A smallish van camper located down a rather quiet corridor at the Family Motor Coach Association’s 68th Premier International Motorhome Extravaganza at the Kansas State Fairgrounds Oct. 1-3 in Hutchinson, Kan., could wind up being one of next year’s more interesting product-related stories.
That’s because the 21 1/2-foot Class B motorhome introduced as the 2003 Free Spirit 210A prototype by Canada’s Leisure Travel Vans 1999 Ltd. in Morden, Manitoba is the first in North America assembled on the lightweight, Mercedes-Benz diesel engine-powered Sprinter commercial van chassis first imported about a year ago for delivery truck use by DaimlerChrysler’s Freightliner subsidiary.
Freightliner assembles the Sprinter in South Carolina using components from DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes-Benz truck operations in Europe.
DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle subsidiary already is a significant supplier to the European motorhome industry.
And there’s a good chance the small Canadian firm’s Free Spirit, which actually debuted at the 34th Annual Pennsylvania RV & Camping Show, Sept. 9-15 in Harrisburg, Pa., is a sign of things to come from a number of U.S. motorhome builders.
Along with being altogether new to the market, the Sprinter is quiet, fuel-efficient and should appeal to consumers as a relatively stylish, diesel motorhome with the same heritage as the Mercedes-Benz luxury car, according to Leisure Travel Vans Sales Representative Jean Claude Guilbault.
Manufacturers also like the idea that DaimlerChrysler, which this year sold Sprinters through 72 Freightliner and three Dodge dealers with Freightliner franchises, will market the Sprinter next year through 2,937 U.S. Dodge dealers, according to Automotive News.
Yet another plus is the fact that the 8,500-pound gvwr Sprinter, with its 158-inch wheelbase and automatic, 5-speed transmission, has a 5,000-pound towing capacity, Guilbault reports.
And while some have questioned the power of the Sprinter’s turbocharged, 2.7-liter, 5-cylinder, 154-hp Mercedes-Benz diesel, Leisure Travel spokesmen officials say their $72,000 Free Spirit B-van, which gets 22 miles to the gallon, handles and rides just fine. “People are impressed with the look of the unit,” said Guilbault, “and the handling and turning radius is just phenomenal compared to what we’ve seen in the Class B business before.”