Cruiser R.V. Corp.
Cruiser R.V. Corp., Bristol, Ind., has been on a mission for more than a year and a half: resurrecting yet again the Shadow Cruiser brand name. Yet again, because this is the third time around for Shadow Cruiser RVs.
Privately owned Cruiser R.V. set up shop in April 1999, using some of the assets of the former Shadow Cruiser Corp., which had gone into bankruptcy following its failed efforts to re-establish the Shadow Cruiser brand. “My son convinced me to get back in the business,” said Cruiser R.V. Vice President and General Manager Pat Makousky Sr. “I’ve been in this business as long as dirt and some rocks.”
Cruiser R.V. has cut back on the myriad campers, travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers offered by its predecessor to focus primarily on hard-side and pop-up truck campers. A four-size line of Shadow Cruiser fifth-wheel trailers was mothballed temporarily in July so the company could concentrate on building truck campers.
Makousky formerly worked in sales or design for the manufacturers of Starcraft, Yellowstone, Cargo Master, Mallard, Sunlite and Carriage lines. Cruiser R.V.’s president and primary investor is Louis Dickerhoff, the owner of a tool and die business in Fort Wayne, Ind., who is not involved in Cruiser R.V.’s day-to-day business.
Makousky purchased manufacturing equipment, a factory lease and the Shadow Cruiser brand name from SunnyBrook R.V. Inc., which acquired the assets of the former Shadow Cruiser Corp. in a bank sale. Cruiser sells 10 different hard-side floor plans for short-bed and long-bed pick-up trucks, including one specifically for the compact Chevy S-10 pickup and one for the Dodge Dakota, and nine different popups.
Cruiser makes its owned countertops, drawers and doors, primarily because Makousky initially couldn’t find a supplier. “I didn’t want to do it, but we had to,” he said. “Now that we have, I like it because we can control the quality of what is going into the coach. We don’t gimp. Our coach is trimmed out in vinyl-wrapped wood to match the sidewalls and the cabinetry.
Makousky said Shadow Cruiser’s light weight and areodynamic design and quality construction are the brand’s primary selling points.
“I don’t want to hear from my customer until they want to buy another one,”‘ Makousky said. “My goal is to build a better unit and keep my warranty work down.”
So far he’s been successful, Makusky said, processing warranty claims of 0.75%.
The company scored a coup when General Motors chose Cruiser to participate in the unveiling of its 2001 GMC truck line and in September GM included Shadow Cruiser on a 44-city GMC truck tour.
The company has hit some bumps, Makousky acknowledged. Initially, Makousky planned to use computer-aided-design blueprints left over from the previous owner. Too late, Makousky found the plans couldn’t be used and the company had to start from scratch.
Even without debt, Cruiser could not finance an option on the former Shadow Cruiser’s lease on its plant in Bristol. In May, Cruiser moved the company to a 40,000-square-foot factory about six miles from its former plant.
Makousky said Cruiser would begin production of fifth-wheels again in December after shutting down the fifth-wheel line in July to focus on truck campers.
“Every time we would put a fifth-wheel on the line it would just bog us down,” Makousky said. “A lot of what we do with fifth-wheels will depend on how the truck camper business is going. Right now, we can’t keep up with the truck camper business.”
Although located in the Midwest, Makousky said Cruiser’s pop-up market is strongest in the western states and that its hard-sided camper sells best on the East Coast.
Cruiser employs 30 people, and its management is a family operation. Also working for the company are Pat Makousky Jr. and his wife, Tricia, and Pat Sr.’s daughter, Jennifer Makousky.