The 1966 Winnebago Lifetime Premier - the first of its kind
This 1966 Winnebago Lifetime Premier motorhome was supposed start a new chapter in its life but one that is related to its story.
You see my mother gifted us this vintage Winnebago after hearing that we were RV shopping. This also served to clear her driveway for my father’s new car.
In some ways, this Winnebago ignited an entire industry. When it was introduced in 1966 Winnebago’s F-series Motorhomes were truly revolutionary. They cost about half what others were charging in part thanks to the company’s patented “Thermo Panel” construction where an inside wall, a foam core and an outside wall were all glued together in a pinch roller system.
This and a efficient production made this vehicle much easier to sell to the masses at a time when the American worker was experiencing enough wage stability to have some money for recreational spending. And sell they did, turning Winnebago from a small and innovative trailer manufacturer into the powerhouse of RV production that they are today.
But this little guy was at the start with a Ford heart in the form of a Ford P-350 chassis sporting a fat 4.9L in-line six-cylinder engine and a three-speed automatic transmission. Surprisingly this was sufficient as Winnebago’s ads at the time claimed the vehicle weighed only 5500lb. Of course all that mass was brought to a halt by four drum brakes with a single master cylinder. Three sizes were available, a 17-, a 19- and a 21-foot variant.
So what’s it like to drive? I have no idea. Yet. At present we have the agreement on “Winnie” as she’s called but she’s still sitting in the driveway waiting for me to figure out how to get her to Northern California. While the engine and transmission and brakes are all reportedly solid I’m not sure the mountain roads between here and there are the place to reinforce this.
There is also significant water damage as you’ll see in the pictures caused by a window that fell out. Obviously replacing the 50-year-old window gaskets is going to be a priority.
Unfortunately we never did ship the Winnebago out to California. We were warned by multiple shippers that the vehicle might literally disintegrate at highway speeds once the wind got under those panels that had water damage, so we sold it, hoping that someone might find it and love it as we wanted to.
After a few years we thought we had lost Winnie altogether. It was bought by someone who had grand plans but those fell through and it ended up in a field. And that's where the present owner found it and we found it and him on the Lifetime Premier Facebook Group. Now he has it and he's doing a marvelous job of restoring the old girl.
As we have time and communications on the vehicle we hope you'll enjoy following his, and her, progress as much as we do.
Written by Peggy Barthel