The story behind my '64 Overlander and I goes back to 1964
when friends of my family ordered the coach new from a dealer in Detroit, Michigan on Eight Mile Road. One of their first trips with the coach was to visit my aunt and camp on her property . . . as a five-year-old, I was fascinated by the big silver trailer and couldn't fathom traveling with your bathroom and bedroom behind your car. My first camping experience was when our friends invited me to go on a weekend excursion with them later that year. I couldn't locate any photos from that first visit, but I did locate a photo taken in 1968
when our friends were visiting our family farm:
As can be guessed from the photo, Airstreams hadn't become my focus, but horses had become my fascination and Trixie, my pony, was posed in front of the Airstream. I am the nine-year-old holding the pony's lead with my best friend, David, riding. My mother's 1966
Oldsmobile Jetstar 88 is in the backgrand along with our farm manager's 1961
Plymouth Valiant . . . and of course, the Airstream.
My fascination with camping began with that first trip and by the time the above photo was taken, I had begun a campaign to convince my parents that we needed an Airstream to take on vacations. My parents weren't convinced that either of them would like camping/RVing, but my father had wanted a pickup truck for years and he saw the potential of getting his desired pickup if he went along with the idea of a "camper". After over a year of shopping, my parents decided on an 8-foot Sunway truck camper that they special ordered from the factory. Simultaneously, they ordered a brand new, special ordered, 1969 Chevrolet C20 long-bed pickup. I was excited with the prospect of beginning family RV adventures, but I was hoping for the roomier travel trailer. Taken in early 1970, the photo below is of the rig that served us through the summer of 1971:
The only one in the family who truely enjoyed the pickup camper was my father, but that was because of the pickup as he hated camping or vacationing in general. My mother disliked the truck, but tolerated the camper as I enjoyed camping and travel. In 1971, my mother had her fill of the pickup and insisted upon a more practical travel vehicle . . . the result was that the SunWay/Chevrolet combination was traded on a brand new Buick Sportwagon that would serve our family for nine years.
The travel trailer/camping bug remained dormant for several years. Once I was able to drive, my mother decided that it might be time to try the camping lifestyle again. We shopped for about a year and settled on special ordering a 1980 Nomad 1780 Light Weight travel trailer with the intent of towing it with our one-year-old Toyota. When the Nomad arrived at the dealer's lot, the hitch fabricator refused to outfit our Toyota for the necessary hitch so it was decided that my 1965
Dodge Coronet 500 would make the ideal tow vehicle with its 383 cubic inch V8 and 3.90 differential gears . . . so it became our tow vehicle for the duration. A photo of this rig appears below:
The photo above was taken during a trip to The Cloud Nine Ranch in Caufield, Missouri. I was approaching my RVing ideal, but something was missing . . . I knew that it was the dream of Airstreaming. The Nomad sealed its fate when a curbside spring shackle failed sending the coach into a 180 degree skid that left us in the proper lane heading in the direction from which we came . . . . the curbside tire, wheel, spring were badly mangled but the rig remained right-side up . . . . the damage, unbelievably was a new spring, new shackles, new wheel, new bias-ply Good Year Marathon tire, and a new bumper guard for the tow vehcile. That experience gave me such a fright that I became a reluctant RV enthusiast as the thought of another such incident was always in the back of my mind (a large, fully loaded semi missed hitting us by less than 10 feet). We had turned down a left-over 1979 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre before ordering the Nomad. I often wonder how thing might have been different had we purchased the left-over Argosy . . .
The RVing bug remaind dormant for several years, but once I was established in my profession the Airstream bug struck again. This time, the decision was mine alone to make and I knew that I would be purchasing an Airstream. I first began looking at the new Airstream Safaris (1995), but something wasn't right . . . . the bathroom was in the wrong place . . . I was determined to have a mid-bedroom with rear bath arrangement. When I realized that no such new model existed in the size that I wante, it was off to look at used Airstreams. My search took me to two dozen used Airstream from 1990 to 1970 in vintage. I found the 1980s models not to my liking, but the 1970s were much closer to what I wanted. I had almost decided on a 1975 Airstream Caravanner . . . it had the bathroom that I wanted, but I was not certain that I wanted a coach where the bed had to be made every day. I decided to think the purchase over, and on my way home, I stopped at a cafe and picked up a "trader" publication to read while I waited for my meal. This would prove to be a fortuitious meal.
While reading the "trader" publication I ran across an advertisement for a 1964
Airstream travel trailer. I hadn't thought about getting an Airstream that old, but it was only a few miles from where I was so I called and made an appointment to look at the coach three days later (it was dark by now and I had appointments scheduled for the next two days). I was up early and ready to go on the appointed day. My old 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer took me the 200 miles to the trailer's location near Mendota, Illinois. After battling poor directions on unmarked county roads, I finally located the trailer and its owner. It seemed like the trailer was calling to me from first sight. When I walked into the coach, my immediate thought was of my first camping trip with my family's friends . . . this was my dream coach.
This was in the days before a structured Airstream community on the Internet so I was on my own so far as inspecting and making a final offer. My basic inspection revealed that the coach was missing its fresh water pump, but all of the plumbing and tank were in tact. The mattresses needed replacement, but the drapes, upholstery and carpet were acceptable for several years use. The air conditioner worked well as did the compressor type refrigerator, the water heater was noisy but was doing its job. It appeared to be solid and I didn't find any soft spots in the floors. The owner was asking $6,500 and I offered $6,000 . . . secured my purchase with a $500 cash down-payment. I returned ten days later after I had the opportunity to have my Grand Wagoneer outfitted with the necessary towing gear. The coach followed me home and has been with me for the past 17 years. The photo below is the oldest that I could find and it does represent the coach as it appeared when I first purchased it:
The photo above was taken on the route to the Wally Byam Caravan Club International -- International Rally in 1999. This was to be my second International Rally and first Wagon Wheel Caravan, both of which I have repeated multiple times. The trip was essentially trouble-free (as I had expected after the much longer journey to the 1998 International in Boise, Idaho), and I had the combined knowledge of many experienced caravanners and rallyers who helped me to overcome the minor issues that I did encounter. I had owned the Overlander for four years, and this would be the first time that I was able to use its awning as I was afraid of breaking it if I proceeded without proper operating instructions . . . needless to say this was one of the first things that my caravanning friends helped me to master. The Wagonmaster knew that I was new to caravanning so he had provided me with a list of the various "things" that I would need to have for a stress-free trip - - I paid attention to the list and had everything that I needed, but found that I needed explanation for a few of the items which were promptly provided during the early days of the caravan.
Overlander is still with me and likely will be my traveling companion for the years to come. The biggest change that I have had is that I am no longer a Free-Wheeler as I met my soulmate three years ago and we will be celebrating our second anniversary in October. We both enjoy traveling and RVing so I am sure that the Overlander will see many more adventures. The phot below was taken a few years ago following a trip to Helena, Ohio to P and S Trailer Service polish and plasticoat the coach. I opted to go with the "original sheen" polish rather than the "mirror polish" that is so popular because I wante the coach to be the way that I remembered it from childhood.
Over a period of about six months, I had P and S Trailer Service in Helena Ohio restore/refurbish the exterior, and Fowler RV Interiors of Symsonia, Kentucky restore/refurbish the interior. Even though I now know that I overpaid for the coach initially, I know that my total expenditure is still just about what I would have spent for a new Sarari in 1995.
The photo above is of my Overlander with its Vintage traveling companion, my 1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible. This is my time machine of travel . . . a big land yacht of a car towing the most elegant land yacht . . . my 1964 Airstream Overlander Land Yacht International.
As Paul Harvey used to say "and now for the rest of the story".
I had only owned the Overlander for about six months when I was towing it home to show to my family. My route took me close to the home of the original owners' son so I stopped in for a brief visit and to talk Airstreaming. I noticed a marked change in his expression as we approached the coach. He looked at me and said "oh, does this bring back memories," and my response was that I thought that the coach was very similar to the one that his family had bought new in 1964. His response to me was, you don't have a coach similar to our 1964 . . . it is the coach that we had . . . those drapes were sewn by my mother shortly before they sold the coach in 1980, and the upholstery on the sofa was also done by my mother about five years before they sold the coach."
This coach has had an ownership history that has taken it from the original owners' home near Springfield, Illinois; to the second owners' home near Branson, Missouri, to the third owners' home near Mendota, Illinois, and finally to my home near Carbondale, Illinois.
The photo below is my most recent, and was taken as I was preparing the coach for its trip to the International Rally in Madison, Wisconsin. I had lived and taught school near Madison so this would be a trip including an extended stay in Wisconsin following the International: