A Closer Look at the 1980s Vixen Motorhome

Between 1986 and 1989, a small company in Pontiac, Michigan, produced just 587 models of the most unique RV to roam the roads – the 1980s Vixen Motorhome.

Run by Bill Collins, the Vixen Motor Company had an ambitious goal – to combine the speed and maneuverability of a small vehicle with the features of a comfortable motorhome. While they successfully met these goals, the Vixen Motor Company ultimately failed to capture the imagination of buyers and went under in 1989. 

The Beginning of a Dream

Maneuverability was previously unheard of for a motorhome. Storing RVs was often expensive because the traditional models were too tall to fit in a typical home garage. The sheer size and the heaviness of these cars also meant they ate up a lot of fuel.

Bill Collins wanted to improve three factors in his specialized motorhome:

  • Fuel consumption
  • Handling
  • Drivetrain (or engine power)

By building his model from the ground up, Collins was incredibly able to meet all three of his goals. 

The first car in the Vixen series, known as the Vixen 21 TD, was Collins’ dream motorhome. Despite being roomy inside, this RV was fun to drive and had an impressive gas mileage of 30 miles per gallon – or a vast 700 miles per tank of gas. 

The interior was decked out with carpet, modern appliances, and enough room for four adults to sleep. At over 6 feet, the space inside accommodated even very tall adults. The motorhome had an unusually low point of gravity for a large car and fit in a home garage. 

Collins solved his engine problem by outfitting the Vixen with a 2.4-liter inline six-cylinder turbodiesel engine from the German BMW company. 

Model Development Over Time

Although the Vixen TD got good reviews for handling and gas mileage, there just wasn’t a large enough market for it. Only 376 of the original model were sold in total. Low sales may partially have been because of the motorhome’s steep price – it cost $40,000–$53,000 at the time. 

Then as now, financing a recreational motorhome took discipline and planning. In contrast, used Vixen models sold today are very reasonably priced, often with room for negotiation

Panicked by this slow beginning, Collins’ colleagues decided to change the car into something more mainstream. They quickly developed two other models, the Vixen 21 XC and the Vixen 21 SE. 

Known as the “Limo,” the Vixen 21 XC was refitted to serve a different crowd of people. Added seating in the back replaced several of the usual RV features, and this model was marketed as the perfect transportation for busy professionals or partygoers. Understandably, the market for this car was even smaller, and only 39 models were sold

For the final Vixen 21 SE model, the motor company replaced the powerful BMW turbo engine with a smaller, more traditional GM V6 engine. They also added overhead airconditioning, which sacrificed the car’s ability to fit in a typical home garage. At this point, the motorhome had lost much of its individuality.  

Unfortunately, the Vixen Motor Company’s efforts to stay afloat didn’t pan out, and the company folded in 1989. After its collapse, former customers bought out the company’s assets so they could keep repairs going on their vehicles. These customers organized the Vixen Motorhome Association, which is still alive and thriving today. 

Is the Vixen a BMW?

When the Vixen first came out, some customers were confused about whether or not it was a BMW. Collins was trying to achieve a sports car feel with his RV, so this leap makes sense. 

Because the original TD model used a BMW motor, the car had BMW parts. However, it was not produced by the BMW company and therefore not a true BMW!

To further confuse matters, many customers celebrated their sophisticated engine by putting BMW emblems onto their Vixen RVs. The emblems understandably misled those who didn’t understand the history of the vehicle.

Swapping out emblems is still a rampant problem today. It’s not technically illegal, so many people will switch emblems to make their car look flashier than it really is. However, changing emblems can make you look pretty foolish –  the only people who might care what kind of car you have will also likely know you’re lying about your make and model

In the Vixen’s case, adding a BMW emblem piqued customers’ interest, and it did truthfully represent at least some part of the car. However, it also surrounded this vehicle with a lot of confusion. 

A Historic Classic

The 1980s Vixen Motorhome began with one man’s dream to combine sports car features with motorhome comfort. The Vixen Motor Company did achieve this ambitious goal, and while production didn’t exceed more than 600 models, the company created a classic that still awes car enthusiasts today. 

Next time you see a heavy motorhome rolling down the road, think of the Vixen and smile – all RVs aren’t created equal, and the Vixen is surely one-of-a-kind. 

Securing a Child’s Car Seat in Your BMW

Precious cargo doesn’t get any more precious than your little one. When you need to take your child somewhere or are running errands with them in the backseat, you want to make sure that they’re as safe and snug as possible. 

Although many BMW models are usually for show, luxury and sport, others are family cars. If you’re reading this, then your BMW is likely more suited to haul your family. Modern family cars need to accommodate the family, meaning safety is paramount. Parents look for features like backup cameras, plenty of room for diaper bags and backpacks and, of course, that it can hold a car seat. 

If you’ve recently added a little one to your family or you switched your family vehicle to a BMW, you need to know how to install a car seat. Securing a child’s car seat in your BMW will take some time, but it will ensure your precious cargo is safe. 

Understand the Type of Car Seat You Need

Before installing your child’s car seat, you should understand the differences between car seats. Depending on your child’s height, weight and age, they could be in a rear-facing car seat, front-facing car seat or a booster seat. 

You must secure rear-facing car seats in the back seat. These are typically for infants at birth until they reach the height and weight limit of the seat. A rear-facing car seat will use either an anchor system or have a base that you can secure with the seat belt. 

Front-facing car seats are used when your child grows out of the top height and weight limits for the infant seat. You can also secure these with an anchor system or a base and seat belt. 

Finally, the booster seat keeps the child boosted when they outgrow their front-facing seat. These are usually secured with your vehicle’s safety belt. 

Read the Manuals

Always read your car manual and the manufacturer’s manual for the car seat before even thinking about putting your child’s car seat in the back of the BMW. Learn everything you can about your BMW’s car seat features and review the car seat instructions to understand what you’re to do for installation. These will give you more specifics for your car and the car seat situation. Don’t guess how to install it — remember, you’re carrying precious cargo. 

Additionally, check for any car seat malfunctions or defects. These might include defective latches, handles or a broken outer shell. Any minor damage could pose a risk to your child. If you find one, the manufacturer may provide you with a new one at little to no cost.

Put the Seat in the Right Spot

The safest place to put your child’s car seat for a secure installation is in the back seat in the middle if there’s a Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH) or seat belt system available. Kids should stay in the backseat throughout their front-facing and booster seat stages, too. The center of the back seat is the safest spot, but the sides are safe, too. 

If you can’t get a tight fit in the center of the backseat, move it to either side to get a close fit. A good fit on either side is better than a bad fit in the center. This means the seat should move less than one inch both side to side and front to back.

Lock the Seat Belts or Use the Lower Anchors

There are two ways to secure the child’s car seat in your BMW depending on the model. You can either use the seat belts to secure the seat or the lower anchors. 

Pull the seat belt all the way out until it locks, and then slowly release it. You’ll know it’s locked when you hear a ratcheting sound and won’t be able to pull it back out. That way, the seat belt will stay locked in place when you install the car seat. If that method isn’t working, you can also check your owner’s manual on locking the seat belt. 

With the seat belt installation, you should route the seat belt through a path on the car seat. Ensure there are no twists and buckle the belt in place. Once you check the angle indicator, lock the seat belt and tighten it by removing any excess webbing. Then, tether the seat to the rear shelf. 

If you’re using an anchor system, follow these steps: 

  • Determine which way the clip needs to be attached to your BMW’s back seat lower anchors. 
  • Make sure the strap is correctly routed without twists. 
  • Connect the LATCH clips to the anchors. 
  • Check the angle to ensure the seat is sitting correctly. 
  • Tighten the belt until the seat moves less than an inch in any direction.
  • If you have a forward-facing seat, use the top tether to anchor the seat on the rear shelf. 

The above tips are for both rear- and front-facing seats. 

Keeping Your Kids Safe in Your BMW

With these tips, you can properly install and secure your child’s car seat in your BMW. The most important thing is safety when it comes to your kids.

Preparing Your BMW for the Winter: 8 Tips

Winter is coming, which means now’s as good a time as ever to prepare your car for the cold. Brace your BMW for ice, snow and freezing temperatures with these eight tips. 

Odds are you’ll feel a lot more confident when you face tough driving conditions. Plus, your vehicle will hold up much better, no matter what kind of weather it faces. 

1. Test Your Battery

Reduced capacity and increased draw from accessories and start motors can cause your battery to die during the colder months. Testing it throughout the winter will minimize your chances of hearing that fateful clicking sound the next time you turn your key in the ignition. Check the connections for any corrosion and test the battery load to determine its capacity. A weak battery will begin to freeze at just 32°F while a fully charged one won’t freeze until -76°F. 

2. Get an Oil Change 

Odds are your Bimmer will work just fine if you don’t follow the three month/3,000 mile rule to schedule oil changes. However, frigid temperatures can cause your Bimmer’s oil to flow slowly or not at all, which can put a lot of stress on the engine. Eventually, the motor will start to protest and you may have some more costly repairs on your hands. Therefore, it’s best to schedule an oil change before winter arrives and schedule more frequent changes throughout the colder months. 

3. Check the Tires 

How well your tires will hold up against ice, sleet and snow depends on a number of factors, one being tread depth. If the tread is shallow, the tires won’t have much traction and you’ll have to replace them. Consider throwing on a set of winter tires, which are made with deep tread patterns and sipes to provide better traction. Low tire pressure can also decrease traction and cause accidents. Use an air pump to maintain a higher PSI throughout the winter. 

4. Inspect the Brakes 

Harsh road conditions can cause rust, overheat your breaks and wear out their lines. When you’re facing everything from sludge to black ice,  the last thing you want is for your brakes to go out. Therefore, it’s important to inspect this vital component before freezing temperatures arrive. Corrosion, loud squealing noises and worn brake pads often mean they need replacing. However, a mechanic will be able to diagnose any issues and offer advice if you’re unable to inspect the brakes yourself. 

5. Make an Emergency Kit

A winter roadside breakdown can leave you stranded for hours in frigid conditions. If you aren’t prepared, you could get frostbite, starve or freeze to death. Keeping an emergency kit can increase your chance of survival by keeping you safe and warm until help arrives. Pack essentials like jumper cables, candles, blankets, food and water. An extra phone charger, flashlight, lighter and first-aid kit can also come in handy if you ever get stuck in the snow.  

6. Use Winter-Specific Fluids

Excess moisture and precipitation can degrade your BMW’s fluids or even cause them to freeze. Luckily, automakers have created a line of winter-specific fluid formulas to prevent these mishaps. Replace your brake and windshield wiper fluids with these blends before winter arrives Top off the coolant and antifreeze while you’re at it, too. That way you don’t have to stand out there in the cold with your hood open later on. 

7. Get New Wiper Blades

Some gearheads recommend changing your wiper blades every six to 12 months. However, if you frequently drive in tough conditions, you may want to replace them sooner. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with streaks and squeaks all winter long. Swap worn blades for winter ones that are sturdier and more resilient. These kinds of blades also have Teflon-coated edges to improve snow and ice clearing. 

8. Fuel Up

When there’s a lot of empty space in your gas tank, condensation can form on the inside. This moisture will dilute your fuel put extra strain on your BMW’s pumps and pistons. If the water freezes, damages can be much more substantial. Therefore, it’s crucial that you fill up your tank before the first cold blast hits. Then, keep it at least half full throughout the colder months to keep internal moisture levels low. 

Enjoy the Ride

Once you’ve prepared your BMW for the cold, all that’s left to do is enjoy the ride. Hit the road and explore backcountry trails. Even in the dead of winter, you can drive worry-free knowing that both you and your car are well-equipped for the adventure. 

The Ultimate BMW Forum