Behind Hallmark’s new K2 is a story about a third who just built his first. Who’s first and third? The one, the only, Matt Ward. Did we mention that he saws toilets?
Matt Ward is third generation in the Ward family at Hallmark and the K2 is his first camper design. On the surface, the K2 is a Hallmark Guanella LX with a cassette toilet and a laundry list of state-of-the-art, off-the-grid features. But there’s so much more to this story, and the new K2.
TCM: You’re third generation in the Ward family at Hallmark. From what I understand, this is your first camper design at Hallmark. Why now?
Matt: I wanted to build a camper that better suited my personal and family needs. As a half-ton truck owner, I don’t need a full bathroom with holding tanks. But my daughter, Georgie, and son, Harper, don’t want to squat in a hole and they’re scared of outhouses. They think they might fall in the big hole. So having a cassette toilet is a big deal to my wife, Molly, and our two children. The outside storage is also important for toys and gear storage.
TCM: Were there any significant challenges when designing or building the K2?
Matt: Oh yeah. When I told dad and Randy that I wanted to put a cassette toilet into our eight-foot Guanella, they said I was an idiot. But I said it would work and I had the dimensions measured. The Thetford CW-200 is a smaller toilet that Rex Willett at Northstar has been using for awhile now. It’s really nice. But what really sold me was when I saw the Earthroamer XV-JP. If they can use the CW-200 in a tiny jeep, it’s a shoe-in for a Hallmark.
TCM: So when did your dad and Randy finally get on board with the K2?
Matt: They weren’t on board at first. I actually called up Thetford, unbeknownst to Dad or Randy, and placed an order for a CW-200 toilet. They were not happy with me on the day it arrived. Then I took the toilet back to a Guanella and it fit without modifications. Ah ha. Then I took a saw and cut the toilet and made it fit even better.
TCM: You took a saw to the toilet?
Matt: Yeah. I modified it. I cut the top off and made sure there was enough room for someone’s butt. When Dad and Randy saw how well the toilet fit, they jumped on board.
TCM: We can only imagine the, “Will it fit my butt too?” quality control tests. Tell us about the LED light on the toilet. That’s not how the toilet comes from Thetford.
Matt: No. I cut a hole in the toilet and plopped in the LED. I wanted a little light on the toilet to help my son, Harper, find his way at night. He’s scared of the dark, but with the light he can find the toilet. The light also doubles as a low-draw night light for the camper.
TCM: How does the K2 fit into the Hallmark product line?
Matt: A lot of people want a Guanella with a cassette toilet. For those people, the K2 will be huge. The other thing people will like about the K2 is all the additional storage that comes from using a removable refrigerator. The K2 has really become it’s own model. It’s more than a Guanella with a cassette toilet.
TCM: What can you tell us about the Waeco refrigerator?
Matt: It’s a 12-volt or 110-volt refrigerator with a Dannfoss compressor. Danfoss has emerged as a leader in compressor technology and the Waeco only needs 7.5 amps, max. The refrigerator location is the same but the removable Waeco means you can have more counter space. Dad installed chrome hooks that spin and release the fridge easily. They also totally lock for off-roading. That was all dad’s design. When we took out the standard refrigerator, two huge storage areas became available and we saved about forty-eight pounds over the standard refrigerator. It’s also nice to be able to take the refrigerator outside for when you’re eating outside or when you want more counter space in the camper.
TCM: What is the fresh water tank capacity of the K2?
Matt: Last year we started offering a forty-gallon L-tank, but most people don’t choose it. My family needs it because Molly still uses water in the camper like she does in the house. I’ve gotten her to be a little more conservative with her water use, but she’s still not that conservative. The L-tank uses a little more storage under the step which most people don’t use anyway. And it’s ten gallons more water.
TCM: Oh boy. You may be sleeping on the sofa after this article runs. And the battery capacity?
Matt: The K2 comes with two AGM 6-volt batteries, each which are good for 200 amp hours in series, so 400 amp hours on AGMs. That’s plenty for most people. You can put two more batteries behind the little door to the left of the entry door.
TCM: What would a totally optioned out K2 have?
Matt: The two external boxes on the rear of the camper can hold a Honda eu2000 generator, or two extra twenty-pound gas bottles, or two additional AGM batteries each. If you don’t have the Honda generator, you could actually have five twenty-pound gas bottles including the single on-board twenty-pound bottle. Or you could have four additional AGM batteries, if you wanted.
The new Happijac wireless radio remote has an extra control to put out a slide-out. We thought that could work with our power top. It’s an option, but now you can put the K2 top up via wireless remote control. When the K2 was inside, I actually left the building, shut the door, and the remote still worked until I was about fifty yards away.
The LED lighting is still an expensive option. I even used LED lighting on the porch and utility lights. The utility lights are connected on a three-position switch. In the up position, the rear utility lights turn on when the reverse lights are engaged on the truck. In the middle position, they’re off. And in the down position they turn on from the camper. We call these switches nuke switches because they look like a flip-up switch for a nuke.
TCM: With five twenty-pound bottles of gas on board and a nuke switch you could have called this camper the Bomb.
TCM: Any more options?
Matt: There’s another nuke switch to turn on an available 12-volt fresh water tank heater. It works like an electric blanket to keep the tanks from freezing. It draws about four amps but it’s worth it if you’re plugged-in to shore power. The rear boxes are also expensive options but I’m working to get those prices down.
Another thing I did was raise the rear Happijac electric jacks to reduce the overhang and improve the departure angle. The jacks are also easily unbolted and removed for quick disconnect.
My K2 also has solar panels and a Blue Sky solar charger with MPPG technology. That’s the most efficient charging system for solar panels and helps to keep your batteries topped off.
TCM: Is the first K2 your camper?
Matt: It’s essentially my camper. Dad and Randy could make me sell it, but the camper is also a template. There are a lot of things we will do better on the next K2 down the line. This K2 is a great show piece to show what Hallmark can do. I don’t think that everyone will be on my wavelength about what options they want. Everyone will want what they want.
TCM: Did you have to get new molds developed for the K2?
Matt: With the economy being where it is, we were not able to make new molds. We used the molds for the Guanella LX. We ended up trimming here and there, but it all worked out very well.
TCM: Are you using your carbon fiber roof on the K2?
Matt: Yes. We use nothing but that roof now. We made it standard. After we began installing the carbon fiber roof our warranty and leak issues are gone and strength is through the roof. My brother-in-law took my Hallmark Guanella with a carbon fiber roof through a TSA gate at thirty miles per hour. He forgot the camper was on the truck. After some gel coat and sanding, the roof looks and works like new. The carbon fiber roof has exceeded our expectations.
TCM: I guess we’ve learned a lesson. Don’t loan your camper to your brother-in-law.
Matt: It was worth it just to give him a lot of $#!%. Especially since he’s a pilot for million dollar jets. He’s the personal pilot for Hensel Phelps Construction and flies Hawkers.
TCM: Hawkers yes. Hallmark campers, not so much. Is the K2 a new floorplan?
Matt: It’s based off a Guanella LX so the dinette and sink are the same size.
TCM: Tell us about the materials on the inside of the camper including cushion fabrics, floors, and counter / table tops.
Matt: The floor is a material called Plynyl. It’s very high-end and totally waterproof. Best of all, it’s snap-in and snap-out so it can be cleaned. And it’s available in different colors. Our counters are molded composite and the fabric options are the new fabrics we’re offering across the Hallmark line. Carpet is standard in the K2, the Plynyl is optional.
TCM: What does the K2 weigh?
Matt: With the options loaded into my K2, it’s 1,420 pounds dry. In the end, the K2 gained about 100 pounds over the standard Guanella LX.
TCM: What does the K2 cost, base price and with options?
Matt: The standard K2 is $18,000. My K2 with all the options comes in at $24,000. We’ll have information about what’s standard and what’s optional on our website soon.
TCM: How was the K2 received at the Colorado Sportsmen’s Expo last weekend?
Matt: Just like how dad and Randy were skeptical at first, we were skeptical about how it would be received. The camper really came together. Even Randy likes it now. People were commenting that the K2 was a totally different camper with a different feel. Mike Hastman came to work the show with us for a couple nights and said how fresh the camper was and how fun it was to be around it. It’s nice that my first try at camper design didn’t blow up.
TCM: Is there anything else about the K2 that you want our readers to know?
Matt: More than anything, I am really happy about how everyone came on board to support me with the K2. The crew really came together and the K2 really turned out well. I’m really happy that everyone came together and supported me.
For more information about Hallmark and the new K2, visit their website at www.hallmarkrv.com