Welcome to the Airfloat Coach Company History Page, where you may be surprised to learn that the
"Airfloat" trailer coach is one of the oldest names in the history of American trailer coach manufacturing.
I
n 1929 automotive engineer and inventor, Omar Suttles, built a little 12 ft. camping trailer in his Los
Angeles back yard in an attempt to pacify his missus after ants, snakes and bears had turned their own camping vacation into a nightmare.....totally unaware of Arthur Sherman's similar, and very successful,
efforts with his Covered Wagon coach back in Detroit
a year earlier. <Covered Wagon> Suttles first
trailer
was approved by the California State Motor Vehicle Association in 1930, but was registered by
the California Auto Club because the state's Motor Vehicle Department had no category for travel
trailers then. The frame was built over a 1925 Chrysler front axle and it was towed behind the couple's
new 1929 Chrysler. A Maytag washing machine gasoline engine was added to run the electric
refridgerator and drive the 12 volt generator so the couple would have electric lights from storage
batteries, and from the beginning, Suttle's design included those round, port-hole style, windows.
(I say port-hole "style", because they were fixed and didn't open like port-hole windows on
ships do.) This design proved to be so successful that in 1930 Suttles began production
of the little trailer at his ten employee automotive shop in Pasadena....only one
year after Sherman had begun manufacturing his Covered Wagon
.

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The newly named Airfloat Coach Manufacturing Company also moved to larger headquarters in 1935, to 1600 East Seventh St., which, is in downtown Los Angeles. (I drove by that location a while back, it's now a MacDonalds, of course.) That same year Suttles, at the request of the California Auto Club "Outing" Show Officers, was also instrumental in calling together a group of fellow trailer manu-
facturers to help organize the first Trailer Coach Manufacturer's Association.
The following
excerpt is from an August 1955 edition of the Airfloat Fleet Review (the Airfloat
company's newsletter) as Mr. Suttles remembers how things came together.

"Every year after the 1931 Outing Show, more and more trailers were exhibited at the show and every manufacturer gave the buying public a different sales pitch. Then came 1935. Show officers of the Auto Club (who were sponsoring the show) phoned me and said, 'Suttles, you trailer fellows are going to have to appoint a committee of two or three fellows we can deal with. It has become impossible to deal with each one individually.' We all had realized that, too, for by then we all had the gloves off and were at it bare-handed. The Club furnished me a list of those who had shown in the past, those who wanted to show that year, and those who never would show. Then I phoned my friend, Harold Wright at the Chamber of Commerce, and asked if he could add any more names to the list. This he did. I tabulated them and gave half of the list to Hal Smith, who was building the Halsco trailer. We phoned all of them and sold them on the idea of coming to the Elks Club to a "Dutch" dinner, with the sole purpose of burying the hatchet and getting acquainted, so we could form an association of trailer coach manufacturers. Believe me, it was quite a selling job,
especially over the phone, but Hal and I got quite a number of them out, and thus the Trailer
Coach Association was formed. Total membership numbered 25 firms. The Western
manufactuers were striving for streamlining trailers, and somehow seemed far ahead in
adapting different shapes and sizes, even though, in the middle west, several trailer
manufacturers had formed a Trailer Coach Manufacturer's Association too".

In 1935, after building a number of different trailers, Suttles introduced his sleek, new, Airfloat Coach at the (travel trailer) Outing Show in Los Angeles, which can be seen in the forefront of the group shot below. This photo also includes a 1936 Airstream Clipper, directly to the left of the Airfloat, as well as, a 1936 Rolling Home above the Clipper and a black, 1936 Curtiss Aerocar way in back, behind the Rolling Home.
Opposite the Aerocar is a 1936 Zimair and below the Zimair is a 1936 Halsco Land Yacht.
I'm not quite sure what brand the remaining trailer is....that is, yet.

THE CALIFORNIA AUTO CLUB OUTING SHOW
LOS ANGELES - c. 1935
Airfloat History - Page Two
AIRFLOAT - c. 1937

After serving the TCMA in many other capacities, Omar Suttles was elected to the
presidency of that organization in 1939. In addition, as a member of the Society of Automotive
Engineers, and at one time on the staff of the Chrysler Corporation, Mr. Suttles designed
and patented a number of exclusive features which he built into Airfloat Coaches.

AIRFLOAT CUSTOM 18' - c. 1940

For instance, every Airfloat trailer coach has a system within it's round, aluminum, "top hat" style roof ventilators which allows air to escape from the cavity between the roof and the ceiling....and which was invented by Omar Suttles himself. This cavity, which in all travel trailers, is filled with insulation and then sealed by the ceiling panels is dead air space and can serve to hold unwanted hot, or even cool, air. However, in the round vent openings of the Airfloat, between the ceiling and the roof, is a circular panel with small, screened, vent holes around its perimeter that serve to let hot air float up and out of the ceiling cavity when another panel is slid open with the help of a small knob. In addition, the heat of day can be retained simply by closing this panel again, thus, helping to insulate the coach from cool night air. Using one of these ventilator lids is poetry in motion in itself, as a simple screw-post design is used to raise or lower the lid, operated by simply twisting a small aluminum handle attached to the end of the post from inside the trailer. The ventilator lids can even be left partially open duringa storm to ventilate
the coach, while at the same time keeping the rain out.

In addition, in 1942 Airfloat began offering a 24 ft. model called the Commodore 3rd Wheel which....actually had a third wheel! (Photo of a working, original <tongue wheel> in reverse position.) This ingenious device....also invented by Suttles himself in 1938, and which by 1945 was being marketed by Atwood Vacuum Machine Co. to other trailer owners <Atwood Third Wheel Ad>.....consisted of either a single, or a set of two, small pneumatic tires attached to the underside of the tongue between the coupler and the shell and which reduced the tongue weight on the tow vehicle by 2/3rds. These useful contraptions were also called "dolly" and "tongue" wheels, as well as "slimp" wheels, after another third wheel manufacturer of the same name. Third wheels became standard equipment on all larger Airfloats in 1942 and continued though 1955....except on their smallest model introduced in 1951, the little 16 ft.
Skipper.

Also, in 1947 the company switched from using Masonite for the exterior skin to aluminum, that featured corrugated panels above and below flat areas that ran along the windows....such as the '48 Landyacht 22' at the top of this page wears....and which actually became part of the Airfloat look from then on. In addition, 1947 was the first year that
the yacht-style, "double-door" system was introduced.....to separate the rear bedroom from the rest of the coach. There are no bedroom doors, per se, however, when rearward
closet doors on both the street side and curb side are opened at the same time they
come together in the center of the coach to magically become....the bedroom doors!

An Airfloat coach was also one of the most expensive post-war trailer coaches you could buy....in fact, by 1948, a 26 ft. Airfloat Landyacht, (a little longer than the coach at the top of this page), at $3530.00, was only $140.00 less than a comparable 26 ft. 3 in. Spartan Manor, at $3670.00. A few years later, according to a manufacturer's survey taken by Trailer Topics Magazine, a 1951, 28 ft. Airfloat Custom Landyacht, at $4050.00, was $729.00 more expensive than a 29 ft. 9 in., $3321.41, 1951 Spartan Mansion. They were also usually anywhere from $1000.00 to $1500.00 more expensive than most other coaches of comparable size, except for Vagabond.....which for $4195.00 would get you their 1951, 28 ft. 9", Model 262 and Westcraft,
for, which, you'd have to shell out another $5.00 to take home one of their comparable,
28 ft. 6 in. Bath Shasta models. (However, not only, did Westcraft use a heavier gauge aluminum for the exterior skin than any other manufacturer, but, after actually working
on some of these coaches for the last few years, I've come to the conclusion that their
company slogan, which reads, "Westcraft - The Quality Leader" is actually true. In fact,
it's my opininon that Westcraft Coaches were the best built trailer of the late '40s
and early '50s era. But, more on them down the road....so to speak.)

TOPHAT STYLE ROOF VENT
FIRST AIRFLOAT BEHIND OMAR SUTTLES AND FRIENDS
c. 1930
Airfloat's
Omar Suttles - c .1935