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Click To View Complete Ford Airstream Gallery (42 Photos)

Photos and Text by Dubspeed Driven staff, Adam Barrera

Ford has historically gained credibility among specific demographics by masterfully connecting their cars to iconic American brands. Eddie Bauer, Harley-Davidson, and King Ranch-themed Fords have enjoyed extra relevance among society’s rich boys, bad boys and cowboys. The niches served by cross-branding have been equally cross-cut… until now.

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For travelers who have passed up five-star urban hotels in favor of trailer parks served by byways, to spot an Airstream trailer is to reach an outpost. The bare exterior’s harsh reflection somehow transforms the trailer into a caricature of the carefree. The doors and windows are an invitation to an easy social forum inside.

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How ironic that a tool so brazenly riveted together — and left unpainted — grew to be the idealized embodiment of safety away from home.

Airstream partnered with Ford to create the Ford Airstream concept, an exercise in brand synergy that transcends social clichés and appeals to commonality instead. It tugs at the heartstrings of an entire American culture in love with its own wanderlust.

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Ford’s Airstream speaks a design language easily understood by enthusiasts. Bravely futuristic, the design theme is cohesive and is immediately identifiable as a brother to Ford’s forward-looking 021C and SynUS concepts. The bare aluminum body hints at a design future unburdened by traditional symmetry. A single conventional door on the left of the car allows access to the driver’s seat. Passengers climb in through a horizontally-bisected door that runs the length of the right side of the car, or through the three-panel rear tailgate. Each window is framed by a thick character line painted daylight fluorescent orange, a nod to jet-age design influences.

The entire front fascia is encased by a clear composite panel bordered by an illuminated white frame. Inside this protective shield, an array of twelve LEDs forms each headlamp. Even without thick chrome bars up front, it’s clear that this is a Ford — thanks, in part, to a massive blue oval.

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Airstream corporate logotype spans the width of the front end, and is proudly displayed throughout. Rivet-styled wheels hide race-ready brake calipers big enough to display the Ford Airstream script. The same name frames an American flag on badging riveted to the fenders, adding a measure of kitsch to the inevitable appeal to patriotism.

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Rear-view cameras pop out from the fenders when needed. At rest, the cameras can be disconnected to serve as wireless video production equipment. A live video feed is displayed on a 360-degree LED array created by DynaScan. Much like a “metronome clock” that quickly waves a stick of LEDs back and forth to project the time, the DynaScan rotates a module of LEDs to create moving images.

Everyone gets a front-row seat. Up front, egg-shaped seats swivel to face the display and two lounge-style benches in back. Passengers can then challenge each other to a round or two of wirelessly-controlled Pong. A narrow glass panel extends from each windshield to the center of the car, shining light on the richly-textured B&B Italia upholstery and adding to the scenester-style ambience.

Real Airstreamers traditionally place essential items at the rear of their trailers, so it’s only fitting that the Ford has storage for a tool kit and first aid supplies in its tailgate. USB and Firewire connectivity, as well as mobile video production equipment, keep the needs of future adventurers in mind.

However, this is only one example of the concept’s potential. Interchangable interior “cassettes” can change the look or purpose of the interior on-demand. Postal delivery and family hauler interior cassettes have been created so far.

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The powertrain has multiple personalities, too. The Airstream is an electric car that uses a hydrogen fuel cell stack to recharge its lithium-ion battery pack on-the-fly. Using the fuel cell as a generator extends the range of the car and eliminates the need for lengthy recharges as long as a source of hydrogen is available. If not, the car can be plugged in. A similar system has already found a successful home in a Ford Edge prototype, proving that the Airstream fantasy is only skin deep.

Though its driveline may be road-ready, far-out features confine the Airstream to dreams, not roads. Realism, however, is not the Airstream’s draw. For a business that banks on innovation, there is no healthier exercise than an exercise in wishful thinking. It’s heartening to know that Ford is daring enough to look so far into the automotive horizon, with the believers at Airstream in tow.

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Zerin Dube

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