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MotorHome’s 35th Year: In the Rearview Mirror

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

In 1968, Motorgome Life as launched as an annual motorhome buyers guide on American
newsstands. The 88 featured models ranged from 18 to 31 feet, priced from $8,150 to
$19,995. At that time, recreational vehicle was abbreviated RecV, and some Class C’s were
referred to as housecars.

In 1971, MotorHome Life (MHL) became a bimonthly, and the annual
buyers guide listed 250 models. By then, recreational vehicles were called RVs and those
who used them, RVers. In January 1977, the magazine progressed to nine issues a year. In
January 1982, the name was streamlined to MotorHome (MH). A year later, the magazine went
monthly, so 2003 is actually a double anniversary. In 1984, the first-ever towed-vehicle
guide featured ratings on 85 cars suitable for towing behind a motorhome. In 1985,
Fleetwood Enterprises introduced the innovative Bounder, the first motorhome with a
“basement” storage compartment. In 1988, Ford’s F-Super Duty chassis entered the RV market.

The MH towed-vehicle guide was so popular when updated in 1989, it has been published
annually ever since. In 1991, MH tested the first production motorhome with slideouts,
Newmar’s 37-foot London Aire. The Coachmen Royal 38-foot diesel-pusher Class A, which MH
columnist Gaylord Maxwell helped design with input from full-timing readers, was produced.
In his column, Publisher Bill Estes called 1994 “the year of the big mini,” referring to
longer (over 26 feet) and wider (100- and 102-inch-wide) motorhomes (96 inches is
standard), and the legalization of widebody vehicles gradually being approved, state by
state.

In 1995, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) added weight-labeling to
requirements for RV manufacturers, addressing an issue that had plagued the industry for
years. In 1998, Ford’s and GM’s heavier RV chassis, permitting longer gasoline-powered
coaches, were featured. Two new lightweight diesel-pusher chassis (from Spartan and
Freightliner) began to compete with gas-powered units. Fleetwood Enterprises’ annual
motorhome sales passed $1 billion, an industry first. The California-based manufacturer
introduced the innovative SmartRoom, which converts a 30-square-foot bedroom into an office
or a playroom. And according to a study, 45 percent of all RVs made in 1999 contained a
slideout.

In 2000, the RVIA added a cargo-carrying-capacity label requirement on all new
RVs. 2001 MH articles compared the cost of motorhoming at $2, $2.50 and $3 a gallon for
fuel. In his January 2002 column, Estes wrote that “you can buy a well-equipped and
well-appointed new motorhome for less than it would have cost a decade ago if inflation is
taken into account.”

For more information about MotorHome’s 35th Year, pick up the June
2003 issue of MotorHome on the newsstand.

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