The vast majority of motorhomes built through the years have had the
engine at one end or the other. While the Spartan Chassis people may not
have been first with the idea of putting the engine in the middle (and,
in fact, at least two companies presently build mid-engine coaches),
Spartan is currently the sole provider of mid-engine motorhome chassis.
Introduced amidst fanfare a few years ago when pictured
with a Mini Cooper riding in the garage of a Travel Supreme ME coach,
the Me2 chassis is one of two that Spartan offers. The Me2 is the larger
of the pair, and is open to any design aft of the rear wheels; the NVS
that debuts for 2006 is a more typical straight-rail unit from
end-to-end, with a Cummins ISC 330 ahead of the rear axle.
Anyone with knowledge of sports cars is aware that the easiest
way to ensure good handling characteristics — grip, transient response,
and balance — is to place the engine in the middle of the car. The
reasoning is simple: Handling is all about weight distribution.
Locating the single heaviest item — most frequently, the
engine — in the center of the vehicle improves balance and weight
distribution. Granted, this is an oversimplification — and we aren’t
intimating that mounting the engine amidships will make a 34,600-pound
motorhome handle like a Ferrari — but in terms of vehicle dynamics, the
best place for a 1,600-pound chunk of Cummins iron is down low in the
middle of the chassis.
The ME is built on a 267-inch wheelbase with a gross vehicle
weight rating (gvwr) of 29,000-34,600 pounds and 10,000-pound tow
rating; a tag-axle version is available for coachbuilders who need a
higher gvwr. Our test coach weighed in at 31,490 pounds, with about 750
pounds available on the front axle and 2,350 at the rear; if you loaded
the deck to its rated maximum and put two people on board, the remaining
payload is 802 pounds.
New for 2006 is a ZF steering system for the Tuthill
independent suspension with air bags and Bilstein shocks; the same
manufacturer builds the rear suspension. Brakes are drum all around, and
while some of us anticipated front discs might appear at this price
point, the brakes did an admirable job.
For full specs and more details on Spartan’s Me2 chassis, pick
up the June 2005 issue of MotorHome magazine on the newsstand — then subscribe to MotorHome
so you can stay informed on the latest motorhome technical information,
road tests, previews, products and travel destinations.
Spartan Chassis, (517) 543-6400, spartanchassis.com