Kibbi/Renegade: The Brawnier, the Better
Building commercial-style motorhomes on medium- and heavy-duty truck chassis – plus cargo trailers for racing professionals – has become the mainstay for Kibbi Inc. dba Renegade, Bristol, Ind.
Renegade’s specialized product lineup includes a hybrid Class C motorhome built on one of three Freightliner chassis, a “Toterhome” Class C with a “gooseneck” fifth-wheel-style towing platform in addition to hard-side cargo trailers with heavy-duty lifts that are adapted primarily for automobile racing applications.
“People who are buying Renegades aren’t going camping,” said Renegade President Chuck McKibbin. “They are going racing, and when they get to the race, they don’t want to have to fiddle around with the furnace or have to fix a loose door. We build a commercial product. Our customer is someone who wants to buy a motorhome or a trailer once and keep it.”
Success has tracked the company that McKibbin formed in 1997 from the remnants of FRP Trailers, a specialty trailer manufacturer in Elkhart.
“They were a small trailer company that built three or four motorhomes a year on truck chassis. My goal was to build one a week,” said McKibbin, a former conversion van salesman in Elkhart for 10 years. “I took what I learned in the van business about chassis and stocking parts and equipment and brought it to the company.”
Retail sales last year were $32 million – up from $1.2 million when he bought FRP – and are anticipated to approach $50 million this year, McKibbin said.
Two years ago, the company expanded its manufacturing space five-fold when it opened a 70,000-square-foot factory with highly visible frontage on the Indiana Toll Road.
McKibbin said the racing market is larger than many people think. “If you look beyond NASCAR races, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are into racing,” McKibbin said.
Renegade’s production ratio is split 60/40 between motorhomes and trailers, which are built on separate lines in the plant.
Motorhomes, some with garages, are built in lengths of 32-45 feet on Freightliner FL70, FL112 or Columbia CL120 chassis with a Caterpillar 3126 7.2 liter, six-cylinder or a C-12 CAT 430hp engine.
“One of the reasons that we are doing well is that chassis have matured,” McKibbin said. “We can buy a chassis now with enough power and the right suspension. It doesn’t feel like you are driving a truck. You feel like you are driving a car.”
Standard construction includes a 2-inch-by-2-inch tubular steel frame, 5/8-inch fiberglass reinforced exterior and a “super-sandwiched” coach floor consisting of an insulated galvanized vapor barrier screwed to the frame and topped with 3/4-inch plywood.
Motorhomes with 10-foot-to-16-foot garages are available in 36-foot-to-45-foot lengths, with a dinette-slide option.
Renegade trailers in lengths of from 30 to 48 feet are equipped standard with a 7-foot, spring-assisted stainless-steel/diamond-plate ramp that includes a 3-foot flap extension and typically designed to park two cars on an overhead rack with tools and equipment below.
The Renegade Toterhome, a combination motorhome and “gooseneck” fifth-wheel-style tow vehicle in overall lengths of 30 feet to 35 feet, is built on a Freightliner chassis and features 13 feet to 16 feet of living space and an 8-foot rear towing deck.
Renegade motorhomes and trailers are sold through 20 dealers across the country, most of whom primarily sell cargo trailers or automobiles, although McKibbin intends to make Renegade’s brands more available through conventional RV outlets. “We don’t fit in the box for an RV dealer,” McKibbin said. “But, as our product becomes more accepted, I think RV dealers will get involved.”
Renegade marketing for 2003 will include an increased presence at consumer RV shows, which McKibbin previously had limited to one or two a year.
He said the Renegade should appeal to traditional RVers because of its sturdy platform. “I don’t modify the cab, so if they have any problems they can pull into any Freightliner dealer. And truck chassis are much more stable on the road.”