A road trip isn’t usually a luxury experience, but with Bowlus Road Chief, a luxury road trip is now possible.
After earning an undergraduate degree in economics at Wharton and a master’s in finance at the International University of Monaco, Geneva Long knew she had the entrepreneur’s itch–she dreamed of updating and relaunching forgotten brands. “I grew up watching my parents passionately build their company,” says the 25-year-old Long. “No matter the pivots or missteps, they made working look like the most fun you could have.”
He spent his first years of early retirement restoring a 1935 Bowlus Road Chief travel trailer for road tripping with his vintage 1937 Tatra, which he showed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2011. “The positive reactions at the Palm Springs Modernism Show and by attendees at SXSW in 2010 encouraged the decision to rejuvenate the brand,” he says.
“Bowlus Road Chief was actually a true zombie trademark,” adds Geneva. “It was never registered nor was it ever held by another party, so securing it was much easier than we anticipated.”
Developed by Hawley Bowlus in the years after he led construction of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis , the Bowlus Road Chief was 80 years ahead of its time. Bowlus, a world leader in the design of sailplanes and gliders who also worked on the early development of the Learjet, brought the engineering and design principles of aircraft and race cars to the travel trailer: a light weight, a low center of gravity, stable aerodynamics and not a square inch gone to waste. The original Bowlus remains a marvel of efficient packaging and Streamline Moderne design. The iconic Airstream trailer owes its very existence to the Road Chief. (The Airstream company was founded by former Bowlus marketer Wally Byam.) And original Road Chiefs still have tremendous cachet: A 1935 Bowlus went for $187,000 at the Gooding & Co. Scottsdale auction in 2011.
The Longs have brought the Bowlus brand into the 21st century since relaunching it in 2014. Ten Road Chiefs were delivered in the past year, and 25 are under construction, cash deposits already banked. Prices range from $115,000 for the simpler Heritage Edition that sleeps three to the $140,000 Open Road Edition, which can accommodate four. Inside, ceilings and paneling are maple veneer on birch core, and owners can choose from a range of color themes and special equipment.
“We gave a great deal of consideration to how people work and play today,” says John. “That’s why we offer tablet and laptop charging on the go with a cellular amplifier so you can catch up effortlessly with work or stream all your favorites. We added solar-panel hookups with an easy storage option and long-life AGM batteries so you can travel where and how you want. We want our customers to follow their dreams with as little to encumber them as possible.
“The vintage Road Chief served as our style icon and design DNA,” he continues. “While we elongated the new Road Chief to 24 feet, widened it to 80 inches and grew the overall internal height to 6 feet 4 inches, we kept the original aircraft quality of 2024-T3 aluminum along with 5,000 aircraft-grade rivets to create an ultrastrong monocoque [French for “one hull”] lightweight structure akin to an airplane wing or fuselage.”