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Old 02-15-2003, 01:24 PM   #1
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I've really enjoyed lurking on this great website and thought I'd update everyone on my latest project.

I've just ordered a new 30 foot NRC Motor Coach to be built on a new Freightliner Columbia chassis. This was done after a lot of soul searching on several other excellent alternatives.

The truck will have a Mercedes 450 horse, 1550 # ft. engine with the Meritor Freedom automatic 12 speed transmission,air ride suspension and Century Series dash.

I chose the Mercedes engine based on the emissions technology, weight, fuel mileage, service, warranty and price.

The transmission is particularly interesting in that it can be fully automatic and computer controlled allowing "skip shifting" when the load is light. There's no clutch pedal and the computer controls the clutch and gear changing.

The truck is in production right now and the coach should begin production at NRC after the truck arrives in April.

I'll keep you informed as this project progresses.
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Old 02-15-2003, 06:14 PM   #2
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Paul,

That sounds like a fantastic machine, we would love to see some pics. I would be interested in the estimated cost of your rig because from your post it sounds like the one that I will one day build.

Thanks,

Scott
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Old 02-15-2003, 09:44 PM   #3
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Paul..why a NRC instread of a Kibbi or a Showhauler?....Floor Plan?...What part of the country are you in?.....geof
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Old 02-16-2003, 01:27 PM   #4
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Scott, I'll definitely post some pictures once they become available which should sometime in April/May. I don't have any final cost figures yet, in that I'm still making changes. It should be below $200K.

Geof, a friend of mine (we're from Texas)and I looked carefully at most of the manufacturers. By the way, he's also in the process of buying a Truck Conversion.

We attended the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) in Indy for the last two years and looked at those you mentioned plus United, Haulmark, Roadmaster and others.

My priority list was quality, after sale service, and price. We visited factories and naturally talked to many dealers. Roadmaster is the "Cadillac" conversion but was priced a bit higher than my requirements. I narrowed it down to Show Hauler and NRC, both of which appeared to be high quality low volume builders. Renegade and Haulmark are much bigger companies and appeared to be more mass produced.

I also dealt directly with Ken Downey at Hill Truck sales to configure and order the Freightliner. Ken is extremely knowledgeable and we configured a tandem axle unit with all the options I was looking for. Ken sells a lot of units into the Truck Conversion industry and knows how to get all the neat stuff ordered on a new truck. I'm told that a tandem axle with air rides actually rides better than a single axle because you have twice as many air bags and they can run at a much lower pressure. Like a soft pillow rather than ultra firm? Does this make sense? I'd appreciate any other feed back.

In addition to the engine and transmission options I mentioned, I went with traction control, twin 100 gallon tanks, 295 inch wheelbase, etc. The specs for the truck were about six pages.

My floor Plan will be two sofas, dinette, walk thru bathroom with private toilet, and bedroom with centered queen sized bed on a 30 foot "box". The interior height will be 93 inches. It will have a diesel generator, inverter, Big Foot leverleres, large a/c units and large furnace. I'm also going with 200 gallons of fresh water and large grey and black water tanks.

I can't wait for the Freightliner to arrive in Elkhart, hopefully early April, and then it goes to NRC.
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Old 02-16-2003, 05:15 PM   #5
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Did you look at something like the 505 auto at countrymotorsinc.com. It was built by NRC I believe.
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Old 02-16-2003, 09:53 PM   #6
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Yes, the countrymotorsinc.com folks were at PRI and they were very impressive. The units I saw are made by NRC for Country Motors and were loaded with options. I was more interesed in specing one with only the options I wanted and needed. Also, the 505 Auto was not what I wanted in the Freightliner. The Meritor Freedom transmission (fully automatic with no clutch pedal) with the Mercedes 450 was better for me. I'm told the Mercedes has advantages of better meeting current and future emmissions as well as significantly lower weight. However, that's mainly personal preference in that many people like the Detroit Diesel.

The people at Country Motors were extremely knowlegeable and responsive in the few interations I had with them.
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Old 02-24-2003, 12:37 PM   #7
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Paul -

Congratulations on your new conversion! I just got back from vacation so I am just seeing this.

Be sure to provide us details. The items I am most curious about are; structure: steel or aluminum, frame spacing: 16" OC or ?, skin: 1 solid sheet or ?, interior cabinets: solid wood or rv style, ect... I have seen NRC on the CMTS site and they look great. You would not know that from the NRC website though, they need to do some major updating on it.

The reason I ask the above questions is that a few of the truck conversion mfg'ers are beginning to implement traditional motorhome building techniques into these and that really burns my butt! There is no reason to go in that direction. You start cutting corners and all you will have is a Heavy Duty chassis and a junk MotorHome box.

It will be great to get good feedback on another conversion mfg'er.

Bill

2003 28' Show Hauler Motorhome on a 1995 FL 120 www.showhauler.com
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Old 02-24-2003, 01:31 PM   #8
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Thanks Bill, I should be getting the NRC conversion sometime in May.... I can't wait!!

The NRC website has improved in the last week or so, but is still under construction.

nrcmod.com

To answer your questions...

- The structure is welded steel on what I believe are 16" centers. The dimensions are 101" wide and 93" high.

- The exterior is .063 aluminum glued as well as rivited every four feet. The top is one piece .032 aluminum.

- Interior cabinets are solid oak and made in house by a dedicated cabinet shop.

I agree with your point about many of the other truck conversion companies either using aluminum framing or Fiberglass Reinforced Plywood. The NRC is built similar to truck specifications as it sounds like yours is.

My goal is to have a Motorhome that will easily go a million miles just like the Freightliner.

Ealier, I posted some info on the Moterhome Forum on this website and I'll keep everyone informed as the project progresses.

Regards, paul.zr1
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Old 04-07-2003, 07:03 AM   #9
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I am also working on moving up. Where did you get your Columbia and what was the price with the automatic tranny. The wife is not enamored with an autoshift. (she currently drives a 36' class a 50% of the time on the road)

NRC web site is still lacking - I guess I can call for more info. Visitng Showhauler, NRC etc in MAY-June.

DebDav
98 Discovery
99 Grand Cherokee
"Out the door in 2004"
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Old 04-07-2003, 10:31 PM   #10
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Auto Shifts are easy...only use it when stopping and starting off......Look at the insulation carefully in any custom built unites.....I have noticed some problems that manufactures are NOT disclosing/addressing...[though they might not be aware of them.] Long term-deteriation- of the insulation would lead to increased costs of running you unite and some discomfort in extreem weather conditions...I'm very leary of bubble wrap insulation and would perfer at least poly-iso foam blocks glued in place or ultimatly spray poly-urethane in place insulation.....fiberglass is a joke because if it's ability of holding water vapor and freezing up...I have a HVAC engineer that advises me on insulation issues that works for my local uility company...I also live in a super-insulated home-so insulation issues are of great interest to me....geof
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Old 04-09-2003, 09:31 AM   #11
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I got my Freightliner with the Meritor Freedom autoshifter (no clutch pedal) from Hill Motors in Elkhart, IN. Ken Downey (574-262-3441)sells alot of the truck conversion chassis's to the RV industry and is very knowlegable on unique options to include. You can buy a new fully loaded Columbia Chassis for less than $80k.

In fact as we speak mine is ariving and will be going to NRC for the conversion shortly.

Regarding insulation, that was a big point in me selecting NRC in that they do not use bubble wrap insulation, but use more effective foam panels and bats.

I'll report back to the list as construction progresses.
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Old 04-09-2003, 10:14 AM   #12
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I'm am rebuilding a Airstream Travel Tailer with some help form an employee..as we took it apart to the outside skin we discovered that each fiberglass insulation batt had settled into the cavity and left a gap on each cavity of 2-3 inches....Airstream is a top of the line trailer and I brought up this at a company tour 3 weeks ago-company Rep said that fibergalass batts do settle if not glued to the outside skin-but how long does it take for the glue to go bad?...He didn't know for sure but suspected that it should be good for the life of the trailer. The one I'm rebuilding is a "77....so it did not last the "life of the trailer".....I suspect they do know about the insulation failure but choose not to do anything about it....Again I'd insist on sprayed in place insulation on a custom rig-similiar to reefer trailers used for hauling frozen of chilled foods....might cost $1.75-$2.00 per square foot-checking around here is hard to do as I have to bring the trailer to the vender for an estimate....the "R" value of sprayed in place is around a R-10 per inch-so 2 inches would be most excellent and 3 inches would mean you heat with a candle and cool with a bag of ice...Think about it!.....geof
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Old 04-09-2003, 12:52 PM   #13
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Hey geof, got your emails, still trying to catch up. Doing much better and in a week and half I will be able to sit again.

In regards to insulation, if your going with big R values, don't forget about the windows, if you don't use thermal, than you will loose alot of that savings right there. Also the cab will be a big loser as well, so you will need a insulated curtain to block that area off. And last if you are going with big slide outs, say signora to your saving when you have them extended. The rubber gaskets are good, but don't have great R values.

Bubble insulations use is dependent upon the construction of the coach. If the builder does not use interior sheathing before apply there finish board then a heavier insulation is a must. In Show Haulers case they run 5/16" OSB throughout the entire interior first to build strength in the steel frame and then as a insulating barrier. So the bubble insulation is a second layer used for its insulating properties and a vapor barrier. (not saying it is better or worse just Show Haulers way)

I will say that on my trip to Florida we encountered extreme cold and very hot temps and this rig blows away my previous motorhomes I had as far as how well it held cold or heat.

Paul keep us posted, and I can't wait for some pic's, that truck sounds awesome!

Bill

2003 28' Show Hauler Motorhome on a 1995 FL 120 www.showhauler.com
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Old 04-09-2003, 02:34 PM   #14
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Bill-I'm so glad your back is getting better....mine was OK till today and it rained and got cold here-so off to the massage therpist for a massage and an hour on the heating pad...which works almost as good as the Percoset.....at least I can get something done....IRV2.com has speeded up by 300% on dial up, I now don't have time for a snack and a trip to the john till it's up now. The insulation issue is still my main concern with a custom built rig at this time...I talked to Paul's salesman Ken Downey, in Elkart Ind. about specs on a Freightliner tractor so that is coming along slowly...glad you are up and around-again Irv2 is great now-I'm off to Trailwise for LED lites for the Airstream this afternoon-and back to replacing the interior tonight till 11pm......I now have heat in the Airsteam and it's not killing me to work in the evenings...geof
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Old 04-09-2003, 09:03 PM   #15
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Just curious Geof. Are you going to order a new Freightliner? I'M glad to see that you are finally going to buy something. I know you have been in the planning stage for several years now.

How are you specing your Freightliner? Do you plan to set the 1977 Airstream you are rebuilding yourself on your new Freightliner chassis? How long is your airstream?

Larry

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Old 04-10-2003, 10:39 PM   #16
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Larry:...My options so far are: [1]. A new Showhauler on a used tractor=$90,000 [2.] A new 30' Showhauler in a slightly used [8900mi] car racing family's Sterling/Caterpillar/Autos-shift $132,000 [3] A new Freightliner on a Showhauler for $140,000 [4]. A new Classic 32' car hauler tripple axel for $12,500 with a professional built interior for $15,000 more....which can be towed with my roll-off wrecker at 65'[ug].... 5.A used 610 Volvo RED/BLACK w Black interior with a NEW! N-14 engine with warranty for $31,000.{Uglyest Truck I've seen in my whole life!}......While there is no hurry-Showhauler slot is Oct. 1st for me to deliver a used/new tractor to......I'm rebuilding a 27' Airsteam to learn about motorhome/trailer construction-which at best, a Joke!.....most of the stuff I see is crap-cheap crap...and Airstream is the top of the line!....give you an example if insulated properly you only need 5000btu furnace and the smallest A/C you could buy...maybe 4500btu?.....I have the HVAC down to such small values that's it's hard to figure on paper much less modify on the trailer....The only thing I really need to do is do some camping/trailering to see if I can be confortable....having been a Holiday Inn regular for many years I have to see if I can accumulate to a trailer/motorhome-I haven't been camping in 35 years-maybe longer-I've forgotten....anyway that is where I am now...geof
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Old 04-11-2003, 07:35 PM   #17
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Geof, approx how much is the actual conversion on the used chassis? For how big? Thanks.
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Old 04-11-2003, 09:48 PM   #18
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$60,000 round numbers....It could get real out of hand if a guy wanted a lot of goodies like super suround sound-flat screen tv-satalite systems etc....maybe fake leather or other top of the line "glitz and gaggits".....you got to watch these custom builders or even cookie cutter builders real close they have a tendency to glitz it up to cover over material quality and fit and finish issues....Mass producers have a tendancy to pull the same carp.....like real sharp looking bed spreads to cover cheaper than cheap matrases that go flat aand kill your back.....geof
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Old 05-06-2003, 08:53 AM   #19
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A little update on my NRC Conversion. I went to Middlebury last Friday to finalize some option selections and was surprised to see the greatly expanded NRC facility. In the last few months they added a very large addition to their manufacturing space.

Both my friends and my 2004 Freighliner Columbia were there waiting to be converted. We took one for a little spin and were impressed with the driveability of the Mercedes engine and the ZF Meritor 12 speed transmission. You may recall from my preveous posts that this is a transmission with no clutch pedal and is fully automated. The computer takes care of everything including skip shifting based on load. Very cool technology!

As we arrived we noticed a large conversion pulling out of the facility. Mike later told us it was a 32 footer being delivered to a customer in Arizona.

There was a lot of activity going on with several conversion in process and probably 8 or 10 new chassis waiting outside for their turn.

I looking over the in process conversions with Mike, the quality of workmanship and cleanliness were impressive. I would not even consider a conversion without heavy duty welded steel construction. If the Freightliners good for a million miles I want the conversion to last that long without becoming a rattly, noisy, contraption. I think for safety purposed alone the steel cage construction is a good investment.

As the work begins we'll try to post some pictures and updates.

Thats all for now. The round trip out there from Austin was 2700 miles and we did it in 40 hours including 5 hours at NRC. Whew! I think I'll take a nap!
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Old 05-06-2003, 11:19 PM   #20
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Paul,

I am curious why you ordered a 12 speed auto for RV purposes. I figure you won't be grossing more than, say 35K tops. Could you have gotten a 10 speed auto? I think you will find that you will never need any gear lower than 4th even when starting off up a grade.

Does your new Columbia have a sleeper, or did you order it as a day cab? I think a day cab would be easier and less expensive to mate the conversion with the back of your Columbia.

onezman

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