We have been enjoying our frame off restoration of our 1952 Cruiser for some time now. Last evening I was polishing an area on the front 13 panels for preparation of upper running lights. The setting sunlight cast a beautiful golden light upon the the old aluminum over the "missing" front window. We had always noticed the faded remains of "CARAVAN" over the front window. To my delight the golden light revealed Wally Byam's curvy signature above CARAVAN.
I was stoked to learn the history and significance of this find and was excited to think of the adventures our Cruiser had quite possibly undertaken. Had our cruiser been on Safari, camped beneath the great pyrimids with Wally Byam as the host? Although I may never know for sure it is fun to ponder. I always new our trailer was special, but now even more so. I am addicted!
Here is a little history on the Wally Byam's CARAVAN sign from Vintage Trailer Supply:
Back in the early 1950s, Airstream founder Wally Byam personally led caravans of Airstreamers all over the world.
Some time around 1951 or 1952, some Airstreams participating in Wally's caravans started bearing a plaque above the front window that said "Wally Byam's Caravan." Originally the plaque was oval, but just a few years later (no later than 1954) the rectangular plaque pictured above became the official plaque of Airstreamers going on caravans sponsored by Wally.
, the first Wally Byam Caravan Club was founded. At that time, a requirement was instituted that all club members, whether or not they were participating in caravans, must display this "standard plaque" above the front window and preferably above both the front and back windows. The plaques were furnished to each club member without charge. In 1962
, the club changed its name to WBCCI and this plaque disappeared from usage.
Originally, the rectangular plates were made of etched aluminum with a red background, just like our reproduction. It is believed there were also some blue aluminum plaques that may have been anodized or painted without etching. We have yet to see an example of the blue aluminum plates, but we suspect this because of anecdotal reports and the existence of bare rectangular plates that were not etched. By around 1960
, the club had stopped issuing the aluminum plaques and was instead issuing similar aluminum foil decals in red or blue (we are unsure of why there were two colors).
According to the instructions distributed with the plates in the late 1950s, "...directly over the front and rear window will be the Wally Byam Caravan plaque. Directly over the plaque will be the number. Directly above the number will be the Caravan Club decal."