This is a 1987 Vixen 21 TD, it’s an unusual RV that always seems to look modern no matter how many decades pass since its introduction. It was designed by the engineer behind both the Pontiac GTO and the DeLorean DMC-12 – Bill Collins.

Collins famously developed the Vixen in his home garage as he wanted to ensure the final RV design would fit neatly into the average person’s garage for storage. A few hundred Vixens would sell between 1986 and 1989, and the model now has arguably the most dedicated fanbase of any low-volume RV.

Fast Facts – The Vixen 21 TD

  • The Vixen series of RVs was developed by automotive engineer Bill Collins in the mid-1980s. He had been inspired to design his own RV after a family holiday in a 26 foot GMC Motorhome in 1973. Collins knew he could design a better RV, this is what he set out to do, and by all accounts he achieved his goal.
  • Collins developed the Vixen to have a very low center of gravity, four wheel independent suspension, excellent handling by RV standards, good aerodynamics, and class-leading fuel economy. It was also designed to fit nearly into the average suburban home’s garage for safe storage.
  • The Vixen 21 TD was built on a welded steel frame with a lightweight fiberglass body. It was powered by a rear-mounted 2.4 liter BMW turbodiesel engine which sent power to the rear wheels via 5-speed manual transmission.
  • The 21 TD you see in this article is an original unrestored survivor with 88,000+ miles on the odometer. It’s being offered for sale out of Ontario, Canada on Bring a Trailer in overall good condition on Bring a Trailer.

The Godfather Of The Pontiac GTO And The DeLorean

Of all the engineers in the United States, Bill Collins was perhaps in a unique position to make his RV concept a reality. He was a skilled and experienced automotive engineer who started working at Pontiac back in 1954. In fact, he was the one who came up with the idea of dropping a larger engine into a smaller car to create the Pontiac GTO.

Vixen RV Brochure

Image DescriptionIt’s remarkable that Vixen, as a brand new RV manufacturer, was able to sell over 300 examples of the 21 TD in its first two years of operation. Image courtesy of Vixen.

Later in the 1960s he would oversee the XP-833 Banshee sports car project, he was then hired by long-time colleague John DeLorean when he left the American automotive landscape behind to start his own namesake sports car company in 1974.

Collins did a lot of work on early prototypes of the DMC-12 before the project was switched over to Lotus and its founder Colin Chapman for productionization, he would leave DeLorean before everything went pear-shaped and took a job with AMC.

The Vixen 21 TD: The World’s Best RV

Calling any vehicle the “world’s best” is sure to drum up plenty of controversy, but in the world of RVs a solid case can be made that the Bill Collins-designed Vixen 21 TD actually is the world’s best. Or at least it was at the time of its introduction.

Collins first started thinking about designing an RV back in 1973 on a two week family vacation in a rented 26-foot GMC Motorhome through Yellowstone and Aspen. There was a lot he liked about the GMC design but there was also a lot he felt he could do better.

One of the most significant challenges faced by first-time RV buyers is that they need to rapidly develop the skills of a truck or bus driver just to operate their new vehicle. Most people can adapt but its more challenging for others.

Vixen 21 TD RV. 1

Image DescriptionThe lightweight fiberglass body and excellent aerodynamics, with a coefficient of drag of just 0.30, resulted in up to 30 mpg – not bad for an RV.

What Collins wanted to do was develop an advanced new RV with car-like handling that almost anyone could drive. It would be the exact right size to squeeze into a normal-sized family two car garage, it would have a low center of gravity, good visibility, and perhaps most impressive of all, it would offer fuel economy of up to 30 mpg.

In order to achieve 30 mpg he realized he would need to go with a turbodiesel engine set up, despite his own reservations about diesel engines. He sourced the 115 bhp 2.4 liter BMW M21 turbodiesel engine, an inline-six cylinder design from Germany that had a well-deserved reputation for both fuel economy and reliability.

This engine was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission which sent power to the rear wheels. The Vixen 21 TD was given independent front and rear suspension and thanks to its very low center of gravity it offered excellent handling – some have even called it the “sports car of motorhomes.”

The final production version of the Vixen 21 TD measured in at 85 inches wide, 250 inches long, with a wheelbase of 148 inches, and a curb weight of 5,100 lbs (2,313 kgs) – making it a veritable featherweight in the world of RVs.

Inside you would find a double bed in the rear, a kitchenette, bathroom with hot water, plenty of cupboard and cabinet space, and a dinette set at the front. The forward seats of the dinette was actually the front passenger bench seat which could be flipped around – saving space.

Vixen 21 TD RV 17

Image DescriptionThe drive sits in a comfortable bucket seat, the expansive windscreen offers excellent visibility.

The roof of the Vixen popped open to offer additional headroom, and it came equipped with fresh and blackwater tanks, house batteries, a hot water heater, and an external electrical hookup for use at powered campsites.

Thanks to the low weight and excellent aerodynamics the 21 TD is said to be capable of cruising at 100 mph, it has a drag coefficient of just 0.30. Approximately 300 examples of the 21 TD would be sold between 1986 and 1987 – this wasn’t bad for a brand new manufacturer but it wasn’t enough to keep the lights on and pay the bills.

The company experimented with a large limousine-version of the Vixen design with a luxury interior. They also developed and offered the Vixen 21 SE and Vixen 21 XC models for sale. Ultimately the company would cease operating in 1989.

Interestingly, the company assets were bought by a group of owners who have established a new company to provide parts, advice, and support for Vixen owners across the country.

The 1987 Vixen 21 TD Shown Here

The vehicle you see here is a Vixen 21 TD from 1987, the second and final year it was offered for sale. This is an original unrestored survivor that has 88,000+ miles on the odometer and retains the correct BMW turbodiesel engine and 5-speed manual transmission.

Vixen 21 TD RV. 14

Image DescriptionThe front bench seat in the cab can accommodate two passengers, then be flipped around to provide the front two seats at the dinette set – an excellent use of space.

This Vixen is fitted with the full RV interior, it also has a Duo-Therm air conditioner, Sony speakers, a Battle Born 100 Ah house battery, a 100-watt solar panel, a Renogy solar charge controller, and a system monitor above the sink.

It’s now being offered for sale out of Ontario, Canada on Bring a Trailer and you can visit the listing here if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid.

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Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer

Published by Ben Branch -