Motorhome RV manufacturer Coach House Inc., Nokomis, Fla., has undergone a complete transition in the last two years, moving from the Class B to Class C segments of the RV market.
While making the change and creating the Platinum Class C minimotorhome, Coach House borrowed from Florida’s boating industry to design a patented one-piece molded fiberglass body using construction methods that are relatively rare in the RV industry.
“It’s a difficult process,” said Coach House Vice President Steve Gerzeny. “I know why a lot of manufacturers don’t make motorhomes the way that we do.”
Gerzeny’s father, Ruben, started Coach House in 1985 after operating a Florida used-car lot that developed into a full-line RV dealership. “He saw a need while selling RVs for something small and fuel-efficient” Steve Gerzeny said. “Our first unit was a popup camping van that you could fit in a garage.”
That unit was popular with Sunshine State residents because of the increasing number of deed-restricted communities that prohibit RV parking in residential areas.
In 1991, Steve and his brother, Dave, both of whom helped start the company, bought Coach House from their father, who remains active in the business.
Coach House switched from Dodge Built Class B vans to Class C minimotorhomes on Ford chassis when Dodge announced it would no longer manufacture its venerable Ram van after the 2003 model year.
Rather than build on another Class B platform, Gerzeny said, the company looked for a chassis that was more versatile.
“We wanted to expand our market and we found that most of our customers wanted something with just a little more elbow room and with more features than we could put in the camping van,” Gerzeny said.
“Generally, our market is down-sizers who want something that is more multipurpose,” he said. “Most of the people who are buying the 23-footers are using them as a second vehicle. And we catch some entry-level people and also sell to companies who use them as portable sales offices.”
At the time Coach House made the switch from Dodge to Ford it also changed the brand name of its motorized lineup from Coach House to Platinum by Coach House.
Platinum minimotorhomes are available in 23- and 27-foot lengths with retail prices from $80,000 to $130,000. A bedroom slideout is optional. To match the strength and rigidity of the one-piece body, the floor sits on a 1½-inch miter-cut tubular steel frame.
The Platinum comes standard with solid countertops, interior freshwater plumbing, a 4kw generator, ducted air conditioning and a universal utility compartment with hookups for sewer, water, cable and electricity.
The Platinum motorhome is built with a one-piece fiberglass body on a Ford cutaway E-450 Super Duty chassis. The body shell is formed upside down by pouring fiberglass into a multipiece rotating mold and reinforcing it with wood “stringers” in a process similar to manufacturing a one-piece boat hull.
“With one piece of fiberglass, you minimize a lot of problems, although it’s a difficult manufacturing process,” Gerzeny said. “It’s a complex system and it’s labor-intensive mostly because the RV is enclosed before it is outfitted.”
Pouring fiberglass also is time-consuming. A shell takes three days to cure after being poured. Coach House currently is operating four molds, which produce six to eight units a week.
The mold took 16 months to design. “It separates into four pieces to extract the body,” Gerzeny said. Openings for windows, slideouts, gas tanks, utility cabinets, etc. are cut after the gel-coated body is extracted from the mold.
“The hardest trick about the whole process is explaining it,” he said.
After curing, the shell is flipped rightside up, attached to the chassis and sent through a three-stage outfitting process.