Inventor Frank Messano is starting a new company building towable RVs utilizing a “thin-skin,” ultralight RV body system for which he received a patent in late February.
The outer surface of Messano’s new StreamLiner towables will consist of a thin, but very strong fiberglass shell that’s about the thickness of the aluminum on an airplane – the advantage being a 30% to 50% weight reduction from a conventional fiberglass body, according to Messano’s filing with the U.S. Patent Office.
“We have built a technology that is going to set the industry on its toes,” predicts Jim Teeter, a partner with Messano on this and other RV projects through their company, SkyDeck Industries LLC, based in Simi Valley, Calif.
The patent, for which Messano filed in August of 2004, was issued Feb. 21.
He and Teeter hoped to begin limited production of their first product, a 29-foot travel trailer marketed under the StreamLiner brand name, at an unnamed Washington State site in March. The pilot factory is designed to produce 25 units per month, per model, and Teeter was organizing a dealer advisory group to assist in the product’s development.
“Even though we are set up to build the prototype, we are not opposed to setting up a relationship with an in-place manufacturer,” said Messano, 54, who also holds patents for a full-length slideout and the much-publicized SkyDeck, an open-air, roof-top motorhome deck complete with lounge seating, wet bars and built-in barbecues that is currently licensed to Airstream. “This is a slam dunk for the trailer industry.”
Messano says his thin-skin manufacturing process minimizes costly hand labor while lending itself to automated assembly line methods like those used in the automotive and sport boat industries. It involves production in a mold of a one-piece, 1/32″ to 3/32″-thick, resin body that may be reinforced with suitable fibers such as glass, carbon, and Kevlar, as suits the builder.
Under that is placed a pre-manufactured skeletal space frame incorporating structural provisions for slideout rooms, wiring, HVAC ducts, plumbing and other vehicle systems. Pre-manufactured interior walls and ceiling elements are then placed within the skeletal space frame to form a second inner mold, with the aforementioned space frame residing between the exterior mold thin-skin and the surfaces of the inner mold.
The space between the outer mold and inner mold is injected with a closed-cell polyurethane rigid-insulation foam or other suitable material that bonds the components within the molds into a single structure. When the foam is cured and becomes rigid, the thin outermost resin skin also becomes structurally rigid by virtue of its lamination to the other layers. When cured, the finished body is removed from the exterior mold and bonded to a similarly constructed one-piece molded body platform that serves as the vehicle chassis as well as the interior cabin floor where holding tanks, water tanks and storage areas are molded within the body platform.
The manufacturer may alternately combine the body mold and the platform mold into one unit in order to eliminate the process of bonding the finished parts together.
Also built into the design, which ultimately have applications in the automotive arena as well, is a variable-height suspension system to decrease frontal area when towed, and which raises the body for use of slideouts; a streamlined storage nose cap that reduces air turbulence to increase fuel economy of the tow vehicle; pivoting road wheels to eliminate tire scrub on multiple axles; steerable wheels for backing into restricted areas; adjustable tongue weight sliding suspension; and a pivoting nose wheel to minimize tongue weight on the tow vehicle.
For further information contact Jim Teeter at 909-213-2135.