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A new Mishawaka, Ind., company, Bel-Aire LLC, has developed a European-inspired semi-monocoque Class A diesel-pusher chassis in partnership with custom truck-chassis builder Diamond Heavy Solutions LLC, Harrisburg, Pa., a manufacturer of T-Line trucks.
Bel-Aire plans to build a new 27- to 32-foot fuel-efficient “cruiser” motorhome on the platform with design features borrowed from Mauck Specialty Vehicles, a well-regarded niche manufacturer known for its low-slung futuristic motorhomes that quit production in 2000.
“There’s an opportunity to sell these chassis, but also I wanted to build some specific units first,” said Bel-Aire President Eric Ludwick, former international sales manager for Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Nappanee, Ind. “In a motorhome, everything starts with the chassis. I wanted to build a motorhome that was fuel efficient, but nobody was in a position to build the chassis I needed.”
The new 23,880-pound GVWR Bel-Aire chassis has only 10 inches of ground clearance, and will be powered by a 230-hp International MaxxForce 7 V-8 diesel engine and equipped with independent front suspension and an Allison 5-speed automatic transmission.
Although fuel-mileage tests haven’t been completed, Ludwick said he expects the International engine to get between 15 to 20 mpg. “That’s probably realistic,” Ludwick said.
The new chassis will be built in Pennsylvania by Diamond Heavy Solutions, whose heritage goes back to Diamond-T, Diamond Reo and Reo heavy-duty trucks that went out of production in the early 1990s. The motorhome will be assembled in the Elkhart, Ind., area.
“The driver’s position is in front of the front wheel and is about a foot-and-a-half lower than the conventional RV chassis,” Ludwick said. “Because it’s so much lower, it’s handling is more automotive and is much easier to handle.”
Ludwick expects to have a 27-foot prototype completed before the end of the year and be in full production by the end of 2009.
The new coach will feature a lightweight body made from a new composite that “also could be used in a towable product,” he said.
“Customers want fuel efficiency, but it hasn’t been made available to them,” Ludwick asserted. “The industry is going through some changes and we are going to have to build new motorhomes with advanced materials.”
The yet-to-be-named coach, which is expected to retail for $150,000 to $160,000, will be marketed to RVers on several levels, Ludwick said.
“The chassis was important because we wanted the engine to be in the rear so that we could lower the height of the unit to lower the wind drag,” Ludwick said. “This vehicle is going to appeal to a lot of different groups. It’s suited for part-time RVers, but also full-timers who are downsizing.”