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Torklift International on the Ultra Deck Plus Bumper

Torklift International’s all-new Ultra Deck Plus bumper system for Lance Campers has been kept classified, confidential, restricted, secured, top secret, hush-hush, pinkie-sworn, and out of sight, until now.

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In a truck camper galaxy far, far way… Bumper Wars!  Here it is folks, the latest entry into what Truck Camper Magazine has so cleverly coined the Truck Camper Bumper Wars; Torklift International’s all-new Ultra Deck Plus for Lance Campers.

Once again Torklift International has worked with a major truck camper manufacturer to push the boundaries of truck camper bumper possibility.  Who knew truck camper bumpers could be this cool?

Oh, and there’s also a brand new double-slide Lance Camper attached to that shiny new bumper system.  The all-new 2014 Lance 1052 has a wealth of design features that are sure to make it a best seller for Lance Campers.  Check out the 2014 Lance 1052 announcement.

For more information about the Torklift International Ultra Deck Plus bumper system for Lance Campers, we talked to Jay Taylor, General Manager, and Jack Kay, Principle at Torklift International.

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Above: Torklift International’s video announcing the Ultra Deck Plus

TCM: How did the Ultra Deck Plus bumper system come to be?

Jay: The project started two years ago at a Lance Owners of America (LOA) Rally.  Several of the LOA members approached us asking when we were going to develop an aluminum storage bumper for Lance truck campers.  The very next day we met with Randy Hunter, Engineering Product Development Manager for Lance Campers.  From that meeting, we came up with some beginning concepts.

The following February we presented some conceptual renderings of the bumper to Lance Campers.  They liked the direction we were headed so we started development of an initial prototype.  That June, the Torklift team including, Casey Cotter, Randy Fisher, and myself flew from our headquarters in Sumner, Washington to Lance Campers in Lancaster, California to present the first prototype bumper.

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Above: The new Torklift International bumper for Lance Campers; the Ultra Deck Plus

We were there when the bumper arrived and met with the leadership team at Lance Campers; Jeff Souleles, Vice President, Gary Conley, National Sales Manager, Randy Hunter, Product Development and Engineering Manager, and Paul Harris, General Manager of Customer Service.  They were immediately impressed with the ease of installation.  Jack Cole, President of Lance Campers, reviewed the bumper as well.

Once the bumper was installed, the Lance team looked at it from every angle and gave us a lot of really good ideas to improve the product.  Everyone had input and suggestions on how we could make the quality and aesthetics even better.

With that feedback, we flew down in August to present the second prototype and have another round of meetings.  At that point the consensus was that we had a real winner and the Lance team wanted us to move forward.  We had hoped to debut the bumper at the annual Louisville trade show in December, but we decided it was more important to have it ready for a launch during the first quarter of 2014.

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Above: The Ultra Deck Plus features 7.5 cubic feet of storage

TCM: And here we are.  Tell us about the specific features of the Ultra Deck Plus.

Jay: First of all, the Ultra Deck Plus features 7.5 cubic feet of exterior storage.  Exterior storage is always at a premium on truck campers and the Ultra Deck Plus bumper not only gives you lots of additional storage, but also makes that storage easy to access, and fully lockable.

The latches that hold open the storage lids are a special design by Jack Kay.  The latches work with a mechanical auto latch.  When you open the lid, it sits into a 1/8” groove.  When you want to close the lid, you simply lift the lid and lower it into position.  This design will not wear out or fail over time.  That’s the reliability we want at Torklift International.

The large storage compartments are also designed for easy cleaning.  Simply rinse them out with a hose and you’re good to go.  The LED taillights are fully sealed.

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Above: The deck slid out; the three compartments feature heavy duty industrial sealed roller bearings and automatically lock into place with spring-loaded safety latches

Jack: The Ultra Deck Plus is the only truck camper bumper that features a slide-out deck with drawer assembly.  The deck slides out on heavy duty industrial sealed roller bearings and automatically locks into place with a spring-loaded safety latch.  To release the deck, the user simply releases the latch and gently slides the deck out.  It rolls out with one finger, loaded or unloaded.

We wanted the entire deck and drawer assembly to be stealth.  When recessed, we didn’t want it to detract from the aesthetics of the camper.  Honestly, most folks would never know it was there.

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Above: The flip down step can be folded up on the deck during travel

Jay: As you can see in the pictures, the Ultra Deck Plus comes standard with a flip-down step modeled after the GlowStep.  Gary Conley also suggested the idea of adding an off-center two-inch by two-inch receiver for accessories like bike racks and barbecues.  By making the receiver off-center the camper owner can get into their camper without removing their bikes or other accessories.  Gary’s suggestion was a great addition.

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Above: Torklift GlowSteps, GlowGuide, and the Lock and Load are just a few accessories that can be added to the Ultra Deck Plus bumper system

TCM: Is the Ultra Deck Plus 100% aluminum?

Jay: The Ultra Deck Plus main structure is 100% aircraft grade aluminum.  We’re very fortunate to be based in the Northwest and have access to the same quality of aluminum used by Boeing.  The locks are stainless steel and the tread material is a composite.

Minimizing weight and maximizing storage capacity were top objectives for the Ultra Deck Plus.  Lance was also very clear that they didn’t want a square box.  The bumper needed to be attractive and appealing to the consumer.

Functionally, the bumper had to incorporate easy-to-access sewer hose storage and a receiver hitch for attachments and accessories.  Many of these features were added at the request of Lance for the second prototype.

Jack: Lance originally wanted a bumper that incorporated a deck.  After that, they essentially said, “Let’s see what you guys can come up with for us.”  From a design perspective, we felt it was a clean slate.

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Above: The Ultra Deck Plus bumper is built in Sumner, Washington at Torklift International

TCM: It had to be fun coming up with different ideas and designs.

Jack: Absolutely.  We had a great time with the project.  During our initial meetings we talked about the end user and what they wanted.  We also thought a great deal about the legacy and leadership position of Lance Campers.  Many truck camper manufacturers have come and gone over the decades.  Lance has not only remained the leader, but they’ve stayed on the leading edge.  If Torklift International was going to design a bumper for Lance Campers, it had to be something special.

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Above: Torklift International’s Jack Kay (left) working on the Ultra Deck Plus at Torklift International’s factory in Sumner, Washington

Jay: Before the first prototype went to powder coat, it was already impressive.  When it was completed, we were extremely excited to present it to Lance.

When we started working with the Lance management and design team, it was immediately clear that their approach to design fit perfectly with our approach to design.  Everybody’s ideas fit together like a glove.  That was important to us because we wanted this product to be something we could all be proud of.

TCM: How did you achieve the curves on the storage compartments?

Jay: The curves were from Jack Kay’s concept and design.  We use laser cutters to get those curves.  The curves and contours add beauty to the rear of a camper.

Jack: We have some proprietary tooling methods.  Everything is manufactured and assembled here at Torklift International in Sumner, Washington.

TCM:
From the pictures, it’s difficult to see where the sewer hose is stored on the Ultra Deck Plus.

Jay: You actually can see the sewer hose storage clearly in the video.  It’s nested under the bumper.  We recessed it so that it’s visually hidden, but it’s very easy to access.

TCM: How did you make sure the Ultra Deck Plus bumper system was compatible with the Lance production line?

Jay: We had taken detailed measurements of Lance Campers at a local dealership in Washington state.  We structured the bolt and strut patterns to make the bumper quick and easy to install at the factory, or by a Lance dealership.  Lance Campers also gave us current and legacy drawings of Lance Campers to work from.  We wanted the Ultra Deck Plus to be compatible with older Lance Campers and incorporated that compatibility into the design.

TCM: What years, makes, and models of Lance Campers are Ultra Deck Plus bumpers compatible with?

Jay: We’re going to leave that to Lance to formally announce.  Right now Lance Campers is training their dealers on the product and getting everyone up to speed on the Ultra Deck Plus.  The bumper will be debuted with the 1052, but will be available as an option for most 2014 Lance Camper models.

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Above: The slide-out deck is 43 inches wide, 30 1/4 inches deep, and 5 3/16 inches tall and the compartments on either side are actually deeper at 22 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 7.5 inches tall

TCM: What is the weight and the dimensions of the Ultra Deck Plus bumper system?

Jay: It’s about 185 pounds.

Jack: The slide-out deck is 43 inches wide, 30 1/4 inches deep, and 5 3/16 inches tall.  When the deck is slid-in for travel, the bumper presents a 15 inch deep platform step area.

The compartments on either side are actually deeper at 22 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 7.5 inches tall.  They don’t look that big in the photographs, but they are.

TCM: Does the Ultra Deck Plus bumper system require maintenance?

Jack: The bearings used for the deck are sealed, so there is no maintenance necessary for the Ultra Deck Plus outside of the routine maintenance necessary for powder coating.  To keep the powder coat in optimum condition, we recommend regularly washing the Ultra Deck Plus to remove dirt, sand, road debris, and salt.

Jay: The Ultra Deck Plus features a hammer tone finish.  It’s really impressive in person.

TCM: What is the warranty for the Ultra Deck Plus bumper?

Jay: The warranty for the Ultra Deck Plus bumper will be provided by Lance Campers.  We stand behind everything we build and will support Lance Campers and Lance Camper dealers with our products.

TCM: Is Torklift International manufacturing the bumpers for Lance?

Jay: Yes, we are.  The first production shipment has already left the Torklift International factory.  Like every Torklift International product, the bumpers are made in the USA.  We’re very proud of that.

We are also very proud of what we’ve accomplished here.  It’s not just a bumper that we’ve produced, but a newly forged relationship.  Lance is now a worldwide distributor of Torklift International products including our truck camper tie-down, turnbuckle, towing, suspension, and accessory lines.  We are very excited about the opportunity of working with Lance into the future.

For more information on Torklift International, visit their website at www.torklift.com.

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