Small sightings at the Indy RV Expo

As the winter months drag on, I’m sure a lot of you have hit an RV show in your region. I was fortunate to work at one in Indianapolis for a couple of Saturdays this month for Mount Comfort RV at the Indy RV Expo. Seven dealers packed over 200 RVs in the West Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the 9 day event. Here are some of the small trailer offerings that the dealers brought to the show. In case you didn’t see some of these at the show(s) you attended, here’s a little more for you to research. For ease of viewing, I’ve put the 5 of the 7 dealer’s photo above all the trailers that follow it. One dealer didn’t have anything small. There were a couple I would’ve taken at Camping World’s booth, but 3 of their sales people were standing in front of them, too busy watching a football game on an outside TV on a motorhome across the aisle. Their loss….they should’ve been working.

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DSC_0570Winnebago Winnie Drop WD 1780

DSC_0585Winnebago Winnie Drop WD 1710

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DSC_0577White Water Retro 177SE

DSC_0581DSC_0580White Water Retro 176S 

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DSC_0587DSC_0588TAXA Cricket Trek

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DSC_0591Palomino Palomini 177BH

DSC_0598Palomino Palomini 150RBS

DSC_0595Aliner LXE

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DSC_0601Coachmen Apex Nano 172CKS

DSC_0603Venture Sonic 190VRB

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DSC_0607Springdale Summerland Series Mini 1800BH

DSC_0608Keystone Bullet 1800RB

DSC_0609Walnut Ridge Family RV Sales

DSC_0610Keystone Hideout 177LHS

DSC_0612Keystone Hideout 185LHS

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R-pod vs. Winnie Drop: Let the lawsuits begin!

In our “who didn’t see this coming” category, Forest River has filed a lawsuit against Winnebago Industries. The suit stems from Winnebago’s recent introduction of the Winnie Drop, which strikes a resemblance to Forest River’s 7 year old R-pod. DSC_0570

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In a story published on January 16, 2016 in RV Business, Forest River filed suit in December “for trademark and trade dress infringement and unfair competition.” The term “trade dress” refers to the overall visual image.  “The use of our trademarks and trade dress by other manufacturers confuses and misleads consumers and cannot be tolerated. We do not initiate lawsuits without serious consideration”, Forest River General Manager Doug Gaeddert told RV Business. The article goes on to state that the R-pod “incorporates patent pending technology and copyright-protected floorplans.”

I’ll be watching this closely at it goes through the legal process. Forest River filed suit a few years ago for similar reasons against Heartland and their now defunct “mpg” trailer. Industry professionals I’ve talked to shake their heads when talking about trademarking an RV floorplan. If anyone has ever gone to an RV show, you all know everything is copied by everyone. I’ll make no bones about it, I’m no legal expert and I don’t have a clue where this lawsuit will go, but should Forest River be successful I’d be interested to know if a company like A-Liner has similar patents on their hard-sided A frame campers. They’ve been around the longest, but other companies have developed their own version….including Forest River’s Flagstaff.

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My final take on this or any similar lawsuits involving RV companies is that it really does nothing to serve the consumer. If anything it eliminates what makes a product better: Competition. When you eliminate your competition because you have a legal machine like Forest River does, it eliminates the competition that forces you to come up with ideas that make your product better than the other guy. If there is no “other guy”, then your product gets stagnant, and quality and innovation exit the building.

I’ll update this story with future posts as additional news develops.

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Lance Debuts 1475 Model Trailer

For 50 years, Lance Camper has been the standard bearer in the truck camper industry. Beginning in 2009, Lance began producing a series of travel trailers which have, in a short amount of time, garnered a reputation of quality that few manufacturers can compete with. There is so much cool technology that goes into a Lance trailer…so much that I couldn’t begin to explain it all here. That said, Lance has put together an excellent video presentation showing the start to finish process. You’ll find the technology and machines used to put together a Lance trailer should give even the most skeptical RVer the confidence they’re buying a pretty solid product.

At December’s RVIA show in Louisville, the Lance Camper display featured a new smaller floor plan that should be hitting dealer lots this Spring in time for the start of the 2016 camping season.

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The 1475 model will be a 19’8″ trailer from hitch to tail, with a floor length of just under 15′ with an impressive dry weight of 2495 lbs. The interior consists of a deluxe queen bed in the front, two swivel rockers centered by a removable table on the door side, a kitchen on the street side consisting of ample counter space and cabinets, a 3-burner stove, a sink with pull-out sprayer faucet, and range hood.

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The back wall of the 1475 Lance consists of a 5 cubic foot refrigerator/freezer as you come into the rear side entry door next to a . The rest of the back corner houses the bathroom, which consists of a toilet, sink, and spacious shower.

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As with all Lance Campers, the construction is sturdy with aluminum framed sidewalls, floor and roof all insulated with block foam. The sidewalls are a laminated fiberglass with Azdel substrate. The tinted dualpane windows help maintain temperature levels whether cold or hot ambient temperatures exist.

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Some other key specs on the Lance 1475 include an exterior width of 84″, exterior height of 9’9″, interior height of 78″, 240 lbs hitch weight, GVRW of 3700 lbs, and cargo carrying capacity of 1205 lbs. The enclosed, insulated, and heated fresh water tank holds 26 gallons, a 26 gallon grey tank, and a 22 gallon black tank.

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My overall impression of the 1475 were positive. What really sets it off compared to similar floor plans of other brands is the large window next to the two swivel rockers and table. It’s an ideal camper for couples in search of a trailer of high quality with a small footprint. While not yet on the Lance website as of this posting (info should be up within the next couple of months) there currently is one on rvtrader.com that has a price tag in the mid-$20k’s, which I believe to be the MSRP, so you’ll likely be able to get into one for $20K range. Once production picks up and they hit dealer lots, you’ll be able to get a better handle on what prices are going for, depending on dealer and location. But overall, my first impressions of the 1475, and Lance trailers in general, met the hype that I’ve heard and read about from owners of Lance trailers. As I always preach, when buying a trailer always do your research with a fine tooth comb, but I think you’ll find that when you research a Lance trailer, you’ll be left with a positive impression.

You can explore more on the Lance Camper website at http://www.lancecamper.com

 

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Greenlight Continues Retro Trailer Releases

Back in July, I wrote about the introduction of a diecast Shasta Airflyte by Indianapolis based Greenlight Collectibles. That was in their Hitch & Tow Series 4 lineup which have hit store shelves within the past month.

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Recently Greenlight has introduced the players in the Series 5 lineup, and a Shasta Airflyte is once again featured. This one is a butternut yellow Airflyte towed by a color matching 1967 Ford Custom. According to the Greenlight Collectibles website, the release date for Series 5 is sometime this month, so start looking for these online or at a retailer that carries Greenlight products.

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This doesn’t appear to be the end of Greenlight’s use of the Airflyte. There is a drawing of a 1963 Dodge D-100  pickup hauling a light blue Airflyte, scheduled to be released in Series 6 sometime in early 2016.

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And with that, it appears Hitch & Tow Series 6 will also see the reemergence of an Airstream, which was the retro trailer of choice in Series 1 through 3. The new Airstream will have a new finish on it. The first Airstreams in the series were a polished aluminum and the gold anodized aluminum. Photos released on the Greenlight Collectibles Flickr page show a prototype of an unpolished aluminum Airstream, and a drawing of one hauled by a i968 Chevrolet C-10.

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So there’s the latest on Greenlight Collectibles’ continued honoring of vintage travel trailers. I’ve got three of these myself and for about $10 each, it’s an excellent value, as the quality of these are fantastic. I’ll continue to provide future updates as new releases come out.

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Shasta Flyte Debuts Smaller Floor Plan

Over the next few weeks as holiday schedules permit, I’ll be recapping a few of the new offerings I found at the RVIA trade show in Louisville last week.

Shasta RV debuted a new floor plan for their Flyte brand. The Flyte 185BH is the somewhat more upscale version of the Shasta Oasis 18BH. As with all Flyte floor plans, the 185BH will have a fiberglass exterior and a few extra amenities the Oasis does not offer. Last April I wrote about the Oasis version, both the 18BH (bunkhouse) and the 18FQ in a post here. The 2016 models on the Flyte will have a light brown exterior as opposed to the white sides the Flyte has had, giving it a more contemporary look. The addition of LED awning lights is something new for the Flyte as well.

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Although the entire length from hitch to tail is just over 21′, the 185BH is surprisingly roomy. Despite not having a slide, a small family should be able to camp in the 185BH quite comfortably. The beds include two 30″ x 74″ bunks as well as the standard Shasta 60″ x 74″ queen bed.

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Storage is of no concern. There is ample pass through storage in the front, but interior storage is quite ample for a smaller, weekend trailer like the 185BH. The overhead cabinets are plenty and the kitchen area also includes a pantry and a spacious counter for food prep. DSC_0470

If that weren’t enough, there’s a huge cabinet in the bathroom against the rear wall of the trailer. It seats right behind the foot flush toilet and includes two large cabinet doors that provides storage all the way to the sidewall on the door side of the trailer.

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Aside from the toilet and the storage cabinets, the bathroom also includes a 24″ x 36″ bathtub and an overhead exhaust vent. DSC_0467Overall, I was very pleased with what I saw with the Flyte 185BH. Being a 2016 Shasta Oasis owner, I’m able to use my own trailer as a benchmark, and I believe Shasta has stepped up their game  in regards to fit and finish just in the last 9 months. The Flyte at the Louisville show as well as a couple of Oasis 18BH that I walked through recently at Mount Comfort RV in Greenfield, Indiana have all appeared to have better workmanship than what I’ve seen in my own.

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As for a  few specs, the 185BH Flyte weighs in at 3580 lbs and measures 21’9″ long with a hitch weight of 381 lbs and a cargo carrying capacity of 1101 lbs. The tanks are more than ample for a trailer this size as well: Fresh water is 42 gallons, and the gray and black tanks each are 36 gallons. The LED lit awning measures 12′ long.

Overall, my impressions of the Shasta Flyte 185BH are very favorable. If you’re a storage junky, the Flyte 185BH offers the best storage for this particular floor plan, a floor plan several RV manufacturers use. And the cost is nothing to sneeze at either, as it should retail in the mid-$14,000’s when it hits dealer lots in early 2016. Shasta prides itself on being the RV industry’s value leader, and the Flyte 185BH certainly adds to that reputation.

Not interested in bunks? No worries, the Flyte 185FQ will be out as well, which will be the same floor plan as the Oasis 18FQ discussed in the previous article linked above from April of 2015. NOTE: As of today, December 10, 2015, neither the 185BH nor the 185FQ are listed on the Shasta website. Keep checking their website at http://shastarving.com for updates and floor plans.

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2015 RVIA Show Prelude

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This week marks the annual RVIA trade show in Louisville, Kentucky. While not open to the public, I’ll be there bright and early Tuesday morning for the 5th straight year to bring you an overview of all the small towables on hand.

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I’ll be Tweeting and posting on Facebook throughout the day. If you use either of those social media platforms, do follow along! Time permitting in the days after the show, I’ll put up a post here on the website about what I see. In the meantime, you can like us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Small-Trailer-Enthusiast-269125426471703/ or follow us on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Small_Trailers

 

 

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The Most Perfect People I Know

When I saw Teresa Miller post a picture of her and husband John’s 1960 Winnebago travel trailer decked out for Christmas on Facebook, I knew I had to borrow that for the cover for The Small Trailer Enthusiast Facebook page. But the more I thought about it, I realized I couldn’t just post that picture without going a little more in depth about the Winnebago and the folks who own it.

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John and Teresa bought their Winnebago in 2013 while they still lived in Iowa, and aside from the exterior paint, it’s all original.

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I had a chance to visit them at their southwest Missouri home in September to look into not only their Winnebago, but also their vast collection of Chevrolet Corvairs. They’ve got a great small trailer, they’re avid Chevrolet Corvair enthusiasts, and they live on Route 66. Since I’ve been involved with all three of those subjects throughout my 47 years, that makes John & Teresa just about the most perfect people I know!

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As for their Winnebago, the interior is all original, with the exception of the curtains. Everything else is how it was in 1960, and the Millers tell me it’s in campable condition.

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As for their Corvairs, I counted about a dozen scattered throughout their northwest corner lot on Missouri Highway 266 (an old alignment of US Route 66) and County Road 1210, which is just over 20 miles due west of Springfield. They purchased the home over a year ago and finally were able to move in full time earlier in 2015. Having owned two Corvairs myself totaling some 15 years, I was equally as interested in their herd of air cooled wonders as much as I was their trailer.

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John & Teresa welcome road warriors traveling Route 66 to stop by to check out their Corvairs (and the Winnebago) they have on display in their huge yard that faces Route 66. It’s across the street from the popular stop for 66 travelers, the Gay Parita Station, so have your camera at the ready for some good photo opportunities at both locations.

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To learn a little more about John & Teresa Miller, you can visit their website at http://jtvairs.com/.

(First three photos courtesy Teresa Miller)

 

 

 

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First Hi-Lo Prototypes Completed

Last month I shared some pics of a couple of the reintroduced Hi-Lo trailers from their production facility in Pennsylvania. Those two prototypes are now complete and have arrived at the Transfer, Pennsylvania lot of Kerola’s Camper Store, where owner Bill Kerola heads the Hi-Lo Trailers effort.

Per the Kerola’s Camper Store Facebook page, the two units are available for viewing if you’re in the area. One unit, the Wanderer RB, can be seen at the nearby Shenago Valley Mall in nearby Hermitage, PA. The Wanderer SD should be available at the Kerola’s Camper Store at 3610 N Hermitage Road (Highway 18) in Transfer. However, if you’re driving from any substantial distance to see either one, it’d be best to contact Kerola’s at (724) 962-4561 to confirm either Hi-Lo will be available to be seen.

First off is the Wanderer SD. It comes equipped with a rear queen bed and side dinette. It has A/C, furnace, stove, and 3 Way Refrigerator.

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The Wanderer RB also features a rear queen bed and side dinette A/C, furnace, stove, and 3-way refrigerator. Note: All pics above are courtesy the Kerola’s Camper Store Facebook page.

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New Sisters on the Fly Book Set for December Release

This past weekend I attended a Route 66 conference in Edwardsville, Illinois. The 3 day event featured panel discussions and workshops related to topics from historic preservation to marketing of Route 66. A section of the facility at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville was set up for authors, artists, and other groups and their displays. It was there where I met Karen West and Susan Ford-West.

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Karen and Susan were there promoting their new book that’s due for release late this month or early in December. The book, titled Sisters Get Their Kicks on Route 66, chronicles this past May’s 2400 plus mile journey down Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica by the women’s outdoor adventure group, Sisters on the Fly. The group consisted of over 300 “sisters” and their vintage trailers.

ch1-Chicago_v2-singles-2_large                                                                                             courtesy Karen West Photography

I looked through the advanced copy they had at the conference. The 144 page book will include 5o0 color photographs as well as stories from some of the participants. You can pre-order the book through Amazon at this link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1591521645/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

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Doug Lantz Named Shasta’s New Leader

Shasta RV today has named RV industry veteran Doug Lantz as president and general manager of the Middlebury, Indiana based manufacturer. As we reported this week, the position was made open by the sudden resignation of Mark Lucas to pursue other interests.

imagesLantz brings over 25 years experience in the RV industry to Shasta. He began his career in 1988 with Coachmen RV, but more important is he was a co-founder of EverGreen RV and served as its president from 2008-2012, while also serving in other roles with Evergreen in recent years.

Tribune Photo/GREG SWIERCZ The Ever-Lite line of RVs features environmentally conscious materials and is offered by EverGreen RV of Middlebury. Standing at the door is Douglas M. Lantz, president and chief operations officer of Evergreen RV.

photo courtesy indianaeconomicdigest.com

It’ll be interesting to watch Shasta going forward to see if we’ll see some of the same eco-friendly construction methods that have been used in Evergreen since their inception. Below is a video I found of Doug Lantz being interviewed while with Evergreen back in 2010.

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