Elkhart County, Indiana is considered to be the RV capital of the world. Supposedly one of every two RV’s is the world are made right there. More than 20 RV manufacturers in Elkhart offer factory tours, you just have to pick which ones you want to see. I came across this article at mlive.com and thought I would share it with my readers. This is a recap from one RVer’s visit to 3 different manufacturers. It should give you an idea of what the tours will be like.
First stop: Renegade RV, 52216 State Road 15 in Bristol, a 14-year-old company founded by Chuck McKibbin for the auto racing industry. Here, we were ushered onto the factory floor where employees were working on several custom units. The smallest unit they build is about 32 feet. Most of their vehicles are made for people who have owned several RVs and now want to design one to their own specifications.
We climbed up into these huge RVs to see the work in progress. We saw granite countertops, flat-screen TVs ready for installation — even one on the outside of the vehicle — granite floors, space-efficient layouts and unique storage solutions. Impressive!
Second stop: Jayco, 903 South Main St. in Middlebury. You can’t miss Jayco because you’ll see hundreds of white travel-trailers in the factory lot.
But watch carefully for the Visitors Center sign. Inside the center, a renovated 1880s farmhouse, we were invited to look around the center or to go outside and look at the vehicles on display while we waited for our noon tour. We did both.
A video told us about founders Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager, who started the company in a chicken coop in 1968. They quickly outgrew that and are now the largest privately owned RV manufacturer. Then we traveled in a trolley back to the building where they make about 11 fifth-wheels per day.
We went to the cavernous and fascinating sewing room. We watched a machine quilting two yards of material every 45 seconds. The material is used for bedspreads and pillow shams.
One of the installers placed a foam cushion on a vacuum machine, covered it with plastic, turned the machine on and, instantly, it shrank. She popped it inside the covering and, in a nano-second, it re-inflated and filled the covering.
Our final stop was Sunnybrook RV, 201 14th St., Middlebury. We joined a group of insurance agents on the tour, explaining the manufacturing process from the naked chassis stage to the finished product, whether a fifth-wheel or a travel-trailer.
With the insurance agents asking questions, we heard all the things RV manufacturers do to avoid problems for the consumers. We learned about glues, insulation, windows, awnings, and the craftsmanship.
Most impressive for me was the outdoor kitchen on one of the vehicles. You pop up the cover to find a tiny sink, refrigerator, and stove.
This day of “RVs Unwrapped” is a great way to learn about RVs before purchasing one or just to be impressed with manufacturing innovations. It also answered my ever-present question: “How do they do that?”
It goes without saying that this part of the country is very RV friendly! And it is only a short 7 1/2 hour drive from central PA. If you do not want to drive that far to see your favorite brand, just stop at PA’s largest travel trailer dealership, Lerch RV.
Safe Travels and Happy RVing!
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