The Bowlus Road Chief seeks to elevate the camping experience through the design of aerodynamic aluminum camping trailers. Consequently, each detail of their trailers is handcrafted. The shell is made from aircraft-grade aluminum with over 5,000 flawlessly placed rivets. The interior is crafted from real birch, stainless steel, and aluminum. Luxury fabrics and linens are used to enhance the inside of the campers, and are stitched by skilled seamstresses. Quality and precise attention to detail are emphasized in every part of the design and construction process of a Road Chief.
The frame of the Bowlus Road Chief is monocoque, meaning the chassis is integral with the body, and loads are supported through the external shell. To create the frame, aluminum tubes are precisely shaped to size within 1/64th of an inch before being welded together. Eighty panels of aerospace aluminum are meticulously fitted to the frame. As a result, rivet insertion points must be within 2/1000 of an inch of the specification (about half the thickness of a human hair) to meet with the company’s stringent standards. The aluminum panels are then fastened by over 5,000 aircraft-grade rivets. Each rivet requires two skilled craftspeople to install, and every single one is scrutinized to meet aerospace specifications. After the build, workers spend over 100 hours polishing the exterior to get the perfect shine and reflective quality, allowing it to mirror the landscape.
Currently, there are two models of the Road Chief to choose from.
The “Endless Highways” (EH, 3200 lbs) is the larger of the two trailers available at 26 ft length and capable of sleeping and dining up to four people. Privacy is available on a whim since the bedroom, bathroom, and main cabin can become their own separate spaces. The luxury model features high tech additions like a cellular booster, cell enabled router, and private wifi network.
A powerful lithium iron phosphate power system in the EH means campers can spend a full week off the grid, even if running all outlets (though the A/C can be run for a maximum of four hours off-grid). The entire system can be managed remotely, and it features perks like hot water and signature heated floors. This Road Chief’s aluminum body makes it light enough for almost any crossover or SUV, and powerful EVs like the Tesla X.
The “On the Road” (OTR) model (2,500 lbs), taking its name from Kerouac’s epic road trip novel, is 24 ft in length, can sleep up to four, and dine two. The sophisticated lithium power management system allows campers to enjoy a weekend off the grid. It features most of the same accouterments as the larger model, including A/C and a silent heating system. According to the company, the OTR can be hitched in under a minute by a small adult, and it’s easy to park in two adjacent parking spots.
The Bowlus Road Chief’s history stretches back almost 90 years, to designer, engineer and aircraft builder Hawley Bowlus. Best known for his role in building the famed aircraft Spirit of St. Louis and training many of the first glider pilots in the world, he was determined to design and build a lightweight travel trailer that could transport flight crews to remote takeoff locations. In 1934, Bowlus completed construction on his first aluminum riveted travel trailer at his family ranch in San Fernando, California.
Weighing in at 1,100 lbs, the Road Chief was considered revolutionary for its advanced engineering, even boasting an intercom system to connect the driver with Road Chief riders. At the Road Chief’s peak popularity, Bowlus produced an estimated eighty travel trailers in assorted designs before he returned full-time to the aircraft industry in 1937. Over half of the original Bowlus Road Chiefs built in the 1930s are still around today, mostly held in private collections.