This is probably one of the rarest vehicles I’ve seen that I’ve had the presence of mind to get a picture of. When I first saw this thing I thought maybe a section of the monorail train from Disneyland had derailed and somehow ended up on the I-17. When I got a little closer I was able to read the name on it. I had never heard of a Vixen before but I knew I was looking at something special.
Bill Collins was a car engineer who had worked for GM, quit to work with John DeLorean on the DMC-12 and later went on to work for AMC. After taking a trip in a GMC Motorhome, which is also a really interesting vehicle in its own right, Bill decided he could build a better RV that was meant to be easy to drive (well, easier, anyway) so he started his own company and designed one.
His first model was the Vixen 21 TD, which is what this one is. He went on to create two more models, which were the XC and the SE. The XC sounds pretty interesting. It was basically the same as the TD except instead of having a kitchen or any appliances, it was full of couches and seats so it was pretty much just a huge, weird van instead of an RV. They classified it as a Limousine. The SE was made later and by that point the company had started to stray from their original intentions. The SE was larger and looked a lot more like a traditional RV.
The first thing you notice about the Vixen is how low and wide it is. It really looks pretty cool going down the road. One of the reasons it was designed this way was to make sure it would fit inside a normal sized garage. Bill was obsessed with keeping the 21 TD low enough to do this, and that’s the reason for having then engine in the back. The other reason for the low stance was to make the vehicle more aerodynamic to help the driver save on fuel costs. They say a 6′ 2″ person could stand up inside which would sound a little nicer if that weren’t my exact height. I have a sneaking suspension I’d feel a little claustrophobic inside one but the thing ended up with an amazing drag coefficient of .29. To put it in perspective, a C5 Corvette also has a Cd of .29.
The really interesting part of the 21 TD are those BMW badges it wears (or what they indicate, anyways.) This thing was powered by a rear mounted BMW M21 Inline 6 Turbo Diesel motor mated to a Renault manual transaxle. Although the RV only weighed in at 5100 lbs, I can’t imagine it was any fun to drive the thing at all, with the motor putting out all of 114hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. The M21 was actually the same exact motor Ford put in the super rare Mark VII diesels. (Interesting side note: my car actually has a “check turbo” indicator in the dash as a carryover from when this motor was an option years earlier.) As slow as the Vixen must have been, it sort of redeemed its sluggishness by offering up to 30 mpg on the highway. I really have my doubts as to whether this thing could make it up to Flagstaff though.
The 21 TD had some cool features, like the lack of a generator. Instead it just used one of the first inverters offered in a vehicle for its AC appliances, that way everything could be run off the same engine and fuel source. Instead of a more common propane heater, it used a smaller diesel engine to heat up the coolant of the BMW motor to get warmed up in the morning. The kitchen featured an alcohol-fueled “Hemingway” stove top.
Vixens in general are very rare since the company went under pretty quickly. 578 total vehicles were made, with only 300 of them being the TD model. It’s not likely I’ll ever see another one again to get a picture of the front but hey, I did happen to find myself driving alongside a Maserati MC12 down in Scottsdale once, and they only sold 50 of them so you never know. We definitely have a lot of interesting stuff driving around out here in Arizona.
I don’t know a damn thing about bows and arrows, nor are off-road trucks my automotive niche. But something about this looked so wrong. I stared at this Chevy for a while thinking, “That looks like no Z71 logo i’ve ever seen.” Someone wants you to think that this is some factory off-road package, but it’s not.
It’s actually the logo for an advanced cam technology. Not camshafts for automobiles, mind you.. but for a bow and arrow! You’re looking at the logo for the Z7 cam technology for Matthews Inc. They make the kind of weapon The Motor City Madman himself uses to do whatever it is he does now that he’s all whacked out on politics and killing animals instead of deflowering youth and shredding on a guitar.
I’m inclined to believe that the owner of this truck (likely Uncle Ted himself as far as I’m concerned) really thought he was pulling a fast one on someone. It’s too much of a coincidence that it would reside in the same position as a Z71 logo, don’t you think?
If you’d like to retrofit your non-Z71 truck with one of these to fool all of your friends that don’t give a damn, you can pick one up here.
Let’s begin with a history lesson: With all of the special packages applied to pony cars of every era, we must ask what the “Firehawk” is. Well to put it simply, when F-bodies were in full-wedge-effect, GM would send them over to SLP to get them slapped with some bolt-ons to sell them to you at a higher price. During 2 generations (or 3 platform refreshes) You could order a Pontiac SLP Firehawk.
The rarest of these being the 91-92 models, only 25 left with option code “B4U”. Next is the 1993-1997 models, though only the 1997 model is worth noting, as it comes with a 345hp-rated LT4 small block. All came with the “R6V” RPO code. Then there’s a handful of 1998 Trans Am’s and Formulas driving around with Firehawk parts on them, but they don’t count. Next is the 1999-2002 Firehawks, carrying the “WU6” RPO code.The Firehawk you see here belongs to that iteration. But if you couldn’t tell that, you probably have no business being into F-body cars. Originally rated a 327hp, likely for novelty purposes as there is absolutely very little that sets a 305hp LS1 in a Firebird Formula apart from a 327hp Ls1 in a Firehawk – or even a 345hp LS1 in a Y-body Corvette. The rating climbed higher and higher and finally peaked at 345 with the LS6-intaked 2002 Model.
Okay, there’s the specs, so what makes these Firehawks so special? Prepare to be severely disappointed. You’re looking at a sticker package, exclusive wheels and tires, exhaust tips and the only actually performance improving modification being a lightweight hood fitted with “real” ram induction. The only thing this had over it’s SLP SS Camaro brother was aesthetics. At least it had that in spades.
For the record, this particular Firehawk is interesting in that it has chrome wheels, a new option for it’s year. Other than that, it’s a plastic-hooded Formula with a nasty snarl. Love those t-tops though.
I’ve got nothing.
I really wish I had some answers, but every time I look at this thing, it raises more questions. If you were going to make a car have a truck bed, why would you use a car that already has a bed? And what is that thing behind the rear window? Why were the taillights painted over like that and then sort of wiped away? Why the primer stripe down the tailgate? Why the green roof? And most importantly, just …why?
If you don’t count the M1 (yes, the M1, not the 1M), the 8-series was far and away the best BMW ever. I mean, look at that thing. It’s beautiful. Ok, sure, this one’s only got the 5.0 V12 with 292hp and most family sedans from today will keep up with it. But would any of them do it with anywhere near the style this thing has?
This article was originally published in the March 1968 issue of Hot Rod. I think it’s a pretty interesting read- some of those motors look really modern even today.
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