A Tour of Riverside RVs

A couple of weeks ago I was able to get a tour set up of the Riverside RV factory in LaGrange, Indiana, thanks to a one of Riverside’s dealers, Austin Braun of Braun’s Fun Time Campers in Indianapolis.

I was interested in checking out their facilities for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve been following Riverside’s steady growth since I first found out about them at the RVIA trade show in 2011. The second reason has to do with an order I made for one of their teardrop trailers. I was hoping to see it in production, but it wasn’t slated to hit the assembly line until August 29. I’ll cover that in a future post, but here’s a sneak peek at what it’ll look like, as there was one on their lot awaiting a trip to a dealer in Sacramento.

My tour was led by Riverside sales manager Bob Taulbee. On the Friday I was up there, they had finished production for the week, so it was just about empty except for a handful of office personnel. Bob told me Riverside consists of about 50 employees, and about 45 of those are local Amish.

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Despite the production having been wrapped up for the week, Bob told me that they’re producing about 40 units a week. That’s some pretty impressive output for a smaller independent RV manufacturer. Right now there are just under 600 Riverside Retros listed on rvtrader.com, so that’s pretty good coverage for anyone looking to buy one from any part of the country.

Ever since 2011 when I first laid eyes on a Retro 155, the quality has vastly improved. One aspect of that better quality is in some of the little things they do. One such example is in leak testing. Each unit that is produced spends about 5 minutes in the shower, where water soaks each trailer from various angles while one person inspects from inside.

When I brought up the topic about Little Guy soon reviving the Serro Scotty line, Bob made no bones about it. “We know they’ll be coming after us”. Despite their market share of retro style trailers facing this pending threat from the coming of Serro Scotty, Bob feels good about where they stand in the market and the continually growing base of Retro owners who seem to be quite satisfied camping in their Retros, according to some of the Riverside Facebook pages out there.

The back lot at the Riverside factory is a nice array of just about every model they have available. These are completed models awaiting shipment to dealers all across the country.

That includes even some of the newer models, such as the new Retro toy hauler that’s just coming out.

One last thing I was intrigued with during my visit there was a new project Riverside is coming out with that will debut in September. And that is a Retro fifth wheel. Granted, it doesn’t fit the criteria of a small trailer, but once I saw it, I was more than wowed by it. It’s the first prototype and was still a work in process when I saw it. They didn’t even know yet what it’ll weigh or the MSRP on it. However, it’ll have the same retro interior and graphics as their other models…plus baby moon hubcaps.

If you’d like to check out more of the Riverside Retro models, you can visit their website at http://riversidervs.net.

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Little Guy Acquires Serro Scotty Brand – Breaks Ties With Pleasant Valley

Green, Ohio based Little Guy Worldwide has announced they will be adding the iconic Serro Scotty trailer brand to their lineup of small travel trailers and teardrops.

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“Scotty trailers are a big part of the rich camping heritage of America,” said Joe Kicos, owner and president of Little Guy in a press release. “We are very excited to add the Scotty trailer brand and history to the Little Guy family.” Little Guy is one of the most well known teardrop trailers on the market since it first rolled out 20 units in 2002.

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The Serro Scotty name dates back to 1957 when John Serro first built, coincidentally, a teardrop trailer. In a short time, Serro Scotty campers became one of the most affordable and mass produced family campers throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, and ultimately had manufacturing facilities in Irwin, PA, Ashburn, GA, and Bristow, OK. After the Ashburn and Bristow plants closed, the Irwin plant burned to the ground in 1997, ending Serro Scotty’s 40 year run of building trailers.

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In 2006, Pennsylvania RV dealer Bill Kerola revived the Serro Scotty brand, having a series of manufacturers build a limited amount of HiLanders and other models of Scottys. Before news of the acquisition of the Serro Scotty brand by Little Guy broke this week, I had confirmed with Kerola that he in fact had not renewed his licensing agreement with the Serro family. Under the Kerola-era of Scotty production, the 16′ HiLander was by far the most popular of the models.

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(2010 Serro Scotty HiLanders)

Having owned a 2010 HiLander for five years, I had a pretty close relationship with Kerola, as well as some other owners of the revived brand. While there was a small dealer network at first, it later moved to a factory direct concept. After going through several manufacturers, all production ceased by 2015.

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(2010 Serro Scotty Silver Pup and 2013 Serro Scotty Sportsman)

Today I spoke with Little Guy Vice President of Operations, Dylan DeHoff. They’re very excited about acquiring the rights to Serro Scotty and the plans they have for it. “The first few models will strictly be retro designed. Our plan to keep the retro look on the outside with the white/turquoise colors, teardrop shaped fender cutout, etc. The outside would also feature some basic RV designs like white framed windows. On the inside a standard unit would not be retro at all, but rather a neutral interior: Neutral colored cabinets, counters and floors. It would feature your typical RV components such as a Dometic stove, fridge, Coleman AC, etc. We plan to make a line of retro models ranging from 13 to 23 feet. For the customers that want the entire retro experience there will be a retro package which will change the flooring, curtains and other cosmetic items to feature a retro design.

“Right now we are prototyping a 16 foot bunk floorplan and next is a 17 foot front queen floorplan, both modeled after the Highlander look with the “bump up” in the roof. Next would be the 13 foot floorplan and the 15 foot floorplan. The 13 foot floorplan would be modeled after the Sportsman Gaucho but we would also like to create an extended 16 foot box version of the Sportsmen.”

To kickstart the Serro Scotty brand, Little Guy has created a new website for the Scottys at http://serroscottytrailers.com, where for now you can add your name and email to receive Serro Scotty updates from Little Guy.

As big as the news is of Little Guy reviving Serro Scotty, probably bigger is news of their pending separation with long time manufacturer Pleasant Valley Teardrops. The agreement between Little Guy and Pleasant Valley ends on April 1, 2017. While details are a little murky on the separation, what is known is that Little Guy has secured a 169,000 square foot manufacturing facility (rumored to be in the Elkhart, Indiana region) that will handle current and new product lines, with another 200,000 square feet of space in reserve for anticipated future expansion. But what is not known is how this split will affect all the brands that have been built by Pleasant Valley and marketed and distributed by Little Guy: T@B, T@G, myPod, Little Guy Teardrops (5-wide, 6-wide, Silver Shadow, and Rough Rider), and Cirrus truck campers. Some are owned by Little Guy and some are owned by Pleasant Valley. Obviously this is a pretty big deal and I’ll be gathering more information and sort it out for you all in a separate post here on The Small Trailer Enthusiast. Look for much, much more on this in the months to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trailer Life Opens Voting for 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards

Trailer Life magazine has announced the voting for their annual Reader’s Choice has begun. The voting for the annual survey runs until September 23, 2016 and the winners will be announced in the 2017 issue of Trailer Life.

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There are 29 categories to vote on, with the top 3 in each category receiving recognition. The results prove to be a valuable tool for RV owners, as the results are based on the experiences 0f fellow RVers. Some of the categories to vote on include travel trailers, tires, best state to RV in, RV retailer, and many more which may or may not apply to your camping style.

To cast your votes, you can visit the voting page on the Trailer Life website at this link: http://www.trailerlife.com/readers-choice/

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Airstream Unveils NEST Details Via Survey

Not long after it was announced by Airstream of their acquisition of NEST Caravans, I signed up on the Airstream website to receive updates on the NEST. Today I received an e-mail from Airstream with a link to a survey regarding the NEST.

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A lot of the questions had to do with comparing NEST to a traditional Airstream and what other brands you’ve considered. When I got towards the end of the survey, the page consisted of an overall description of the NEST followed by survey questions. It was in the description where it was revealed where the NEST have a starting price of $40,000. You read that right.

NEST is an all-new, compact, 16’6” trailer that provides all the luxury and quality one would expect from an Airstream, plus the added benefits of exterior color options and the ability to be towed by smaller vehicles (such as mid-sized SUVs, light trucks and crossovers).

Within its fiberglass shell, NEST contains a wet bath (toilet, shower), queen-sized bed, dining area, galley with refrigerator and cooktop, plus many other thoughtful appointments — all in a comfortable, light-filled space with 6’6” of standing headroom.

NEST was conceived and developed by entrepreneur Robert Johans in Bend, Oregon; and automotive designer, Bryan Thompson, is responsible for the trailer’s sophisticated and modern exterior styling.

Recognizing Airstream’s DNA in NEST, Airstream purchased the company in 2016 with a goal to improve upon the concept by building it with advanced components and manufacturing techniques. Augmenting its iconic travel trailer line up with NEST’s progressive product design aligns with Airstream’s ambition to further its long legacy of refined innovation within the RV industry.

NEST will start at $40,000 (or $325/mo., if financed). The trailers will be built at the Airstream facility in Jackson Center, OH, and available for purchase the summer of 2017.

So after reading this last paragraph, I think it’s safe to say most of you remotely interested will probably feel like you’ve been priced out of purchasing a NEST.  I hear a lot from readers how a new Scamp in the upper teens is overpriced. I’m completely expecting negative comments on the pricing, but if you’re someone who’d be willing to pay that kind of money for a NEST, I’d really like to hear from  you.  I’d be interested to know a buyer’s rationale in spending more on a fiberglass NEST than you would a traditional 16′ aluminum Airstream Bambi. And one of the questions on the survey is “How likely are you to purchase NEST for $40k?“. You’d think they’d have asked consumers this question before buying NEST and setting a starting price of $40,000, wouldn’t you?

As production starts in the next year, I’ll provide any additional updates as they come along. As always, stay tuned here!

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A Look at the A-Liner Limited Edition Retro

When the 2016 Aliner Limited Edition was unveiled at the Louisville RVIA trade show last December, it was an addition to the ever growing retro trailer segment of the RV industry that seemed to come out of left field. After all, the A-frame pop up company didn’t come into existence until 1984, well after the era of canned ham trailers that the recent wave of reproductions has meant to mimic.

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According to Aliner president and CEO Brett Randall, “We like to stay on top of what our customers are looking for in a camping trailer and we believe we have done so with the Aliner Limited Edition as it has a retro graphics package, new exterior porch light, tires with chrome moon hub, tire cover and a certificate of authenticity.”

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Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania’s Aliner has committed to building 84 Limited Editions, which commemorates when they went into business in 1984. It’s based on an Aliner Classic, with a few standards that are options on a standard Classic. Some of the standard features on the Limited Edition include chrome baby moon hubcaps on 14″ rims, a retro graphics package, a 5,000 BTU air conditioner, a rear sofa that converts to a 60″ x 76″ bed, a front dinette that converts to a 40″ x 76″ bed, a 3.0 cubic foot refrigerator, microwave,  a DSI water heater, LED exterior lighting, an exterior shower, and an off-road package.

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alinerse17As for the specifications, the Aliner Limited Edition has a box length of 12′, total length of 15′, and a width of 78″. The gross vehicular weight rating is 3,000 lbs and the unloaded weight is 1635 lbs. The tongue weight is 190 lbs and the maximum carrying capacity is a generous 1365 lbs. The Limited Edition also comes with a special 2 year warranty.

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Recently, Aliner dealer Mount Comfort RV received one of the 84 Limited Editions on their lot in Greenfield, Indiana. They put together a really nice walk through video of the Limited Edition Aliner with President Rusty Eckstein. Rusty tells me the video has received nearly 3,000 views in just a week, so that’s a pretty strong statement as to the interest it’s drawn with potential buyers.

As of this writing on June 10, there are just 7 on rvtrader.com, with prices ranging anywhere from $18K to $28K. You can check out more about the Aliner Limited Edition at http://aliner.com/campers/limited-edition/  Not sure where the closest Aliner dealer is to you? You can find that out at http://aliner.com/aliner-dealers/

 

(photos courtesy Mount Comfort RV, Princess Craft RV, and Aliner)

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Jayco Introduces the Hummingbird

Middlebury, Indiana based Jayco, Inc. has introduced a new product to their travel trailer line for 2017 called the Hummingbird. Currently there are three floorplans  for this new lightweight unit that, as you might guess with one look at it, will be in direct competition with Forest River’s R-pod and Winnebago’s Winnie Drop.

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The three floor plans will be the 2715 lbs Hummingbird 17FD:

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The (weight TBD) Hummingbird 17RB:

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And the 2910 lbs Hummingbird 17RK:

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From the specs on the Jayco website, they’ll have 25 gallon tanks for fresh, gray, and black water with a 6-gallon gas/electric DSI water heater. Some of the usual modern day standards will include interior and exterior LED lighting, AM/FM/CD/DVD/Bluetooth stereo with speakers, black tank flush, power awning with LED lighting, 2.1-amp USB port in all models, solar ready, and 3 cu. ft. 2-way Norcold refrigerator just to name a few features.

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MSRP for these 20 footers will start out at just under $22,000, which should put them in the same price range as R-pods and Winnie Drops. And with Forest River’s lawsuit against Winnebago earlier this year regarding the similarities between the R-pod and Winnie Drop, don’t be surprised if we see similar action taken against Jayco, as has been the Forest River way starting out with the defunct Heartland mpg a few years back.

I checked out R-pod’s floor plans and sure enough, all three floor plans of the Hummingbird are floor plans that R-pod has:

The Hummingbird 17FD = R-pod RP-178

The Hummingbird 17RB = R-pod RP-180

The Hummingbird 17RK = R-pod RP-179

So I’m pretty sure we’ll see press releases by summer’s end pouring out of Forest River’s legal team. One possible saving grace from an exterior standpoint for the Hummingbird is the lower front end, where it has a concave look to it, similar to that of a late 1960’s era Shasta Loflyte.

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Without seeing one in person, I have to say I really like the looks of the Hummingbird when compared to the R-pod and the Winnie Drop. The decal package on the Winnie Drop is a hot mess and the R-pod never really has done much for me aesthetically. And as a point of disclosure, I say this as an owner of a Forest River product and a stockholder in Winnebago.  And don’t forget, Jayco offers their 2-year warranty on these where the others are just 1-year.

You can find out more about the 2017 Jayco Hummingbird at their website at: http://www.jayco.com/products/travel-trailers/2017-hummingbird/

 

(Hummingbird photos courtesy jayco.com)

 

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Forest River Issues Shasta Airflyte Recall

In a May 2, 2016 letter to Forest River, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledged Forest River’s notification to the NHTSA of a recall concerning certain 2015 and 2016 Shasta Airflyte 16 and 19 foot reissued travel trailers. The recall covers potentially 1,736 Airflytes manufactured from April 28, 2015 through May 14, 2015. According to the letter to Forest River Director of Corporate Compliance Keith Fisher, “The dinette table on the affected vehicles may not have adequate support when lowered on its supporting leg. Without adequate support, the dinette table may fall between the dinette benches without warning, possibly resulting in injury.”

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The recall will begin around June 9, 2016 and Forest River will notify affected owners.  Dealers will install two new support legs, free of charge to the owners. Owners may contact Forest River customer service at 1-574-821-1314.  Forest River’s recall number for this campaign is 53-04112016-0170.

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Riverside RVs Revamps Website

One of the big things I’ve heard in recent years in regards to Riverside RV’s website is that it’s one of the clunckiest, least professional looking RV manufacturer websites around. It was hard to disagree with that assessment. Within the past two years, they upgraded the site,  but it was still lacking in continuity. However, they’ve made now another update to the site and this one should end the talk of the website and should focus on the product Riverside produces.

The updated site highlights the two White Water lines of trailers and toy haulers: The Retro and the Mt McKinley. Of note in the Retro line is the discontinuation of the first model that was introduced in 2011: The Retro 155 (also the 155XL). 11198333184_a118c2c416

All other floorplans seem to be intact, as well as the Retro, Jr teardrop trailer. Specifications are also uniformly laid out among the eight Retro floorplans.

Riverside always had a contemporary trailer outside of the Retro, but with the change in name of it to the Mt McKinley, it appears they still want to have a mainstream trailer should the Retro fad start to fade.

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To view the updated Riverside RVs website for yourself, check it out at http://riversidervs.net.

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Airstream Acquires NEST Caravans

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Jackson Center, Ohio based Airstream, Inc. has acquired the assets of NEST Caravans, an Oregon based molded fiberglass trailer company that saw its first prototype produced in just the past year.

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In a press release from Airstream President Bob Wheeler, “We’ve been imagining a small, well-thought-out fiberglass travel trailer for quite some time and are very confident about its potential. Nest is a product that conveys sophistication, simplicity, and upscale modernity, so it made sense for us to partner and help bring this design to market.”

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The NEST is the brainchild of Robert Johans, President and Lead Designer of the Bend, Oregon based company. After moving to Bend  in 2006, Johans started a fiberglass trailer restoration business called The Egg Plant. It was his time spent restoring and modernizing Scamps, Bolers, Trilliums, and other fiberglass “egg” trailers where he envisioned creating his own offering to the fiberglass trailer market, and thus the NEST Caravan company was born.

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The NEST is rear entry, monocoque bodied, 2400 pounds, and is 16’8″ from hitch to tail. It is by far an upscale offering as molded fiberglass campers go. According to the NEST Caravans website, the price on a base model starts at $29,995 and goes up from there, depending on additional options. Perhaps when Airstream gets them into mass production, that price may be a little lower, but when it comes to the price of any Airstream, that’s really anyone’s guess. But considering the upscale features NEST already incorporates, I don’t see Airstream backing off of that philosophy and in reality, they’ll likely raise the bar.

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Obviously this story is developing and much more will be learned in the months to come as Airstream gets production underway. I’ll post here as I hear new updates. For more info on the NEST, you can visit their website (until it shows up on Airstream’s website) here: http://www.nestcaravans.com In the meantime, below is a short video with Robert Johans discussing NEST Caravans.

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A Tour of Scamp Trailers

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I’ve always been a fan of Scamp trailers ever since we started our small trailer search back in 2009. Whether it’s because they’ve got a fun name or whether it’s because they’re built in a region of Minnesota where I vacationed when I was a little boy, they’ve always been one of my favorite small trailer companies. If I had a “Mount Rushmore of Small Trailers”, Scamp would be one of the four on it. Scamps have been at the top of the heap of molded fiberglass campers since they first emerged from an old Ford garage in Backus, Minnesota back in 1971.

imageWhile perusing through some links on our Manufacturers page, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Scamp has recently updated their website. One thing that I was extremely impressed with was a 13:38 minute video, showing all their lines, floor plans, and the manufacturing process. Although the video was produced in 2012, it’s still relevant and highly informative and well worth the time to watch, especially if you’ve had Scamp on your list of potential trailers to buy. I was unable to embed the video in this post, but here’s the direct link to it. Enjoy! Scamp Trailers Video

 

 

(photos courtesy scamptrailers.com)

 

 

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