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While the evolution of Fleetwood Enterprises can be traced back to the ‘50s and a small company in Paramount, Calif., by the name of Coach Specialties Mfg. Co. — the Fleetwood name began as one of the firm’s travel trailer models — it wasn’t until 1968, when company founder John Crean bought Pace Arrow, that the manufacturer known for its motorhomes finally went motorized.
The Pace Arrow acquisition proved to be an able launchpad for new projects. The company designed a small unit on a chopped-van chassis and christened it the Tioga, then designed a motorhome using a steel frame rather than wood, and named it Southwind. There were others, as well, “But I had a zillion ideas for a motorhome,” Crean admitted, “so I decided to make a brand-new model.” Crean elected to design and build the motorhome on his own, and bought a building near his home in Newport Beach, Calif. What he created there would prove to be much more than just another motorhome.
What he created was the Bounder.
“On most motorhomes, the storage was on top, which was particularly inconvenient — and downright dangerous — for our older, retired customers,” Crean pointed out. “The major design innovation I came up with was to raise the height of the floor in the unit. Along with enclosing the water system, the higher floor provided lots of new storage space.” The raised floor also eliminated the step up to the forward part of the coach, creating a flat floor inside. The comfortable floorplan was copied directly from Fleetwood’s 28-foot Terry travel trailer.
Visually, this brand-new coach wasn’t exactly cutting-edge. In fact, recalling the reaction from dealers when he took a prototype on the road, Crean said, “The dealers agreed that it was the ugliest thing they’d ever seen in their life — but they were really impressed with its features.” Within a few years, the Bounder was the best-selling motorhome in the country.