Today’s subject is a wonderful Shasta brand camping trailer found in a Calgary back alley. This retro gem dates from the early half of the 1960s and looks like it came straight out of the Mad Men TV series. Its shape and form, the paint, love that “speed” zig-zag, and those wonderful trailing edge wing details all reflect the design philosophy of that era well.
It was camping with flair.
The Shasta company was for most of its existence based out of California and was founded in the early 1940s. Their output included a selection of small travel trailers made with fluted aluminum sides. The one seen here is an Astro model, specifically an AstroDome. There was a similar AstroFlyte, which only differed on the inside – it lacked a biffy.
Astro models were produced from 1961-1964 and while not the firm’s most popular design (little “canned ham” shaped trailers were their big sellers) there seems to be good number of them out there today. All seem to be painted much as this one with a pastel-ish colour bottom (common ones seen include this yellow, a very 60s shade of teal and blue), an accent stripe with a zig-zag and either a bare metal or white painted top.
The trailer is rather odd in configuration, what with that fifth-wheel looking overhang, a unique feature we have not seen before on any bumper-pull design, from any era. This bunk housed the bed. It’s a clever setup I guess – why not used the unused space above the hitch? It couldn’t have worked that well however or other makers would have adopted it too. No other Shasta models beside the Astro series had this setup, by the way.
Seen on this trailer, and all Shastas, starting in the late 1950s and ending in the 1980s, is the company’s trademark wings (technically fins). These simple design elements made the Shasta brand stand out amongst others and helped convey a sense of speed and style. These wings have become so iconic of the era, that people often add them to non-Shasta make vintage trailers.
Peering inside, the trailer looks roomy. The interior is dated, as would be expected, but appears in good shape overall.
Our research shows this AstroDome is for sale. The owner lists it as a 1968 model, which must be in error. If fixed up, it’d sure be an attention getter, especially if pulled by a suitable vintage car. From what we could see, and a reminder, we’re no experts, this one looks like it doesn’t need that much work to get back on the road.
The Shasta name is still being applied to trailers today, but I understand now they’re made in Indiana. The old Shasta company focused on cute little campers with personality (the Astro was one if their biggest offerings) while the current one does the complete opposite and makes only big trailers and fifth-wheels. Their current designs are cookie cutter and look much live every other make out there today, and totally lack the unique design cues that made the Shastas of old stand out so well.
Back alleys are often great places to find interesting trailers and motorhomes. Such was the case here. When walking in neigbourhoods, particularly in older established ones, we always try to look down each alley we pass to see if anything interesting can be seen. We find a lot of vintage car this way too.
If our readers own a vintage RV that they think would be of interest to us, we love to hear from you. We can photograph it and show it off here on the BIGDoer website.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2015.
Location: Calgary Alberta.
Article sources: Shasta Company papers.