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The first motorhomes made by Airstream were produced under the Argosy brand. The Argosy motorhomes are built on the same Chevy P-30 series chassis that the later Airstream motorhome were made on. They are commonly referred to as "Painted Airstreams". They do have aluminum riveted skin but there is some galvanized steel panels in the front and rear. They are very good units but do not have all of the bells and whistles that the Airstream models have. The Argosy motorhomes were made up to 1979 and production shifted to the Airstream brand. The Argosy motorhomes were basically a test bed for Airstream. The quality of these units is seen by how many are still in use today. The basic design and style of the 1974 model was used through 1992!
1979 & 1981
1979 saw the change from the last Argosy motorhomes to the first of the shiny aluminum motorhomes. The Excella model was produced in 1979 and 1981. The Excella motorhome is very similar to the Argosy units but with an all aluminum skin and extra features. Airstream was in the process of being sold from Beatrice to Thor in 1980 and no units (that I know of) were produced.
1982-1983 We see the introduction of the 280, 300, and 310 models. The 280 is a renamed Excella 28'. The naming convention matches the length of the unit in feet (280=28'). 1982 was the first year of the highly popular wood grain stripe down the side!
The introduction of the longer 325 and 345 units began. These units are obvious because of the tag axle in the rear. The 325's and 345's were produced into 1989. Based on the number that are available today, the 345 was a popular unit. The first 270 model was produced. This is still a popular choice for those that want a smaller unit. As a result, the 270 units tend to have a very short time on the market.
In 1989, there are two changes. First is the exterior paint scheme. Gone is the attractive wood stripe and in comes a silver, gray burgundy paint scheme. There were also a few units produced with a silver, gray, blue paint scheme. 1989 was the only year with the blue paint scheme. At least one of the 345's was manufactured with a Cummins diesel engine.
The other new item is the 370 (37') with a Ford 460 on a Gillig chassis. The 370 was produced only in 1989. The owners have reported smooth and steady handling. Several of the 15 are still running around although one was totaled in 2006. Insurance paid out $37,000 for the 17 year old unit.
Airstream renames the popular 345 to the 350 (and added 6") and produces the 300 and 250. The new paint scheme remains (silver, gray, burgundy).
In response to consumer demand for bigger and sleeker units, Airstream introduces the new Classic 36' unit. The Classic 36' was produced in both gas (more popular) and diesel pusher models (1994 and 1995 on Spartan chassis). The Classic 36 was produced until 1996 when the aluminum sided motorhomes became too costly to produce when compared to their fiberglass and composite competition. The poor sales of these high cost units ended their production.
These units, like all Airstream units, have withstood the test of time. They continue to look great after all these years. The cost ($10,000-$35,000) makes them very attractive to newcomers to the RV market. Many consumers unsatisfied with the quality of their current RVs are purchasing these units for the quality and durability. These units have the strength and durability of the Airstream aluminum skin and the conveniences of a motorhome.
There were rumors in 2005 of an aluminum classic style motorhome being prototyped in 2005. There was no formal announcement from Airstream. Airstream did send out a survey to classic MH owners to get their feedback on what things owners liked and disliked about their classic motor homes.
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