Blue Bird Wanderlodge
||This article needs attention from an expert in Automobiles. (August 2009)|
|Blue Bird Wanderlodge|
|Manufacturer||Blue Bird Body Company (1963–1992)
Blue Bird Corporation (1992–2007)
Complete Coach Works (2007–2009)
|Assembly||Fort Valley, Georgia|
|Designer||Blue Bird Corporation|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||Luxury Recreational Vehicle|
|Related||Blue Bird All American
Blue Bird LTC
Wanderlodge is a high end brand of Class A motorhome recreational vehicle that was built by Blue Bird Body Company now Blue Bird Corporation in Fort Valley, Georgia, from about 1963 until 2009. Production started with a 31-foot (9.4 m) gas powered forward control (front engine) model and expanded to include larger diesel engine powered pusher (rear engine) models up to 43 feet (13 m) in length. They remain highly prized by their owners and have an extensive service network. For many years the Wanderlodge was in a separate class of motorhomes along with other premium brands like Prevost and Newell. Pricing of these RVs, from the 1960s until now, has been comparable with pricing of a medium-sized house.
The Wanderlodge was sold around the world to celebrities, dignitaries, and heads of state. Notable owners include the former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, country music superstar Johnny Cash, and King Hussein of Jordan, among others. Features of the Wanderlodge that were unique when introduced included a built-in safe, redundant heating and hot water systems that used electricity, engine heat or diesel, and fuel tanks offering range in excess of 1,000 kilometres (620 mi).
The first Wanderlodge prototype was produced by Blue Bird in 1963 in Fort Valley, Georgia. Unlike most other motorhomes of the time, the Wanderlodge was based heavily on Blue Bird's All American school bus; instead of using fiberglass, its body was built entirely of steel. Also, the school bus frame was intended for daily stop-and-go driving not usually subjected to any motorhome. Priced from $12,000, (approximately $81,000 in 2010 dollars) full-scale Wanderlodge production began in 1966 with a Ford gasoline engine. In 1977, diesel engines were introduced as the Caterpillar 3208 V8 replaced the Ford gasoline engines. For 1982, Blue Bird introduced a rear-engined (pusher) version of the Wanderlodge; it was powered by a Detroit Diesel 6V92 (an 8V92 became an option in 1986). Unlike the All American Rear Engine, which with it shared a chassis and basic body design, the Wanderlodge pusher was designed with a rear tag axle. In 1987, the front fascia of all Wanderlodges received a facelift to differentiate them from the All American; gone were the vertically stacked headlights that had adorned Blue Bird buses for nearly 25 years. Unlike previous Wanderlodges, 1988 and later models featured fiberglass end caps to disguise their school bus origins.
Although the All American-based chassis and its all-steel construction allowed for durability and a reputation of quality, by the late 1980s its size had started to work against it. Federal law restricted school buses to a maximum width of 96 inches (2.4 m), while motorcoaches that were now competing with the Wanderlodge as a luxury motorhome were all built in a width of 102 inches (2.6 m). In 1988, the first 102" Wanderlodges (Wide Body Pusher) were introduced.
At the end of 1988, Blue Bird gave both the front and rear-engine All American school buses their first redesign since the late 1950s. The last Forward Control Wanderlodges were sold at the end of the 1989 model year. In 1991, the rest of the Wanderlodge lineup (two pushers; single and tag axle) received extensive exterior facelifts to look even less like school buses. In 1994, as a replacement for the single-axle pusher (dropped in 1992) and as a lower-cost model; Blue Bird introduced the BMC (Blue Bird Motor Coach) model of the Wanderlodge. Unlike all previous Wanderlodges, the BMC had a chassis produced not in-house by Blue Bird, but by custom chassis manufacturer Spartan Motors of Michigan; Spartan also had ties in school bus chassis manufacturing. In 1995, a 42-foot (13 m) long model was introduced, the first Wanderlodge over 40 feet (12 m) long. The Wanderlodge BMC was produced until the end of 1997.
For 1998, a new generation of Wanderlodge debuted; all versions were produced entirely by Blue Bird. Side by side, the most visible change was the much larger windshield. Initially, there were 3 models: the 40-foot (12 m) long LX, the 41-foot (12 m) LXi, and the 43-foot (13 m) LXi. In 2003, Blue Bird supplemented the model range with the Wanderlodge M380, a single-axle version 38 feet (12 m) long that largely replaced the BMC. Also starting in 2003, Wanderlodges were produced with slide-out sides to increase interior space while parked. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Blue Bird Corporation underwent financial difficulties and was sold twice. A key part of Blue Bird's recovery plans was to refocus all production on its school bus lineup. Blue Bird sold off the rights to its transit bus product lines and ended its motorcoach production. In 2007, the Wanderlodge line and the production facility was sold to Complete Coach Works, a California-based company specializing in bus refurbishing and remanufacturing. In April 2009, the last Wanderlodges were produced, as the closed down the Georgia production facility.
- Ford Super Duty V8 (391 to 534 cubic inches)
- Caterpillar 3208 (NA or turbocharged) V8
- Cummins M11/ISM
- Detroit Diesel
- Series 60
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