Thursday, April 5, 2007

Winnebago Minnie Winnie

While my mini motorhome home is slightly older than this category, there is not a category in which to place this review at the present time, when such category is added I will move this review. This review is on a 1978 Dodge Minnie Winnie, since so many of these are still on the road, I felt it was important to do a review on my home away from home.

I come from a family of campers, my first camping experience when I was just a child was in a rented pop-up tent trailer. Since then my parents have gone onto truck campers, mini motor homes, travel trailers and their latest camper is a 1999 Sunline, 27 1/2 feet in length complete with tiny bathtub and microwave. Okay, so my family was not known to rough it!

We were fortunate enough last year to basically have our 1978 Minnie Winnie given to us, for my father-in-law installing a starter on a customer's tractor. A Minnie Winnie is made by Winnebago, a motor home company that has been in business since 1958, located in Forest City, Iowa. The definition of a mini motorhome is unit built on an automotive manufactured chassis with an attached van cab section. In our case the attached van cab is a Dodge. Our Minnie Winnie is 24 feet long and is powered by a 360 Dodge engine, with a three speed automatic transmission. Many of these older models are still on the road considering they are only used several months out of the year, in fact ours only has about 70,000 miles on it. Which since it is 22 years old that isn't very many.
Also the previous owners of our mini motorhome were an older couple that took excellent care of it. Although according to some records that we found in the camper after we received it, they had taken it from coast to coast one winter several years ago.

Let me take you on a tour (although please remember, it is from the late 70's when orange and brown were the popular colors). The "man" door is at the back of the motorhome, with regular van entrance doors in the front. Please watch your step since there is a step up into the camper part. To your left is a long narrow closet with drawers underneath (one thing I will say, this thing has a ton of storage places). To your right is another closet, and under that closet is the furnace.

Take several steps ahead and to your left is now the couch with a large storage drawer underneath. This couch also slides out into a bed which will comfortably sleep two adults. There is a large window above this couch, which is technically your rear window. Above the window are three cupboards.

Slightly to your right and forward is my kitchen. Complete with double sink, four burner propane stove with an oven. Again much storage above and below, and a large sliding window complete with screens directly above the sink. There is also a small pop-up extra counter, since the counter space is somewhat limited. The hot water tank is contained below the sink but cannot be reached from inside the camper. The water pump is also located under the sink, the pump is only needed if you are using water from your water storage tank, and is turned on by a switch on the wall.

A few more steps forward and you have reached my dining room table to your right and the fridge to your left. I was actually rather surprised at the size of my refrigerator. While we do generally take a cooler full of ice and various drinks, so to save space for food. It is about 3 feet long and 1 1/2 feet wide, and includes a small freezer, big enough for several ice cube trays. There are shelves inside the refrigerator as well as storage in the door. This will either run off of gas or electric, while many people do not run their refrigerator while traveling, we have done so many times and had no problem with the pilot blowing out. Although one word of caution, Do not leave your refrigerator running while you are filling up with gas, the pilot light could cause an explosion. Directly under the fridge are two storage drawers and a pull out cutting board. Under the storage unit here is my water storage tank, this is very easy to get at by popping off the front panel enabling you to check your water storage level, in case you are somewhere with no hookups.
The dinette consists of two benches and a fold down table, enabling this to be turned into another bed. While this is comfortable, it is a little short. There is also storage under both of the benches, and there are seat belts built in here for your extra passengers. It is rather tight to get a carseat into this space, but my daughter's booster seat fit in the space just fine. Above the dinette, are three more storage compartments, and another double sliding window with screens.

Next to the refrigerator is my bathroom. While really tiny, it does serve all purposes intended. Complete with sink, medicine cabinet and toilet, the whole room is waterproof since the shower is included in the room also. The shower head is removable so it is very easy to shower in this tiny space. There is a vent in the ceiling in the bathroom with a built in fan, to expel steam from the shower or other "scents" you would prefer not to enter the living compartment.

Forward is the van compartment and with a bunk above. Again able to sleep two adults comfortably. There are two small siding windows on either side, with screens, plus the large window across the front. All the windows in my motorhome have very attractive pull down shades for privacy.

In the van compartment is of course the drivers seat and passenger seat. Behind the driver seat is a set of switches enabling you to charge your extra batteries while going down the road. Since some campgrounds don't have hookups you need to make sure your batteries are fully charged if you are planning on running any lights in the motorhome. Oh, I also have an eight track tape player, too bad I did away with those years ago.

Some basics about my motorhome. All hookups are on the drivers side, including water, electric and sewer. There is also a spot here to light your hot water tank. We were also very fortunate to have papers of type-written instructions on lighting the hot water tank and furnace. There are gauges inside to check the levels of both holding tanks, gray water (sinks) and sewer (toilet). Be sure to pay close attention to these gauges if you are not hooked up to a sewer line. This will back up into the bathroom, I speak from experience.
There are two compartments that can be reached from the outside of the motorhome for storage of hoses, extension cords, jacks and other various things that will be needed to set up. The rear bumper is hollow for storage of sewer hose. The spare tire is attached to the rear bumper also, and although we haven't had it off yet we do make sure that is full of air.
There is also a large fold out awning attached to the passengers side of the motorhome. The plug ins are numerous, including one on the outside passengers side. There are a multitude of lights, both for electric hookup and battery.
The interior battery compartment is also on the passenger side, as well as the propane tank. The interior batteries are stored in a pullout tray for easy access, enabling you to hook up to a battery charger easily.

All in all, even though my motorhome is almost a "classic" it is in excellent shape. The only thing that we have really done to it, is have several brake lines replaced due to the time period that it sat unused. We are also very careful to change the oil and transmission fluid regularly. While it doesn't get great gas mileage, about 10 miles per gallon (it's a 360, what do you expect?), nor overly blessed with power (the sucker is heavy) we still love camping in it. I also would rather drive, than just be a passenger. It is a little top heavy, more so with two adults sleeping in the top bunk, and it doesn't corner on a dime. Of course this is an older model, so I don't know whether the handling has improved in the newer models. But my Minnie Winnie does have power steering and power brakes, so it really is not that difficult to drive. I just need about six parking spaces to try and park this vehicle. I also did a little checking on what this motorhome is worth. I found one that is similar, but a year newer (1979) for $8,900.00, although I can imagine that they can be purchased used much cheaper.

We have not only used our Minnie Winnie for family camping trips, but it is also wonderful to take to flea markets and craft shows. We just pull into our space, let our awning down and set up. It is great to have your bathroom and kitchen available nearby. We have even hauled up to four, eight foot tables in the center aisle for our setup. I can store all of my craft boxes in the top bunk!
While the new Minnie Winnies are much fancier, with tip-outs and the like. If my older Minnie Winnie is any indication of how well Winnebago builds their motorhome's, I am recommending these very highly. The craftsmanship is excellent, plenty of storage space, the vehicle itself is easy to maintain. In conclusion, I am perfectly happy in my "Minnie Home Away From Home".
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