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The travel trailer market in the United States has been growing almost every year since the economy started rebounding back in 2010, with more than a million sold since 2016. Lance Camper makes up a small portion of that market, building as many as 12 ultralight trailers every day at its facility where it employs about 600 people. Though the market for truck campers is much smaller, Lance is a bigger player there, churning out as many as six each day before buyers drop them into the beds of half-ton or heavy-duty pickups for weekend getaways to places where a normal RV might not be able to venture.
Lance invited us to its facility, grouped in a few buildings in the same light industrial area in Lancaster, California, to see how the company builds trailers and campers. Here’s how it turns fiberglass, wood, aluminum, and steel into vacation homes on wheels.
Each Lance camper or trailers begins with a computer model that helps engineers automate several stages of construction. The models include wiring, HVAC, and interior furniture and appliances—even the placement of pocket screws that will hold furniture to the walls.
While wood is used on the floor and interior, Lance uses synthetic materials on the exterior of its campers and trailers to minimize the potential for water damage and rot. Here, workers are gluing down thin sheets of Azdel, a synthetic sound-deadening and insulating panel, on top of a fiberglass outer layer.
The material that will comprise the ceiling and walls goes through rollers that squeeze them together before a layer of foam insulation is glued down and the entire thing is rolled again. The open floor plan of the building is maintained at a specific temperature and humidity level to ensure proper curing conditions for the glue.
Here’s what the three layers look like once lamination is complete.
Wiring harnesses are assembled on panels, each one labeled to correspond with the specific floorplan of the finished product.
Internal framing and wiring run through the ceiling and wall panels and, to allow these systems to be sandwiched between the outer and inner layers without diminishing the insulation too much, CNC routers cut passages in the foam. The leftover foam is returned to the manufacturer (a third party) to be recycled into the next batch.
The frames of Lance campers and trailers are made of rectangular aluminum tubing. The tubes are bonded to the Azdel and MIG-welded to each other. Some of the tubing ends are filled with wood, where they will be bolted together.
With the frame and wiring in place, an overhead laser projector shows workers where plywood or aluminum sheets will be installed before the interior walls are laminated. The position of the reinforcing sheets is determined by the placement of the internal cabinetry and furniture. The backing plate you see here is for a speaker in the ceiling.
An interior wall of marine-grade Lauan plywood with a vinyl wallpaper is bonded on before it heads to another CNC router that cuts all the layers to create openings for the door, windows, slide-out, and access panels. These trailer side walls will soon move next door, where the rest of assembly occurs.
At the final assembly building just down the street, trailer frames start with open-channel frame rails and crossmembers that are riveted together before torsion axles are bolted on.
Depending on the size of the travel trailer, tanks for fresh, gray, and black water may be insulated individually or, as is the case for this trailer, insulated along with the whole undercarriage. Either way, heater ducts are routed to the tanks to ensure they never freeze.
The “basement” of a camper has much less room to work with than a trailer and requires custom-molded water tanks; otherwise, the plumbing is similar.
Trailer floors are made from an insulated laminate like the roof and walls, but it’s topped with a seamless flooring that’s similar to linoleum.
As the frames and floors are coming together, workers in the upholstery area hand-cut and sew the trim.
Like the ceiling insulation and walls, cabinets and furniture also get cut using a CNC router. Careful planning makes the most out of each tough, lightweight poplar or maple plywood panel and minimizes waste.
Workers assemble furniture into sub-assemblies and install hardware before it is placed in the camper or trailer.
One place where cutouts can be reused is the subfloor for the shower/bathroom. Exterior wall sections initially cut out for doors, windows, or slide-outs come together to make a stand for the bathroom insert.
Furniture, cabinets, and appliance wiring is installed on the trailer deck before the walls go on.
The construction process is similar for campers. Most of the interior is installed, including HVAC systems and generators, before the side walls are bolted in place.
The nose cap on campers is formed as one piece to help prevent water leaks. It’s one of the last pieces to be added.
While trailer roofs have a slight crown to promote water drainage, camper roofs are flat in profile and slope from front to back. Here, this camper roof gets coated in adhesive before the TPO roofing membrane is placed on it.
The roof panel is lifted in place by an overhead crane. The roofing membrane wraps over the sidewalls and is heat-formed to maintain its shape. There are no seams to leak.
Slide-outs are the last major step of assembly, as campers and trailers get the slide-out hardware installed and the slide-out, assembled in one of the perpendicular assembly lines, finally meets its camper or trailer.
Once inside a camper, especially one with a slide-out, it’s easy to forget that its footprint fits in the bed of a pickup.
You probably shouldn’t go to RADwood expecting a lot of highly modified anything, but if you want an period correctnes, with a few really clean examples and a bunch of weird little limited editions mixed in, then it should be right up your alley.
Silverstone Auctions’ Race Retro Classic & Competition Car Sale 2020 starts on the 21st of February in Kenilworth, UK, and there will be several sensational rally cars in attendance. Out of a pristine Ford RS200, Solberg’s 2007 Subaru Impreza WRC, a well-sorted Lotus Cortina driven by Colin McRae, and an ex-Schnitzer BMW E30 M3, I suppose it’s my role to tell you which one is the best buy. Yet deep down, with such unbelievably cool options to choose from, we all know there’s no correct answer. Nonetheless, I’ve done what I can.
1986 BMW M3 (FIA-Spec)
At number four is this fantastic FIA-spec 1986 BMW E30 M3 rally car. Personally, I wouldn’t rally an E30 M3, because cheaper, properly equipped versions of the E30 are perfectly adequate alternatives for such a tough job. To me, the E30 M3 is more of a DTM car, a track legend I just wouldn’t ever want to see in a ditch. However, the duo of Bernard Béguin and Jean-Jacques did win the French turn of the 1987 WRC season driving an M3, so it’s no wonder that this ‘86 M3 headed to auction also found its second life in European historic rallying. However, back in the day, it started out as a factory motorsport chassis ran by Team Schnitzer, which means it still has a full Matter cage and its unique identity number ‘M3-120607’. Turn the key, and you’ve got 290 horsepower from the 2.3-liter four-cylinder at 8800 rpm that’s ready to be unleashed at any stage.
1986 Ford RS200
The rally car among these four you’re least likely to race? That would be this highly original, ultra-low mileage 1986 Ford RS200. Ford Europe’s Group B machine was styled by Ghia and built at Reliant. However, the British team was years too late to the party, and once WRC moved on after 1986, Ford’s race car had to be recycled into a rallycross machine instead. Again, Ford Motorsport was supposed to build 200 road-legal versions, but it seems that while six were classified as “prototypes,” only 194 left the factory, 46 of which got dismantled for parts and just 90 of which got sold to the public.
This particular example is chassis #184 of 196, sold from the factory to dealer principal Ronald Hodgson, who kept it in his showroom unused and unregistered until 1993. Since getting plates, this Diamond White rocket covered just 1195 miles. Would you care to push it beyond 2000 with a casual grocery run?
1966 Lotus Cortina
Staying on British soil, if you’re looking for a vintage rally car that could also do a touring car race at Goodwood, look no further than this 1966 Lotus Cortina. Last raced in 2004, this very special two-door Ford was built by David Sutton Motorsport in 1990 to FIA Appendix K regulations, out of a left-hand drive car sourced from California. Once completed, Roger Clark and Tony Mason used this in the 1991 Autoglass RAC Rally, and again in 1992 in the Charringtons RAC Rally. That year, upcoming World Champion Colin McRae also got to try the Lotus Twin Cam for two magazine features. Well maintained, V5c and rally-ready, and as cool as ever, this Cortina is a catch.
2007 Subaru Impreza WRC S12B
Historically significant and at least as thrilling as the others is Petter Solberg’s ex-works 2007 Subaru Impreza WRC. It’s sadly the last race car driven by Colin McRae in public, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Used for six rounds of the 2007 WRC season and taking 2nd in Rally Portugal and 3rd in Greece with Solberg, this S12B continued racing well into 2010 with current WRC driver Mads Ostberg behind its wheel. Now, with an engine rebuilt by ex-Prodrive employee Graham Sweet, and a fresh gearbox and turbo job done by the specialists at WRC Spares, this highly-advanced Subaru’s Impreza known as S12B #014 is ready for whatever its next owner is willing to throw at it. Mud, sand, snow, ice, rough tarmac, or a relaxing weekend drive through the twisties. Your call.
Also, if anyone attending the auction as a bidder cares to know, Silverstone’s sale on February 21st coincides with my birthday. In case you’re feeling generous.
If owning a famous, sought-after Ferrari F50 is on your list of New Year’s resolutions, we’ve got good news: This fine example is headed to auction in Scottsdale in a few weeks, courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers.
Between the screaming 60-valve, 4.7-liter V-12 engine, the stupid-light carbon-fiber chassis, and the trickle-down Formula 1 technology smattered throughout, it’s not hard to see the appeal of the Ferrari F50. The F50 was the mid-’90s heir to the Ferrari throne, the successor to the vaunted F40, itself descended from the 288 GTO. These cars (and the Enzo and LaFerrari that followed them) represent the uppermost echelon of Ferrari’s technical and performance offerings, and their pedigrees manifest the strongest ties to Ferrari’s rich racing heritage.
This F50, chassis #99999, distinguishes itself from the 349 other road-going F50s in that it was a development prototype, media test car, and star of the promotional circuit. If you’ve drooled over any Ferrari promotional material or magazine article with an F50, there’s a high likelihood that the F50 you admired was this exact car. According to the Worldwide listing, #99999’s likeness was used not only for the stock press pictures in Ferrari sales literature, but also in dozens of books, nearly 100 magazines, and even postage stamps. Likewise, this F50 was also the basis for scale models from the world’s best, like Tamiya, Burago, Revell, and others.
As a development prototype, this F50 was thrashed around Fiorano by Ferrari Formula 1 legends Niki Lauda and Gerhard Berger. When it wasn’t on track, Ferrari dismantled and futzed with #99999 as various teams finalized the design and assembly features.
A note on that serial number: This F50 is the last of the five-digit Ferrari serial numbers. Being the first or the last of something can affect the value—think of how many “last-of” or “first-of” car models grab people’s attention.
After a few hard years on the promotional circuit, including both the Geneva and Tokyo shows, #99999 was rebuilt by techs at the Maranello factory prior to its presentation to its first registered owner. In the spring of 2007 it was imported to the United States, where it has since made its home with four different owners. The sale includes the certificate of authenticity from Ferrari Classiche, as well as a completely documented provenance by marque expert Marcel Massini.
So what will it go for when the hammer drops?
That depends on who you ask. In 2016, this very car sold at Gooding & Co.’s Scottsdale sale for $2.4 million. At the time, that result was roughly 28 percent over our #1, Concours-condition value for a Ferrari F50. (Currently, our #1 value for an F50 hovers around an even $2.5M.)
Despite this car’s prestigious history and provenance, #99999 isn’t immune to the changes of the larger Ferrari market. “The Ferrari market has been shaky since early last year,” says Hagerty valuation expert Greg Ingold. “Over the past eight months, most Ferrari models in that price range that we track have lost value.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, Ingold concedes. “The F50 has fared much better than the earlier cars, such as the 250 Tour de France or the Daytona. F50s are very special and exclusive, which helps maintain their values. An F50 is pretty much the car to have if you’re going to have a supercar collection. Demand is still up there.”
Rod Egan, Worldwide’s chief auctioneer, emphasizes the pedigree of this particular F50—“Other than an F50 LM, as far as street cars go, this is by far the most significant road-going F50”—but also marks its appeal to those outside of Ferrari cognoscenti. Egan thinks #99999 may also attract folks with prototype collections who may find this car particularly alluring. Crossover between buyer groups means more interest—and hopefully a higher final sale price.
The car’s development prototype status does add a premium—but the exact numbers are up for grabs. Egan suspects that because this is a prototype, it will bring 30–50-percent more than its rough $2.5–$3M estimate; his estimate puts the final price well north of $3M.
Our valuation team offers an alternative perspective. Here’s Ingold again: “When it last sold, this particular car sold for about 28 percent above its #1 value at the time. That’s where, I think, [Worldwide] is getting its estimate. A 50-percent premium in this market feels optimistic; it’ll likely bring a premium over a standard F50, but a 30-percent premium is more likely.”
We won’t have to wait long to see the final gavel blow—the car will cross the block next Wednesday at the Scottsdale 2020 auction. We’re looking forward to following along. To find more Scottsdale-related coverage, click here.
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On the surface it doesn’t make sense… a Fox-body Mustang drift car with a 2JZ powerplant?!
That’s right boys and girls, I bought a Porsche. Surprise surprise, right? Seriously though, this couldn’t have been a more predictable outcome after selling my R32 Skyline GT-R. I mean, I’ve only been advocating for the classic Porsche since the day I started contributing here, so you can’t really blame me for going this route. …
Shukai may not have the glamour and buzz of a Wekfest or Tuner Evolution show, but it is still one of the industry’s most valuable events.
For April Taylor, the day a stranger backed into her Nissan in a parking lot marked the start of a project that would result in one of the cleanest, straightest S14s on the East Coast.
The Indonesian Modified Expo isn’t your run-of-the-mill car show. The organizers pride themselves on inviting only the best-of-the-best builds to compete, limiting the show field to 50 cars