Alastair ClementsSee other caravan reviews written by Alastair Clements
Group Head of Content
The legend is back! And, thanks to Swift Group, you can now buy a UK-spec Airstream caravan – here's our review of the smallest in the range, the Missouri
‘Iconic’ is an overused word these days, particularly in the caravan industry.
But where the Airstream is concerned, the cap fits.
And the UK has been without new examples of these distinctive, aluminium-skinned American ‘trailers’ since Adventure LV stopped importing them in 2016.
But they have now returned, with the backing of Swift Group, which will be distributing three models (this single-axle Missouri, plus the twin-axle Yukon and Colorado) through six flagship dealers for the 2018 model year.
From the outside, the only obvious changes are a small ‘Distributed by Swift’ badge and the all-important NCC approval (which also means it’s CRiS registered, should it get stolen), plus a UK-friendly gas barbecue point.
Inside it’s a little more modified: vans are shipped ready-built from the Ohio works, with Swift’s Cottingham-based team adding UK-friendly electrics, plumbing and soft furnishings.
That means three-pin plugs – but not enough of them, we say – and Alde heating.
Pitching and setting up
That’s largely down to the all-metal construction, with a riveted body, with extruded-aluminium window frames, all sitting on a heavy-duty BPW chassis.
It’s a shame, though, that the modern alloy wheels don’t follow the retro theme.
Up front, the gas bottles sit beneath a lift-off metal box, flanked by a pair of stainless-steel stone-chip shields.
One obvious inconvenience of a US-built van, of course, is the offside location of the (extra-wide) entrance door, though at least all of the services are relegated to the other side of the van.
There’s a neat built-in step to aid access, and the heavy-duty steadies are all easily accessed – as is the standard-fit roll-out ZipDee canopy awning.
Our test van was fitted with one of two standard leather trim options. Named ‘Americana’, it has baseball glove-inspired stitching and more than a hint of The Dandy’s Desperate Dan to its scatter cushions and curtains.
If that’s too, er, American for you, then opt for the masculine black-leather ‘Manhattan’ or fabric ‘Impala’ at no extra cost.
There’s a TV point and stereo on the nearside sideboard, along with 230V and 12V sockets.
There’s a long tract of worksurface in luxurious – and hefty – Corian, with a flush-fitting cover for the vast Franke stainless-steel sink and a moulded-in drainer.
Overhead there are lockers with sliding Perspex doors, while under the counter are various drawers and cupboards, one featuring a rather lovely solid timber cutlery rack.
Cooking facilities come courtesy of a Dometic three-burner hob and a combined oven and grill – though at this price point you might expect separates, plus an electric hotplate.
You do, however, get an extractor fan, along with LED task lighting.
There’s more of that lovely Corian in here, for the shelf and sink, and it’s an interesting combination of the unusual (lime-green walls, integrated soap dispenser, loo-roll cover) and the familiar (Thetford cassette toilet, Ecocamel Orbit showerhead).
The floor doubles up as the shower tray, no separate cubicle here, with plenty of wheelarch intrusion, but there’s lots of light and ventilation from a window and roof vent, plus storage in a shelf and mirrored cabinet.
We also like the toilet cassette being concealed behind an aluminium door.
It’s usefully wide and a shade over 6ft long, with a built-in magazine rack and a neat drop-down table for books and coffees at the foot of the kitchen counter. You’ll also find a second TV point here.
If you’re well over 6ft tall, then you may prefer to make up the significantly longer front bed, which is easily done by dropping the table and adding an infill cushion plus a couple of seatbacks.
We do have a couple of quibbles here: the blinds, though easy enough to use, let in a fair amount of light at the sides, and for both beds the occupant nearest the window will have to clamber over their partner to get to the loo at night!
There’s limited space under the front sofas, too, although much of it is taken up by the Alde wet central heating boiler and an onboard water tank.
Kitchen storage is excellent and a decent wardrobe beside the sideboard will accommodate a couple’s clothes, with remaining trinkets relegated to the overhead lockers with their sliding Perspex doors, and a small locker over the sideboard.
It’s a shame the edge of its roller door is roughly finished, though, and the fit of some of the lockers could be better – but this is a handbuilt van, with a uniquely tricky roof shape dictated by its classic design.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: this is a very expensive caravan, and one that is difficult to justify when measured against top-spec conventional tourers such as Swift’s own Elegance.
But that would be missing the point: just like a Morgan in the car world, this is a piece of handbuilt history that people will buy for the way it looks and the way it makes them feel.
And Swift should have no trouble shifting the limited number of Airstreams it is importing to the UK over the coming season.
- Stunning looks
- Proven construction
- The interior oozes character and has some classy details
- It has an impressive kitchen
- There are some rough edges to some of the interior fit and finish
- A heavy kerbweight means many Airstreams will be sited on seasonal pitches
- It is very expensive!