YAKIMA, Washington – Time ran out in late March for Trail Wagons Inc., maker of the legendary Chinook RV, as the company was unable to forestall a foreclosure sale of its land and buildings.
The property, including a 110,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in two buildings, sold for $2.9 million March 31 on the steps of the Yakima County Courthouse. The only bidder was LandAmerica Default Services, a collections firm representing the Chicago-based trustee for the company’s mortgage lender.
Court records show there are still numerous creditors against Trail Wagons, including an RV dealership, and it’s not clear how they will be repaid.
Lawyers for various creditors did not return phone calls and the company’s toll-free customer service number is out-of-service.
The company itself is not in federal bankruptcy. A state court judge last fall appointed a receiver to manage the company’s real and personal property after Trail Wagons defaulted on mortgage certificates held by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Capital I Inc. The certificates were held in trust by LaSalle Bank National Association of Chicago.
Known for its stylish, upscale Class C motorhomes, Trail Wagons once employed more than 162 people and grew with the help of loans from the city and county totaling nearly $3 million. Owner Gary Lukehart has declined to discuss the company’s problems since it started to encounter operating difficulties more than a year ago.
The high-end minimotorhomes – dubbed by the company as “the sports car of motorhomes” – used to fill a lot along I-82 where the plant was located. But the inventory began dwindling over the past year until there was nothing left. Rumor had it that suppliers, including General Motors Corp., had begun to repossess parts.
“It’s sad in a lot of ways,” said George Poulsen, of Arlington, Texas, vice president of membership for one of several Chinook camping clubs.
Chinook customers valued its sturdy, one-piece molded fiberglass construction, which accounted in part for retail prices upwards to $200,000.
Dan Lukehart, Gary’s son who became president in 1996, told RV Business several years ago that the company attempted an economy model but failed.
The company, whose office manager Carolyn McMurry in March appealed to customers to help it find a buyer, dates to 1938 when Sy and Rose Mair of Orange County, Calif., produced travel trailers and pickup campers mounted on one-ton cabs. They called them Chinooks.
After various mergers and changes of ownership, Trail Wagons emerged based in Yakima with Gary Lukehart as the owner.
A high-profile local developer and former Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) board member, Lukehart built a Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites and announced big plans a year ago for Vineyard’s Gate, an open-air shopping center next to the hotel. That development hasn’t started.
He has also sold Gateway Center, a 10-acre shopping plaza across from the hotel for $17.5 million, according to county property-transfer records.