During World War II, the founder of Airstream, Wally Byam, was forced to put his budding trailer business on the back burner due to aluminum shortages. He went to work for the cause as an airplane builder. Following the war’s end, he set up Airstream in the very same airplane manufacturing warehouse. With new design skills and an improved design for aluminum-skinned trailers, Wally launched a trailer line that would become synonymous with the American open road. But he needed to test the road-worthiness of his post-war model on an epic trip.
In 1948, Cornelius “Neil” Vanderbilt IV — the black sheep and bohemian journalist son of business magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt III — invited Wally to tour war-ravaged Europe. Vanderbilt wanted to capture the devastated landscape in documentary film. The two shipped an Airstream to Europe and embarked on a journey to record the decimated landscape, a remarkable feat, as cities were still in disarray and tourists were more or less absent.