It looks like an Airstream. In fact the old motorhome that’s the topic today was made by a sister company, this line and the other both sharing a strong family resemblance. Introducing the Argosy. Considered a “budget” camper by the firm, not that they were really all that inexpensive…just less so than the true Airstreams which were God-awful pricey…well, these could be had for a “little” less.
Where as the Airstream was glorious bare aluminum throughout, the Argosy was painted and made use of some steel panels in certain places. Inside, as well, the appointments were perhaps less opulent. The parent company was a luxury line, while this one catered to those who wanted the Airstream experience without completely breaking the bank.
Still, an Argosy was more Airstream than not, and even looked the part. You could not “unpaint” one however, and make an Airstream of it (explained in a bit).
The Argosy company was founded in the early 1970s – Airstream itself dates to the 1930s. Initially this new offshoot firm produced only trailers but after a few years branched out into motorhomes as well. Four lengths were produced from twenty to twenty eight feet (roughly 6m to 8.5m). The chassis was provided by an outside supplier.
Throughout production, which lasted some five years, the look differed very little. The only major change, about mid-way through production, was a switch over from round to rectangular headlights. Ones from 1974 to 1976 had the former, while for the next two years it was the latter.
Argosy Motorhome production ended in 1978 (trailers were made into 1979). It’s not sure what killed the line, but it was a crowded market back then, the economy was cooling…can’t say for sure. Airstream itself would later go on to make a motorhome of its own, looking much like the Argosy but all shiny silver…as God intended an Airstream to be. Several features seen in Airstreams would in fact be “tested” on the Argosy line before being widely adopted.
The end caps used on Argosy Motorhomes were steel. And less complicated in form. Body panels were aluminum and many were in fact rejects from Airstream production, ones with small blemishes and such that if bare would be unacceptable, but if filled in and painted could go unnoticed. If stripped these flaws would be obvious.
The Argosy line was not made in the same factory as Airstreams.
The home on wheels photographed here was found sitting on a side street in an industrial section of Calgary. It’s plated and appears in reasonable shape overall – not bad since it’s some forty years old. It’s got the square headlights mentioned earlier so we know it’s from the last two years of production. Being a “28”, it was the longest model the firm made. We’ve seen photos of the shorter ones and they appear oddly stubby and not quite “right”.
The chassis for this one is a GMC/Chevrolet and is powered by a “454”, the company’s largest engine at the time. Can’t help think she’d be a gas guzzler and woefully under powered…this motorhome is a good size after all. It might seem funny today, but in the 1970s, even into the 1980s and beyond diesels were not all that common in applications such as this. They just weren’t ready for market back then. As such all old motorhomes shared two common feature, huge fuel bills and generally lack-lustre performance. They’d be hell in the mountains, and perhaps even not all that “inspired” on the flats. As fast off the line as a little old lady with a walker!
Today, modern diesel motorhomes, at least in regards to get up and go, must seem like Indy cars in comparison.
It’s not known if GM chassis were used exclusively for all sizes and years. No one we spoke with could say for sure. Still, both Ford and Dodge offered similar bare truck chassis for motorhome use so it could be plausible. Any experts care to chime in?
An image search suggests that all Argosy Motorhomes were painted in a base shade of cream, as here or sometimes white, with a couple accent stripes of varying colours. Oh so retro today! One’s from the last year, it seems, had a lower belt-line stripe with a jog in it. Or at least some of them did. Experts? Again? Speak up!
If you have an old motorhome, roadworthy, a project or one in retirement, you think we and our readers would like to see, send us a message. We’d love to come document it!
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Date: April, 2017.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article references: The fine folks at AirForums.com whose help was invaluable.