This Is What RVing Was Like in the ‘80s

If your kids have complaints about the family RV today, have them imagine what it was like to spend time in a 1980s model RV. The amenities weren’t quite as thoughtful and luxurious as today, and technology had not yet come into full bloom.

Despite this, RVing in the ‘80s was special. If you were alive during the ‘80s, jump on the nostalgia train as we remember RVing in the ‘80s.

How America Fell Back in Love With RVs in the 1980s

The 1960s and the 1970s RV industry saw quite a lag, as the ‘70s gave way to a worldwide oil crisis. The ‘80s ushered in a time when Americans were once again free to get excited about traveling — and we sure did travel. 

The RV industry boomed in the ‘80s, and Hollywood certainly took notice of the trend. Hit films like “Spaceballs,” “The Blues Brothers,” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” featured storylines heavily influenced by the crew’s RV experiences. 

Christmas Vacation (7/10) Movie Clip – Eddie’s Sewage (1989) HD

RVs in the 1980s suddenly became much more affordable for average citizens. Manufacturers began crafting the vehicles with less expensive materials. They produced RVs on a larger scale, paving a path for the ‘80s RV craze to commence.  

New RV Tech: What Innovations Came Out in the ‘80s?

The 1980s were when developers started to focus a little more on fuel efficiency, claiming that they had an RV that could get up to 15 mpg and designing many models with sloped noses. However, fuel efficiency was not the top priority of innovators. 

In 1985, the most popular brand of the motorhome was the Fleetwood. Fleetwood released the Bounder, and people went crazy over the added basement storage they included in the design. It was the first Class A motorhome with basement storage, and it set a standard for the future. 

The establishment of Coach House RV began in the ‘80s. That is when the company began the formal production of Class B and Class C motorhomes. The decade would also see the introduction of a more durable roofing material for RVs. EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) is still a widely used product today.

This was also a time when we started to see campers on the back of truck chassis that offered cab access, campervans, and more.

The most popular RV model in the 1980s was the Fleetwood Bounder. The Bounder gave long-time RV producer Fleetwood a new lease on life with a projected sale of more than 40,000 models in 1983 alone. 

You may be more familiar with the Bounder than you think. Walter White used a 1985 Fleetwood Bounder as the host site for making some of his most iconic batches of meth on the popular show “Breaking Bad.” 

Tour of a 1987 Fleetwood Bounder

Winnebago was also a part of every road tripper’s vocabulary in the ‘80s, due partially to the popularity of the movie “Spaceballs.” The Eagle 5 was a Winnebago that served as Lone Star and Barf’s main mode of transportation. Mostly, Winnebago has a loyal history with road trippers, as they produce a quality product. 

How Much Did a New RV Cost in the 1980s?

The average cost of a new RV in the ‘80s could vary depending on what you wanted. However, generally, you could expect to pay somewhere in the $8,000-$10,000 range.

This price pales in comparison to today’s RV prices, as some vehicles can easily cost RVers more than $100,000. There are even million-dollar RVs these days.

RV Campsites: What You Could Expect

Short shorts and fold-out chairs dominated the scenery in a 1980s campsite. The ‘80s were the time when summer camps and outdoor living really dominated American culture. An ‘80s RV park would be full of families, cold beer, cheap badminton nets, and hotdogs on sticks.

Camping was pretty minimalistic and simple. Camping hasn’t changed all too much in the decades since, but these touches definitely scream “1980s” aesthetic. 

Camping with the family in the ‘80s meant that you had to have your Walkman with you for entertainment. Your little sister probably had a pink or sparkly pair of jelly shoes on her feet, and your dad was carrying a Rambo knife with a compass in the handle.

Everyone was familiar with the taste of Off! (as it was the only bug spray anyone used in the ‘80s), and Coppertone was the only suntan lotion you would see in mom’s bag. 

The ‘80s and Beyond

If you were there in the ‘80s, it’s not hard to stir up the memories of what it was like. Otherwise, you could get a taste of RVing in the ‘80s by watching “Spaceballs,” “Stripes,” “Lost in America,” or one of the many other movies that dropped that decade.

One might say RVs were kind of a “thing” in the ‘80s as Americans sought to enjoy the great outdoors. What memories of RVing in the ‘80s do you have?

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