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Ride of the Week: Bowlus Road Chief: Ultimate Travel Companion

John Long (left) poses beside his Bowlus Road Chief trailer. Fireball Tim Lawrence/22nd Century Media
Fireball Tim Lawrence
8:00 am PDT May 13, 2016

Although I grew up traveling quite a bit, I didn’t grow up crossing the country in a trailer. So, the idea of stopping every now and then to experience the country was very different than landing in airports. But, I was fascinated by packing up your stuff in a cool trailer and just heading out without a pinpoint itinerary.

Back in the ‘30s, the Bowlus Road Chief provided just that. The notion and an inspiration from his daughter, John Long set out to create a 21st Century Bowlus Trailer that was chock full of travel comforts and high exploratory aspirations.

“I founded Bowlus Road Chief with our daughter Geneva Long,” John said. “After she took product development and family business classes at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, she became interested in bringing back great American products... and our 1935 Bowlus Road Chief served as her first inspiration. A few prototypes for her master of finance later, we headed to Malibu to open the factory in Oxnard. (Now in its second full year of production.) We began to re-imagine the original aluminum travel trailer as the world’s most advanced.”

The Bowlus Road Chief weighs just 2,300 pounds and can be towed by virtually any car.  According to Helena (John’s Wife), a few weeks ago a Tesla owner did a tow test with the Road Chief and loved it so much that he bought one. But there’s many car clients on the horizon wanting one. Saab Convertibles,  Porsche Panameras and the new Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

Inside the Bowlus Road Chief, it has a 6’4” height with functionality that includes fully heated floors, charging and storage for laptops and tablets, WIFI amplifiers, a cook’s kitchen, twin beds that convert to a king, innovative gear storage for long boards/bikes and an indoor/outdoor shower.  “It’s beautifully curated,” mentions Helena, “and each can be named like a boat. Our agility and weight - unheard of for a 24-foot travel trailer - means that adventures can take you where you dream with ease and comfort.”

The back story, you ask, according to John? Glad you did. 

“What inspired all of this was our 1935 Bowlus Road Chief which we acquired in 2000,” he said. “Hawley Bowlus, an aviator and sailplane designer built the Spirit of St. Louis and created the first aluminum travel trailer in 1934. He built eighty Bowlus Road Chief’s between 1934 to 1936 in San Fernando before returning to the aviation business. Half of which remain, which is why new Bowlus Road Chief’s are built to last 80 years which makes them not only a great investment but incredibly green.  Although we never considered ourselves ‘trailer people’ we traveled 15,000 miles from Canada to the USA and back again in our 1947 Tatra (the same one you see at Malibu Cars & Coffee). We thought adding a travel trailer would make road trips more fun.”

Although today’s Bowlus Road Chief’s are a little longer, wider and taller than the original, they are driven by a design DNA that is modern as it is true to its historic roots. A variety of design elements like proportion, surface and detailing form it’s unique design DNA and the harmony created between updated technology and beautiful aesthetics is evident everywhere. A rolling piece of art.

Last week one of their new owners wrote to say she had a blast on her first day and was amazed at how easy the Road Chief handled. But Helena and John themselves have enjoyed great afternoons at the beach.  A couple weekends ago they even camped in Sycamore Canyon.  

“The Road Chief hands well in the canyons and on the PCH,” John continues. “Takes just two parking spots so breakfast at Marmalade’s is easy. There is something about the reflection of Malibu on the 2024 polished aluminum shell that just creates excitement and feels so good.”

As human beings, we love to explore. A driving sense of curiosity that I certainly have as a driver. The comfort and zen-like quality of the BRC Trailer makes me wonder... how much room do I actually have to park one?

Thanks to Helena and John for always supporting the Car Shows here in Malibu with their Tatra and ever present smiles. Be sure to check them out at www.bowlusroadchief.com and order one with cool flames. I’ll bring the wine.