The Evolution of the Camper Van (and Airstream’s Part in the Journey)

The camper van has come a long way since its inception. What started out as a utilitarian mode of transportation for nomads and travelers has evolved into a luxurious and high-tech way to travel and experience the great outdoors. 

The first camper vans were created in the early 1900s and were primarily used by traveling salesmen and their families. These early models were basic and utilitarian, with few amenities beyond a bed and storage space. The Morris Oxford Van conversion pictured here made its debut in the early 1920’s.

By the 1950s and 60s, camper vans became more popular with the rise of the leisure travel industry. Manufacturers started to offer a wider range of models, including vans with pop-up roofs that allowed for more headroom and space inside. These models were still relatively basic, but they offered a bit more comfort and convenience than earlier versions. 

In the 1970s and 80s, camper vans underwent a major transformation. The large Auto Manufacturers including Ford and Dodge began to offer Van models with more amenities and features, such as refrigerators, stoves, and even showers. Some models even came equipped with generators, allowing travelers to enjoy all the comforts of home while on the road.


Airstream introduced a “B” Class Van product with the launch of the B190 Van in 1988. The B190 was based on the Ford 350 Econoline Chassis and was 19 ft. in length. Production of the B190 was discontinued in 1999, by which time nearly 14,000 of the vans had been produced.


These B190’s are great looking vans and have a cult-like following today, with some owners updating them with modern technology and amenities while keeping the “vintage van” exterior.

A “van size” product was absent from the Airstream lineup from 2000 until 2004 which saw the debut of the Airstream Interstate brand. The first Interstate was based on the Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van Chassis and was a longer, more comfortable 22 feet in length. These were / are really nice looking vans. They are quite rare but keep your eyes peeled and if you can find one in the wild, snap it up.

The 2004 model year Interstate was only available in one floorplan, but I have to say it was an awesome layout with a large center lounge / sleeping area a rear kitchen and bath. By 2005 it was available in 3 floorplans, with the original being the middle one below:


Alongside the Interstate in 2004 came the rarest of the Airstream van lineup – the Dodge Sprinter Westfalia by Airstream. Now, I’m honestly not even sure what this thing was, but with FOUR brand names, it certainly stood out.

My understanding is that it is a Dodge branded Sprinter van, outfitted by Westfalia and upfitted by Airstream. Only a few hundred of these were ever made. Here’s a nice video from our friends at Colonial Airstream that takes you through it. Its quite the creation, and it hung around in the Airstream van lineup until 2006.


In 2006 another rare Airstream model brand surfaced – the Airstream Parkway Coach. The Parkway was sold alongside the Interstate models in 2006, both were built on the 2500 Mercedes Sprinter Chassis, and both were available in 4 floorplans. This seems like overkill and it probably was since the Parkway brand model disappeared along with the Interstate 2500 model in 2007.


In 2008, the Airstream Interstate touring coach built on the Sprinter 3500 Chassis made its debut and as you can see, the exterior closely resembles several models still in the Airstream Van lineup to this day.


These days, Airstream Vans (or Touring Coaches as they are called) are more luxurious than ever before. Many models come equipped with high-tech features such as flat screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and even solar panels. They offer a level of comfort and convenience that was unimaginable in the early days of the camper van when a pop-up roof was the height of luxury (excuse the pun).

Airstream Interstate Lounge

Airstream now has a total of 6 models in their Mercedes Chassis lineup – The Atlas, Interstate 24X, Interstate 24 GL, Interstate 24 GT, and Interstate 19. The collaboration with Tommy Bahama continues in the Van lineup, with TB versions of the Interstate and Atlas that are simply out of this world.

The New Kid on the Block in the Airstream Van lineup is the 2023 Airstream RANGELINE. Introduced in 2022 as the first Airstream 2023 model, the Rangeline is based on the Dodge RAM Promaster 3500 Chassis and is 21 ft in length, sliding in between the Interstate 19 and 24 foot models.

Dealers are just now (January 2023) seeing the RANGELINE start to arrive, but predictions are these vans will be a HUGE hit with Airstream lovers, and will bring a new wave of Van-Lifers into the Airstream Brand.

I have had the pleasure of touring in the Airstream Interstate and I can attest to the amazing driving experience that it offers. The comfort, views and surprising economy are astounding and it is easy to see why this is the fastest growing part of the Airstream market.

If you’re still with me … thanks for reading! Comments and feedback are always appreciated, and if you are not already a subscriber, please join with your email address below and be notified when a new blog post rolls in.

Happy Airstreamin’ and Happy Van Life



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