Low-profile motor homes designed for new efficiencies

Winnebago, a patriarch of the motor-home industry, has a new progeny that is a dramatic departure from its products of the past. The company has introduced a pair of low-profile coaches that approach the interior room of a full-size motor home but feature the aerodynamic appearance of a mini.

The Warrior and the Spectrum, available for the first time this summer and base-priced at $18,800, are built in Forest City, Iowa, from a combination of parts produced by the Fisher Body division of General Motors as well as Winnebago itself.

The low-profile coaches from the Winnebago and Itasca divisions are neither a mini-size motor home nor a wide-body van. Instead, they are built on a chassis that is intended to serve as the host for future models with front-wheel drive and more fuel-efficient diesel engines. The duo has a profile that is 6 1/2 inches lower than the Brave, which it will eventually replace and average 12.7 miles per gallon in the city and 15.3 m.p.g. on the highway by using a 350 -cubic-inch V-8 engine.

The Warrior and the Spectrum are the result of thousands of engineering hours aimed at developing a stylized motor vehicle geared to the 1980s.

The front silhouette, the most important factor for wind drag, was reduced by 18 percent. In order to improve the aerodynamic shape, the units were contoured 6.5 inches lower in overall height while still maintaining an interior headroom of 6 feet, 3 inches.

This was achieved in part by lowering the floor height by 4 inches.

The total reduction in liveability space is only 16 percent of the floor space of a comparable Winnebago Brave.

The new units also went on a diet. The chassis weight difference between the T-20 step-van chassis used on the new units and the Brave is 200 pounds.

Interior wall paneling thickness was reduced 1 milli meter for a saving of more than 155 pounds. Almost all the wood inside the coach's cabinets was replaced with aluminum extrusions. Countertops were replaced with high-pressure laminated plastic with foam cores and aluminum undersides.

Cabinet doors were replaced by vacuum-formed plastic laminated to lighweight foam. A total of almost 250 pounds were shed on interior redesign alone.

Weight reduction was continued into other areas as well.

Fenders, grills, and hoods were made of fiber glass. Window-glass thickness was reduced to one-eighth inch. Internal steel bracing was replaced with aluminum, and lighter structural metal was used inside the door.

The overall weight saving is more than 3,600 pounds when compared with a Brave of the same length. Less weight means that the motor home can be built using single rear wheels instead of double wheels, thus helping to provide better fuel economy.

Special attention was given to weight distribution for improved handling ability of the vehicle.

As part of its energy approach, the manufacturer offers a propane conversion kit for the Warrior and Spectrum. Optional installation of the unit will permit alternate operation of the vehicle on propane as well as gasoline.

John K. Hanson, chairman, says the new 22-foot-long vehicles are the first of a new generation of energy-wise recreational vehicles by the firm.

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