Modern racecar haulers are impeccably-designed products, built with quality, features, and functionality to ensure reliability in your travels, long-lasting durability, access to everything you need to service your car, and ample space and creature comforts for enjoying a long weekend at the pit party. And while the screw-less exteriors, recessed exterior lighting, chrome accents, and aluminum wheels make the trailers of old look passe, from a style standpoint they’re still merely big white lunchboxes rolling down the interstate.
Most racers and car enthusiasts, though, are focused on the styling of what’s inside the trailer — the rig is merely the tool that gets their racing operation where it needs to go. But South Dakota bracket racer Dustin Long — who admittedly does also own one of those utilitarian lunchboxes — eschewed that when he undertook a three-year-long project to convert an undeniably-American Airstream camper into a worthy racing hauler. The end product is, in our minds, one of the coolest car haulers of this or any era in racing.
Long, a transmission mechanic by trade who navigates the country competing at big-money bracket races, bought the Airstream in his hometown of Mitchell, South Dakota 25 years ago. All that time spent sitting out in the elements had “sunburned and faded” the timeless polished aluminum exterior. “It was shot,” he says. “So I started stripping it and really had no idea what I was going to do with it initially, just knew I was going to do something to it. I was looking for a project to do, and I always liked Airstreams. I ended up selling my race trailer when I had just started taking this apart. I knew I was going to spending X amount of money into a new race trailer, so I thought why not stick that money into this Airstream and have something nobody else does?
As Long goes on to share, “as I was stripping it and having beers and drinking, I went ‘boy, this would be cool,’ and that’s exactly how I came up with the idea.”
Long tabbed a local machining and fabrication company to construct an aluminum air-ride trailer — in effect a flat-bed trailer with mounting provisions for the factory skeleton of the Airstream — so it could be lowered to load the racecar. At the same time, he had a rear lift-up door cut from the original shell, and then put a ton of elbow grease — four steps of polishing — into the exterior skin, buffing and polishing it back to a mirror finish. Once the shell and trailer were ready, they were pop-pop-riveted together and then screwed together from the inside, “just like it was built before by Airstream.”
The interior was spray-foamed with 1.5-inch closed-cell insulation, primarily for strength; a new rolled aluminum interior was cut to fit and installed on the inside, and 12-volt LED lighting was installed inside and out. Long also carpeted the lower sections of the interior walls, where the original rolled interior remained. He also rebuilt the original windows (with 5-percent tint) and the awning. The rear door, which raise up instead of laying flat like a traditional trailer door, operates hydraulically. The exterior, all said and done, is 100-percent original Airstream.
“I had no idea how long it would take, but it was way bigger [a project] than I thought, obviously,” Long says of the three-year build.
With the tongue unhooked to his motorhome, the trailer needs only to drop about 6-inches for the rear to sit low enough and at the right angle to load the dragster with a pair of short 2-foot ramps.
“It’s really the ultimate motorcycle trailer if you really wanted it to be, but I built it for my dragster. While I was building it I bought a roadster and a stacker, and now everywhere I go I take two cars, so I haven’t had the Airstream out a lot. The roadster and two-car fleet , however, highlights one of the only shortcomings of what is otherwise an amazing piece of handiwork.
“It’s 61.5-inches between the framerails…I have a ’62 Corvette roadster and it’s just a bit too wide to fit through the there. I’m trying to figure out a way to drive up and over the fenderwells, which are quite high in it,” Long explains.
The air-ride system, traditionally reserved for custom cars and not for enclosed trailers hauling thousands of pounds of weight, has thus far proven reliable and cushy.
“It’s amazing…you can’t even tell it’s behind you,” Long says. “I’ve got 1,400 miles on it so far and have had no issues.”
While Long has enjoyed towing it, his peers at the racetrack have likewise gotten a kick out of the incredibly unique hauler.
“It was unbelievable; it was the jive of the racetrack for a while. Everyone was, ‘did you see that trailer, did you see that trailer?’ Everyone had to come over to see it, and it was nice to know that after all the hard work, other people appreciated it and that we did a good job. That’s the biggest job I’ve ever done,” Long says in closing.