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Elkhart Open House – Part 1

This was the first year I’ve made the trek up to Elkhart, Indiana for the annual manufacturers open house throughout the region. I was able to hit most of the big manufacturers, with the exception of anything under the Forest River umbrella. The gatekeeper decided to flex his muscles instead of letting me come in and (gasp!) promote their products on this website. Their loss. That said, a huge thank you goes out to Thor Industries for supplying me a media pass that allowed me to roam around to look at their selections including Airstream, KZ, Camp Lite, Heartland, and Jayco. I also made a side trip to visit Winnebago, Gulf Stream, Liberty Outdoors, inTech RV, Holiday House, Taxa, Riverside RV, Lance, Sunset Park RV, Travel Lite, and nuCamp. So as you can guess, I packed a lot in a 10 hour period. So I’ll briefly post some pics below with a few comments. I didn’t get pics of everything, but hopefully enough to pique your interest for the upcoming RV buying season.

First off is the KZ Escape Mini. This is in the same class as whatever you what to call the R-pod. Five floorplans at your choosing with all five 20’9″ long and weighing anywhere from 2800-2900 lbs. You can view the Escape Mini floorplans by clicking here.

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I still contend Livin’ Lite’s Camp Lite travel trailers are near the top of the best constructed conventional trailers on the market. Six sided aluminum cage construction with Azdel sidewalls give you all the assurance you’d need that these will last you for a long, long, time. There are nine floorplans of the Camp Lite, start at a mere 15’7″ and 2430 lbs. To view the Camp Lite floorplans, click here.

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Last year, Heartland RV debuted the Terry Classic V21. Styled after the early 1960’s Holiday House, the Terry Classic was met with a cool reception, due in part to its weight of around 4400 lbs, which for a single axle is somewhat on the heavy side. This year, they have come out with a much better floorplan in the V22. The front kitchen, rear bedroom offers a much more open floorplan than the V21. However, the V22 is even heavier, as the unit on display weighed a robust 4700 lbs. While still half ton towable, it far exceeds the capability of the 3500 lbs mini van tow capacity, which many retro styled trailers of today are geared for. More on the Terry Classic can be found by clicking here.

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Gulf Stream has introduced what best can be described as a fancy entry level in the new Capri. If you like a retro flair in a basic stick and tin trailer, the Capri may be up your alley. With a white exterior base and mint green trim with the same interior accents, the Capri has a very refreshing look, as entry level units go. It’s basically the same thing as Gulf Stream’s Ameri-Lite with the mint green giving it a much more desirable look than the typical browns. I’d suspect you’ll find these in the low to mid teens price range. There were only two on display, a bunkhouse and a couple’s floorplan. I would suspect they’ll have more on their website in the coming months, but to view what Ameri-Lite has to offer for a rough idea what you’re in for, click here.

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My next stop was at Liberty Outdoors, the parent company of Little Guy, Serro Scotty, and ParkLiner. On hand here were the recently released Little Guy Max. Sales have been brisk with the Max over the first couple of months of production, and the debut of the prototype Little Guy Plus should likely create the same buzz as the Max. The Plus is in the early stages and there are more changes to be made on it. But the overall concept is that it will have a traditional rear galley and also an interior galley with a U-shaped dinette that converts into a sizable bed and a wet bath along with it. Weight on this should be right around 2,000 lbs once production gets going.

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As for the ParkLiner, it still has a few months to go. Taking consideration that it is a prototype that was on display, I keep that in mind, but some of the cabinet push buttons were on the clunky side. However, the physical construction of the unit as a whole was put together really well. The double hull fiberglass construction of the ParkLiner is a huge, yet hidden, feature of it. Stay tuned as this one is a work in progress. For more info on the ParkLiner, click here.

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The Little Guy Max was well represented at Liberty Outdoors. The standard units as well as an off road model were there. The off road model adds about 4″ in axle height. Also on display was a unit with the optional darker interior wood. For more info on the Max, click here.

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About halfway through this post, I realized it’s going to be big and with my work and home schedule, it’s going to take a while before I’d get it done. I then decided it’d be best if I break this up into two posts and get this first one out there for you instead of making one big post that would get done next week. So stay tuned for part two hopefully sometime next week.

 

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Quick news on Aliner, Lance, and the Open House

Aliner has added a new twist to the Ascape ultra lightweight travel trailer with the addition of the Ascape MT. The Ascape MT has the same footprint as the Ascape, which we wrote about here, but without the appliances. The end result is the same 13′ long trailer, but without the stove, refrigerator, microwave, rear overhead cabinets, and sink, it is some 400 lbs lighter than the standard Ascape, bringing the MT’s weight down to 1170 lbs. The two areas in the rear are replaced with flip-up bench seating.  Here are both floorplans, with the Ascape MT shown first, followed by the Ascape:

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In an Aliner press release issued this week, Director of Sales, Allan Reeping, says, “Many of our customers told us that they love the look and design of the Ascape, but they are not interested in the bells, whistles and appliances that come with the current product. They want a sleeping quarters with lots of storage. A light-weight trailer that doesn’t require them to lay down in bed to change their clothes, or crawl through a small door on their knees to get into bed. They want to be able to get out of the rain and sit at a comfortable dinette. A hard-sided travel trailer that can be towed with a small Toyota Rav 4, or a Honda CRV, yet still have plenty of standing head room.”

While the MT might fit a need for some, after I posted on the Ascape last month, I got feedback from several who said they’d be more interested if the Ascape offered a shower, which a similarly priced T@B does. Hopefully Aliner is listening to these folks and the designers are working on putting something together with a wet bath combination. We shall see.

 

Lance Camper is rolling out a lot of new updates and upgrades that affect many of their lightweight trailer models. Their smallest models, the 1475 and the 1575, are seeing some of the most changes.  Standard updates for these two models includes exterior graphics, Euro cabinet design, Euro thermopane windows, Euro thermopane tinted opening front window, single enclosed battery compartment, , new aluminum wheels with color coordinated accents, molded LP cover, and TPO gravel guard with LED dock lighting. For the 1475, a new optional sofa slide with two adjustable tables.

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Now standard among all Lance travel trailer models are US made Goodyear Endurance tires, flush mount stainless steel range with black glass cover, entry step well lighting, larger foot pads on the stabilizer jacks, solar pre-wire, flat bottom microwave (no turntable), and optional “Lance Load” roof rack system and optional “Smart Jack” electronic tongue jack. Lance continues to find ways to make an excellent product better.

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Next week the annual dealer only Elkhart Open House starts in and around Elkhart, Indiana. This event is where manufacturers from all over the region set up either around the RV Hall of Fame or at their own manufacturing facilities for dealers from all over the country to come in and view new and existing models as well as place orders for their inventories. I’ve yet to go to this, but I will hopefully have a media pass waiting for me on Tuesday courtesy Thor Industries. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ve got a contact with a manufacturer that has told me to contact him if I can’t get in and he’ll take care of me.

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photo courtesy RV Business

I’m looking forward to being able to get in, as this show is just as good, if not better, than the RVIA show in Louisville. Many new prototypes and model updates are first introduced at the Open House, so chances are I’ll be able to bring you some new eye candy. And for any manufacturers out there reading this who’d like to talk to me up there about your products for The Small Trailer Enthusiast, shoot me an email at pat@smalltrailerenthusiast.com and hopefully we can set up a time while I’m up there Tuesday to chat.

It’s still a great time in the industry for the small trailer segment, and the Open House should bring us a lot of new additions to the 2018 lineups of small trailers.

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