Diesel Pusher Motorhome Chassis Comparison


We have a friend that says he can't tell the difference between the way his Buick Century and a BMW drive. Another friend thinks his small Toyota pickup rides really nice. They are nice folks, but they simply don't notice the difference between extremely different vehicles.

Then there are some of us, like myself, that notice significant differences between very similar cars; like between our 1984 Mercedes 300SD and 1984 Mercedes 300CD, even though they have the same chassis and suspension design.  They're even the same color!

Some people have suggested comparing specifications of the different chassis. That only works to a limited extent. Some auto & RV manufacturers are experts at cloning specifications yet the results are dramatically different than the vehicle being copied. How many car makers would have you believe that their compact sporty sedan drives like a BMW 3-Series? All of them! But, none can match the little Bimmer.

The same holds true with motor homes. The manufacturers of less expensive MH's go to a great deal of effort to convince the prospective buyer that their $175,000 DP is virtually the same as a competitor's $250,000 DP.  The truth is that the differences between brands is less than the difference between price points.

Entry-level DP chassis are similar: steel springs, small engines, light GVWR, etc.

Mid-level DP chassis are similar: air bags, air drum brakes, medium-size engines and GVWR.

High-end DP chassis . . . yes, they are similar too: air suspension, side radiator, large engines and heavy GVWR, usually semi-monocoque, disc brakes and tag axles.

What I've noticed that each chassis manufacturer tends to it's own characteristics (think personality) that reflect both the overall design and the sum of the parts. Here's my spin on the players. Partially to avoid Ford/Chevy (or Mercedes/BMW) arguments, I've used all GM brands as an automotive comparison.

Dynomax: A proprietary chassis of Country Coach began in 1998 after Gillig left the RV market. Semi-monocoque, all-welded all-steel construction, including suspension mounting and adjustment, all IFS. A premium chassis with excellent ride & handling.

Freightliner: A dependable chassis with a focus on price, like a Chevrolet. Freightliner got into the RV business in the mid-90's when it purchased Oshkosh. Very popular in the entry level to mid-range DP's. Tends to ride softly and wallow more than the other chassis in its price class.

Gillig: A popular chassis for expensive, high-end DPs (Beaver, Country Coach & Foretravel) until 1997 when they left the RV market to focus on their school busses. Each of these DP makers responded by developing their own proprietary chassis. A very heavy-duty traditional raised-rail chassis with a Cadillac kind of ride and handling.

Magnum: A proprietary chassis brand of Safari. Starting with the Safari line in the mid-90's and migrating up the Beaver line in the late 90's. A wide variety of innovative chassis ranging from lower-middle level to the very high-end Prevost wannabe Beaver Solitaire. The higher end Magnum chassis used on the Beaver Patriots, Marquis & Solitaire were equipped with 8-bag like the Monaco, but with larger air bags for a better ride.

Newell: Proprietary chassis semi-monocoque chassis for very high end Newell DP's.

Peak: A proprietary chassis for Alpine. A relatively new design Huck-bolted raised-rail chassis with rugged features similar to the old Gilligs. Uses heavy-duty 4 wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Touted as a high quality mid-range coach that appears to have hit its target.

Roadmaster: The proprietary chassis brand of Monaco Coach. Purchased from Chrysler Corp in 1984. Makes the widest variety of chassis from entry-level through high-end semi-monocoque DP's. The entry level RSR & RR4R chassis are similar to their entry-level competitors--nothing wrong with them but nothing remarkable. Their mid-range & up chassis are known for their 8 air bag suspension (10 with tag axles), yet their high-end S-Series doesn't have IFS. The widely spaced, but small air bags provide crispest handling as well as the firmest ride of any DP I've driven. I prefer calling the Roadmaster RR8R & up chassis the Pontiacs of MH's. There is no such thing as a 30,000# Porsche!

Spartan: A specialist chassis builder that makes MH & fire engine chassis exclusively. Very good customer support. While they do make an economy chassis, they are more known for their high quality components in the mid-range to high-end DP's. I think of the Spartan as the traditional Buick; well-built with a good compromise of ride and handling.

TravelRide: Foretravel's proprietary semi-monocoque chassis that came after Gillig. Another 8-bag premium chassis with excellent ride & handling characteristics.



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