While I was in Moab for this year’s Easter Jeep Safari, my friend Gavin, who was also in town and runs the Instagram account @VintageRVSpotter, sent me the above photo, which needed no further explanation. It’s a Vixen 21 TD — one of the coolest and rarest RVs of all time. And he had found it parked on a lot just outside of town.
I’ve got a thing for these unique RVs, and I’ve written about them here on Oversteer before. In short, they were built from 1986 to 1989 and praised for being efficient and maneuverable, especially in an era where just about all other RVs were anything but. Power came from a rear-mounted 2.4-liter BMW inline 6-cylinder turbodiesel, leading many to erroneously refer to it as the BMW RV. It also had a Renault 5-speed manual transmission. Thanks to its aerodynamic design, top speed was reportedly 100 mph, and there are reports of Vixens achieving up to 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
Altogether, only 587 Vixens were built over the vehicle’s four years of production, and only 376 of those were the BMW-powered 21 TD model.
The next day, Gavin and I stopped by the property. He knocked on the door of the workshop you can see in the photos and asked the owner if we could take a look inside the Vixen. Luckily, the guy was surprisingly welcoming to two strangers pounding on his shop door at noon on a Tuesday and was happy to come outside and give us a tour of the old RV.
He said it had belonged to a young woman who ended up leaving it on his lot after the engine failed, which is where it’s sat since. He also told us that for $3,000 we could tow it away. He eventually went back into his shop, but he was cool enough to let us hang around and pore over this thing at our leisure, which is when I made the little video linked above.
It had around 76,000 miles on the odometer — and, thanks to its fiberglass construction, the body was entirely rust free. The interior was in good shape, as well. According to Gav’s research, it was build number 293 of the 376 21 TD models that were built.
Speaking of the interior, the layout was functional, but also a little cramped, as a bathroom and storage closet took up a disproportionate amount of space toward the rear. Otherwise, the inside was laid out much like a VW camper van, with a kitchen area behind the driver’s seat and sleeping quarters in the rear, over top of the engine compartment. Also, like most VW campers, the Vixen 21 has a pop-up roof — but it’s hinged along the passenger side, and it pops up at an angle.
Right away we also noticed a major quirk: there’s no passenger side door. Combine that with the rear-mounted engine that precludes it from having a rear hatch, and there are only two access points on this thing: the driver’s door, and the rear door for the living space which you can see below.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.
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