One of the most overlooked aspects of a high-quality motor coach is the chassis. As the foundation of your motorhome, a well-made, expertly-designed chassis plays an important role in how much – or how little – you enjoy traveling from coast-to-coast in your Class A RV.
Given our commitment to industry-leading quality and superior engineering, it should come as no surprise that we at Newmar choose to work with the world’s best to equip each of our diesel and luxury coaches with a custom-built chassis. After all, a custom chassis offers several benefits compared to a one-size-fits-all application.
How does Freightliner Custom Chassis work to build chassis that deliver a safer on-road experience?
I’ll begin with something as simple as brakes. While drum brakes are the industry standard, we know from our testing that disc brakes do a better job of stopping a heavy Class A motor coach. Once we were able to prove that disc brakes elevated safety, it made sense for us to make them standard equipment. As a result, we made disc brakes standard on all of our products starting in 2007.
In 2013, we debuted our new V-Ride rear suspension system. V-Ride increases weight capacity to as much as 24,000 pounds, and offers enhanced roll stability for when you’re driving around a campground and your coach is rocking back and forth.
Soon, tire pressure monitoring systems will be a standard feature on each of our chassis. And not as an aftermarket add-on, but as something that we developed internally. This is a big deal because the inside rear tire on a Class A RV is rarely checked because it’s so difficult to reach, especially when you’re using a shorter tire pressure gauge intended for a car. Bringing that kind of safety technology to our OEMs is always a goal.
Finally, all chassis manufacturers are required to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. For us, the key to going above and beyond those standards is having a large, highly-qualified engineering department with cutting-edge technology and resource capabilities. As a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, FCCC has the tools to build a stronger, safer chassis. Our relationship with Daimler allows us to actually pull features – including safety features – and apply those innovations to the creation of our custom chassis. Having brands like Western Star, Freightliner Trucks, Fuso and Mercedes-Benz all under the Daimler umbrella is huge for us, especially from a safety perspective.
As a group, Freightliner has long focused on enhanced durability testing. How does this emphasis on longevity apply to FCCC?
Durability testing is absolutely critical to the long-term success of every single FCCC product. Anytime we release a new design, our engineers perform durability testing. Not only do we test here at FCCC, we also have one at Bosch. This allows us to test our chassis more than 125,000 miles before one is ever applied to a vehicle. Our durability testing goes well beyond basic on-road maneuvers. We really give these chassis a heavy-duty shakedown, which is a practice that is inherently Freightliner.
Some may wonder why we’re testing a bracket that’s holding an air cleaner in place, and it’s because we don’t want to find out years down the road that there are air cleaners falling off of motorhomes. Having the capability and depth of resources to perform a higher level of durability testing is extremely beneficial for us as a group.
Building coaches that are easier and more comfortable to drive has always been a goal for Newmar. How does FCCC work to support this mission?
At FCCC, we pride ourselves on delivering motorhome chassis that are the most maneuverable, best riding in the industry. The “Custom” in our name is very important – it means working closely with the highest-quality OEMs in the industry like Newmar to ensure we’re developing and delivering to them the best chassis so they can build the best coaches. The key has been major investments. There are a lot of great products out there, but FCCC has that corporate umbrella that provides us with access to the very latest engineering breakthroughs.
Take shocks, for example. We brought in – exclusive to FCCC – SACHS shocks, which gave us the ability to tune our shocks to a particular coach. So when we take part in helping build new model or have a new configuration, we have the capability of tuning those shocks to that exact coach. If you go into our parts system and look at shocks, we have dozens of different part numbers representing our shocks because we’ve tuned so many different configurations. You can’t take a shock that we use on a Ventana and use it on a Mountain Aire because they are calibrated much differently.
When you talk about maneuverability, FCCC is the only company in the industry that’s established a maximum 60-degree wheel cut on an independent front suspension. There are other independent front suspensions out there and they do a great job, but off the shelf, they are almost never custom-tailored. At FCCC, we’re not going to grab a truck suspension, make a few tweaks and throw it on a motorhome. We work with our partners to build suspensions that achieve maximum maneuverability.