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Old 11-29-2015, 09:25 AM   #1
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Bowlus Road Chief

A friend of mine is lusting over this "new" AL trailer. Apparently they claim they are a "pre" Airstream, but from what I could google, they are more "post" than "pre."

Overview - Bowlus Road ChiefBowlus Road Chief | Inspired by timeless American style

It's a cool looking trailer, but the dry weight vs gross weight would really limit what you could take with you. I guess the trade-off is that you need less of a TV. And the price tag, YIKES! $110K or custom for $130K!

I couldn't tell from the web site how long it is. It seems to have LOTS of rivets, which is very good. The front entry is odd and would make for drag. Aerodynamically, it would be better to tow it from the other end and put a collapsible step under the back bumper. They seem to be trying to avoid the price of a pull out step, which is silly given the price tag.

I like the floor heating. The bath is a wet bath, which I don't like. The refrigerator is even smaller than the one we have, and ours is marginal.

The other concern is how everything is hidden away inside the shell somewhere. I'm wondering how safe that is, and if it will make it hard to work on. Batteries, (are there any??) for example, have to be removed for the winter in our climate. Maintenance is especially an issue in such a small space. The other thing is that it doesn't have an electric jack. The tongue weight is only 170 pounds, so you could lift it by hand, as that brawny guy is doing in one of the pictures.

The awnings can attach to either side, but that means they aren't over the door, so you still get wet when leaving the trailer in a rain - this is even more of an issue when taking dogs out. With an awning over the door on our AS, I can grill in the rain and go in and out without umbrellas and without getting wet. And in the Bowlus you aren't stepping out onto a decent step - just onto an A shaped tongue and then a little step.

I don't see any compartments on the outside to hold hoses, etc., but there might be one I'm just not seeing - where the escape door is behind the toilet. (How does THAT work?? Do you have to remove the toilet to get out?) The escape door is on the driver's side. Shouldn't there be an escape door on each side since the door is over the tongue? The toilet is a composting toilet. UG. The specs didn't list the water heater. There are solar panels, so maybe the heater is solar, which is fine if it's sunny.

It's interesting that AS is trying to produce a less expensive model, and Bowlus is going exactly the other way. And, they haven't been producing these for years and years, so I guess you'd end up being a bit of a test case for them.
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Old 11-29-2015, 10:20 AM   #2
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I think you're missing the point. This is a near exact reproduction of the original Bowlus trailer, which is why iti is missing all of the little things you would like to have, but weren't on the original model.
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Old 11-29-2015, 10:25 AM   #3
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Yes, I guess I am missing the point. Why would someone want to pay that much for all of the "original / reproduction" things rather than newer / better things?
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Old 11-29-2015, 10:38 AM   #4
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How is this version not newer and better? It looks to have all mod cons. Fine looking trailer, too.
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Old 11-29-2015, 10:58 AM   #5
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I hope they frame them better that the original one I looked at. The aluminum framing was lacking.

Owner had walked on the roof and you could look down the trailer ceiling and see how the upper cabinets looked like an old horse belly due the ceiling being shoved down. A section of the ceiling was open and I could see very small aluminum sheet metal frame parts.
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Old 11-29-2015, 11:27 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by sallye View Post
A friend of mine is lusting over this "new" AL trailer. Apparently they claim they are a "pre" Airstream, but from what I could google, they are more "post" than "pre."
They seem to be pre Airstream: From Wikipedia page for Wally Byam

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wally_Byam

"In 1934, Hawley Bowlus developed the first riveted aluminum trailer, named the "Road Chief". Wally Byam was involved in sales of the these trailers. Bowlus continued to produce his line of trailers, finally ending production in September 1936. William Hawley Bowlus was an aircraft designer who had worked on The Spirit of St. Louis."

You can see the influence of Bowlus, on the first Airstream ever produced, the Clipper.

Based on what I have read Bowlus trailers have very good QC, something sorely lacking in Airstreams. Also, the fact that the tongue weight weighs less than 200# means, you can tow it with some sedan and most small/midsize CUVs.
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Old 11-29-2015, 11:44 AM   #7
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Why?

Any idea why it's towed with the blunt end forward? Wouldn't it be better if the tapered end were forward?
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Old 11-29-2015, 11:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by sallye View Post
Any idea why it's towed with the blunt end forward? Wouldn't it be better if the tapered end were forward?
That's because the original Bowlus was designed that way. It was Wally who changed the door location to the side when he created the Airstream.

The drag from the design didn't matter as much in the 1930's when most cars and roads were not suitable for towing very fast.

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Old 11-29-2015, 12:03 PM   #9
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Submarines, torpedoes, airplanes are all teardrop shaped; blunt end forward and tapered end to the rear. This is the most aerodynamic shape, pretty sure.
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Old 11-29-2015, 12:20 PM   #10
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Old 11-29-2015, 12:46 PM   #11
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Here's a photo of a restored original Bowlus Road Chief at the 2007 Region 5 - 7 VAC rally at Poplar Grove Airport in Illinois. Restoration was an overwhelming project. The original Bowlus had a welded steel tube frame between the outer aluminum skin and the inner aircraft plywood skin. The frame had rusted out, necessitating taking the trailer completely apart, welding up a new frame, and reattaching the inner and outer skins. It is believed to be the only original Bowlus trailer in roadworthy condition.

The trailer was restored by Gar Williams, who also restored the Cessna Model A on display in the museum at Poplar Grove.
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Old 11-29-2015, 01:12 PM   #12
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I woke up this morning to see one of these parked across the street @ Vines in Paso Robles. Sharp looking trailer, I liked the tapered rear reminding me of 1/4 midgets with the nerf bar protecting the tail lights. A clean roof line, no vent for the refer or Ac on top. It was only three months old.
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Old 11-29-2015, 01:46 PM   #13
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I actually have the first one delivered to a customer (Sept. 2014) and have towed it over 12,000 miles. I'd be happy to answer any well meaning questions about the trailer. I sold our Airstream, a 23' Int'l. Serenity FB, so have experience with both the Bowlus & the Airstream.

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Old 11-29-2015, 07:28 PM   #14
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Re: "I actually have the first one delivered to a customer (Sept. 2014) and have towed it over 12,000 miles. I'd be happy to answer any well meaning questions about the trailer. I sold our Airstream, a 23' Int'l. Serenity FB, so have experience with both the Bowlus & the Airstream."

Since you have experience with both, could you do a side by side review for us?
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Old 11-29-2015, 08:15 PM   #15
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Oh, I like it, I like rhe separate area, the clean look, everything. I bet an awning could be fashioned over the door. Do they come in one length? What is the length? I think I better look it up. Can't wait to hear from JDS
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Old 11-29-2015, 08:46 PM   #16
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The Bowlus is 24' and my AS was 23', essentially the same. The Bowlus is narrower and less high than the AS. The biggest difference between the two, and the main reason I love the Bowlus, is that it weighs 2,300 lbs dry and the AS tips the scale at about 4,800 lbs dry. The lighter weight of the Bowlus means that you don't need a w/d, anti-sway hitch. You just drop the coupler onto the hitch ball and off you go. Towing the Bowlus is a dream - I always felt I had my house behind me when towing our AS, and our 23' model wasn't even a wide body. You can tow the Bowlus with just about any car out there. John Long uses a Saab convertible, hardly a burly tow vehicle. The stability of the Bowlus is wonderful. We've towed in 50mph winds with no effect and passing semis pose no issue at all.

On the inside the Bowlus is more compact than our AS but more efficiently laid out and more comfortable. It has a lounge area that is very comfortable. In contrast, we were never able to get comfortable in our AS's seats, and it lacked a lounge area. The Bowlus has a cassette toilet that is, in my opinion, preferable to the "stinky slinky" of the AS. The fresh water tank and the grey water tank capacity is less than the AS but we have been able to manage without difficulty. The refrigerator is smaller than the one in the AS but is vastly superior in terms of performance. The cook top also performs better than the one we had in the AS. It has a microwave but no oven. The shower is a "wet one" which is less desirable than the one in the AS. The Bowlus storage is less than that of a comparable AS.

The ALDI heating system is wonderful - quiet and efficient. It heats the water and the floors - having a heated floor is truly wonderful on a cold morning! The built-in AC system is quiet and very efficient.

The build quality of the Bowlus is truly amazing and is vastly superior to the AS. It has a fully boxed aluminum frame and the outer skin is 2024 T3 alloy, the same as in modern aircraft fuselages and much more robust than the aluminum of the AS. The attention to detail and the quality of the components is much better than an AS.

This just scratches the surface of the differences between the Bowlus and a comparable AS. If I had to give an overview I would say that the light weight of the Bowlus is the biggest differentiator. It's hard to appreciate what a difference the light weight makes until you've had a chance to tow one. I think it's also fair to say that most AS owners would think that the more compact size of the Bowlus would make it a non-starter but we've not found that to be a problem.

I'd be more than happy to answer more specific questions you or others may have.

Best regards,


John S.
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Old 11-29-2015, 09:04 PM   #17
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Thank you for taking the time to write this John. Very generous of you.
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Old 11-30-2015, 12:27 AM   #18
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Bowlus impression


Just last month, Ami and I were in Death Valley, so we cruised over to visit the Bowlusussesses in Henderson NV. We met the makers, John and Helena at their Bowlus facility. We toured and chatted for two hours. These folks are admirably dedicated to their product. The new Road Chief is respectful to the original design while employing state of the art material and mechanicals.


Airstream V Bowlus?? Hardly comparable, unless you think Ginsu to Masamune can be compared.


The Bowlus Road Chief isn't a fit for everyone. It is a camping trailer. If you consider it an expensive toy, then you have little knowledge of fabrication material or appreciation of fine workmanship, utilization of space, and design clarity. The Bowlus is certainly the best built trailer in the world. It has no frivolous, pseudo-luxury, no televisions or 200W sub-woofers, no granite counters, reclining chairs, automated awnings. It's lightweight, rugged, nimble, the finest materials (2024 T3, Leather, Maple, teak, Stainless...), and everything fits with Campagnolo quality. Inspecting a Bowlus, you can feel the love and care in the artisans' expert craftwork, that an Airstream is so totally void of. Jackson Center is incapable of manufacturing at this quality level.

The $110,000 Bowlus is 24 feet long. For the same price, you can buy six or seven more feet of wet, buckling floors, mis-rivets, stripped screws, sticky windows, white box appliances, cheap carpet or puckering vinyl, oil canning skins, Superficial Glamour, and membership in the exclusive Wally Byam “Airstream Community”... Just review the long, well documented list of complaints about Airstream quality on this forum. From the viewpoint of a fabricator, the Bowlus offers much more for the money. Bowlus Road Chief LLC operates with a very different ethic than Thor-stream. You won't need a “moisture meter”.


Please don't misunderstand this as Airstream bashing, it's absolutely factual that Bowlus far exceeds anything that Airstream can offer. I love my old Airstream anyway,


The Bowlus to Ami's left is a new 2015. On her right is an eighty year-old original. The new Road Chief is way better than the old original.
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Old 02-20-2016, 10:09 AM   #19
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@JDS what TV are you currently using? How well do the ventilation fans work compared to the typical exhaust fans? Have you tried the A/C running on a small generator? Do you find the bed design problematic (tapers at the end)?

Would be great if AS started making lighter weight trailers, improved their build quality and offered higher quality appliances/heating/etc. but I suspect it is just too costly for them to consider.

This trailer would great paired with a sporty sedan or wagon/small-crossover-"SUV".
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Old 02-20-2016, 11:20 AM   #20
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@JDS what TV are you currently using? How well do the ventilation fans work compared to the typical exhaust fans? Have you tried the A/C running on a small generator? Do you find the bed design problematic (tapers at the end)?

Would be great if AS started making lighter weight trailers, improved their build quality and offered higher quality appliances/heating/etc. but I suspect it is just too costly for them to consider.

This trailer would great paired with a sporty sedan or wagon/small-crossover-"SUV".
Our TV is a new 1/2 ton Chevy Silverado, not because it's needed to tow the Bowlus but rather because we carry a ton of crap with us. You can tow the Bowlus with just about any car.

The vents aren't fans but rather just vents that you open and close manually. They provide good airflow with a few windows cracked.

We have run the A/C on our generator, which was bought for our A/S and is a Yamaha EF2400iSHC. It's overkill for the Bowlus A/C, which is an 8,000 BTU unit.

Regarding the bed, I'm 6'4" and have no problem with the taper at the end of the bed.

Hope this helps.

John S.
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