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If indeed there were more prospective high-end buyers as well as upscale tire kickers in evidence at this past winter’s retail shows – perhaps more so than some manufacturers had seen in a while – then one of the busiest booths at Tampa’s RV SuperShow in January was operated by Foretravel Motorcoach of Texas, a factory-direct builder of luxury motorhomes still based in its traditional home turf of Nacogdoches, Texas. How busy was it? Foretravel Sales Manager Curtis Fancher said the lines were so constant at times that the only real break for Foretravel’s sales staff came at lunch and dinner time. Of particular interest to consumers was the company’s ih-45, a coach that Foretravel started building on its own chassis in 2012 in addition to its Nimbus and Phoenix lines. That’s a real switch for a high-end company that, along with the rest of the industry, is still technically emerging from a global downturn. “We custom build just about everything we make,” says Fancher, adding that the ih-45, a 54,000-pound GVWR coach equipped with a 600-hp Cummins engine, an Allison 4000 transmission and a 3,500- to 4,000-pound payload, is the company’s biggest seller. “Last year was a good year,” said Fancher, standing in front of a black-tan-champagne and red-exterior ih-45 listing for $1.3 million. “The typical year since ’08 has been very up and down. Last year was a steady year, and the beginning of this year has been very steady. That’s all a telltale sign of the stock market and economy starting to come back. It’s turned about nicely.”
Ted Caldwell believes in the city that shares his last name.
So much, in fact, that even though the California-based real estate developer has never previously invested in Idaho, he has spent $3 million through his company to develop Canyon Springs RV Resort into a property that will attract traveling RVers as well as residents from existing RV parks in the greater Boise area.
“We’re already attracting residents of other Boise area RV parks who tell us they are pleased to see a new high-quality RV resort in the area with spacious RV sites,” Caldwell said in a press release, adding, “Visitors to the Boise area are also staying with us and enjoying our new facilities.”
A grand opening has been set for Oct. 9-10 in an event that not only celebrates the opening of a new business, but one that heralds the promise of more new businesses coming to the area of Caldwell where Canyon Springs is located.
Through his company, TCC Properties Inc., Caldwell invested $83,000 in materials for a 10,000-foot water-line extension and paid another $82,000 for a quarter-mile-long sewer-line extension that makes it easier and more affordable for other new businesses to open up near Canyon Springs. TCC Properties also paid Idaho Power $60,000 to bring electricity to the site.
“Having these utilities extended opens the door to new development in Caldwell, potentially years in advance of what we might have otherwise expected,” said Brent Orton, Caldwell’s director of public works, adding, “Extension of these utilities improves opportunities for agribusiness, manufacturing, commercial interests, and residential development. We see this partnership with Ted Caldwell as a critical step to stimulate local economic growth in Caldwell and in Canyon County.”
Canyon Springs also creates an increase in accommodation opportunities for major events like the Caldwell Night Rodeo and Canyon County Fair.
The nicely landscaped $3 million RV resort has a 2.5-acre fishing pond stocked with largemouth bass as well as a 3,500-square-foot meeting lodge with flat-screen TVs and a commercial kitchen designed for major events, such as RV rallies, weddings and corporate or chamber of commerce events.
Shade trees have been planted throughout the resort and there are green spaces between each RV site. The RV sites are 60 feet long and come equipped with full hookups, including water, sewer, electrical and cable television service as well as a lamp post that provides night lighting. Basic Wi-Fi is also available for free with high-speed Wi-Fi available for a fee. Pull-through RV sites and lakefront sites are available.
In addition to RV sites and upscale amenities, Canyon Springs offers easy access for travelers and local residents alike.
“Being right off the Highway 20/26 and I-84 intersection makes this an easy-on, easy-off location for overnight guests traveling through the area, and yet there is no traffic noise to speak of,” Caldwell said. “This, in turn, makes it desirable for longer-term stays, owing to its quiet environment and convenient access to and from the greater Boise area.”
Tue, Aug 25, 2015:
By JONATHAN WELSH Aug. 20, 2015 1:23 p.m. ET
BEFORE EMBARKING on a family road trip from his home in Red Bluff, Calif., to Pueblo, Colo., next month, Gary Bovee needs to do a few things: Check his vehicle’s oil, tire pressure and wiper fluid. He also needs to make sure the stove lights and the toilet flushes—and, oh yes, he plans to rebuild the front end with better brakes, stronger suspension parts and heavy-duty wheel bearings. So it goes when you have a luxury motor home that happens to be 37 years old.
Winnebago, General Motors, Airstream, Travco and other motor-home makers popular in the 1960s and 1970s are making a comeback, driven in part by people such as Mr. Bovee, who are snapping up decades-old models and restoring them to their kitschy glory, which often includes paint and trim in shades of orange, green and harvest gold. A network of clubs, forums, parts suppliers and service shops—like Good Old RVs,ClassicWinnebagos.com and Applied GMC—is making it easier to keep the old machines rolling.
Interest in vintage RVs is fueled by road-trip nostalgia and an improving economy but also mirrors an upswing in the mainstream RV industry, where shipments rose 5.5%, to 202,653 units during the first half of this year, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. Helping the uptick were a spate of new RVs with old-fashioned looks, like Winnebago’s Brave, a riff on its 1970s model. Trailer maker Shasta made a splash recently with replica of its 1961 Airflyte.
The appeal of classic models like the (original) Winnebago Brave, GMC Eleganza and Fleetwood Pace Arrow is partly that they’re relatively easy on the wallet. They typically start at a few thousand dollars for a fixer upper, whereas a new “Class A” rig of a similar size can cost $100,000 and up. That said, their fuel economy (six to 10 miles per gallon) is about the same as a modern gasoline-powered motor home (i.e., pretty terrible) and a few mpg short of a new diesel model.
While Mr. Bovee, a retired air-pollution control officer, acquired his cream-colored 1978 GMC Royale motor home free from a cousin seven years ago, the going rate for old Winnebagos and other vintage RVs in working condition and with a nice interior is $20,000 to $25,000. With fixer uppers, the new owner often winds up paying about the same amount to make all the fixes.
Low-slung with (relatively) aerodynamic styling, 70s-era GMCs like Mr. Bovee’s are in high demand. Meanwhile, Winnebagos, especially models from the 1970s, are coveted for their boxy shape with slanted front grilles and a prominent, protruding “eyebrow” above the windshield. The features make the vehicle look as though it’s leaning forward into the wind.
“They’re so cute,” said Jeff Barth, a Winnebago fan who works in product planning for Boeing in Seattle. Last October he found a 1973 Winnebago Chieftain in Spokane, Wash., with just 22,000 miles on the odometer. While the rig had nearly all its original parts and interior décor, it needed lots of work to make it roadworthy.
“The last time it had been driven was in 1984, so all of the rubber parts had deteriorated and had to be redone,” Mr. Barth said, adding that the tires alone cost $2,500. That was just the beginning. On its first “shakedown” trip, the camper’s starter failed. Mr. Barth was eventually able to track down a replacement part and a motor-home-friendly mechanic to install it.
But other parts of the RV also required attention. The work wound up costing about $3,900. This was in addition to the $6,000 or so Mr. Barth had already spent reconditioning the engine, transmission and other systems.
“It adds up fast,” he said, estimating that he has spent about $30,000 on the rig altogether. But now he has a reliable vehicle that’s sure to start conversations wherever he pulls up for gas. The Chieftain was especially attractive because of its period-perfect interior, including “crazy orange” shag carpeting, Mr. Barth said.
Motor homes have been around almost as long as automobiles. One of the earliest, a modified 1916 Ford Model T pickup called a “telescoping apartment,” is at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Ind. It has slide-out compartments that expand its 16 square-feet of cargo area to a space large enough for a mattress and additional storage. The design foreshadows modern RVs that maximize space with sliding walls, said museum president Darryl Searer.
“The retro trend is really catching on,” Mr. Searer said, noting that older RVs are getting difficult to find even in junkyards because their spare parts are increasingly in demand.
The RV industry has gone through numerous cycles of boom and bust, but the 1960s and early 1970s were especially good times that saw advances in the vehicles that made them attractive to a widening range of customers who wanted to “camp” without having to sacrifice the comforts of home. Ads for Allegro motor homes around that time used the tagline “Roughing It, Smoothly.” GMC touted that its models, which had front-wheel drive and cushy adjustable air suspension, didn’t ride like trucks—a barb at rivals who built campers on truck chassis.
Many longtime vintage-RV enthusiasts say they expect a new crop of younger owners to keep the trend going, though the culture of the hobby is changing.
“The newer people seem to get together in smaller groups and take shorter trips, probably because they aren’t retired and their time is limited,” said Frank Condos, a retired aerospace engineer and member of the GMC Western States club. “There are younger folks coming into it, but they aren’t joiners, so membership in the clubs isn’t necessarily growing.”
Mr. Condos said Facebook and other social media have partially replaced the in-person gatherings that previously brought like-minded RV drivers together. For example, there’s a Classic GMC Motorhome Facebook page that has attracted more than 1,500 members since starting about a year ago. “If you go to that page, people are asking the same questions, like ‘Where do I find spare parts? or ‘How do I fix my generator?’ ” he said. “It’s familiar.”
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