Monday, July 2, 2012

RV Of The Day: July 2, 2012

Today's car of the day comes from juantoo3's collection and is Tomica's 1978 Winnebago Chieftain.

Winnebago Industries Inc. is a manufacturer of motor homes, a type of recreational vehicle or RV, in the United States. It is based in Forest City, Iowa.

For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: Winnebago

I've always liked the looks of this RV.  It's like nothing else on the road!

The company was founded by Forest City businessman John K. Hanson in February 1958. At the time, the town, located in Winnebago County, Iowa, was undergoing an economic downturn, so Hanson and a group of community leaders convinced a California firm, Modernistic Industries, to open a travel trailer factory in a bid to revive the local economy.

Surviving a rough beginning, the entire operation was purchased by five Midwesterners, with Hanson serving as president. In 1960 the name of the company was changed to Winnebago Industries. To improve quality, Winnebago Industries manufactured furniture and other components designed specifically for its travel trailers. One such innovation was the "Thermo-Panel," which was a strong, lightweight sidewall that was a characteristic of Winnebago products.

In 1966 the first motor home rolled off the Winnebago Industries assembly lines. These motor homes were sold at a price approximately half of what was being charged for competitors’ models, which led to its ubiquity and popularity in the RV community. The brand name has become synonymous with "motor home" and is commonly used as a genericized trademark for such vehicles, whether they were produced by the company or not.

Through the 1970s and into the 1980s model names were influenced by the Native American tribe of the same name and included the Brave, Chief Black Hawk, the Indian, the Chieftain, and the Warrior. Older Winnebago RVs are often recognizable by the painted "w" (also called the "flying W") on the side of the vehicle, with a stripe that connects the front and back of the camper.

In 1973, the company introduced a new model, the Minnie Winnie, built on the Dodge B-series van chassis. It was about 19-1/2 feet (5.9 m) long (despite the name, longer than the shortest contemporary Brave model). Longer models were added through the years. This model continued (using Chevrolet or Ford chassis after 1980) until the name was retired after the 2006 model year, when at 30 feet (9.1 m), it was not exactly "minnie" anymore. As gas prices went up over time, the company made smaller models available, such as the "Winnie Wagon", with a low profile and pop-top.

The company also developed a line of smaller units slightly larger than a passenger van built using various bodies and powerplants from two European automobile and truck manufacturers. The "LeSharo" used Renault parts, and the "Rialta" has a VW T-4 (a.k.a. "EuroVan") cab, the 2.5 liter 5-cylinder motor, 2.8 liter VR6 with 140 BHP and 2.8 V6 engine with 201 BHP. Distinct from the "Rialta", Volkswagen contracted to have the camper conversions of the T-4 to be done by Winnebago Industries, a radical departure from using the Germany-based Westfalia company that had become famous for building the VW Type 2 campmobile models since the 1950s (through 1991). This tradition continues today with Winnebago's use of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis.

The Winnebago Industries Charles City, Iowa manufacturing plant was closed on August 1, 2008. Also in 2008, Winnebago Industries celebrated its 50th anniversary along with the production of its 400,000th unit. About 270 people were employed at the plant when production ended. According to a news release from the company, the Charles City, Iowa manufacturing plant was closed because of dramatic changes in the market since its opening in 2004. Winnebago officials credit the declining U.S. economy, higher fuel prices, decreasing consumer confidence and difficulties getting loans have contributed to a decrease in overall motor home demand. Retail sales have declined by double-digit percentages for seven of the last eight months for the industry. Yet, in 2009, a hardwoods department and "B-Van" department both reopened and now employ around 150 employees.

Winnebago Industries entered a new chapter when the company purchased SunnyBrook RV in December 2010, re-entering the towable manufacturing market for the first time since 1983.

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