A Classic Becomes a Home

A family of six begins full-timing in a '73 Brave.

Sharee Collier  |  06.28.2016

After the purchase of our 1973 Winnebago Brave, we quickly had the feeling we may have bitten off a bit more than we could chew. The unit was 40 years our senior, needed a ton of mechanical and cosmetic work and let’s not forget we had never even been inside an RV, let alone camped in one before. As the flood of anxiety about the rash decision to hit the road with our family of 6 started to flood my mind, I knew if we just took each day one at a time, we would pull through just fine.

Collier familyOn the move.  The Collier family are full-timing, working, educating, and loving it.

Starting with the major mechanical work first, we replaced everything from the brakes to the alternator and everything in between. In the end, we replaced or repaired everything except the motor. Surprisingly, it was still in good shape and after getting 3 second opinions – it was estimated to last a few more years, at least.

Before

Before montage

When all the dirty work was done inside the engine, it was time to redo the interior. Brown wooden walls, yellow fixtures, ancient carpet and dated fabrics – just wasn’t our idea of the perfect new home. We knew a lot of work needed to be done, especially if we wanted the kids to love it as much as we did. And at this point, the twins cried every time they went inside and the older girls were less than thrilled that this was the unit we actually purchased.

Blue WinnebagoWe kept telling them, this little Winnebago was the coolest motorhome on the market back in its prime. They replied with sassy remarks like, “When was that?” or “Well what happened?” we explained that all it needed was a great new family to give it a little tender love and care. Seeming unsatisfied with the response, with smiles and giggles, they agreed to help paint which at least was one step in the right direction.

After the carpet was torn out, we let the kids paint to their hearts desire. I mean they really had a great time. Mistakes were meaningless, as everything could be fixed or corrected – so they really got into the project and treated it as a blank canvas. Trips to do-it-yourself retailer like Home Depot & craft stores like JoAnne’s, to pick out materials, were now exciting errands that again let them showcase their creativity. They chose chalkboard paint for the front door, white boards for the ceiling and whimsical retro printed fabrics for the seating and sleeping areas.

AfterAfter montage

Making the space both practical and functional, were our top priorities. With a family of 6, in a 21ft. motorhome – we needed to be creative to utilize the space we had available. Side projects like our multipurpose ottoman, came in handy for seating, storage, and schoolwork. Fabric closet organizers were utilized for storage in the closets and on the backs of the doors. Small kitchen gadgets, utensils, clothing and even bathroom essentials could all be organized neatly with this easy system and it worked well to keep clutter to a minimum.

Once the inside was perfect, we slowly moved our belongings inside our new home. Everyone was allowed one cabinet for their clothing and personal items, with the exception of Antwon and I, who also had a small closet to hand up some clothes and jackets. Storage space was quite limited, but we managed to take along everything we needed plus some things we never used, like my favorite juicer and sewing machine. Shoes were one thing we managed to find limitless places to store. At times it seemed ridiculous how many pairs we had. A pair of flip flops, 2 pairs of sneakers, and a pair of boots times 6 people, plus Antwon’s collection of LeBron James basketball shoes, that he couldn’t stand to part with – totaled over 30 pairs of shoes.

When the big day finally came, we packed up the kids, said our goodbyes and pulled out of the driveway heading for Kentucky. The engine was loud, but tugged along strong. Cars passed by, as we drove well below the speed limit. People waved frantically with big smiles and wide eyes reminiscing of childhood memories. Each stop for gas, would bring a new group of locals around the RV to admire, ask to check out the inside and offers to purchase it on sight, with cash in hand. We entertained each with a peek inside our home, which usually led to more questions, but passed on all offers to ‘take her off our hands’. The kids were impressed with their new home. In fact, one day our middle daughter responded, “Yes sir, he’s ours. And before you ask… He’s not for sale!” when the cashier at one gas station asked her if that was her RV outside. The interest in this little metal box – that we transformed with love and care, was both weird and entertaining to them, and they were slowing starting to love it as much as we did.

As we pulled into our first campsite, we were welcomed by the onsite Campground Host and escorted to our site. As everyone unloaded, Antwon proceeded to plug in the motorhome to the 30 amp receptacle only to discover it didn’t fit! In a total panic and almost too ‘manly’ to ask for help, he finally signaled the Host over to ask an embarrassing question. After about two seconds of silence and a puzzled look- he said “It’s got an adapter on it… You’ll need to pull that off.” As we all looked at each other and laughed, we knew this was a moment we would always remember.

collier girls in A wagonAfter all, this was the start of our life on the road. This was the beginning of our new adventure. We knew there would be many more moments just like this one and we were excited to experience each one! RVing was new to us, and being comfortable enough to admit it showed us how much we had yet to learn and how helpful fellow RVers are.


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15 Comments

  1. Sharee Collier Posted on 09.19.2016

    Thank you so much for the all warm wishes!

    To answer a few questions:
    – No it wasn’t a mistake! Our Winnebago is just 21ft long with no slides. It’s basically the smallest tiny home on wheels we could have chosen! Lol. It does however have enough room to sleep us and the kids so that was a plus!
    -Yes! Our family keeps a blog at http://www.MeettheColliers.com, the site details some of the fun adventures we’ve taken along with links to social media accounts.

    We truly are thankful for the support of the ever so welcoming camping community and hope to meet many more campers along the road!

  2. norbert gonzalez Posted on 08.23.2016

    Work of art

  3. Bob Peeling Posted on 07.19.2016

    This is a great first chapter. Thank you to the Collier family for sharing it with us. We wish you well as you experience the many new faces and adventures that you will encounter on the road. Camping and campers seem to encourage our better selves. We hope that you will publish other articles from time to time to let us all know how you are doing.
    In the meantime – enjoy !

  4. Tim K. Posted on 07.18.2016

    Great article; thanks for sharing your story so far. I love the idea of rehabbing old things instead of always defaulting to brand new. Best wishes for you and your family!

  5. Jeanne Kopyta Posted on 07.17.2016

    What a sweet story! Forgive me if I missed this information somewhere in the story, but do you have a blog or any way for us to keep up with your adventures? It would be interesting to read about your family as the kids grow up. Best of luck with this RV life. You won’t be difficult to spot out on the open road! Perhaps we will run in to you someday!

  6. Ernesto Quintero Posted on 07.16.2016

    lol “Yes sir, he’s ours. And before you ask… He’s not for sale!”

  7. Bob Pearson Posted on 07.16.2016

    21 feet? Is that a typo? In January I purchased a new 31′ Vista which is big for me but for two not that big. I for one want to hear how it goes over time. Hope you come out West. http://www.moveablecondo.com

  8. Bob Dickey Posted on 07.16.2016

    What a wonderful story! I wish your whole family a lifetime of joy with THEIR RV,

    Bob

  9. Big Joe Posted on 07.16.2016

    Need more pictures ,but have a great time

  10. lynne Posted on 07.16.2016

    Pleae let us follow you as you travel with your family. You could start a blog of your travels. What a wonderful story. God bless you!

  11. CWO 2 Michael Heit Posted on 07.16.2016

    We just bought a 1987 21 foot Mini-Winnie class C motohome. Your story is very much like ours except we’re just at the beginning stage. Most of the mechanical is done 5 grand worth. The engine is young, but everything from the tail light to the starter and the carb needed replacement due to sitting in storage or just worn out.
    All inside works except the water heater and the TLC cosmetic work. It’s just my wife & I so we’ll have plenty of room to enjoy our Alaska adventures in it. We’ll send photos and stories as we progress.
    Thank you for sharing it was a great boost to our spirits to know there are others like us who have little to spend but lots of elbow grease to spare.

  12. Denise Laudun Posted on 07.16.2016

    I enjoyed your story. In the 90’s we had a 1974 24 ft. Brave. We took it everywhere. When we were building a house, we lived in it for 6 months with our 12 year old daughter. Also, it was in winter at 6,000 ft so we experienced plenty of cold and snow. Our Brave was a cozy home and were sad when we sold it.

  13. Sharee Collier Posted on 06.30.2016

    Thanks Lisa!

    We hope great adventures will always be just around the next corner!

    If you like projects, both big and small, a classic might be just what your looking for. And as for involving the kids… sometimes, especially when they out number you- it’s really the best option!

  14. Janet P. Posted on 06.30.2016

    What an exciting time for your family! I look forward to following your travels.

  15. Lisa Pietsch Posted on 06.29.2016

    What a great story, Sharee! And what great adventures you have in store!

    I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a classic and renovating it. I love how you involved the kids in the interior design.

    Bon voyage!