The Bowlus Road Chief Signature Shape
By the 1930s, a new architecture shape emerged as a late branch of the Art Deco style. Art Moderne or Style Paquebot favored smooth forms, long horizontal lines often contrasted with curved vertical surfaces while readily borrowing from the nautical world with bows and portholes. These shapes first appeared in electrical lights and later in architectural structures such as the Coca-Cola Building in Los Angeles. These recognizable elements also appeared in railroad locomotives, telephones, toasters, vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances, furniture, and other devices to give the impression of sleekness and modernity.
The Bowlus Road Chief was the first aluminum travel trailer and the only one in 1934 which reflected this new design shape. Given Hawley Bowlus was a builder of aircraft and boats, it is of little surprise that the Bowlus Road Chief body is an asymmetrical elongated teardrop shape. It is patterned after the fuselage of aircraft from the 1930s with a tapered tail and constructed of hand riveted mirror-polished aluminum. The Bowlus Road Chief has a semi-spherical roof commencing at the highest point near the entry door position on the front end and continuing at that height through the body and gradually tapering top to bottom and side to bottom to a single point on the tail, creating a ridgeline from the center roof to the point on the tail, giving the tail the appearance of an inverted boat bow, and constructed with visible rivets generally running in horizontal lines. These construction elements were very reflective of this architecture style.
Bowlus Design Manifesto
The curves of the Bowlus Road Chief and the long horizontal orientation along with the body of polish metal reflect this style's optimism or hopeful imagination of what could be while the country was in the depths of experiencing the Great Depression. Today's Bowlus Road Chief with its clean lines, flexible floor plan, and luxurious yet refined details is a truthful take on this purist style and an excellent manifestation of the shape of the Art Moderne or Style Paquebot period. The Bowlus Road Chief shape is so unique it is easily recognized as a Bowlus Road Chief. It is utterly dissimilar in appearance to any other travel trailer and, as a result, never confused. The Bowlus Road Chief signature design elements include the door position, curving form, horizontal lines, window shapes, nautical use of themes like portholes, visible machine-like construction cues, and subdued polished metal color. These elements all contribute to the incredible distinctiveness of the Bowlus Road Chief.
The Most Unique Shape
Indeed the shape is very different. The Bowlus Road Chief is an asymmetrical elongated teardrop shape, while the other aluminum travel trailers' shapes are symmetrical rectangles. Standard RVs are box-shaped with four sidewalls and a flat roof.
The front (where it is hitched to a vehicle) of the Bowlus Road Chief is rounded on the corners (as opposed to tapered or squared) with a door set in the middle. This makes the front of the trailer tall, the same height as the travel trailer's body. In stark contrast, the back end of the Bowlus Road Chief tapers to a point with a ridgeline extending from the commencement of the taper on the rooftop to a central point, in a shape similar to that of the inverted bow of a boat. As is clear from the Front and Tail End Views, the roof is a round semi-circular shape instead of a flat ceiling with rounded corners.
Other aluminum travel trailers have shapes of a bread box, a rectangle with rounded corners with a door on the side. The shape of other travel trailers is symmetrical from all views. From the side, it is a rectangle with rounded corners. From the top, it is a rectangle with rounded corners, and from the ends, it is a box with rounded corners. Other aluminum trailers have flat roofs with rounded corners.
Several other design elements further set the Bowlus Road Chief uniquely apart. Bowlus Road Chief's windows are nautical in design, rounded rectilinear in shape, flush with the exterior, and slide to open. Other aluminum travel trailers' windows are more similar to traditional building windows, square and open vertically.
Front Door Placement
The door placement of Bowlus Road Chief is unique and stands out in the industry. Other aluminum travel trailers have the door on the curbside, with a few placed on the rear end. The Bowlus Road Chief unique front door placement is one reason why the design is so distinct and is frequently cited as one of the features that make the Bowlus Road Chief unmistakable. The door is also curved, which is also reflected in the characteristics of the Art Moderne period
Number of Wheels
Bowlus Road Chiefs only have two wheels, while the full-size travel trailers of similar lengths have four. Due to the lightness of the Bowlus Road Chief, only two tires are required.
The Bowlus Road Chief is significantly lighter. This lightness is a function of Bowlus Road Chief's true monocoque design, a design element adapted from aeronautical and automobile construction methods and much more expensive to manufacture. Additionally, this design results in a lighter travel trailer by using aircraft-grade aluminum as part of the structure rather than as a mere cover or cladding over a steel frame.
Aluminum & Riveting Pattern
The aluminum's quality and use on the Bowlus Road Chief is entirely different from other aluminum travel trailers. We rivet the aluminum linearly to the underlying frame, giving the Bowlus Road Chief its distinctive horizontal rivet lines. Other aluminum travel trailers use thinner aluminum siding affixed in vertical panels with lighter rivets spaced nearly twice as far apart. The construction of Bowlus Road Chief ubiquitously uses structural (aircraft quality) rivets as part of this construction with the rivets immediately next to each other. Those rivets stand out, further setting the Bowlus Road Chief apart from other aluminum travel trailers.
The color of the Bowlus Road Chief is distinguishable and noticeably, so from any other travel trailer. While other travel trailers use unpainted and uncoated aluminum, the aluminum color on the Bowlus Road Chief aluminum is different because of the texture, quality, and weight of the aluminum used. The Bowlus Road Chief uses high-quality aluminum that is highly polished and can be repolished for the Bowlus Road Chief's life. Other aluminum travel trailers use satin finishes, and this provides a very different color. The color of other travel trailers is dramatically less reflective, so the aluminum's natural light grey color is displayed. The Bowlus Road Chief's highly polished surface acts as a mirror, reflecting its surroundings' colors and light. The appearance is more chrome in contrast to a light grey. Again, this polished metal presentation is a characteristic of the Art Moderne period, which is just another reason why a Bowlus Road Chief is so unique.