In the 10 years since an investment group headed up by former railroad executive Lyle Reed acquired Foretravel Inc., the Nacogdoches, Texas-based luxury custom motorhome manufacturer has introduced a new coach every few years.
The first was the 40-, 42- or 45-foot Phenix, which hit the market just months after Reed purchased Foretravel in 2005. Following that, the 40-foot, non-tag axle Nimbus XT series, built on the manufacturer’s proprietary TravelRide chassis, launched in 2007 and in 2010 Foretravel rolled out the custom-built, $1.3 million (MSRP) IH-45 motorhome at the top of its diesel-pusher lineup.
The company’s latest coach, which made its public debut at the Florida RV Supershow at the end of January in Tampa, is the Realm FS6, a 45-foot, four-slide pusher on the Spartan K3GT chassis with a Cummins ISX 600-hp engine and Allison 4000MH transmission. Its MSRP tops $1 million, although the actual sale price is closer to $700,000.
But what makes the Realm especially noteworthy is that it represents a return to more of a production model coach for Foretravel while also being developed in partnership with the manufacturer’s sole independent dealer, Motor Home Specialist (MHS) of Alvarado, Texas.
“From my perspective, it is a bit of an unusual approach to product development,” Reed said. “But I guess if you’re going to team up with one dealer, the world’s largest RV dealer is not a bad thing. And they’re reasonably close to us so that facilitates a lot of coordination. It’s really interesting how all these stars sort of lined up.”
Development began about 18 months ago, when MHS President and CEO Donny O’Banion approached Foretravel.
“When I heard about it, I said, ‘Sounds good to me,’” said Reed, who returned as Foretravel’s president after the retirement of Greg Amys last October. “We have a lot of experience in manufacturing. They have a lot of experience in marketing and sales in today’s environment. And we started talking about how we could utilize the best of both companies to come up with a product they thought fit their product lineup.”
O’Banion said he had wanted to do something like this for quite a while.
“There are just certain things that never made sense to me in the industry. I’ve influenced a lot of motorhomes that are on the market today as far as design concepts, paint jobs, interiors and a lot of floorplans, but I’ve never just had a blank piece of paper that I could do whatever I wanted to with,” O’Banion said.
Working with a team from Foretravel and Spartan Chassis, O’Banion had specific goals in mind when they created the Realm.
First, he wanted the coach to rest on the K3GT, Spartan’s new passive steer tag-axle chassis, which produces a 7% reduction in curb-to-curb turning radius and delivers a robust 20,000-pound independent front suspension capacity. Secondly, he wanted to load the unit with as many high-end amenities as possible, including the premium sliderooms found on Foretravel’s more expensive IH-45. “There are no options; these things come loaded,” O’Banion said. Lastly, he wanted to hit the $1 million price point.
“I wanted to bring something that was unlike anything else in the industry to that price point. There are very limited true fiberglass high-end coaches in the marketplace today and I thought there should be something else in that price point to raise the bar and give people a real choice,” he explained.
“And then, of course, it’s Foretravel’s detail work, their fit-and-finish and ultimately just what they’ve been doing on their Iron Horse 45’s for years,” O’Banion continued. “I was able to put a new spin on it. I was able to come up with what I feel are superior floorplans and some things that are just not found in the industry, and bring a level of livability to the high-end luxury world that’s just not out there. Not just making them pretty, but making them very usable for a lot of different people, whether it’s couples or whether they’re going to travel with friends.”
All three Realm Luxury Villa floorplans currently available – a bunkhouse is in the works – feature four slides, a half-bath located in a mid-coach hallway and a spacious rear master bath. LV1 and LV2 both offer a 60-by-31-inch shower with seat and double sinks, while the LV3 swaps out one sink for a stackable washer and dryer. Another highlight of the LV1 is its private toilet within the master bath – one of O’Banion’s must-have features.
“One of Donny’s main things was ‘I want a double sink and I want a private potty in a rear bath,’” said Darrell Luce, Foretravel’s chief engineer who worked on the Realm project. “Nobody’s doing that and he came up with that brainchild. That floorplan was something he’d been wanting to do and couldn’t get it done and we were able to pull it off.”
Luce said the front-end cap design is also an O’Banion signature piece, and added that the project was fun to work on.
“It’s Foretravel’s DNA married to Spartan’s DNA and we came out with a high-quality product,” Luce said. “And Donny worked with us to make that happen. He knew what he wanted. It’s proprietary to him. It’s his coach and we built it for him with a lot of effort from all of us. But it is Donny O’Banion’s rig for sure.”
Although Reed said Foretravel has a limited ability to sell the Realm at its factory, it’s “essentially a proprietary product for Motor Home Specialists, which I think is unique.”
Although Reed cautioned that you never truly know how a unit will truly do until it hits the market, so far the coach has proven popular. O’Banion, especially, is convinced the Realm will find solid footing in the high-end coach segment.
“I didn’t want a motorhome. I wanted a true coach,” he said. “I wanted a manufacturer who could provide that custom motorcoach fit, finish and detail — the different things that just can’t be found anywhere else in the industry, and somebody I felt comfortable working with in the design process. And Darrell Luce, who I worked hand-in-hand with throughout this process, has been phenomenal and Spartan as well. They’ve been great to work with on this project and have been very helpful in every respect.”