Vintage Airstream Business Expands
Vintage Airstream trailers will always have a place in Rory Burmeister’s heart and in his business.
But after three years of restoring retro travel trailers, Burmeister was inspired to do more than bring these travel icons back to life, The Missoulian recently reported.
“We are taking what we have learned from that process and we are building our own trailers, taking what we know works from the Airstream and changing what doesn’t,” said Burmeister, owner of Mintage Airstreams, an East Missoula, Montana, company that restores vintage travel trailers. “Beginning in August, we will begin building vintage-looking trailers that have a modern twist.”
Partnering with CTA, a Montana-based architectural and engineering firm, Mintage Airstreams will begin producing a high-end vintage-looking trailer, and also the Mintage “Canned Ham,” a smaller travel trailer whose name is inspired by its shape, and the Mintage “Teardrop,” a petite travel trailer light enough to be hauled behind a Subaru.
“CTA is helping us design our own high-end trailer that is Airstream traileresque—something that is our own shell and is built from scratch in our shop,” Burmeister explained. “There isn’t anyone doing deluxe high-end traveler trailers like we envision, so we believe we will really fill a niche.
“What will make ours over the top is the attention to detail—everything from having fireplaces in these trailers to custom-made materials,” he said. “Every detail will be perfection.”
Such luxury accommodations come with a high-end price tag, starting somewhere around $60,000, Burmeister said. But Mintage is also catering to more modest budgets.
That’s where the “Canned Ham” and the “Teardrop” come in. The Canned Ham, which is 12 feet long and 8 feet wide, has a bathroom, a kitchen, can sleep four people, and can be pulled by a small SUV, will sell for $18,000 to $20,000. The Teardrop, which is a much smaller design that is more nimble for backroads, will sell for around $5,000.
Burmeister started his restoration business out of his two-car garage just as the national economy began to tank in late 2008 and early 2009. Worried that he would have a difficult future as a homebuilder, Burmeister turned his hobby into full-time work.
As word spread about his skill, Burmeister soon found he had more travel trailer work than time to finish it all, so he hired several of his friends to help him grow the business.
Mintage now has its own expansive shop and sales lot in East Missoula. The restoration and fabrication company now has eight employees, and could likely hire on more people in the coming year.
“My dream is to have this place be like an old-fashioned American business where the guys who work here make decent wages, have pensions, and get paid vacations so they can spend time with their families,” he said. “We do things old school around here, and that’s for a reason.”
It’s his own way to bring back blue collar work and pride in American craftsmanship.
“The idea is hand-make everything,” he said, “to have a man use his hands to build what we make and not to have a machine do the work.”
In and around creating their own line of travel trailers, Mintage Airstreams will continue with their bread and butter work—restoring and renovating Airstream trailers and other classic trailers built before 1970.
The East Missoula lot is filled with many such wheeled homes in all stages of repair, including Burmeister’s pride and joy, a 1947 trailer designed and built by Curtis Wright, the guy responsible for initially inspiring the Airstreams.
Although in need of intensive repair, the rare travel trailer has its old bones and shape of its former glory. Burmeister said he can’t wait to get his hands on it.
“It’s only one of seven left that was made by Curtis Wright,” he said. “So we are really excited about it. Supposedly it can be traced back to Howard Hughes’ girlfriend.”
Mintage is dedicated to restoring classic Airstreams. From the initial design to the finished product, each custom-made Airstream is designed to accommodate the uniqueness of each customer’s personal preferences. For every detail, from the wire to the woodwork, they provide craftsmanship, function and quality above any modern travel trailer on the road.
Shoot for the moon, Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.
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