Thor Industries Inc.’s fiscal second-quarter revenue nearly doubled from a year earlier on sharply stronger sales of recreational vehicles, easily topping analysts’ estimates.

Chairman and President Peter B. Orthwein said the improvement “so far this season” leads Thor “to anticipate continued performance gains throughout 2010,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

For the quarter that ended Jan. 31, the company’s preliminary sales soared to $429 million vs. a modern low point of $226.7 million reported a year ago when the RV manufacturing leader reported its first loss in 17 years during the depths of the recession. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters recently expected $373 million. RV sales more than doubled and bus sales rose 2%.

The company’s backlog also rose sharply, up 81% at a record $711 million as of Jan. 31. RV backlog more than doubled to $449 million while buses climbed 21%.

In November Thor reported its second consecutive quarter of dramatically higher profit on improved margins and cost cuts. The company’s fast streamlining and structure–dominated by many small factories–helped it avoid the financial disasters that led to bankruptcy filings by two big rivals–Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Monaco Coach Corp.

Thor — the owner of Four Winds, Airstream, Dutchmen and seven other units that sell nearly 50 RV brands in all — began hiring again late last year after months of slashing jobs and closing factories.