History of the Vixen 21 motor home, 1980-1989
1980 Bill Collins, an automotive engineer with 25 years experience at GM, Delorean and AMC conceived the idea of a new, fuel efficient, garageable motor home. Bill had been instrumental in the development of the GTO, Grand Am and 1977-B car at GM. At Delorean, he participated in the company's early organization and directed the initial packaging; styling and engineering of the DMC stainless steel gull wing sports car.
Bill joined with Bob Dewey to organize, finance and develop the Vixen Motor Co. and put into production the Vixen 21 TD. Bob had 30 years financial experience at General Motors and participated in the financing of the Delorean Motor Company.
Based upon a cross-country vacation in 1973 in the new GM motor home and past experience, Bill created some initial sketches in the summer of 1980. These led to building a full size mock-up of a 20-foot motor home interior in his garage in the winter.
1981 Collins and Dewey developed a business plan and a slide presentation to finance the engineering and production of a radically new and different Class A motor home, the Vixen 21 TD.
In September, the two partners formed the Vixen Motor Company. $500,000 initial financing through an R&D Limited Partnership, provided the funding to begin engineering work on this completely new motor home, designed from the ground up.
A 1/5 scale clay model of a "box" was built and taken to the University of Michigan low speed wind tunnel. After one week and over 100 separate runs, the final shape was evolved with a remarkable aerodynamic drag coefficient, Cd, of 0.26.
1982 After many attempts in Texas, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania, the Vixen Motor Company reached an agreement with the City of Pontiac, Michigan to produce the Vixen in a newly formed industrial park in "the shadow" of the Silverdome. The City would build this all new plant of 135,000 sq. ft.
Engineering continued and included a full size, exterior clay model that was used to fabricate the body exterior surface molds. Funds for this and future development and tooling for production were obtained by the partners from the Michigan Economic Development Agency, Michigan Venture Capital Fund, Detroit Police and Fireman's Pension fund and the City of Pontiac.
1983 On May 27th the first prototype was completed by Triad services, in Warren, Michigan, and driven around the block. Later that summer, on its first road trip, it achieved 31.8 mpg on I-75. Further testing at the Bendix Proving Ground (ex-Studebaker) in South Bend demonstrated 34.6 mpg at 55 mph, a coastdown Cd of 0.295 and a top speed of 100 mph. During this period a very favorable driving appraisal was documented by Zora Arkus Duntov, the retired Chief Engineer for the Corvette. This was required by several of the investment groups.
1984 July 9th, ground was broken in the Silverdome Industrial Park for the 135,000 sq. ft. Vixen assembly plant and office. D.G.E. took over the final production engineering and prototype build. A team of 25 automotive design engineers, detailers and checkers were assigned to the project. Vendors were selected and their tooling begun. Engineering tests were conducted on major components as well as test sections built and evaluated for the main frame assembly.
1985 Two pre-production Vixen 21 TD's were built by DGE. Extensive testing was carried out in Michigan, Ohio, Colorado and Arizona (durability, powertrain, cooling and A/C). Testing at the Transportation Research Center of Ohio State confirmed earlier Bendix test, 30.73 mpg at 55 mph with the BMW 2.4 liter turbo diesel in the final configuration.
The company moved into the newly constructed assembly plant at No. 1, Silverdome Industrial Park. Employees were slowly added and trained as the plant was prepared for production. The first Authorized Vixen Dealer was signed up. Market Opinion Research conducted a consumer product clinic with very encouraging, positive results.
1986 The Vixen 21 TD was introduced in January at the Detroit Auto Show. It was also shown at shows in Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Columbus and Pittsburgh. Production started with the first vehicle off the line on March 6th. It was delivered to Stan Grueninger, Vixen's first dealer, on March 28.
The Vixen receives the Industrial Design Society of America's Industrial Design Excellence Award. The first time a vehicle other than an automobile had won the award. The jury noted that "Here was a motor home that doesn't need a large logo and a body stripe for identity." Design News magazine awarded the Vixen 21 TD its "Excellence in Design" nomination.
There were 295 1986 Vixen 21 TDs built.
1987 Approximately 87 1987 TDs were built along with 40 Vixen 21 XCs. A majority of the time was spent trying to raise additional funds.
1988 The Vixen 21 SE was developed and put into production.
1989 The Vixen Motor Company assembly plant was closed on April 7th after 171 SE's were built. In total, 578 production Vixen motor homes were built.
The public auction of company assets was held on June 27th and 28th.
Paul Roehrich of Agency RV (Mechanicsburg, Iowa) purchased a significant portion of the parts and vehicles. For many years, until his retirement, he and his wife, Barb, provided an exceptional service to the Vixen owners. (WTC)
In July, the Vixen Owners Association was born to provide support for the orphaned vehicles.
When Paul Roehrich retired, Greg Erikson bought much of the Agency RV inventory and moved it to Specialized Automotive, Inc., Bozeman, Mont.