The title history documents reviewed by The Times show that when the motor coach was sold for $267,230 to the Thomases in 1999, it had only 93,618 miles on it, relatively few for a vehicle that experts say can easily log a million miles in its lifetime. It came equipped with plush leather seating, a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom in the back. In addition to its orange flame motif, it had a large Pegasus painted on the back, according to Jason Mang, the step-grandson of the previous owner, Bonnie Owenby.
“It was superluxury, really bougie,” he recalled.
On Nov. 19, 1999, after spotting the motor coach on the lot of Desert West Coach in Phoenix and putting a hold on it, Justice Thomas attended a dinner at the conservative Goldwater Institute. In a speech that night, he said he had never yearned to be a federal judge. “Pure and simple, I wanted to be rich,” he said.
Wayne Mullis, the owner of the now-defunct Desert West, said in an interview that Justice Thomas never discussed obtaining traditional financing with him, and that “as far as I know, he paid for it.”
Indeed, Justice Thomas would have been hard-pressed to get a loan from a traditional lender. Banks, and even finance companies that specialize in R.V. loans, are particularly reluctant to lend money on used Prevost Marathons because the customized features are hard to value, according to three leading industry executives interviewed by The Times.
“As a rule, the majority of buyers are cash buyers — they don’t finance the Prevost, generally,” said Chad Stevens, owner of an Arizona-based dealership specializing in high-end motor coaches, whose clients include celebrities and politicians. “In 1999, you would need a very strong down payment and a strong financial portfolio to finance one. It is a luxury item.”