Class A Competition

CLASS A GASOLINE CHASSIS, AT $75,000 TO $110,000, are much more affordable comparatively
than their diesel counterparts, which usually begin above this price range.
Gasoline-chassis development has been a hotly contested race for many years. However, only
two contenders currently remain: Ford Motor Company of Dearborn, Michigan, and relative
newcomer Workhorse Custom Chassis of Highland Park, Illinois. Ford introduced its present
F-Series Super Duty (F-53) chassis in 1995. It is equipped with a Triton 310-hp V-10 engine
and a beefy, ladder-type frame, and addresses the need for multiple slideout floorplans. It
carries gross vehicle weight ratings (gvwr) up to 22,000 pounds. Workhorse bought
GM/Chevrolet’s Class A operation in 1999. It has aggressively challenged Ford’s lead by
improving the P-Series with an 83-inch wide-track independent front suspension, Bilstein
shock absorbers and higher gvwrs. It has also created a new-from-the-ground-up W-Series
that surpasses the Ford in several ways. W-Series rails (W20 and W22) sport GM’s Vortec
8100 V-8 engine with 340 hp and an Allison automatic transmission. The W22 is available in
208- or 228-inch wheelbases, is offered with 22.5-inch wheels and tires on select
applications, and has a gvwr of 22,000 pounds. W-Series platforms have a full-section,
high-tensile steel frame rail that is 9.6 inches high and adds extra rigidity for improved
coach support. Rails are spaced farther apart, allowing the engine to be mounted lower and
results in cockpits with less noise and little or no “doghouse.” A 242-inch wheelbase has
been added recently to provide motorhome OEMs more flexibility in constructing larger
floorplans. The P-Series is also getting GM’s more robust 4L85E four-speed automatic
transmission, which contributes an extra 1,000 pounds of towing capacity to its 17,000- and
18,000-pound gvwr platforms. That ultimately results in a 22,000-pound gross combination
weight rating (gcwr). Workhorse has developed a very responsive and capable service/support
network with 550 authorized dealers and independent shops throughout the United States and
Canada. They may be located through Coach-Net at (877) 946-7731. Ford has not been sitting
idly by while its lead slowly erodes, says Ken Farr, RV and specialty sales manager for
Ford Motor Company. For 2003, he reports that Ford F-53 chassis will be uprated with
Bilstein shock absorbers for better ride, a new ABS brake module to improve stopping and
14mm threads on wheel studs. A makeover of a switch housing in the parking-brake mechanism
also will be included to improve operational longevity. Ford possess a vast service network
of more than 1,500 key dealerships and 80 authorized independent facilities in North
America that provide a full array of chassis repairs and services. It uses Coach-Net, (800)
444-3311, to direct owners to service points on a “24/7/365” basis. There is still a lot of
technology in both the automotive and electronic fields that have yet to be integrated into
the RV market. It remains to be seen which manufacturer will capitalize on some of these
technologies and be the next to gain the Class A gas-chassis advantage. For more
information about the Workhorse and Ford chassis competition, pick up the March 2003 issue
of MotorHome on the newsstand. Then subscribe to MotorHome
so you can stay informed on the latest motorhome tests and previews, technical information,
travel destinations and products. Article by: Chuck Campbell

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