Australians Ben Pullin and Chloe McConchie have a thing for vintage Airstream trailers.
“We love Airstream trailers,” McConchie said. “They’re an American icon. They are rare in Australia. Not many people have them.”
The vibrant couple visited Marion last week to pick up a giant silver gem they’d been dreaming about.
They purchased a 1953 Flying Cloud model from Airstream Guy, a Marion business, about 18 months ago after seeing it online.
McConchie is from Malvern, and Pullin is from Darwin, or the Northern Territory, which is where “Crocodile Dundee” was filmed.
They flew into Los Angeles, just over three weeks ago, bought an SUV and tools, and set out on a road trip to Kansas.
They passed through the Mojave Desert, visited the Grand Canyon, and bought some cowboy boots and hats to “fit in” in Amarillo, Texas, before they arrived in Marion on Aug. 5.
“It’s almost like what I’ve seen on TV and in the movies,” Pullin said. “It reminds me of ‘Smallville’ and ‘Twister’. I love the huge open expanses with all the cattle.”
McConchie said, “My boyfriend wants to see a tornado.”
She said Marion was one of the nicest towns that they have seen on their journey.
While browsing vintage trailers in Airstream Guy’s lot, they may have felt as if they were in a silver version of Oz.
For them it was paradise. The couple couldn’t help themselves. They bought another Airstream, this time a 1969 Overlander.
“We’re collectors. We buy and restore vintage Airstreams that need some love.” McConchie said. “It’s like a fever, an aluminum fever. One just isn’t enough. They were made for so long that we want to get one from each decade.”
Their most recent purchase brings their collection to six. They keep their Airstreams near the beach in Darwin.
“Right now they’re just for personal use,” McConchie said. “But maybe someday we’ll start a bed and breakfast.”
Pullin added that many Australians “recognize the Airstream shape and name because they have seen them in movies, and they want to see what they look like inside.”
“Most of our customers are repeat customers from the UK and Europe,” Derrick Evans, an Airstream Guy employee, said. “Ben and Chloe were out first repeats customers from Australia.”
The couple spent their time in Marion getting the Flying Cloud road ready.
“We’ve been replacing the floor with nice American timber and grinding some rust out of the chassis,” Pullin said. “We want to do it justice and make it all American. We’d also like to put in some comforts like air conditioning before we hitch off.”
McConchie added, “It’s sweaty work.”
They left for Los Angeles on Sunday, needing to get to a port there, to ship the Flying Cloud back to Australia by boat, which takes 60 days to reach Australia, and costs twice as much as their plane tickets.
The couple will likely camp in their trailer when passing through Colorado and Nevada to save money, McConchie said.
However, they will return to Marion to repeat the whole process with their Overlander.
“We’re looking forward to it,” McConchie said. “We’d like to fly an Australian and American flag on it.”