Car News:  Oversteer

The Vixen 21: The BMW RV That Wasn't Actually a BMW

RELATED READING
See all BMW any articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Chris O'Neill September 2017

Pictured above is a 1987 Vixen 21 TD RV. I'd known about the legend of these for a while (The BMW RV!!!), but I had yet to ever encounter one -- surprising, considering how rampant RVs are around Salt Lake City. This is probably the coolest RV ever to be mass-produced, and here's why.

Vixen 21

Built in Pontiac, Michigan, from 1986 to 1989, the Vixen was originally conceived as a competitor to the GMC Motorhome -- the dominant RV of the era. A "sports RV" if there ever was such a thing, the original Vixen's low center of gravity, wide stance and low drag coefficient meant it could supposedly reach a top speed of 100 mph and achieve over 30 miles per gallon. This was helped by its use of a rear-mounted BMW inline 6-cylinder turbodiesel engine, which was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission to drive the rear wheels. As a result of this German tie-in, some owners of earlier models affixed BMW emblems to their Vixens, leading many to mistake it for an actual BMW RV. Another advantage the Vixen had over its rivals was its size. At 21 feet long and only 7 feet tall, it was designed to fit inside a buyer's garage, giving it a marketable advantage over competitors like the GMC.

Vixen 21

Sales got off to a slow start, with just over 300 Vixens selling in the first two years of production. In an effort to broaden appeal, Vixen Motor Company introduced the Vixen XC, which came to be known as the "Limo" and traded the kitchen and bathroom found in the 21 TD for increased seating space, with the hope of appealing to taxi and limo companies. Only 39 were sold in total. With sales dangerously slow, VMC attempted to appeal more to the traditional RV buyer and introduced the Vixen SE, which ditched the clever BMW turbodiesel and manual transmission for a more mainstream gas-powered GM V6 and 4-speed automatic. The SE also came with a more traditional heater and propane furnace, and it traded the pop-top for a permanently raised bubble roof with a large roof-mounted air conditioning unit. At this point, the Vixen had now given up just about all the traits that made it unique. Needless to say, the strategy didn't quite pan out -- only 172 units of the Vixen SE were sold.

Vixen 21

Ultimately, the Vixen in its original turbodiesel, manual-transmission-form is probably the most car-enthusiast-geared RV ever produced. Its combination of size and efficiency should have given it a competitive edge over the larger, more trucklike RVs of the time. In theory, it was the perfect recreational vehicle -- but in practice, things didn't play out, and a total of only 587 were sold over the Vixen's four years of production. Yet another great product that was just too far ahead of its time.

Chris O'Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He managed to work in the auto industry for a while without once crashing a corporate fleet vehicle. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.

MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
Here's Why the Ferrari 348 Is Better Than You Think
5 Cars That Don't Deserve Their Bad Reputations
Remember Nissan's Coin Slot Sunroof?

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Vixen 21: The BMW RV That Wasn't Actually a BMW - Autotrader