What we have here is a Vixen 21 TD motorcoach that was manufactured by the Vixen Motor Company outside of Detroit in 1986. This model was manufactured from 1986-1987. There were two other versions of the vehicle that were subsequently made to try to boost sales– the XC and the SE but don’t worry about that bullshit because the TD is where it’s at.
The Vixen 21 TD is a BMW powered RV designed to be small enough to fit in a garage, get excellent gas mileage and have a full bathroom. The roof hinges up hot dog style with the press of a button and allows for a 6’6” human being to stand up (while it is stationary). The triangular windows on the ends hinge open to leave a large, breezy screen, if that’s what you’re into. The Vixen won some prestigious design awards because it is radical and deserves to win all the awards, but ultimately no one cared about fuel economy because gas was cheap and fuck the planet and the company folded. It also sold for $35K, so it was kind of luxurious.
The interior is so snappy it just gets me hot thinking about it. Rather than describing the super smart layout, I shall provide a layout:
The driver’s side of the vehicle is the tall side when the roof is up, so you can stand proud and do your thing at the sink or while in the bathroom. The passenger seat flips around so you can sit at the table and eat or do whatever you like to do while sitting at tables. There’s also a little stove between the fridge and the sink and is close enough to the rear passenger seat that you can sit at the table and play Farkle while stirring your top ramen. You can take the table apart in just a moment and then pull the seats together to make a second bed that is about as comfortable as a pull-out sofa from the 80s.
The bathroom is ingenious. It was allegedly designed by the creator’s daughter as a school project at some fancy design school back east. The footprint is about two feet square and is outfitted with a toilet and a vanity sink with a mirror above. The sink is barely sufficient for washing your hands, but it doesn’t matter because the whole room is actually a shower and you can just hose your whole body off a.k.a. the ultimate hobo/whore’s bath. Theoretically, one could use the toilet and shower at the same time which I have never done.
It is not a BMW, however, it has a BMW engine so it is totally OK to say it is a “BMW powered Vixen” but is patently not a BMW. The engine is a 2.4 liter in-line 6 BMW 524 turbo diesel. It can propel the bus to 85 mph (truth) and can get 30 MPG (we got 26 once and are fastidious about tracking mileage). Although the bus is mainly fiberglass and therefore pretty light, it is underpowered and struggles going over steep, long passes, but is capable of doing so at like 50 MPH. But who cares. Besides the fact that you have to take it easy over passes, it is sincerely fun to drive and handles remarkably well (for a bus).
The Vixen is Frankenstein’s monster: the shifter is from a Pontiac (and sucks ass); dash gauges are Porsche (and are my fave); transmission is Renault; engine is BMW; two of the crucial parts that make the clutch work, the master and the slave, are from a Ford van and a DeLorean, respectively; etc. etc. etc. It turns out this is by design since the creator, Bill Collins, designed the car from the frame up but didn’t want all of the parts to be custom and readily available throughout the USA. The whole story about how this bus got made is so fascinating but that’s for another night. Good lord, there are so many kickass things about this vehicle that bullet points are warranted:
- The engine is in the back and sounds like a boat motor. It’s funny.
- A lot of people comment on how “European” it looks, which– based on the look on their face– must be code for “that looks real gay.”
- Every one of them had a different paint job coming out of the factory.
- The front is a trunk and is big enough to hold two or maybe three toddlers.
- There’s a little “Webasto” heater in the front uses the diesel fuel in the tank to up the engine coolant and warm the cabin; it also heats the water on-demand. And there are two fat deep-cell batteries in the back, so it is capable of going off grid like a mother.
- This is not the RV in spaceballs.
- Ours has a subwoofer and bumps Drake (Jean’s choice) real hard.
- Wedged between the bed and the engine is a “ski compartment” but we put our skis on the back because the ski compartment is for snacks.
So, thats a Vixen. All other RVs can suck it. This bus is champ and Elon Musk should take note and make a Tesla version and make another million bucks.