Bowlus Road Chief Travel Trailer

The Soaring Connection

Legendary glider pilot and builder Wm. Hawley Bowlus built some rather famous aircraft during his career.

Among these were:

The Spirit of St. Louis. Bowlus was the shop foreman at Ryan Aircraft, in San Diego, California, and supervised the 1927 construction of Charles Lindbergh's famous trans-Atlantic airplane.

Bowlus' sailplane #16, built in San Diego, California (1930), is commonly known as the Paper Wing on account of his using kraft paper for his wing rib shear web.

Bowlus' S-1000 and Model A series of sailplanes, also built in San Diego. Both of these two serieses resembled the Paper Wing but had conventional "stick & gussett" ribs. Bowlus broke the one hour duration record (eventually to more than 9 hours) flying a S-1000 along Pt. Loma, in San Diego. Bowlus' friends Charles and Anne Lindbergh flew Model As.

The Bowlus-duPont "Senior Albatross" series of sailplanes. These were the first true sailplanes to be built in the US, and were built in San Fernando, California in 1933 & '34. Of this four glider series, three were built for Richard (Dick) duPont and one for SSA founder Warren Eaton. The Albatross I was used by duPont to win the US Nationals in 1934 and to set a World Distance Record in 1935. The Albatross II was used by duPont to set a World Distance Record in 1934, and Lewin Barringer used it to place 2nd in the 1934 US Nationals. I own the Albatross II, which is currently under restoration.

Bowlus' Baby Albatross sailplane, which was one of the first kit-built gliders offered to the soaring public. Approximately 100 kits were produced in San Fernando from 1936 to 1941. This pod & boom glider is often called "cute."

The Bowlus-Nelson Dragonfly, built in San Fernando in 1945, was one of the first motorgliders built in the US.

Yet That is Not All

Everyone has a hobby, and Bowlus' was building scale-model live steam trains and was associated with the Los Angeles Live Steamers. His trains plied the tracks of Travel Town in LA's Griffith Park for many years, bringing delight to the thousands of children and adults who rode on them.

Bowlus also built several different series of streamlined travel trailers.

These were the Road Chief, the Papoose, and the Trail-Ur-Boat.
Yet that is not all because the Bowlus Trailer product list also includes:
The Motor Chief which was what we today call a "motor home".

Click here for a view of my Road Chief

The Bowlus Road Chief

Two hundred Road Chief trailers were eventually produced by the Bowlus-Teller Manufacturing Company, in San Fernando, California, from 1934 to '36.

To quote the brochure:

"The body and chassis of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' is constructed of rust proof steel tubing, acetylene welded together, covered with duralumin closely rivited."

"The interior of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' is lined with suitable material for beautiful and attractive decorating."

"The outer walls of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' are throughly insulated agaist heat."

"The streamlining of 'The Bowlus Road Chief' is the result of years of experience in aircraft building and wind tunnel experimentation. Proper streamlining insures economy, prevents strain on the auto, creates exceptional riding qualities, and adds greatly to its beauty."

Click here for another view of my Road Chief


Length---18 feet 6 inches

Width---6 feet

Outside Height---7 feet 6 inches

Inside Height---6 feet

Weight Approximately---1100 pounds

In fact, the Road Chief is the forerunner of the Airstream trailers. Before he founded Airstream, Wally Byum was a salesman who sold Bowlus Road Chief travel trailers.

I am the proud owner of Road Chief number 136 which was built in 1935.

Click here for one more look

The Papoose

This was a shorter version of the Road Chief.


Length---11 feet 6 inches

Width---6 feet

Outside Height---7 feet

Weight Approximately---700 pounds

The Trail-UR-Boat

This is described as "a sportsman's unit." It consisted of two aluminum boats which were transported gunnell to gunnell. The bottom boat was the trailer and could be used as the sleeping compartment. The top boat was the boat part and was carried inverted. In this way, with the furnished stancions and storm curtains, it could make a weather resistant camping trailer.


Length---10 feet 6 inches

Height---36 inches in transportation configuration

Weight Approximately--300 pounds

The Motor Chief

This is what we would today call a "motor home." Very similar to the Road Chief except that the door is in the side, and it has an engine in the rear.


Length---30 feet

Wheel Base---186 inches

Outsie Width---80 inches

Inside Width---6 feet 5 inches Outside Height---8 feet 6 inches

Inside Height---6 feet 4 inches Weight Approximately---3500 pounds

Engine---Ford V8

The De Luxe Road Chief

This is a longer version of the Standard Road Chief with a chemical toilet!


Length---20 feet

Weight Approximately---1450 pounds

"The pleasures of touring and camping and seeing nature at her best has instilled a wanderlust into the hearts of so vast a number of our people that the demand for comfort in this national pastime has reached a point that has engaged the attention of men rich in the knowedge of construction on proven lines gathered thru experience in the aircraft industry, as well as the auto industry.

"No longer need we wait for years of experimentation that has characterized the automotive industry, but profiting by years of experience we wish to introduce you to the outstanding features of the BOWLUS ROAD CHIEF." -- Bowlus Road Chief brochure

Raul Blacksten
PO Box 307
Maywood, CA 90270 USA

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