Chinook RV recently acquired a 62,000-square-foot facility in Elkhart, Ind., that will house production for its full motorized lineup, including the Countryside, Bayside and Glacier Class B and B-Plus lines built on Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis.
Chinook, known for more than 60 years for its aerodynamic fiberglass roofs and bodies on both vans and Class B chassis, has also moved its original tooling and molds from its manufacturing facility in Junction City, Ore., to Elkhart.
Owner and President Phil Rizzio told RVBUSINESS.com that the facility is currently being upgraded and retooled, noting, “We’re getting ready to do some renovations to the plant and ramp up towards full manufacturing. The new facility is on seven acres on U.S. 33 (three miles west of Nappanee Street), and we will be renovating over the next 30 days. When all our tooling is in place we will begin to build.”
Rizzio, owner of multiple RV dealerships including Wagon Trail RV in Las Vegas, Creston RV in Kalispell, Mont., and Van City of St. Louis, resurrected the iconic Chinook campervan brand in 2016. He brought back one of the most recognizable names in the Class B business — the Yakima, Wash.-based company ended production in 2005 — and is touting the new coaches as the “Rebirth of a Legend.”
“When we get up and running, the first new products we are going to build are the Class B-Plus Glacier and Concourse with full fiberglass bodies,” said Rizzio. “The Concourse will be a B-Plus with a rear entry, which was one of the most popular products Chinook had before they went out of business.”
He said that all the molds have been brought in from out west and that parts consolidation has begun to ramp up to support manufacturing and assembly, slated to begin in 30 to 45 days.
“Previously, we were manufacturing through a joint venture (with Elkhart-based Midwest Automotive Designs),” Rizzio noted. “But now Chinook will have all its manufacturing and assembly here in Elkhart. We are looking forward to having a full complement of our products represented at the Open House in September.”
He stated that the company will continue to build on the Mercedes-Benz 3500 Sprinter chassis and is prototyping the new Chinook Glacier with a full fiberglass body that began with concepts in 2013. The process was delayed, according to Rizzio, as he searched for the right manufacturing space along with the sale of his former plant in Junction City to Winnebago Industries Inc.
“This is not a standard build as our new Chinook B-Plus coaches incorporate a one-piece fiberglass body,” he said. “The quality we have built into our straight Class B models will continue with these new larger coaches. We are going to do some very state-of-the-art builds on these units. I can only call these new design concepts ‘revolutionary’ as they are lighter weight, yet we have enhanced the overall strength with some superior engineering.”
He said his engineering group has reduced the overall weight of the coach by more than 600 pounds and that Chinook has benefited by being within close proximity to the high-tech, lightweight raw material suppliers in the greater Elkhart area.
“Today, we are excited to have everything under one roof. All of our tooling from out West is now here and I am on site to see this through and get our production up to speed,” he continued. “Now we are looking to get staffed with the right people for Chinook.”
Rizzio said that some key people are moving to Elkhart from the former facility, but he is in the midst of hiring a full crew to operate the manufacturing, engineering and operations of his new facility.
“So far we have brought on engineers, pattern makers, fiberglass specialists, assembly workers and management. It’s going to be a growing concern starting with about 40 people and ending up with more than 100 employees,” he said.
Last year Chinook produced 70 coaches. By this time next year he said he hopes to build 150 units.
“I’m pleased to say that the Elkhart community has welcomed our company to the area with open arms,” said Rizzio. “There’s been a lot of excitement over our move. We have joined the community and the Chamber of Commerce, RVIA, and look forward to doing business here.”
For additional information visit http://www.chinookrv.com.