“WHAT ARE YOU?” was the first thing out peoples’ mouths when what appeared to be a big white Dustbuster vacuum cleaner from the 1980s wearing BMW badges, showed up at our weekly car show. At first glance I thought it was a vehicle from “Spaceballs.” We get all sorts of crazy and cool variety at our cruise nights, but this was a surprise. People flocked to it like it was covered in gold, and I immediately sought out the owner to learn more. You’re looking at a Vixen motor home.
So that answers the question then. From 1986 up until 1989, Vixen Motor Company called Ponatic, Michigan home, churning out 587 motorhomes. Phil happens to own number 297. He went on to explain how this was a creation by the engineering mastermind, Bill Collins (who claims credit for designing the Delorean).
Phil bought this 1986 BMW Vixen 21 TD motor home a few years ago, uses it to run daily errands and even camp out. Who wouldn’t? It’ll comfortably sleep three adults, has a shower, full-kitchen and more swag than a ’70s burgundy Winnebago with tiki lights. With plenty of storage for a pair of skis, chairs or camping wood, the Vixen would be perfect for a weekend escape. At 21 feet in length, it’s a tad longer than an Infiniti QX56 or a Chevrolet Suburban. “It drives a lot like a big van,” he said. In fact, a key selling point was that you could easily park it in your garage due to the Vixen’s low height (just be prepared to have the front end stick out and grin at passing cars).
Speaking of that front end, see how aerodynamic it is underneath? Not only did it have a .29 coefficient of drag, the Vixen was advertised to achieve up to 30mpg on the highway, Phil gets around 28/22 mpg city/highway. It’s not a 100% pure Bimmer though. Mash together a custom-made stainless steel frame, slap a two-piece fiberglass body on top, add a rear-mounted 115 horsepower BMW 2.4-liter inline-six turbobdiesel engine with a Renault 5-speed manual gearbox, and you’ve got yourself an RV that carried a starting sticker price of $40,000. You’d even get a free Yugo with it! Cadillac provided the auto-leveling air suspension, General Motors supplied the power steering, front suspension and brakes, while the clutch master cylinder comes from Ford.
A self-raising, pneumatic top raises up high enough to provide enough room for my 6-foot-2 self to walk through the spacious interior. Past the kitchen and dining area you’ll see the cockpit, home to Porsche VDO gauges and a GM steering column and wheel. Along with a fair amount of restoration work, Phil’s even rigged up an aftermarket backup camera to help when docking his Vixen.
“I love the major cool factor about it,” he told me, and I couldn’t agree more.
Want more information, there’s even an entire website devoted to the Vixen and the vast community that surrounds them.
Photos Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Robby DeGraff