitchen. Original equipment included a stove, oven, broiler, two double beds, and a 100-pound ice box. A refrigerator was optional. The company advertised “scores of distinguished appointments and special features.” Aero Flite also advertised its trailers as the only trailers in America built to aircraft specifications. While the body and chassis were aluminum with some magnesium parts, the axle was steel. The trailer also had electric brakes and 10-inch baby moon hubcaps.
This 1947 Aero Flite Falcon
This particular trailer was restored by Flyte Camp in Bend, Oregon in 2018. Flyte Camp is known for bringing vintage campers back to life in stunning detail. Click here for a jaw-dropping portfolio of classic campers brought back to their prime.
The seller describes a rather long list of goodies:
• 10 gallon black water tank
• 20 gallon fresh water tank
• All 12 volt LED lights
• Marmoleum flooring
• 4 matching art deco slip shade sconces: Midwest origin, circa 1936
• Original refurbished all aluminum kitchen
• Norcold dual voltage ice box conversion
• Horseshoe shaped front dinette area with art deco fabric, curved back with pie-shaped pieces, and triangular table post
• Ribbon cut mahogany interior
• Original mahogany preserved on cabinet door fronts and tops
• 2” Aluminum shades on all windows
• Recreated rolled headboard
• Plexiglass front window
• Preserved swatch of original fabric with upholsterers tag
• Go Power 80 watt solar panel included
• All original hardware on cabinetry
• Snap on vinyl rock guard for front window
• Single propane tank with aluminum shroud
Something I love here is the addition of something that wasn’t there, while maintaining the original aesthetic of the camper. This Aero Flite did not come with a toilet, but Flyte Camp added one and the 10-gallon black tank. Adding the toilet did mean the removal of two closets, but I think that’s worth it. Oh, and it should weigh around 2,000 pounds, so you could tow it even with a crossover.
As you could expect, a seriously rare restored trailer is going to command some good, hard money. The seller in Spokane, Washington wants $79,900 for it, which seems fair given the quality of the work and the fact that you’re unlikely to find another one of these in this condition for a very long time. Maybe you’ll never see one of these for sale again. One thing’s for sure, if you roll into a campground with this trailer, you’re bound to be the coolest person there.
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