The glory days of RVing return with an impressive crop of innovative towables for the coming year
At first blush, the little 16-foot travel trailer looked as if someone had painstakingly restored a “canned ham”-styled 1961 Shasta Airflyte — right down to its matador-red-and-polo-white color scheme and the iconic wings riding high on the rear side walls.
“Someone” had: the crew at Middlebury, Indiana-based Shasta RV.
Now a division of Forest River, Shasta RV elected to re-create the classic trailer in both 16- and 19-foot versions, with MSRPs of about $17,200 and $18,200, to celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary. More than simply a contemporary take on a classic, the “new” trailer not only preserves the look of the original but also maintains many of its venerable construction techniques.
“We’re rolling over the metal edge of the roof like a ’61, the windows will fit a ’61, and the three color choices — matador red, seafoam green and buttercup yellow — are as close to original as we could make it,” said Shasta President Mark Lucas. Updated with contemporary running gear, lighting and appliances to meet current RV standards and comfort, the new Airflyte debuted in mid-September at the seventh annual Elkhart County RV Open House Week, a dealer-only event that was born out of the recession and has since grown into one of the largest trade shows in the industry.
It was also retired there.
With a production run of only 1,941 units — again, as homage to the company’s founding 75 years ago in 1941 — the Airflyte reissue sold out to visiting dealers the first day of the Elkhart show, a testament not only to Shasta RV’s eye-catching authentic reproduction but also the literal rebirth of the RV industry.
Every industry of substance has enjoyed a Golden Age at one time or another, although most such references are found only in history books. The Golden Age of radio? You’re talking the 1920s to 1940s. Films? Arguably from the beginning of “talkies” in 1927 through the spread of television in the ’50s. And, while automotive performance is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, it doesn’t take more than a casual mention of the “muscle-car era” of the mid-1960s to early ’70s to make the eyes of a horsepower enthusiast glaze over.
The RV industry, on the other hand, doesn’t have to look in the rearview mirror for its glory days — we’re living them. Wholesale shipments to RV dealers have grown for 32 consecutive months (through August) and are on track to hit perhaps 350,000 units this year. An estimated 4,000 dealer personnel converged upon Elkhart County for Open House, where more than 80 percent of North America’s RVs are built, to tour new models from nearly 60 manufacturers. By week’s end they had ordered “at least a billion dollars’ worth” of motorhomes and towables, in the estimation of Doug Gaeddert, outgoing chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a group general manager at Forest River.
And while financial institutions are loosening their purse strings, the RV boom has less to do with available credit lines than it does with extraordinary innovation and build quality. Open House wasn’t the only good thing to come out of the economic downturn; as sales dropped off and it became a buyer’s market, RV manufacturers re-evaluated their product lines — sometimes gutting brands or eliminating them altogether in a concerted effort to redefine contemporary camping units with more curb appeal and usability. The auto industry went through a similar change, but while U.S. automakers floundered for decades, the RV industry turned itself around in just a few short years. From lengths and weights to equipment and floorplans, the products displayed at the Elkhart show — models that will start showing up on dealers’ lots this winter — truly do represent a sea change in RV design.
Granted, it will take more than a modernized canned-ham-style travel trailer to convince you, so we’ve focused on a dozen other examples from the Elkhart show that doubtless will find their way onto a lot of RVers’ hitches next spring.
CrossRoads Carriage and Cameo
When CrossRoads RV and its sister company, Redwood RV, acquired the Cameo and Carriage brands, no one was sure when, or if, the once-prestigious fifth-wheel monikers might resurface.
Now they have. Both nameplates were on display in Elkhart, aimed at different segments of the industry.
The Carriage fifth-wheel fills a top-of-the-line void for CrossRoads in an era when “high end” has been redefined from prerecessionary times when a top-end Carriage fifth-wheel might have retailed for $100,000-plus. The “new” Carriage, according to CrossRoads President Andy Cripe, “will retail in the $80,000 to $90,000 range.”
Along with contemporary residential cabinetry and woodwork, the new Carriage features master suites, full-body-painted exteriors and a complete two-year residential warranty along with “smart” electronics enabling owners to control most every function possible with a tablet. The Carriage has five floorplans in lengths from 35 to 41 feet and unloaded weights ranging from 13,000 to 15,000 pounds.
The Cameo is positioned at a lower price point, in the range of $64,000 to $75,000, and includes, among other things, a patent-pending upper-deck, flush-floor slide design. “This feature yields significantly more slide headroom and greater versatility as it pertains to furniture configurations,” said Cameo Product Manager Rudy Boals.
Other interior appointments include a freestanding residential entertainment center with a 55-inch LED HDTV, dual recliners with multiple end tables and a 70-inch sofa. The Cameo comes in 10 floorplans, including a bunkhouse model and rear- and front-living-room configurations. Lengths range from 32 to 40 feet with unloaded weights from 11,000 to 13,000 pounds.
CrossRoads RV | 855-226-7496 | www.crossroadsrv.com
RVing is sometimes defined by “stuff” — the things you take with you to maximize your time outdoors and the things you collect along the way to remember the moment. Problem is, all this stuff adds weight. If you’re financially comfortable and want a motorhome, you can always opt for a tag-axle model, but there are fewer options in travel trailers.
In its triple-axle Stryker ST-3316 floorplan, Cruiser RV upped the ante in its relatively lightweight (8,600 pounds fully equipped) toy haulers. Cruiser debuted the Stryker in two-axle mode in July (pictured below) and took the wraps off the three-axle version — in development for 24 months — at Open House.
Stretching the tape at 38 feet, the ST-3316 boasts a fully functional 16-foot-deep garage that, when not filled with hobby equipment, accommodates a wealth of uses, courtesy of a fold-up streetside sofa opposite paired swivel recliners and, at the rear, a queen bed that tucks out of the way via a power lift for 76 inches of clearance. The open floorplan also features a midway angled galley on the street side, with a sizable bath between it and the forward king-bed-equipped sleeping quarters. The triple includes a barreled interior ceiling with LED lighting throughout, a 30-gallon fuel station, 98 gallons of freshwater storage and a lighted awning. MSRP for the ST-3316 is $48,746.
By the way, starting with the 2015 model year, all Cruiser RVs will utilize the company’s SmartKey system. All doors, from the entry to storage compartments, will open with a single key.
Cruiser RV | 866-277-5630 | www.cruiserrv.com
Although DRV Luxury Suites did, in fact, offer a toy hauler several years ago, its design, featuring a movable wall, never really caught on. So the Howe, Indiana, builder dropped it and focused on developing high-end four-season fifth-wheels. At this year’s Open House, DRV introduced the FullHouse, an all-new fiver lineup with a garage, based on the company’s popular Mobile Suites platform.
“We’ve basically taken a look at what the toy hauler is — a garage for your toys — then upgraded everything around it so it’s at the top end of the luxury scale,” said Kyle Miller, national sales manager.
With MSRPs in the $185,000 range, DRV’s FullHouse is available in three 46-foot floorplans: two with 12-foot garages and one with a 10-foot toy space. Built around a 15-inch triple-tube steel frame with aluminum superstructure and stud construction, 3¼-inch-thick side walls/slideouts with R-16 insulation and residential wool insulation throughout, the FullHouse has a 24,000-pound gvwr and features a garage with high-gloss fiberglass interior walls, metal overhead cabinets, LED lighting, a 46-inch flat-screen TV and a 30-gallon refueling station, plus plenty of options for cleaning and maintaining your toys.
All of the four-slideout, 101-inch wide-body designs boast a 20-cubic-foot refrigerator, dishwasher, hardwood cherry cabinetry, Corian countertops and LED lighting, as well as a king-size master suite. Each floorplan also features bath areas spanning the width of the coach between the main galley and the forward bedroom (one, the LX455, also includes a half-bath off the garage), while two of the layouts incorporate islands in the galley.
DRV Luxury Suites | 260-562-1075 | www.drvfullhouse.com
EverGreen Alpha Gold
EverGreen RV has been one of the more prolific RV designers of late, and the company introduced a number of new tricks in Elkhart including a top-to-bottom revamping and enlarging of its I-Go lineup, a refresh of its Ever-Lite brand and the introduction of new models. These include the Cloud, a lightweight product line from the Ascend series; the Reactor brand of toy haulers, described by the company as a “less-expensive Amped product;” and the Star-Lite, a fifth-wheel designed for half- and three-quarter-ton short-box trucks that doesn’t require a slider hitch and features a front cap that lifts to reveal a panoramic window once in camp.
The real buzz, however, was being generated at EverGreen’s Lifestyle Luxury RV division, where Gary Stanley, product manager for Lifestyle and its Alfa Gold line, was demonstrating the new 40-foot 4-inch Alfa Gold 3905SH. The “SH” signifies Side Hauler — an impressive slideout system that, in various configurations, allows the slideout to carry a motorcycle, be turned into a storage room or mobile office, or in the “kid’s room” option, be set up with twin bunks, a wardrobe and a TV. The full-size HappiJac bunks are retractable to create a 36-square-foot playroom.
The motorcycle garage option is a head-turner. Featuring an exclusive 8-foot-long lift system actuated by a hardwired remote, the lift ramp raises or lowers the motorcycle into place after you strap on the bike securely. The streetside Side Hauler system is rated to carry 1,000 pounds, which has no effect on the fifth-wheel’s weight distribution; a longer, heavier slideout housing the freestanding dinette, pantry and paired recliners counterbalances it on the curb side.
Inside, entry to the room is via a door set just ahead of a fireplace-and-LED-HDTV combo, centerpiece of the rear living room that also includes an 80-inch sofa bed. With an MSRP of $99,570 and a gvwr of 18,079 pounds, the four-slideout 3905SH also features a forward master bedroom suite, cherry hardwood cabinetry, Corian countertops, a Norcold 12-cubic-foot four-door refrigerator, two-zone LED lighting and an island kitchen.
EverGreen Recreational Vehicles | 574-825-4298 | www.goevergreenrv.com
Grand Design Reflection
It was only a matter of time before the respected braintrust at Grand Design applied to conventional towables the same build quality that’s made it a force in luxury fifth-wheel production. Playing off the looks and brand name of the existing lineup, the new Reflection trailer is initially available in one 36-foot 7-inch, triple-slide floorplan, the 308BHTS, with a $38,289 MSRP. The 313RLTS, with a $38,989 MSRP, should be in production by the time you read this. (See page 34 for a review of the Reflection 27RL fifth-wheel.)
Built around a five-sided aluminum-frame superstructure, the 308BHTS has a 9,900-pound gvwr and is finished with laminated side walls, gel-coated tan fiberglass, a one-piece roof membrane, pass-through storage and a one-touch power awning with LED patio lights.
The interior has residential cabinetry with hand-rubbed maple doors, an island with a dual-basin sink, solid-surface countertops and an entertainment center housing a 32-inch flat-screen TV and electric fireplace. A booth dinette and theater seating ride in the forward streetside slide, while the full-size pantry, cooktop, microwave and 8-cubic-foot refrigerator are located in the curbside slideout.
A third slide in back houses stacked bunks, and the bottom sofa bed is capable of pairing up with an opposing sofa bed to create a king-size sleep station. Did we mention there’s also a fully outfitted exterior kitchen and all-in-one heated docking station with an EZ winterization system?
Grand Design Recreational Vehicles | 574-825-9679 | www.granddesignrv.com
Gulf Stream Gulf Breeze
The advent of toy haulers introduced a whole new genre of RVs and a whole new way to utilize not only the garage but the ramp itself as an outdoor patio. That’s great if you’re packing toys, but for outdoor enthusiasts without motorcycles, kayaks or ATVs who still want the benefits of a patio, Gulf Stream Coach debuted its Gulf Breeze 30RKP, a 34-foot 11-inch travel trailer with a 60-square-foot side patio capable of supporting 2,500 pounds of campers, friends and equipment. Access is through a sliding-glass door, and Gulf Stream built the trailer to allow the interior TV to be placed on mounts for outside viewing or another to be added to the sealed compartment. There’s even a small refrigerator and a cubbyhole for storing snacks.
“The patio is available from Gulf Stream’s Gulf Breeze and StreamLite divisions as a Champagne series unit,” noted Paul Campbell, director of marketing. Inside, the trailer features a rear galley, a U-shaped dinette and sofa bed in the rear streetside slide, and an eat-in counter/bar with stools and an entertainment center in the forward bulkhead. The forward slide houses a mirrored wardrobe within the bedroom suite. The 30RKP has a 10,600-pound gvwr and a $31,167 MSRP.
Gulf Stream Coach | 800-289-8787 | www.gulfstreamrvtrailers.com
Heartland RV Edge
According to Heartland RV President Chris Hermon, “Toy haulers have evolved into the industry’s most versatile product, as consumers keep discovering new uses and functions,” so it’s not surprising that the manufacturer builds three distinct fifth-wheel lines with garages. Wait, make that four.
At Open House the company introduced its Edge, which General Manager A.J. Jones claims is a “high-end unit with a low-end price.” According to Jones, the Edge was in development for a full year and offers a number of features unique to the segment, including “the first-ever actual bathroom master suite. This (fifth-wheel version) also is the only unit out there with two full bathrooms. It’s great not only for a toy hauler but also as the ultimate bunkhouse,” Jones added.
The Edge is available in three fifth-wheel floorplans, each with a 12-foot garage. Heartland also has integrated its exclusive side patio into the onboard garage on all fifth-wheel models, while adding fold-down sofas to give the area “a residential look and feel.” The ramp door converts to an outdoor patio, and the living room is set off by a 50-inch TV and built-in fireplace. Other features of the fiver include six-point landing gear, 7,000-pound Dexter axles, a 23-cubic-foot refrigerator and “unmatched” kitchen storage. MSRP for the 44-foot triple-axle “behemoth,” as Jones put it, is around $80,000. gvwr is 20,000 pounds.
The Edge is also available in a single travel trailer floorplan with 10 feet for storing toys.
Heartland RV | 877-262-8032 | www.heartlandrvs.com
Jayco Seismic Wave
Mike Alpin, product manager for Jayco’s new Seismic Wave lineup, tends to chafe a bit when you call the Wave a “toy hauler” because the smaller version of Jayco’s popular Seismic doesn’t, in his words, “look like a typical toy hauler, it’s not built like a typical toy hauler — and most importantly, it’s not warranteed like a typical toy hauler.”
So what is it?
“It’s a luxury fifth-wheel that just happens to have a garage,” Alpin pointed out.
The Wave is designed to provide accommodations to outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate the crossover capability of a towable-with-garage but don’t want the higher cost or weight of the Seismic, itself a relatively new Jayco line introduced for the 2012 model year. The Wave is currently available in three 36- to 38-foot floorplans with gvwr just less than 16,000 pounds and MSRPs starting in the mid-$50,000 range.
“It’s a ‘mini’ Seismic,” Alpin noted. “Certain amenities common to the Seismic aren’t included, and neither are options. Also, it’s a little smaller, insofar as overall lengths — it’s designed for people who maybe have one motorcycle or a golf cart and don’t need a bigger unit to tote them around.”
Depending on the model, the Wave comes with two or three slideouts and a 10- or 12-foot garage with facing sofas that convert to queen beds with electric lifts. All offer far-forward bedroom-and-bath suites with queen beds, interior hardwood cabinetry, solid-surface countertops, MCD blackout roller shades and, in a streetside slideout, theater seating aft of the entertainment center sporting a 40-inch LED TV with DVD, sound bar and Bluetooth capability. Larger models also feature an island kitchen.
Oh, and about that warranty?
“Every toy hauler has a 12-month warranty,” Alpin said. “We doubled that to two years. That’s something we’re really proud of.”
Jayco | 574-825-5861 | www.jayco.com
According to longtime RV marketing guru Jim Mac, the 42-foot 11-inch Keystone Montana 3791RD “was clearly the hot floorplan at Open House.” And while he’s a bit biased, inasmuch as he’s communications director for Keystone RV, there’s no denying that the elevated rear-den floorplan attracted considerable attention. Nearly surrounded by plush seating with sofa beds in opposing slideouts, the area is made more dramatic by backlit crown molding, a vaulted ceiling and a faux-stone rear wall, which houses an electric fireplace, a 40-inch flat-screen TV and storage cabinets.
Storage, in fact, plays a key role in the Montana 3791. “Because the living room is raised and the front bedroom also is raised, what you end up with is a phenomenal amount of exterior pass-through storage — this unit has more than 250 cubic feet,” Mac explained.
By virtue of both the forward bedroom and bath, and the rear den being elevated, it creates a “sunken” galley “with none of the normal kitchen incursion into the main cabin,” said Mac. The fifth-wheel has a 16,960-pound gvwr and a $78,656 MSRP.
The 3971 reflects the significant improvements Keystone made to the Montana kitchen for the 2014 model year, including solid hardwood cabinetry in a choice of three finishes, stainless-steel appliances, an island with a two-bowl sink and a Samsung residential 18-cubic-foot refrigerator. A Dometic 18-cubic-foot RV refrigerator also is available, which Mac noted has proven popular in the company’s Raptor line. “It’s big and looks residential, but you don’t have to worry about having an extra battery or an inverter or be plugged into shorepower,” he noted.
Keystone RV Company | 866-425-4369 | www.keystonerv.com
Prime Time Spartan 300 Series
It could be said that Forest River’s Prime Time division, launched in 2009 during the recession, had nowhere to go but up, but the growth of the Wakarusa, Indiana, builder’s travel trailer and fifth-wheel lines has nonetheless been surprising. At Open House, the company debuted a Spartan 300-series line of toy haulers intended, in the estimation of Prime Time President Jeff Rank, to appeal to customers looking for a well-built, less-expensive garage unit.
“The whole intent with the new line was to offer customers units that may have slightly smaller floorplans and a little less equipment but retain all of the functionality — and for a smaller price,” Rank noted.
The company actually introduced its first Spartan 300 travel trailer a few weeks earlier but brought out a new trailer floorplan as well as a new fifth-wheel at the Elkhart show. A 30-foot trailer with a 14,000-pound gvwr, the 2510 has an open floorplan that features a 5-foot 6-inch garage on one side with the other side capable of stretching 14 feet into the unit for additional storage. The 2510 joins the 3010, a 34-foot unit with a separated 10-foot garage.
Built around the laminated aluminum-frame main floor, side walls, slide-room walls and roof, the trailer boasts enviable R-values along with heated and enclosed water lines, heated holding tanks (105-gallon freshwater, 87-gallon gray water and 45-gallon black water) and an enclosed underbelly. Both utilize a HappiJac electronically lifted bed above dual folding sofas.
Both the 2510, with a $39,000 MSRP, and the 3010, with a $45,000 MSRP, feature queen beds up front and residential Lane furniture, glazed cherry hardwood cabinetry, LED lighting, an 8-cubic-foot refrigerator, a radiused shower and oversize tub, LED TVs and satellite/cable connections. The 2510 has a $39,000 MSRP, and the 3010 runs $45,000.
The fifth-wheel variant stretches for 37 feet and carries an MSRP beginning at around $55,000.
Prime Time Manufacturing | 574-862-3001 | www.primetimerv.com
While more than 80 percent of North American RVs are built in Elkhart County, the Cricket calls Houston home. That’s not a surprise, inasmuch as its edgy, angular design was crafted by Garret Finney, founder of Taxa and a NASA engineer who had a hand in designing the International Space Station. Towable by just about anything, because the 15-foot-long and 6-foot 7-inch-wide Cricket has a 2,500-pound gvwr, the trailer is, more or less, a base camp. “It contains exactly what you need,” said a company spokesperson. “No more, no less.”
An expanding roof with a single-touch latch raises the interior height to 6 feet 4 inches, and dual entry doors provide easy access. The Cricket features five swing windows, removable tent sides, marine-grade cushions, a 75- x 57-inch V-berth bed, a recessed sink with a cover, an energy-efficient electric water heater, a shower system for interior or exterior use, city-water connections and 12-gallon fresh- and gray-water tanks. Options include a small top-loading refrigerator, a portable toilet and even kids’ berths that hang from the ceiling and support up to 130 pounds. MSRP $21,700.
Taxa Inc. | 713-861-2540 | www.crickettrailer.com