Sleek. That’s the word for the born-again Bowlus Road Chief trailers. These are not your father’s boxy recreational vehicles. They are the born-again editions of what your grandfather might have craved: classic, stream-lined, aluminum-clad, off-grid RVs. Except that today’s target customer—as imagined on the company’s website—tows one with a Porsche Panamera, not a Cadillac.
Dubbed a “luxury aluminum travel trailer,” this is the reincarnation of the 1934 Bowlus, designed by aircraft engineer and builder (The Spirit of St. Louis) Hawley Bowlus. Even while the original production lasted only two years, it would set the standard for aerodynamic trailers, predating by two years (and inspiring) the Airstream. Its rebirth was serendipity. The parents of Geneva Long found a 1935 version in a field in Washington in 2000 and restored it. In 2011, they took Long, then 20, on a cross-country trip—and she was hooked. By 2014, she had a Wharton MBA and had revived the company in Oxnard, California.
The state-of-the-art design, explains Long, results in a towing weight (4,000 pounds, fully loaded) that is nearly 3,000 pounds lighter than most similar trailers—meaning you don’t need a pickup to pull it. Its aluminum sheets are fastened with about 5,000 aircraft rivets. The monocoque construction integrates the chassis and body of the trailer, preventing mold and mildew and keeping dust from getting in. The ride is very smooth.
Where the shiny Road Chief really sparkles is inside. The wood-lined cabin sleeps four and features USB ports under the dining table, a Wi-Fi network just for Bowlus owners and batteries that last about a week without recharging. The toilet system is odor-free. The showerhead can be used inside or outside. The kitchen includes a propane stove and a microwave. Awnings come out on either side.
The Bowlus Road Chief is available in two state-of-the-art versions. The 24-foot On the Road has a base price of $137,000. The Endless Highways ($185,000) stretches 26 feet. The six basic design packages have bespoke upgrades beginning at $20,000. Long, who occasionally designs special editions, says she already knows where she’ll put the cigar humidor.