Many folk can identify the iconic ‘silver bullet’ Airstream trailer caravan, but far fewer are aware that they also make motorcaravans. In 1936, after five years selling plans and DIY kits to make his Torpedo caravan, Airstream proprietor Wally Byam decided to emulate the Road Chief caravan (built by WG Bowlus), by designing and constructing his own riveted polished-aluminium trailer caravan.

In response to increasing demand, the first (GRP) Airstream Argosy motorcaravan rolled off the line in 1974, with the aluminium Excella commencing production five years later. Standard motive power was GM’s ‘big-block’ ‘454’ 7.4-litre V8 petrol engine.

Interior of a 1979 model
The interior photograph of a 1979 Airstream Excella 280

The original motorhome layout placed a nearside inward-facing settee-bed and offside tub chair behind captain’s chairs in the cab. The centrally located kitchen in the Airstream Excella 280 had a domestic-sized gas cooker with grill and oven, plus a mega-sized microwave and fridge-freezer.

The comfort station, either side of the aisle, contained a walk-in shower, a full-size basin and a marine toilet that emptied into a vast underfloor black-water holding tank. Similarly voluminous fresh- and grey-water tanks facilitated wild camping.

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Airstream Excella 280
A 1982 example retrofitted with a Chevy 6.5-litre turbodiesel engine
  • Airstream Excella 280 on a Chevrolet ladder-chassis cowl. Manufactured in Ohio, USA.
  • Length: 8.53m (28’ 0”). Drivetrain: V8 7.4-litre petrol engine driving the twin rear wheels via a three-speed automatic gearbox (later with overdrive).

If you enjoyed reading about the Airstream Excella 280, you can catch up on previous entries into the Hall of Fame here:

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