Before embarking on a family road trip from his home in Red Bluff, Calif., to Pueblo, Colo., next month, Gary Bovee needs to do a few things: Check his vehicle’s oil, tire pressure and wiper fluid. He also needs to make sure the stove lights and the toilet flushes — and, oh yes, he plans to rebuild the front end with better brakes, stronger suspension parts and heavy-duty wheel bearings. So it goes when you have a luxury motorhome that happens to be 37 years old.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Winnebago, General Motors, Airstream, Travco and other motorhome makers popular in the 1960s and 1970s are making a comeback, driven in part by people such as Bovee, who are snapping up decades-old models and restoring them to their kitschy glory, which often includes paint and trim in shades of orange, green and harvest gold. A network of clubs, forums, parts suppliers and service shops — like Good Old RVs, ClassicWinnebagos.com and Applied GMC — is making it easier to keep the old machines rolling.
Interest in vintage RVs is fueled by road-trip nostalgia and an improving economy but also mirrors an upswing in the mainstream RV industry, where shipments rose 5.5%, to 202,653 units during the first half of this year, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). Helping the uptick were a spate of new RVs with old-fashioned looks, like Winnebago’s Brave, a riff on its 1970s model. Trailer maker Shasta made a splash recently with replica of its 1961 Airflyte.
The appeal of classic models like the (original) Winnebago Brave, GMC Eleganza and Fleetwood Pace Arrow is partly that they’re relatively easy on the wallet. They typically start at a few thousand dollars for a fixer upper, whereas a new Class A rig of a similar size can cost $100,000 and up.
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