Rare Rides: The 1986 Vixen is a Turbocharged, Manual, BMW-powered Motorhome

Our previous Rare Rides RV entry was the forgotten Mauck Special Vehicle, or MSV. With its custom fiberglass assembly and butterfly doors (go look at it!), it really seemed like the jackpot of unusual recreational vehicles. However, the B&B quickly informed me this was not the case, and that an even more interesting and unusual RV existed in the form of the Vixen. The shame from this error in judgment was unparalleled.

Time to move past that folly, though, as we just happen to have a Vixen RV right here.

The Vixen was an entrepreneurial venture by one Bill Collins. Intended as an answer to the deceased GMC motorhome (1972-1978), the Vixen took an unusual approach for an RV — practicality was front and center.

Smaller than the GMC that inspired it, the Vixen maintained tidy proportions of six feet by 21 feet. This meant it fit within a standard American garage bay. Handy packaging meant the Vixen was able to offer the conveniences provided by larger RVs, like a generator, water heater, and an electric inverter (unusual for RVs of the time).

Another fiberglass-over-frame design, the Vixen was much smoother than competing RVs of the period. With a completely smooth roof and underside, the earliest Vixen achieved a drag coefficient of less than .30.

Arriving at your destination and setting up camp began with the hinged roof seen above. Covered in folding windows, it provided head clearance for people up to 6’2″ in height.

The heating system in the Vixen was unusual. Unlike the propane-fueled heaters commonly found in RVs, the Vixen had a diesel-powered unit. Using diesel meant you didn’t need to make separate refueling stops at propane providers (sorry, Hank Hill). Unfortunately, this system proved much less reliable than standard propane heaters.

Speaking of diesel, all RV versions of Vixen were powered by an inline-six BMW turbodiesel engine. At 2.4 liters in displacement, it provided just 115 horsepower to motivate the 5,100-pound vehicle. In the driver’s cockpit, one finds a tall gear lever attached to a five-speed Renault unit. Quite a Germanic-French… Alliance.

This particular example has a typical RV setup inside. Some examples of a limousine version (called XC) were also produced. Lacking a kitchen and bath, the XC versions offered more seating and Our Lord 3800 providing the propulsion. Those examples also lost the manual transmission, with a GM-provided four-speed automatic doing the shifting.

The long and low proportions and pleasing driving characteristics of the Vixen meant it earned the reputation of a driver’s RV from press outlets. But as we know, press praise to the Driving Enthusiast Gods don’t necessarily translate into consumer sales. Mom and pop Smith from Fort Lauderdale largely stayed away.

After a short run from 1986 through 1989, the Vixen Motor Company shuttered. Production figures — including the limousine version — totaled just 587. Remains of the company were quickly purchased by keen Vixen enthusiasts who keep the RVs running to this day. One such example is for sale right now, via the Vixen Owners Association, for $29,000.

Interested in a little sporting recreation?

[Images: Seller, via Vixen Owners Association]


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