It was standard at the time, for panel vans and other things built on the G or P-30-series truck chassis, like motor homes. One of my friends has a 32 foot Stormy that has gone almost 20 years on 16 inch Michelin XPS without any tire problems, although I find the handling a bit squirrely on broken-up high-crown back roads.
In the tire sizes and load ratings used on 16 inch wheels, GVWR can go to about 16,000 pounds without overloading the tires. In the late '90s most smaller type A motorhomes were still being built on the 11,000 to 12,300 pound GVWR G-30 chassis.
That was before slideout rooms, solid counter tops, ceramic tile floors, marble bathrooms et al started pushing the weight way up to where A gassers needed a GVWR of 24,000 to carry it all, requiring bigger wheels and tires with higher ratings.
Yep, standard at the time, but not the greatest innovation. But there is help out there if you have a coach you like and want bigger wheels and tires. Take a look at Rickson Wheel. You can swap up to 19.5 wheels and tires. But it isn't cheap.
Hi Tom, I have a 32', F53, 95 Bounder on 16" tires. In over 70K miles of driving, I've only had one tire failure. My fault, the tire was 8 years old. Ford delivered that chassis with Michelin, all steel cord, XPS tires. Probably one of the toughest 16" tires you can buy and the most expensive. I suspect Ford knew the 16" tires were marginal and used the best tire for the job. Keep those 235/85R16 tires inflated to 80 psi, and don't over load your chassis. 6,000lbs. max front axle and 11,000lbs max rear axle.
I would guess you are lookiing at a Ford chassis with a 460 engine. The Chevy in '96 and even earlier had the 19.5" wheels. As stated, many MHs are out there with the 16" wheels and there was no recalls that I can ever remember for under size tires.
2003 Newmar Mountain Aire, Workhorse W22, 2008 Saturn Vue, Falcon 5250, & US Gear Unified Tow Brake
the 16" tires are easier to find, cheaper and its easier to find an installer. Almost all tire seller/installers can handle the 16" tires as they are no different than 16"-18" tires (wheels) on cars and pickups (light trucks). Many can't work with the 22.5" size because they don't have a changer large enough. You'd have to go to a truck or RV shop. At $90-$110/hour labor.
Mark, Jean, Paul & Lizzy (the mutt)
1997 Fleetwood Southwind Storm 34LS >
Thirsty, noisy & clunky. She ain't pretty, but she sure is fun! "Aerodynamics are for people who can't build engines." Enzo Ferrari