Play-Mor: An SUT Pioneer
Family-owned Play-Mor Trailers Inc. has carved a niche for itself in the RV industry by specializing for many years now in cargo trailers with living quarters up front. While most manufacturers began to offer sport-utility trailers (SURVs) only a few years ago, Play-Mor built its first one in the mid-1980s.
“We were looking to expand our market and it was a good choice,” said Play-Mor President John Willibrand, son of founders Dick and Melba Willibrand. “We’ve always been a player in niche markets. Rather than trying to mass manufacturer something and slug it out, we’ve been able to offer variations that other people didn’t want to do.”
With the recent introduction of the Play-Mor Motor Sport, Play-Mor is expanding its market to hobbyists who want more than just a stripped-down utility trailer.
“Most of our sales are to people with motorcycles or four-wheelers,” Willibrand said. “We sell some to car-buff people who are hauling speciality cars or race cars or antiques. When people who sell crafts and antiques go to shows, they’ve got a good place to stay and a place to keep their inventory.
The Play-Mor Motor Sport, which recently expanded from two floorplans to five, is the least expensive of Play-Mors SURV offerings. “This is where we are stepping the customer up from a utility trailer,” Willibrand said.
The Motor Sport, a travel trailer available in five floorplans in lengths of 16 to 24 feet, is insulated and equipped standard with an awning, refrigerator, furnace, shower and water heater. “Those are things that you typically won’t have in a utility trailer,” he added.
A wall that blocks vapor from entering the living unit is available as an option on the Motor Sport, and is standard on most other Play-Mor SURVs.
The company was founded in 1964 in Westphalia, Mo. – a town of 400 people 22 miles south of Jefferson City – as an oil and tire distributorship by John Willibrand’s parents, and his grandfather, Charles Willibrand.
“At one of the stations, we rented trailers,” John Willibrand recalls. “And then my dad and my grandfather began to build their own trailers.”
Play-Mor’s first trailers were built in the basement of a bowling alley the family owned. John Willibrand and wife Sandy became principals in the company in 1990 after his father retired.
Play-Mor keeps an inventory of four to six weeks worth of manufacturing materials and supplies on hand, and builds about 80% of its own frames.
“Being 500 miles from Elkhart (Ind.), we have to do things differently,” Willibrand said. “We can’t run out to the supplier every time we need something. We have to adjust and do a lot of modifications ourselves.”
Play-Mor’s top-of-the-line Play-Mor Sport SURV, available in travel trailer lengths of 26 to 35 feet and fifth-wheel lengths of 30 to 40 feet, has a heavier frame, fiberglass exterior, hardwood cabinets and doors and a remote-controlled, 1,500-pound capacity power ramp. Most are equipped with single or double-slideouts.
Sportster Deluxe SURV, the company’s second-highest priced SURV line of travel trailers and fifth-wheels, is 8 feet wide, sits on a lighter frame and has an aluminum exterior. The Sportster Patriot SURV, priced above the entry-level Motor Sport, is standard width and offers an optional fiberglass exterior in 38 1/2- and 40 1/2-foot floorplans.
The company also manufactures a line of Play-Mor conventional travel trailers and fifth-wheels in the entry-level to midprice range, and specialty trailers for government and the movie industry.
Play-Mor trailers and SURVs are sold by about 40 dealers, most of whom are located in Midwestern states.