Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Making of a Motorhome

Red Bay, Alabama is not a travel destination for many people, unless you are interested in Tiffin Motorhomes (or unless you want to see Elvis’s birthplace in nearby Tupelo, Mississippi!).  We made the journey because that is where our moho (a Tiffin Phaeton) was manufactured.  When we discovered that you could tour the plant, we had to go to witness first-hand just how you put a house on wheels. 

The company was started by Bob Tiffin in his hometown of Red Bay and seems to be what keeps this town alive.  Bob Tiffin started making motorhomes in 1972 and called his first model the “Allegro” a name given by his wife, Judy.  Bob wanted a name that started with the letter “A” so it would be listed first in any RV directory.  Judy thought of the musical term “allegro” which means brisk, sprightly, and cheerful.  The family business has survived for 40 years and proudly boasts of their reputation for making quality motorhomes and standing behind their product.  And we can attest to that.  They produce 5 of the top selling motorhomes in the country, including the Phaeton - the number one selling diesel motorhome. 

A very unassuming entrance to the factory.
The plant and factory tour are fascinating and not just for the RV enthusiast.  Building a motorhome starts with the chassis.  This is the spine of a motorhome that allows you to drive your house.  The chassis begins with interwoven pieces of steel that are affixed with the engine, steering column, wheels, and other mechanical guts that we don’t know what they are. 

This is what a moho chassis looks like.  
A tubular steel frame is mounted on top of the chassis and now you are ready to start assembling the house.  Throw in a moisture barrier, insulation, strand board, and flooring of your choice (ours is porcelain tile) and you have the floor that is ready to support the rest of the house.   

Tiffin makes their own chassis
called the "Powerglide" - specifically
designed for there specifications.

Assembling a chassis.
Tires - very important.
Hey Mister don't leave, your motorhome is not finished yet!
Here the floor is being added to the chassis.  
The porcelain tile floor is laid on top and the house part of the motorhome starts to take shape.
Now is when the motorhome’s interior comes to life and this is where constructing a motorhome differs from that of a conventional house.  With a motorhome the walls and roof are added later rather than in the beginning as if you were constructing a house.  The interior is built in modules.  Some are attached to the floor, like the kitchen cabinets and bathroom, and others are attached to the slide-out mechanisms (which are those things that extend outward when you are parked in order to add more space inside).
Interior components are added and secured to the floor.
Bedroom slide out moving into place

The inside of the bedroom slide out.



















The big open holes are for slide outs - the one on the left is for the living/kitchen area
(note the refrigerator covered with blue tape and cardboard).
These men are loading a couch into the living/kitchen slide.  Behind the man in
green is the kitchen area.
One of the most impressive aspects of Tiffin Motorhomes is the quality of construction, especially that found in their solid wood cabinets – a strong selling point for us.  Tiffin prides themselves on their cabinet shop.  Their cabinets start with raw wood.  Now you readers who do not have motorhomes may find that statement a little weird but many RV manufacturers use imitation wood for a variety of reasons including cost and weight, but not Tiffin.  Wood pieces are sorted for quality and any knots or splits get discarded.  Cabinets are constructed by hand right down to the sanding, putty, and nailing.

Cabinet making.
This worker is hand sanding decorative
pieces that go on the ceiling.

Nice handy work.

             
Finished kitchen cabinets.  Tiffin even makes their own countertop.
After cabinet pieces are assembled, they are moved into the general factory where they find their rightful place.  Some are attached to the floor directly (kitchen cabinets shower, etc.) and others are attached to the slide outs (bed, overhead cabinets, couch, etc.). 

Now it is time to start adding some walls to this house.  The outside is made up of multiple pieces…a roof, two walls, the back, and front.  Slide out mechanisms are made separately and fit into cut outs in the walls.  The interior is finished with drawers, decorative lighting, televisions, etc.

The rear of the mothorhome.
The front end with a windshield waiting to be attached to the body. 
The roof being assembled.
The all important holding tanks
assembled in the basement
 In the “basement” or belly of the motorhome are some essential components, such as wiring and holding tanks (freshwater, grey water, and black water).  With those components in place the rest of the basement is storage.  The assembly lines are always moving and the goal each day the week we were there 11 motorhomes each day rolled off the line.  There is a special building for painting the moho and once all of the  beautiful colors with their swirls are dried, the coach is ready for final  inspection.  Teams of employee’s fine detail everything and give the go ahead for delivery.  When you order your coach (like we did), you can follow the entire process by sitting along the assembly lines and watching your moho come together.  It takes about 2 weeks from start to finish.  We spoke to several people who were from around the country who were sitting and following their coach in production.  Tiffin says they have nothing to hide in the construction and welcome people to witness the assembly of their coach or any other one being constructed.  We were even free to walk around the factory after the tour was over.
After one week, the motorhome is ready to go to the
paint shop. 

These people are watching their motorhome
being built...they were having lunch while
 the work crew was on their lunch break.

The wiring harnesses are pre-assembled and then added during construction.
We learned so much and were so engaged in the entire process.  We are so glad that we went to Red Bay and took the time to watch a house appear on wheels ready to roll down the road to new adventures like the adventure we are on every day!  Thank you Tiffin.
Tiffin encourages visitors to walk around the factory and ask questions.  The motorhomes
on the left are going through the "punch list" and are open to for people to tour and ask questions.

8 comments:

  1. Great post and great pictures. Tiffin is really nice to let you roam around and take pictures. They have an impressive factory and product.

    I toured Winnebago's factory a couple of years back, they wouldn't let you take any pictures and only let you go to some overhead observation areas to look.

    ReplyDelete
  2. WE TOOK THE TOUR OF THE NEXUS FACTORY IN ELKHART INDIANA AND WERE VERY IMPRESSED - TO THE POINT THAT WE ORDERED A 31' CLASS C. IT IS AMAZING TO WATCH THE CREATION OF AN RV!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn't appear. Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!


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  4. It's really helpful when Revers and Van-dwellers show photos like you have, it really helps the rest of us get a better vision of what we want.
    That model is starting to look good, just like Alice. Keep working on it and give us updates as you go along.
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  5. A cat has crawled up into our engine compartment and appears to be stuck, we hear it cry and moves from the back of the coach to the front. We fear it is stuck and can't get out. Any suggestions?

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