We started with one large CNC machine two years ago and we were using it for cabinets, side walls, floors, and ceilings. Production is ramping up now that we’re also in the trailer market. So the large CNC machine is running a lot during the day. We bought a second CNC machine a couple of months ago and bought a third CNC machine one month ago. Now that big CNC machine can concentrate on the exterior structures.
Gary: We’re able to route wire runs through cabinets with the CNC. The wires are internal rather through the walls. That means you don’t have places where the walls have zero insulation because you had to route wiring there. We’ve also gone to zero tolerance meaning we’ve eliminated plastics, gimps, staples, and putties, which were a cosmetic eye sore to certain people.
Additionally, the CNC allows us to mount towel racks and other accessories to the walls because we’re using solid wood. Wherever the customer wants to put something, they can because it’s solid wood. If we can put it on a CNC table, we can cut any design. With the CNC machines, the sky is open as far as creativity.
TCM: Other than using Garnica RV-Ply, talk to us how you reduced the weight of these new campers without reducing their structural integrity.
Gary: The new campers are all laminated; the floors, side walls, front and rear walls, plus the basement gets its strength through the trusses.
With all the changes, the old models compared to the new models are like comparing a World War II plane with a modern plane from today. The two planes might be the same size, but the modern plane can carry five times the cargo. Things have evolved. We have been building wood framed campers since 1965. The last wood framed camper left our factory three weeks ago. It’s the end of an era. Wood framing has served its time and now we’re off to something better.
TCM: Is this a new approach to aluminum framing or an evolution of the aluminum framing Lance has been doing for a few years now?
Gary: We started building with aluminum frames with the Lance Max in 2004. A lot of what we did then is carried over into what we’re doing now. Those campers have been in the field for five years. The lamination also makes the camper considerably stronger.
We took elements of the 830 and 1040, along with elements of our higher line, and put them into our new camper line. Essentially, we took the two series of campers and blended them.
TCM: What features of these new campers are you most excited about?
Gary: We’ve increased the headroom inside the cab over bed area by nine inches. We’ve also added pull out pantries in the lower section of the camper without getting rid of wardrobe space. There’s also a double door refrigerator in our smaller campers. No one has bigger refrigerators in non-slide truck campers.
The new campers have increased bathroom sizes and tank capacities. Our new eight foot camper tank capacities have gone up 150% from our old eight foot campers. Those are huge items when you look at them. The new campers also have the storage capacity for a 2,000-watt generator that can run your air conditioning. These campers also include a fully ducted furnace that runs into the bathroom, living, and cab over areas.
In the 850, the queen bed in the cabover and the dinette converts to a seventy- two inch bed, a bigger single sink, and we’ve increased counter space by a couple of square feet. In the cabover, we have four and a half feet on each side or nine linear feet of total wardrobe hanging area. There’s no other truck camper in its class that has all those features. Even with all of those added features, the weight of the 835 and the 850 are basically the same.
TCM: Are there any changes to the interior materials or aesthetics?
Gary: The new campers are very warm and have a West Coast flair. The interiors come in three interior colors; gold rush, red rock, and white water. They are very tasteful interiors. And the outside graphics are great. You’re going to look at our new units and go, “WOW!”
The countertops have all changed. There’s edge banding, so no more plastic edges. Everything is glued on now, so there’s no creeping or gaps. Basically there’s no place that water intrusion can get in.
Les: Like Gary said, we’ve got all new graphics and interiors. And with the bathroom, we’ve gone to sliding doors instead of hinge doors in every model. We found that when people made their dinettes into beds they had an issue getting into the bathrooms, so now they are all sliding doors.
TCM: How about the exteriors? Other then the graphics, are there any changes to how these new campers will look?
Les: The new models are the same basic size and exterior look as the 830 and 1040. They’ve got the same basement as the 830 and now all of our campers have rounded, aerodynamic noses.
TCM: When will the new models be available to see at Lance dealerships and RV shows?
Gary: The 850 will on dealer lots in mid-December. We’re just going into production now on the other camper models. They will ship in mid-January.