So the recent news out of Forest City, Iowa, was heartwarming by comparison: Winnebago, that august manufacturer of homes on wheels, is reissuing an updated version of the Brave, one of its most popular models from the 1970s. Sister brand Itasca is releasing the similarly styled Tribute model.
Iowa's star vehicle
Winnebago RVs have made some memorable movie and TV appearances over the years.
src="https://ichef.bbc.co.uk/images/ic/raw/p026tcsw.jpg" alt="The Walking Dead">
The Walking Dead (2010-). This series’ band of survivors takes
off in a 1977 Chieftain (pictured; courtesy AMC) to escape the zombie horde.
About Schmidt (2002). A restless recent retiree (Jack
Nicholson) saddles up a 2001 Adventurer and hits the road.
Spaceballs (1987). Mel Brooks’ riff on Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon is a flying 1986 Chieftain, piloted by Lone
Starr and Barf (Bill Pullman and John Candy).
Lost in America (1985). A thirty-something husband and wife
(Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty) quit their jobs and hit the road in
a 1984 Chieftain.
Winnebago Man (2009). This documentary tells the strange tale of Jack Rebney, whose expletive-filled Winnebago sales video outtakes from the 1980s made him a unwitting celebrity in the Internet age.
“This is the most exciting product launch I’ve ever been involved with,” says Randy Potts, Winnebago’s chairman and chief executive. “With 'Throwback Thursdays' all the rage, this is a perfect time to launch the new Brave and Tribute.”
His timing is right on. Hollywood is lately into something called “nostalgia mining”. When Michael Bay ruins your childhood memories with his Transformers movies, he is simultaneously tugging at your wallet and your heartstrings. The automotive world, at least, has a better record with nostalgia. Witness such yesteryear-inspired success stories as Volkswagen’s New Beetle, BMW’s Mini Cooper and Morgan Motors' reborn 3 Wheeler. And, of course, Ford’s Mustang has thrived since the debut of the 2005 model, the shape of which unsubtly recalled the carmaker’s beloved mid-‘60s ’Stangs.
That approach is working for Winnebago. The company defined the box-on-wheels motorhome in 1966, with a 19ft model called the F-19, and in the ensuing years, the Winnebago name, like Xerox and Kleenex, has become a proprietary eponym (to the chagrin of its legal team, no doubt). As design goes, the Brave is anti-design: still a rolling rectangle with the same Flying W graphic running down the side. That large brow is back above a flat front windshield – though at twice the height of the ‘60s version, the front glass gives the reissue an almost cartoonish look, as if it were being recalled through childhood’s hazy lens.
Inside, there is plenty of retro styling in the cabinets and upholstery, though the amenities are anything but old. A movable dashboard console houses a rearview monitor, a navigation system and a radio with Bluetooth to stream music from any of the dozens of devices a road warrior might haul. Power-deployable bunks drop from the ceiling, the awning and the hydraulic jacks are automatic, and a half-century of clever refinements save space and make life on the road a little more livable.
The Brave and its Tribute cousin ride atop Ford’s F53 motorhome chassis, which is fitted with a 362-horsepower, 6.8-litre V10 engine. Available in 26ft, 27ft and 31ft lengths, the Brave starts at $96,424, with a well-equipped 31-footer commanding upwards of $120,000 (a bargain compared with Winnebago’s biggest motorhomes, whose prices flirt with $500,000).
One look at the Brave, and there’s an instant sensation of sunburn on the shoulders, hot dogs on the grill, and the claustrophobic cacophony of too many cousins fighting over a top bunk. “This is a product that makes people happy because of the memories,” says Potts. And if the collective appetite for all things old holds, he’ll be right on the money.
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