I’d imagine there would have been plenty of late-model Mustang and Corvette owners wondering what the hell just happened, catching sight of the barbecue sitting between the tail-lights of an old Winnebago that just left them for dead.
This old Winnebago is possibly the best sleeper ever built. But the crazy thing is that Jim and Mike Ring didn’t actually plan on building it like this. Initially, they were just after a cheap RV to leave parked up by the river as a fishing hut. When they heard of one coming up for auction, they asked a mate to check it out and put a bid in for them if it was going cheap. Sadly, the guy who was bidding at the auction for them missed the ‘cheap’ part, and overspent big time.
Once the brothers saw what they had won, their first thought was to just get rid of it, but even at a tenth of what they had just paid, no one wanted it!
After towing the trusty camper back to Wisconsin, the brothers had to figure out what to do with the Winnebago. They’d taken plenty of stick from the car community for buying it, so Jim came up with the idea chucking a big power train in it and having some fun — rebuilding the old Junker, their way. Some would call the 'Ringabago' the ultimate parking lot party bus, but the brothers call it their mobile man cave — they can now go wherever they want, and have plenty of fun with all their creature comforts.
The best part is that they managed to get a few of their sponsors on board to help out! As a result, the interior is completely tricked out with leather chairs, a flat-screen television, Bose surround sound, and a bar. The floor is pretty special too, with Plexiglas inserts so that you can see the motor running and the blower belt spinning, and there is another insert mid-ship so you can see the drive shaft turning, too. There’s also plenty of cool memorabilia on the walls, from neon signs through to an old outboard motor. One of the more special items is the old propeller, which their dad traded for a gallon of gas with a customer at his gas station back in the ’50s. That propeller has been with the family for so long that it just had to go in the Ringabago.
It was going to take a pretty serious engine with not just horsepower, but a heap of torque to get over 10,000 pounds to move quickly. Fortunately, that is something the Ringbrothers know plenty about. Their weapon of choice is the LS-series V8, and through working with Wegner Motorsports, they have built a 900hp-plus version that seems to be doing the job just fine. Although we can’t verify it, Mike and Jim claim that the Ringabago is good for the 0–60mph dash in 3.5 seconds. Jim has allegedly had it up to 95mph, and their tuner over 100mph, which is pretty impressive for something that looks like it would struggle to do 35. Jim reckons the handling at high speed is like holding a sheet of ply in a tornado, so the 120mph land-speed record for an RV is probably safe — at least for now.
As for the ugly exterior, both Mike and Jim reckon that they would have ruined it by mending it. It has the perfect patina on it, which just adds to the character as well as its sleeper image. The thing about the Ringabago is that it looks like such a beater, with so much stuff hanging off of it, that you wouldn’t look twice at it until it blew you away at the lights.
Imagine how many must have been caught out on the highway, thinking ‘I need to get past that old bus before the hills’, and then ...Boom! It’s gone! The brothers even took it on the Hot Rod Power Tour this year, just a few days after we were there, and their exploits from that trip are out there already. Just search the web and you will see that the Ringbrothers are not afraid to put the cars they build through their paces — the Ringabago being no exception.
On the day of our visit there were some Harley-Davidson executives also looking through the shop. When offered to see what the humble-looking RV could do, they just couldn’t resist taking a ride. Seeing the old bus flying past, accompanied by a roaring LS soundtrack, seemed so wrong yet so right at the same time. The grins on the faces of all on board as they exited could tell you everything you need to know about the vehicle and its capabilities. The Ringbrothers set out to build something they could go to shows in, and have a bit of fun with along the way. From the grins on everyone’s faces that day, I think they’ve succeeded!
Kevin’s Ringabago spotlight feature is just one small part of his huge Route 66 adventure. You can read more in NZV8 Issue No. 125, on sale Monday, September 7.