Iconic Rental - Vintage
Airstream trailers for hire. Restoration, customisation and
Digger talked to Sarah-Jane at
Iconic Rental about these Airstream trailers, so evocative of
the fifties rock and roll era and an iconic piece of Americana
Sarah-Jane: Good afternoon. Iconic Rentals.
Sarah-Jane. How's things there?
Sarah-Jane: Very good actually.
Digger: Are you bucking the trend?
Sarah-Jane: We are actually.
Digger: It's good, isn't it? There seem to be a few of my
retro clients who seem to be very busy.
Sarah-Jane: Retro is very in at
the moment, it really is. Even with the interiors. We're doing
three conversions at the moment for clients and we're racking
and stacking - we have three in line and they're all going for
do you think that is? I've been doing this since 20001 and
I've noticed a steep upward curve in the retro scene.
Sarah-Jane: I think people want
something a little bit different. They're mixing the retro
with the quite contemporary. They've got all the modern
fixtures and fittings behind the scenes to make life a little
bit easier. But when it comes to the design element, the bits
and pieces they want inside, for example the light fittings,
the fabrics, the furnishings, they want to go back in time.
And obviously they've got the retro look on the exterior so
they want to bring it inside. We're just doing a trailer at
the moment where we've got the polished aluminium inside the
trailer as well, with the dome rivets, so we've actually brought
the outside in. And Sanderson, for example, are doing a retro
fifties theme with their fabrics. They did a trailer with
one of their themed interiors. Sanderson jumping on the
bandwagon is fantastic for us and the likes of or clients
because the fabrics are more readily available rather than
going to our suppliers in the States.
Digger: We noticed that with the vintage clothing as well. The
high street stores suddenly had a retro or vintage look in
Sarah-Jane: What goes around
comes around doesn't it?
There are all these classic design from the past - do you
think it's because the modern designs aren't there or so
appealing or is it all just technology-driven these days?
Sarah-Jane: Today is driven by
technology and people's iPhones and iPads and it drives them
insane. I don't think they take time to step back and say
"Actually, let's go back to basics with some of these things."
I don't think we have got anywhere near, design-wise, to the
fifties and some of the really quirky designs that came out in
the fifties. The atomic designs.
Digger: Yes, the Festival of Britain stuff was great.
Sarah-Jane: There's nothing
like it and we're in a bit of a boring age, I think. Computers
and iPhones and all sorts of things. We need to get back to
basics, get on the road and get inside your Airstream and
enjoy life. Obviously we have got the mod cons behind the
scenes in some of these Airstreams for those people who do
want to plug in their laptops and have signals and so on.
Digger: You can hide them all can you?
Sarah-Jane: Yes, it's cleverly done.
Digger: Please tell us more about the services that you're
offering. Repairs, restorations...
Sarah-Jane: There are two sides
to the business - we've got Iconic Rental, which solely focuses
on the rental of vintage Airstream travel trailers. We rent
them for film, photographic, fashion shoots and we do a lot of
corporate marketing - for example big companies that want to
launch new products. L'Oreal, for example, used our
1950s-style beauty salon just recently to promote one of their
new fragrances and it was the perfect marketing tool for them.
Because from a marketing point of view they are a people
magnet. So people will see the exterior of shiny aluminium and
say "Wow, what's that?" and then they will get closer to the
Airstream and that's fantastic. Then obviously the company
that are marketing their product then have the chance to air
their products to the people that have actually come to look
at the Airstream. So it works very well.
Digger: How close are you to the Airstreams? Are you living in
one? Do you take one around the country?
Sarah-Jane: My hobby has turned
into a full-time business, but I used to live in an Airstream
for eighteen months, even with my two children. And the
Airstreams have been a part of my life for about twenty-two
years now. I was one of the first people to import Airstreams
into the UK at that time, nobody else was doing it and there
were just a handful of Airstreams in the UK at that time. I
was very much into the historic car world. My father used to
race, so we were around the race circuits and that's the first
time I saw an Airstream in the UK.
Digger: Was this Yank tanks?
Sarah-Jane: Yes. And obviously
the Airstream fitted-in with our way of life being very much
into the classic cars and American cars and bikes.
Digger: And rock and roll?
Sarah-Jane: Exactly, so
it is all part and parcel and that's how I started. I brought
the first Airstream in from the States because I wanted to
holiday in one and I'd go to a lot of American shows and
people would say "Wow, where did you get that from? That's so
cool!" And then I was made redundant from a very well-paid
Yes, the same happened to me. I had a high-paid job in IT.
Sarah-Jane: But it's not about the money is
No, I enjoy this so much more.
Sarah-Jane: To have a job that is a joy to
go to every day and you can pass on that pleasure to other
people that have an Airstream that is actually built to be
part of their family. It's quite a special thing to be
Digger: How difficult are the shells of these trailers to
source? And how many do you have on the go at any one time?
Sarah-Jane: We've toned down
the business a lot. We were averaging about seven Airstreams a
Sarah-Jane: Exactly. You can
imagine what chaos that sometimes generated.
Digger: You can't have had any time to yourself.
Sarah-Jane: No, you're
absolutely right, so that's why we decided to get more into
the rental of the Airstreams rather than the restorations and
the imports. They are getting very difficult to source - the
forties, fifties and sixties models, which are the most
desirable are very, very hard to find in good condition.
Original models I mean, and not the gutted shells that have been sat in
somebody's backyard for twenty years.
Digger: Is there a temptation to do a complete repro one?
Sarah-Jane: We have thought
about it and there is a company that do that but it's just not
an Airstream and it hasn't got it. It hasn't got the charm or
the history and every Airstream has battle scars here and
there, so that's what is quite special about them. They've
each got their individual charm and you can build on that
charm for a bespoke interior for you and your family. That's
the charming thing about them.
Digger: That's a nice feature on vintage vehicles where you
can see the panels. That's an important part of the look.
Sarah-Jane: Every one is
different and that's what I like about the vintage models. So
personally I wouldn't be interested in doing a reproduction
model. There is a company that do that, I don't think they're
particularly popular and I don't think that they've much of a
following. You've got two markets - people that want something
new and then people that want something with a bit of charm
and a bit of character.
quite a few caravan and trailer parks that have sprung up, so
I should imagine they would be customers of yours?
Sarah-Jane: Yes, Glamping is
the new thing. We supplied three Airstreams to Mawgan Porth
and to Perry at Belrepayre in France.
There's also one up north - La Rosa. It's an
environmentally-friendly site with some vintage stuff going on
there as well.
Sarah-Jane: The Glamping thing
is big at the moment because people haven't got the money to
go abroad anymore. They're saving their pennies, or at least
being very captious with what they're spending and holidaying
in the UK is a good thing. For us and the Airstream rentals
it's brilliant because there's nobody else that really offers
what we do with regard to the trailers that we have on offer.
We deliver them to the site as well. It could be a special
occasion, a wedding, a birthday party. Anything you want,
we'll deliver and set them up and even bespoke the interiors
as well if the client wants something in particular. We give
the client a crash course in how everything works and leave
them be for the weekend. And it works really well.
Digger: So you deliver the Airstreams to the client's
Sarah-Jane: Yes, nobody is allowed
to tow them. There's lots of reasons why, the main being insurance.
There's not one insurance company that will insure somebody to
be driving a £60,000 Airstream on the back of their car when
they've never towed anything before. I wouldn't let them out
of my sight anyway, to be honest.
They're your babies. So you must travel one hell of a distance
Sarah-Jane: Yes, we're on the
road most of the time, the summer being the busiest of course.
We've got a nice big American vehicle that runs on gas. So
we're kind to the environment but we do cover a lot of miles
Digger: You're very used to people turning heads.
Digger: It must be a great conversation starter everywhere you
Sarah-Jane: It certainly is.
Wherever we go "Wow, look at that!" And when we're towing down
the road, people are taking pictures and videoing and all
I don't suppose you could be doing this without The Internet?
Sarah-Jane: For the marketing
of the business The Internet is the main place for our
clients to find us. We also get a lot of word of mouth from
existing clients. We seem to have a circle of clients in the
Glamping scene and they pass the word so we've actually sold
quite a few Airstreams and rented too to a growing market. So
word of mouth is fantastic.
Digger: Where would we have seen your Airstreams on film and
Sarah-Jane: They were in a
fashion shoot for Next catalogue. L'Oreal, The BBC and MTV.
Vintage TV - they're really nice guys. They did their launch
at The Twinwood Festival and used one of our trailers.
I saw that. There were two or three next to each other there.
Were they yours as well?
Sarah-Jane: No, they belonged
to a friend of
Digger: They were 'attached' to
a couple of vintage stalls.
Sarah-Jane: Yes, for vintage
Digger: They looked gorgeous.
Sarah-Jane: One was an
Airstream but the other was actually a Jetstream.
Digger: I wanted to have a nose
inside but obviously they weren't keen on people walking
around inside their baby.
Sarah-Jane: Some people will
walk off with things. It's a bit sad really.
Sarah-Jane: That's the world
we live in I suppose.
Digger: So what are the best
and most enjoyable aspects of running Iconic Rentals?
Sarah-Jane: I think just
putting a smile on people's faces when you turn up and they've
had a lovely weekend in one of our trailers. And when they've
written lovely notes in our visitors book saying that we paid
attention to every little detail and they've had the most
fantastic weekend. And their faces when they come to collect
their trailers when we've completed the conversion work for
them. So, it's for us to pass on that joy for people enjoying
the Airstreams as much as we do.
Digger: I should imagine the
design and planning process can be fun as well?
Sarah-Jane: Yes, the
majority of our clients turn into friends at the end of the
day because we spend a lot of time together. With us trying to
get inside their heads and exactly what they want from the
design pint of view. Yes you do end up communicating a lot with
them and seeing them a lot. It's a whole new concept to them
and a learning curve. We will even spend time with them at a
show or at a campsite so they get to know their trailer with
us on hand as well if they need it.
Digger: These are trailers and
Sarah-Jane: Yes, I hate the
word caravan as it conjures up images of flimsy English
Digger: You also offer props
and a beauty salon as well?
Sarah-Jane: Yes, we have a trailer which is
a 1948 22 foot Airstream liner which is believed to be one of
the oldest Airstreams in Europe. They used to call them Land
Yachts in the sixties, which was quite a grand title. We have
converted it internally into a 1950s beauty salon and it's
been at Goodwood for quite a few years with the girls in
dainty little hats and quirky little outfits. When we were at
Goodwood, the salon was used backstage for the stars and
Sandie Shaw got in it and she said "I don't want anybody else
in it, I want it for my own use." Goodwood put on a very good
show and it always generates a lot of business for us.
Digger: What are the plans for
the future Sarah-Jane?
Sarah-Jane: We've got two
companies - Iconic Rentals and Iconic Airstreams which is the
website which is actually going to launch very soon. We just
wanted to split the two because people did get confused that
they can actually buy Airstreams from us and have conversion
work done, or if they have their own Airstream then they can
have the conversion work done by us. So having the two sites
makes it clearer for people
Digger: You still continue to
ship in from the USA?
Sarah-Jane: Yes, we average one a month
coming in from the States. We're quite happy ticking along in
our wonderful environment we have here. We actually enjoy life
rather than working 24/7 and not seeing the light of day. We
are very lucky in what we do, it will never set the world on
fire but I don't intend for it to be so. We see so many
people, thoroughly enjoy what we do and it's a passion for me
and Daniel. He's original into Hot Rods and when we met we had
the mutual interest in Americana and rock and roll and so on.
Now we spend every minute together.
Digger: And it works?
Digger: That's' good.
Sarah-Jane: Daniel is very talented with
what he does - the fabrication work and the woodworking skills
that he has and the plumbing and electrical skills - he can
turn his hand to anything.
Digger: Do people need to do
much preparation or planning before they come along to see you
about a conversion?
Sarah-Jane: Not really. The
majority of our clients come to us not knowing anything - we
are the experts in the field and that's not just blowing our
own trumpets. We were the first to import Airstreams into the
UK and we really know the ins and outs of the Airstreams. So
we have a background knowledge from all the vehicles and we
can do anything the client wants. The majority come to us with
an open mind and we go through things like how many people it
needs to sleep, is it for touring or static and we go through
all the options. Will they be using it or renting it out? Is
it an extra house? A lot of people have an Airstream
because they can't afford an extension on the house or
can't get planning permission, so they have it as a den or an
office or for all sorts of reasons. They don't really need to
know anything - just bring their thoughts and ideas along. But
somebody came with a mood board and said "Actually, this is
exactly what I want..." (Both laugh)
Digger: Do your work for you?
But that's very unlikely.
Sarah-Jane: Exactly. That would never happen.
Digger: Your passion for these
Airstreams and what you're doing really comes through.
Sarah-Jane: Thanks. The conversions
we do the client gets a weekly progress report with
photographs, spreadsheets of where the money is going and
what's been done on a weekly basis.
Digger: And so no surprises.
Sounds perfect. Well, thanks Sarah-Jane for letting us know
about Iconic Rentals.
Sarah-Jane: Thank you David.
at Iconic Rental have over twenty years combined
experience within the Americana industry, with
Iconic Airstream Travel Trailers, vehicles, motor
bikes and memorabilia.
A full custom-build, restoration, sales and
polishing service are available.
We can provide a unique Iconic Airstream for many
different types of events, from corporate to
Iconic Rental can create a
memorable experience for all involved, we can
provide packages for your summer getaway, romantic
weekend, or just an escape to the country.
The Lambing Shed,
Bushey Down Farm,