For 2019, Lance Camper is changing to an all-new Happijac jack design, EternaBond roofs, Torklift ultraSTEPglow and Revolution steps, floating truck bed bumpers, grey TPO nose caps, a new decor, and has a long list of updates and refinements. The REV Group investments are really starting to kick in.
Perhaps the biggest truck camper industry story of 2018 happened in the second week of the year. On January 12th, 2018, REV Group acquired Lance Camper. The news sent shock waves through the greater RV marketplace and had many of us asking questions about the direction the Lancaster, California company would be taking.
Less than a month later, Jack Cole, Vice President of Lance Camper, went on the record and answered every question we asked about the REV Group acquisition and the impact it would bring. In a nutshell, Jack explained that the management team would stay in place, the company would remain in California, the established dealer network would continue, and that truck campers were a top priority moving forward.
Jack concluded by stating, “Everything is going to be okay. I mean that sincerely. We put a lot of thought into what we have done, just as we put a lot of thought into our business. We want it to continue to shine as we move into the future. We have set Lance Campers on a good path with a great company.”
For the following seven months, there was little news out of Lance Camper. No new camper announcements, no model year teases, no truck camper related press releases – nothing. To be fair, it’s not unusual for truck camper companies to go quiet for months at a time, but we were naturally curious about what was going on after the acquisition. Was everything going to plan at Lance?
At the Elkhart Open House this past September, Jack arranged an in-person interview for us with Tim Sullivan, CEO of REV Group. This was our first time meeting Tim, and we were thrilled to get the chance to get his perspective on Lance Camper and truck campers in general. Never mind that the interview happened in a Lance travel trailer. You don’t need to know that.
During the interview, Tim affirmed REV Group’s commitment to Lance truck campers, explained REV Group’s ability to provide Lance with cost savings and purchasing power, and expressed his vision to double the size of the company. By far the most striking comment from our conversation with Tim was his stance on safety and quality. He stated, “The lack of attention to safety and quality in the RV industry is going to separate us from the herd. We are going to lead with quality and safety.”
When Tim stepped out of the Lance trailer, Gary Conley stepped in to give us the 2019 Lance Camper updates. Foremost on our minds was a report on how the REV Group acquisition was impacting Lance Camper on the ground floor. Jack and Tim had assured us that, “Everything is going to be okay” but Gary’s 2019 updates are where the rubber meets the road.
Enough of the big picture talking points. Put the corporate perspective on pause. What’s going on at the Lance Camper factory, and what will we see at Lance dealers for 2019? Let’s find out.
Above: A 2019 Lance 1172. All photos in this article are courtesy of Lance Campers
In 2017, Lance Camper purchased a 61,000 square-foot building to move lamination and CNC operations out of the main production plant and then expand those capacities. Early estimates predicted the new building would increase production by 25 to 30 percent. How has the new building impacted Lance Camper production?
We started to build product in the new building in early September. The building should be 100-percent running in October with all-new equipment including glue coat applicators, CNC routers, and CNC chop saws.
The building will have two continuous flow lamination lines with two glue coaters and three pinch rollers. Following the lamination equipment, we have multiple CNC machines.
The new building is also climate controlled and dust controlled. Everything in the new facility is better, more efficient, and state-of-the-art adding up to significant improvements to Lance Camper product quality.
How does the new building and equipment add up to improved product quality?
With the size and capacity of the new facility and equipment, we are getting 100-percent glue coverage, superior pinch roll performance, and – most importantly – the time to allow laminated components to fully cure.
When you laminate, cure time is very important. If lamination adhesive isn’t fully set between the substrate and fiberglass, the lamination will not be as strong. The increased capacity of our new lamination facility allows us to rack laminated walls and components until they are 100-percent cured. That’s a big improvement in product quality.
Current Lance Camper owners might read that and wonder if their laminations were not properly cured.
Our laminated products have always been properly cured, but our new equipment and building allows us to take that process to an even higher level. Our laminated products were always exceptionally strong, but we are now using industry-leading lamination equipment and processes for the best possible results.
Above: Lite Ply cabinet construction in a Lance 975 Camper
In the 2018 updates you stated, “We are looking at upgrades to the materials we’re currently using. The new materials are stronger and lighter and have similar characteristics to Azdel and Lite Ply.” Have you changed materials for 2019?
We have been experimenting and testing alternative products to Azdel and Lite Ply. We have learned that Azdel is superior to the other currently available materials. Lite Ply also remains our material of choice.
Is Lance Camper announcing any new models, or discontinuing any models for 2019?
We are not adding or discontinuing any truck camper models at this time. We are working on some new things that should debut in early June or July.
For 2018, the big truck camper initiative at Lance Campers was redesigning the entire truck camper line-up for the aluminum-bodied 2017 Ford Super Duty trucks. What is the truck camper initiative for 2019?
Our main focus has been getting the new building up and running. We bought it two years ago in November. A lot of time has been taken to design the new facility and moving the production lines.
As stated, lamination is moving and we are redesigning the cabinet shop. We are adding CNC in the cabinet shop and lengthening the line. Then there will be improvements on the manufacturing side to improve quality where we can. New products haven’t been our focus. We have focused more on product details and quality.
Above: Hand-glued U-channel on cabinetry edges, Lance 650 pictured above
Can you give us a specific example?
One example is our cabinetry. Years ago we built cabinets with rigid plastic to protect the openings. Then we went to CNC cut Lite Ply. The CNC cut Lite Ply was precise and clean, so we stopped using the protective edges.
For 2019, we are going back to protecting the cabinetry edge openings by implementing a hand-glued U-channel on the CNC-cut cabinetry edges. It’s a huge improvement for the long term protection of the cabinets.
The last all-new truck camper Lance Camper debuted was the Lance 650 in the fall of 2015. The attention to detail and quality is extremely appreciated, but why haven’t we seen any new model debuts?
Two years ago we were going to come out with two all-new truck camper models, but we didn’t know where they were going to fit in the market. The new models were ready for production, but the market has to be right.
We have been focused on fine details and making numerous refinements throughout our product lines. When we get a good floor plan that works and sells well in the marketplace, we continue to make it better.
Quality is always number one. You don’t want to buy something that is going to fail. The refinements in areas you don’t see are an important strength of our products. Our truss system is lighter and stronger, so it will withstand the abuse a truck camper takes. Our Plug-and-Play wire harness is huge. Our competitors are still using wire nuts and scotch locks.
The last thing you want to deal with is an electronic short. It’s frustrating on the dealer and consumer end. Think about how many wires there are in a camper. Running those wires and tracing them so they’re not exposed is crucial to the quality. That’s what our Plug-and-Play wire harness is all about. It all adds up.
Let’s start with what many will see as the biggest 2019 news from Lance Campers; the move to a new type of Happijac jacks across the entire Lance truck camper line. Lance Campers has featured Atwood camper jacks for decades. Why is Lance now moving away from Atwood jacks?
Atwood Mobile was recently sold and the company was divided up. Dometic Group bought the appliances and Lippert Components bought the jack division. When that happened, Happijac (a Lippert Components company) acquired control of Atwood jacks and discontinued the product.
With Atwood jacks discontinued, how did Lance Campers go about choosing between Happijac and Rieco-Titan camper jacks?
The new Happijac jack has the same lifting capabilities that the Atwood jacks had. The brackets are cleaner and the front swing-out brackets are more stable. The Atwood jacks were developed in the late 80s and the product didn’t really change until it was discontinued.
Fixing the gears on a Happijac jack is simpler than on an Atwood. The ball screw drive on the Atwood is frictionless. That was preferable to us compared to the Acme drive utilized for the alternative. We believe the remote system is also better.
Finally, speed of operation is very important to us. According to studies, people have an attention span of about 45-seconds. We wanted our jack system to go from the ground to the highest lift point in 45-seconds to one-minute. Happijac jacks are close to this.
Did you work with Happijac on the redesign of their jack system?
Yes, we worked with Happijac on the redesign. We didn’t like the aesthetics of the old design. They were cumbersome and the head and cap rotated. We wanted the Atwood look on a Happijac product. The new jacks are much more attractive.
For the tens of thousands of Lance Camper customers who still have Atwood jacks, are there replacement Atwood jacks and jack parts available?
The motors should be adaptable with off-the-shelf motors. The gear reductions may be difficult. The Atwood ball screw jack and the drive should never fail. Parts are available from Lippert. They say they have a two-year supply of parts.
For 2019, Lance Camper has deepened its relationship with Torklift International to debut the Torklift International ultraSTEPglow. Tell us about the Torklift International ultraSTEPglow.
We’ve developed a good relationship with Torklift International, as we have with all of our suppliers. They have the number one truck camper tie-down and turnbuckle system and the best truck camper hitches for towing.
For 2019, we are using the Torklift ultraSTEPglow step system for our truck camper line. It’s removable, adjustable and high quality.
In addition, for 2019 we’re debuting the Torklift Revolution scissor step system on the 1172. Torklift International listens to our recommendations, and are a willing partner.
When we were on the roof of a 2019 Lance Camper, we noticed that the roof was sealed with an EternaBond-like tape. What is the tape you’re using, and why is it better than the self-leveling Dicor Lance used for decades?
Once you apply EternaBond, it’s down for a number years with no maintenance. Unfortunately, when Dicor is applied, it also creates cavities that turn into pools of water. If that water finds a wire nut, you can develop a roof leak.
Dicor also reacts to different plastics. It’s not unheard of for Dicor to make a plastic vent or PVC component crack.
For 2019, we are using EternaBond on Lance Camper roofs. EternaBond is designed to stick for a number of years and does not react to different plastics like Dicor can. EternaBond is more expensive than Dicor, but it results in a better Lance Camper.
People with older Lance Campers can improve their roof seals by installing EternaBond. The question is, do you want to put money toward repairs, or do you want it to be maintenance free?
We have used EternaBond on our camper roof with impressive results.
Above: The floating front truck bed bumper design on the front wall of the camper
What is the new floating front truck bed bumper design?
Different truck and camper combinations need different spacing to properly fit a truck. This happens because the top and bottom rails are often in different heights. With our new floating front truck camper bed bumpers, you can move the bumpers for a perfect fit to your truck. Having the camper as far forward as possible makes the handling of your truck camper rig even better.
In the list of updates you state that there’s a new under mount slide-out/wing support structure for the 975, 995, and 1062. What is this support structure, and why is it necessary?
That was part of truss system that we have redesigned. The underbelly support was reworked and redesigned to handle more weight and make it more square. It’s a carry over from the 1172 that we incorporated in the 2019 slide-out models.
The new grey TPO front nose cap will instantly identify 2019 Lance models. Other than the grey color, are there any changes to the nose cap design for 2019?
Other than the color change, there is no physical difference. The grey TPO nose cap definitely sets off the 2019 look. We have removed some of the graphics from the front-side nose, and adjusted the overall exterior graphics. Other than the grey nose cap, the differences are subtle.
Why is Lance moving away from Coleman Mach air conditioners to Dometic Penguin air conditioners for 2019? The Coleman Mach is a well-regarded unit that runs on a portable 2,000-watt generator.
The 9,000 BTU Coleman Mach air conditioner has been around forever, but the low profile 10,000 BTU Dometic has a similar amp draw and can cool any trailer or truck camper. It’s also a cleaner design and a more upscale air conditioner.
Above: The Mystic Shores decor in a Lance 865
Tell us about the Mystic Shores décor which is replacing the Midnight décor.
Part of the new Mystic Shores interior look is fabric that is durable and soft to the touch – like suede. It also cleans easily. Mystic Shores is a lighter and softer look.
Above: The day/night shades with slow rise are standard for the 1172
What are the advantages of the new slow-rise day/night roller shade window treatments that are standard in the 1172 and optional for the other models?
The slow-rise day/night roller shades get rid of the strings. One pull and the shade goes down. Another pull and release and the shade goes up and away. It’s a much higher quality shade.
Part of being at REV group means that our buying power is increased. We get better prices on things like refrigerators and stoves and even high-end day/night shades typically seen in Class A motorhomes.
All of that buying power is being put to good use.
Above: The entry door pulls shade is optional on all camper models
Let’s run through the other updates for 2019. How about the new mid-shelf retention trim piece?
We added lips to the cabinets so things won’t fall off the shelves. That was something that came up in our customer surveys and makes a meaningful improvement to the campers.
New locking slide-out dinette drawer pull hardware design
We changed the handles. It’s now a real handle to pull on, and it has a lock.
Revised residential styled “flat panel” cabinet door design
We changed the cabinetry to flat panels because of weight and the look. Flat panels are a trend within the housing industry. It saves some weight. All of our cabinetry is Light Ply with mortise and tenon construction.
New residential styled shower head (975 / 1172)
It’s a shower head that works and it doesn’t pulsate hot and cold. It’s aerated and more of a residential handle and bar that slides up and down. It fits in the dry baths. We are now looking at applications for this shower head and bar for our wet baths.
Dometic residential range design
The new Dometic range has lower cast iron grates which gives you a better cooking surface. It’s more residential in appearance and an upgraded design. Dometic bought Atwood and retooled everything. It’s a nice update to a 20-year old design.
New Dometic toilet
Dometic has bought a lot of companies. It’s a big player in the industry. The new toilet is a foot flush. We don’t use porcelain toilets in truck campers because of weight. Porcelain is only in our trailers.
New amber/white combination patio light
When you are outside camping, sometimes you want to see something in white light and sometimes you may want amber light to avoid attracting bugs. With our new amber-white combination light, you can change colors with a switch.
Revised hard wired galley/sofa slide-out switch
The hard wired system for the slide-outs is changed so that it doesn’t get snagged. It’s a quality upgrade.
For 2019, the slide-out covers are wider for maximum coverage. Are you using the same cover that’s just wider, or are you using a different cover all together?
We’re using the same slide-out covers, but they now cover the entire width to better protect from water and debris. It’s the same thing, just wider.
New enhanced Mountain Scene graphics design is listed as an update for 2019. Does that mean the Mountain Scene graphics have been a success?
Yes, they have been successful. For 2019, we enhanced the Mountain Scene graphics with more definition and shading. A lot of people don’t want to look like everyone else. The Mountain Scene graphics give you a choice. We are actually playing with other graphic scenes now and might debut additional scenes next year.
Above: The interior of a Lance 865
Are Lance truck campers increasing in price for 2019?
Due to the incredible buying power of REV Group, we had one of the smallest price increases ever for 2019 – less than 1.5-percent. The REV Group buying power offset the effect of the current tariffs. That is a significant benefit and savings for the consumer.
REV Group has 31 companies. Things we were only able to dream about before we can do now. Could you imagine leasing a Lance Camper? That is not going to happen today, but it’s the kind of thing Lance could bring to the table in the future.
Above: Click for a complimentary 2019 Lance brochure
Is there anything else about the 2019 Lance Camper updates or Lance Camper Manufacturing that you want folks to know?
For anyone who doubts that we’re still into truck campers, we’ve been building campers continuously for 54 years. We are not going to stop building truck campers. We are not going to leave what brought us to the party. We are still passionate about truck campers.
I personally own a 1989 Lance 900. I also take out new Lance truck campers and trailers. It’s important for us to camp and use our products. When you design something and a frying pan doesn’t fit because of a P-trap or wall configuration, you only find out if you use it. We use our products to make sure the camping experience is a good one.
The public might think we are resting on laurels because there hasn’t been a new Lance truck camper in awhile. That is not the case. We’ve always been proactive in the truck camper industry. We are pushing the bar on quality. We are also very involved in the truck camper industry.
Jack Cole, Vice President of Lance Camper, is on the RVIA standards board. He can’t tell someone in the RV industry to build to a higher standard if we don’t do it. We like to lead by example. No one wants to buy an RV and have to wrench on it. We want to our customers to enjoy the scenery and travel. With a Lance Camper, the quality of what you are buying ensures a happy experience.