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Big Changes at American Coach

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

In the world of high-end luxury motorcoaches, Fleetwood’s American Coach Division has long been a central player. For the 2004 model year, Fleetwood has not only taken the American Tradition and American Eagle product lines to the next level, but has achieved what represents a quantum step forward.

Beginning with a clean sheet of paper, the names remain the same, but the design changes implemented go to the very heart and soul of what these 2004 luxury coaches are all about. The driving force behind the company’s radical design changes is the falling age of American Coach clients who are demanding more power, floorplans, appointments and creature comforts. In a recent interview, John Draheim, vice president of sales and marketing for the RV Group at Fleetwood, told MotorHome, “We have devoted a tremendous amount of resources and energy to ensure that the 2004 American Coach brand hits the market with the floorplans, features and content that our customers have told us they want.” During an exclusive preview, we discovered that the changes to the Tradition and Eagle are substantial. Leading the list of major innovations are the engineering and design of the all-new Liberty chassis. Chassis upgrades provide the
torsional strength required to accommodate the added weight of up to four slideout rooms in the Tradition and Eagle and allow for a higher gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) for the
38-foot and 40-foot units. Towing capacity has been increased to 12,000 pounds or 15,000
pounds. With full fuel and holding tanks, the net cargo-carrying capacity, for example, is
calculated to be 6,000 pounds for the 42-foot coach.

The 38-foot, 40-foot and 42-foot models yield 120, 125 and 125 cubic feet of exterior storage-bay capacity, respectively. New two-position pneumatic struts have been designed to modulate and control the bay doors below the slideouts. Using a process called huck bolting to assemble the Liberty chassis precludes the possibility that the integrity of these assemblies will ever be affected by low-frequency vibration. Only a cutting torch or a hacksaw can violate the integrity of a huck bolt once installed. The same anodizing process to prevent corrosion, used for the military-spec Hummer, is applied to the Liberty chassis. The Active Ride system, which uses a laser device at each corner of the coach to measure irregular road surfaces at a rate of 400 times per second, is an exciting new option. Road-surface information is transmitted to the coach’s on-board computer that manages the delivery of pressurized hydraulic fluid to modulate the shock-absorber-type hydraulic actuators located at each wheel.

In concert with the four large air springs that make up the air-ride suspension on all 40-foot coaches and six air springs on all tag-axle units, these hydraulic actuators provide an optimum ride for those inside the coach. Each hydraulic actuator has a real-time adjustment capability that ranges between 300 and 2,700 pounds of force, as compared to a standard shock absorbers’ 300 pounds of force, according to Fleetwood. The Liberty chassis includes independent front suspension as standard equipment. Luc van Herle, product planning manager for motorhomes, disclosed that during research on 2004 American Coach product enhancements, customers were very clear about “must-have” features. These included best-in-class ride and handling, state-of-the-art audiovisual systems with plasma and LCD televisions and best-in-class residential-interior styling. To this end, the Tradition and Eagle offer all-new floorplans and a plethora of enhancements that include new stylized front and rear caps, four exterior color choices on the Tradition and seven on the Eagle.

The Tradition offers four interior-décor packages, while the Eagle offers six. The choices of wood for the cabinetry and interior woodwork for the Tradition include cherry, maple, walnut and birch. For the Eagle the choices are cherry, maple, walnut and glazed birch. Both product lines come with full-body paint and an application of a clearcoat that, when baked for a specific time and at the right temperature, chemically bonds the paint and clearcoat into a single top-dressing. Followed by sanding and buffing, the finished product yields a visual depth and luster that exudes excellence. Both American Coach product lines are 102 inches wide. The Tradition 38-foot and 40-foot models are equipped with the Cummins ISL 370 diesel engine, while the 40-foot and 42-foot Eagles are powered by the Cummins 400 ISL and the 500 ISM, respectively. All 42-foot units come equipped with tag axles.

Visual differences unique to the American Eagle include a massive single-piece windshield, a high front cap and an integrated rear spoiler. Cockpit enhancements include a Blind-Spot Security Vision option, where side- and rear-coach video cameras provide a visual presentation via dash monitor along both sides and the rear of the coach when the turn signals are turned on. The view can also be toggled from camera to camera without activating the turn signals. The same Raytheon night-vision capability found on luxury automobiles is an option, as is GM’s OnStar satellite-based communications system; adjustable brake and accelerator pedals are standard. With the Cummins ISM 500, the coach’s electronics are capable of sensing slippage on a drive-axle wheel and Automatic Traction Control helps minimize such slippage.

Power sun visors are standard in every coach. With the next generation of American Coaches, design changes suggested by customers have been incorporated as standard or offered as options. A program more and more clients are finding to their liking is the three-day VIP Factory Delivery Program, in which a factory team in Decatur, Indiana, teaches the client how to use a new coach and provides a place to leave the trade-in. Also included are
hooking up the client’s towed vehicle to the new coach, driving lessons, and full fuel and
LP-gas tanks. Anticipated base prices are $240,000 for the American Tradition and $385,000 for the American Eagle. American Coach, (888) 285-4097, 2004 americancoach.com

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