- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

The annual Louisville RV show is the big trade event for the year and is the bellwether for the coming RV sales season. A big development for 2009 is the number of retro-style trailers entering the RV marketplace.

Retro-style trailers make a lot of sense for today’s modern market. In keeping with the oldies, they’re small, which makes them towable by smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Small also means the trailers are easier to store when not in use.

Probably most important, a retro model trailer doesn’t look like a standard RV. Many of today’s younger buyers aren’t thrilled with the looks of a typical white box on wheels, but the retro models have a certain charm that’s giving them the exciting visual appeal many people desire. A retro RV actually looks good behind your favorite midsize SUV, crossover or other tow vehicle of choice.

Cikira RV Co. (www.cikirarv.com) had a popular booth at the show with its Retro-Lite. The 160 FD model offers practical living in a 16-foot length. A mostly white exterior, accented by minimal graphics, keeps the Retro-Lite clean looking. Rounded front and aft walls, in keeping with the early 1950s trailer style, also enhance aerodynamics for improved towing. The 16-foot unit has a 3,830-pound GVWR and weighs about 1,830 pounds dry, so you have a range of towing options.

A modest forward-wall dinette/bed and a rear-wall sofa/bed flank the galley and enclosed wet bath. Full self-containment features include a 16K Btu furnace, an 8K Btu air conditioner, 17 gallons of freshwater, a 6-gallon water heater, a 13-gallon black tank, 55 amp converter and 2.7 cu.-ft. refrigerator. Light maple woodwork and nickel-finish hardware add to the interior’s retro appeal, and the euro-style single-piece dual-pane windows add to the rig’s insulation value, plus they look great.

Hi-Lo Trailer Co. (www.hilotrailer.com) has a long history of building hardside, low-profile trailers that telescope up into full-height models at the touch of a switch. In this sense, the company has been offering practical, easily-towable RVs for years, and the company’s new Mojo semi-teardrop trailer is a slightly different direction for the company.

Towed, the Mojo looks like a teardrop trailer with a curving teardrop-shaped profile. In camp, the roof section hinges near the front wall and rises in back to create a living space with extra headroom inside. A fold-down interior wall partition provides the weather-tight seal where the roof lifts out back. Its forward mini-kitchen and aft-end dinette/bed call for creative living, but it’s better than a tent. The Mojo weighs in around 1,600 pounds dry, including a claimed 140-pound (dry) hitch weight, so it’s a modest load for many vehicles.

The Shasta name has been around for a half century or more and Coachmen’s Shasta Airflyte 12 17-foot model created a stir at the Louisville show in 2007. Last year, it was joined by a slightly longer 21-foot the Airflyte 16, with added features that boost its charm and nostalgic appeal.

An airfoil-shaped wheel well, bold Z-shaped graphics and the signature Shasta wings out back visually peg the Airflyte’s visual heritage. The new 21-footer features the same U-dinette/bed and galley setup from the entry door aft, but a much larger bathroom and a pair of bunk beds against the forward wall significantly improve its livability. The new model also includes propane-fueled accessories, a good move on Coachmen’s part, as the older model from last year is all-electric, which restricts its functionality.

It could be argued that Airstream has always been building retro trailers, given that its iconic Airstream trailer appearance has changed relatively little since it was introduced in the 1940s. The company’s show display this year included a concept trailer called the Scout, an interesting little rig that incorporates contemporary materials in a seriously retro package.

Because the Scout was a concept vehicle, built to test dealer interest, details are hard to come by. We know it’s built using composite materials and laminated construction, is fully self-contained and features an up-to-date interior with a large U-shaped dinette/bed out back, a compact side-mounted galley and forward-corner wet bath.

Buyers looking for a fun, eye-catching compact trailer have even more choices this year, with more to come.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009

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