Paul Dodge caught ‘aluminum fever’ young, having always had a fascination with vintage American Airstream caravans. He often refers to them as towable art and has put a great deal of love, money and kiwi ingenuity into creating not just a labour of love but a viable venture – one that brands are eager to get on board with.
Dodge’s original thinking behind buying his 1963 Airstream Tradewind was to rent it out to corporates. Dodge (whose background is in TV) saw a gap in the market that he could exploit. The caravan could be used as a client hub, trade show stand, event hub, mobile advertiser, event bar ...
After he found his dream Airstream online in the US, Dodge embarked on an eight-day trip to collect it, drive it cross-country and eventually ship it off to New Zealand. This trip took him across the Mojave Desert and through extremes in weather, going from blistering heat to snowy mountains.
The restoration itself took four months full-time and a great deal of elbow grease. “Authenticity was paramount,” he says. “Polishing it was 100 plus hours alone.”
All the parts and fittings used in the Airstream are original. A team of experts was recruited to do the serious work such as the rewiring, panel work and sort out solar equipment, although Dodge got to do a lot of the groundwork himself, picking up old-fashioned skills along the way such as buck riveting (skills sure to come in handy with Dodge keen to do his second restoration project sometime next year).
Industry buddies hooked him up with Corona, which was planning on creating a pop up bar on Waiheke Island, but quickly saw the potential in associating with an icon of design and authenticity. With the Airstream in the picture, that evolved into an exclusive music tour – the Corona Airstream Summer tour – with the trailer as a pop up bar, travelling to gigs with Kiwi acts around the North Island.
Stephanie Quantrill, the brand manager of Corona in New Zealand, says she wanted something that 18 to 29-year-olds would hear about and immediately want to be a part of. This partnership fit into the brand’s new advertising strategy, with a 70/30 split between traditional media and experiential. She says the Airstream denotes back to a simpler and more carefree time, successfully encapsulating the sentiment “from where you’d rather be”.
Dodge reckons it’s a tempting proposition for many brands. “Corporates that want to make a splash at events, trade shows, functions or advertising and want a presence with head-turning cut-through and a practical purpose – this is it.”