Have Your Way! -- It Can Be Done!
FACTORY DIRECT TO YOU.
Travel Units and Trailer Life create an almost perfect full-timing trailer.
While researching our recently published book, Guide to Fulltime RVing, we learned that a surprisingly high percentage of couples who live in their rigs were dissatisfied with the layouts and equipment being made available to them by today's RV manufacturers. Many of them said that their units had too much sleeping space and not enough storage space; that the bathrooms were too small and poorly equipped; that the layouts of most rigs were designed for families, not full-timing couples.
Based on that research, together with our own extensive RVing experience, we set out to design what we hoped would be the "perfect" travel trailer for full-time RVing. In doing that, we imposed one strict limitation on ourselves: The coach had to be affordable by the average full-timing couple; therefore, we could not allow our imaginations to run wild but, instead, we had to shoot for creating a trailer that would cost well under $30,000.
Because we wanted complete control over the layout of the trailer, we shunned production lines of the major RV manufacturers and, instead, focused our attention on some of the most successful small custom builders. After months of deliberation, we settled on Travel Units-a low-profile custom manufacturer in Elkhart, Indiana, that turns out an average of 100 trailers each year, no matter how good or bad the nation's economy is. Travel Unit's president, Sam Paolillo, agreed to build the coach for us in his plant with the stipulation that his employees work on it during their slack periods.
We met with Sam to begin laying out our trailer in May of 1981-coincidentally, the l0th anniversary of Paolillo's company-and together, we tackled the task of putting the design of the coach on paper. We began not with the living room or kitchen, as one might expect, but with the bathroom-for a few very good reasons. We knew that placement and layout of a bathroom will, almost by itself, determine the floorplan of a trailer. Generally, bathrooms are placed in one of two areas-either in the rear or on one side of the coach. Sometimes, trailers are offered with walk-through bathrooms just forward of the rear double bedrooms, but those are nearly always too small to be very practical. Unfortunately, placement of the bathroom in a trailer is affected to a large degree by the existence of wheel wells; therefore, most RV manufacturers offer buyers the choice of a side bath with a tiny, step-type bathtub over the wheelwell or a rear bath that can be as spacious as the customers want it.
Full-timers, we had learned in our research, do not like either alternative. They want more space and a larger tub than are possible in the side bath, but they do not like a rear bathroom because it eliminates sleeping area privacy.
Obviously, if we wanted our ideal bathroom to be large and roomy, with lots of storage space and a full-size bathtub, we had to place it somewhere other than in the rear or over the wheel wells. So we borrowed an idea from the manufacturers of fifth-wheel trailers, and we ordered our coach built with a front bedroom just forward of a large, walk-through bathroom! That left the rear half of the trailer open for kitchen and living area. It was, we knew, a radically different layout from what RV manufacturers traditionally offer their customers. We even expected our manufacturer friends to hate it, and they did! One friend looked at it after it was finished and exploded: "It's backward! It's too much like a fifth-wheel!" But we weren't designing a coach meant to appeal to America's RV manufacturers; we were designing one that would work for full-timers.
We felt there was no good reason why manufacturers don't lay out trailers in the floorplan we designed. Some say the front-bedroom approach causes hitch weights to be too heavy, since the coach's water tank should be stored under the bed, but that argument is full of holes. First of all, full- timers do not tow trailers with sedans, but with heavily sprung vans and trucks, and those vehicles can handle an 800 to 1000-pound hitch load very easily. Secondly, a rear water tank, when full, is more likely to cause handling problems than a front one because it can put too much weight on the rear of the coach and encourage tailwag. Manufacturers also argue that RVers prefer their living areas up front, where they can see what is going on in the campground more easily. There is, we admit, validity to that argument, but an equally solid case can be made for placing a living room in the rear where the exterior view is likely to be both more scenic and more private. Many full-timers own or rent campsites that back up to lakes, rivers, forests or seashores; for them, especially, a trailer with a rear living room is an advantage.
We wanted our trailer to have not only a large bathroom, but also a bedroom big enough for a double bed, a kitchen spacious enough to be equipped with a full range of appliances and other amenities, and a living room large enough to entertain friends. Could we accomplish all that in a 32-foot travel trailer? We thought we could, with Paolillo's help.
Based on our talks with dozens of full-timers, we insisted that the coach not have a permanent, wall-mounted, self-storing table but instead, be equipped with a free-standing table that could be moved around. We selected a Pionite convertible table that doubled both as a dining table or, lowered on its spring-hinged legs, as a coffee table. Meals would be eaten not while seated at a sofa-a pet peeve of full-timers, we'd learned-but on attractive, wood folding chairs that could be stored out of the way in a closet when they weren't needed. We considered equipping the living room with an overstuffed or barrel chair, but rejected that idea temporarily, feeling that most full-timers would prefer to select chairs that met their own, individual preferences.
For the galley, we felt strongly about having a countertop area with a lot of work space and we wanted the unit to be equipped with the largest RV refrigerator available and with a microwave oven. Drawer space throughout the coach was of paramount importance and we finally settled on equipping the unit with a total of 28 drawers! Lighting and cross-ventilation also were major considerations; we wanted large windows and especially one in the bathroom and one in the galley and we insisted upon having double, instead of single-bulb lighting fixtures placed strategically throughout the unit, including inside the closets. Since our coach was meant for full-time living, we ordered it equipped with a built-in Soundesign AM/FM/cassette stereo sound system and TV hookups in both the living room and bedroom.
We began with a self-contained coach costing a base price of $20,700. To that, we added more than $4000 worth of equipment, hiking the total price to $25,338.40. The coach is now forsale at that price.
The layout was simple: from front to rear, the bedroom, a walk-through bathroom, a kitchen and a rear living room. Detail work throughout, however, was extensive-and aimed at RVing couples who live full-time or nearly full-time in their rigs. The front bedroom contained a double bed flanked by two nightstands. The nightstands were built, however, so that they were only 25 inches tall-exactly the right height for the bed. Space was left between the innerspring mattress and the nightstands so that sheets and blankets could be put on the bed easily. We ordered large drawers-two of them on each side-built into the base of the bed so that we'd have space to store sheets, blankets and pillowcases. We insisted that the drawers be equipped with handles that would not snag a lady's hose or slice an ankle during the night. We asked for a shelf above the bed, across the front of the trailer, knowing that full-timers like space there for setting pictures and knickknacks while they're parked. We ordered large side windows so that the bedroom had good cross-ventilation. We chose not only two decorative lamps for the front wall above the bed, but also two directional reading lights. And we asked for a TV mount, complete with TV antenna hookup, on one wall of the bedroom.
For our decor, we selected silver dust (silver and brown flecked) carpeting; bone-white, triple-pleated draperies with sheers; vinyl floor covering in the kitchen; smooth brown marbletype kitchen and bathroom countertops, and pecan paneling and woodwork. We gave the bathroom special treatment, though-white oak cabinets instead of the dark wood. We ordered a gold ceramic bathroom sink and a Mansfield ceramic toilet. Over the vanity, we had installed a triplesize mirrored medicine cabinet with frosted cosmetic lights above it. We selected three small, but varied-size cosmetic drawers for the space immediately under the sink, with the rest of the under-sink area left open but divided in half by a shelf. We were careful to specify that all ductwork and plumbing lines be routed to the rear of all storage sections.
The bathroom was laid out with a three-quarter-length double closet above three large drawers and behind the toilet we had built in a four-level linen closet. The bottom level of the linen closet was hinged and opened to a large clothes hamper, with additional access to the hamper provided from outside the trailer using a small, locking door in the sidewall. The bathroom contained a full-size tub with shower, enclosed by sliding doors. Additional storage space was provided under the tub behind small slider doors. Both ends of the bathroom closed off with accordion doors; we would have preferred solid wood doors, either hinged or of the in-wall storing type.
We designed the main galley in the shape of an inverted "L:'-actually a straight figure "7"-on the curbside wall. It featured a home-size, double- drain stainless-steel sink in the upper leg of the 7 and a Wedgewood four- burner range with smoked-glass oven door in the lower leg of the 7. We ordered the sink equipped with a single- handle faucet and a spray nozzle for washing dishes and asked Paolillo to add a hinged countertop extension to the left of the upper leg of the 7. The undersink area was divided into a two - level storage section, and it also housed a l0-gallon gas-and-electric water heater that could be operated either on LP-gas or on electricity, or on both at the same time.
Paolillo installed a built-in Sharp Carousel microwave oven above the range; it took space ordinarily utilized by a vented range hood, so a vent was built into the wall behind the range. Above the sink and countertop, we ordered an oversize, two-level wrap- around set of overhead cabinets equipped with shelf lips. We asked for a spice rack to be built on one wall of the galley, with a systems monitor panel (containing a water pump switch and gauges for monitoring battery life and holding tanks) built into the wall behind the sink. On the wall opposite the main galley, we ordered a l0-cubic-foot Insta-Matic Innovator refrigerator with automatic ignition and a huge six-level slideout pantry that a friend, who builds RVs, later told us was the best-constructed pantry he had ever seen. We placed a large storage nook above the refrigerator after making sure the refrigerator was placed on the wall at a convenient height. Beside the refrigerator, we ordered built in a double-width, half- length closet with six drawers-two tiers of them-under it.
Focal point of the rear living section was a dark brown sofa/bed (not a flip lounge or gaucho!) flanked by two built-in end tables, each with one drawer and a storage nook. As in the bedroom, the living area featured two wall-mounted decorative lamps and two directional reading lights behind the sofa with a shelf across the rear of the trailer. Against the left front corner, we ordered a split-section china cabinet with glass doors. The top of the lower section was large enough to hold a TV, and we asked that connections to the Winegard TV antenna be placed there too. Both sections of the cabinet were divided into two tiers.
A great deal of attention was given to lighting. In addition to the directional and decorator lights on the front and rear walls, we ordered fluorescent lights above the TV and above the sink, double RV lights in the closets, and double-bulb ceiling fixtures above the bed, near the bathtub, above the bathroom sink, and centrally located in the living room. We also asked that lights in the bathroom, living room and bedroom be linked to wall switches just inside the entries.
Due in large measure to everything we ordered in the coach, it was quite heavy, having an overall wet weight of 7100 pounds and a 900-pound hitch weight. Towing the trailer behind our Sportscoach-converted E-250 van, however, was a cinch. We intentionally designed the coach so its heaviest section-the kitchen-was over the axles, and the placement of the water tank up front under the bed made overall weight distribution easy rather than difficult. The trailer had no tail wag and virtually no sway, due to that weight distribution.
From an appearance standpoint, the coach was very attractive on the outside and-we have to admit, immodestly-beautiful on the inside. It was well built throughout and Paolillo's crew deserves a lot of plaudits for the care taken in putting together the unit's components. Friends of ours in the RV industry, although put off initially by the trailer's dramatically different floorplan, agreed after some consideration that the trailer had a lot of customer appeal. Trailerists who looked at it were unanimous in their praise. They all thought it was an excellent unit for full-time RVers. s