When Workhorse Custom Chassis bought the RV and commercial truck chassis business from General Motors in January 1999, the first order of business was to move assembly to a new factory in Union City, Ind.
Production in Indiana began in late February 1999, and by November, Workhorse was ready for its next major step. For the 2000 model year, Workhorse unveiled its new wide-track independent front suspension for better ride and driver control.
Now, all but one Class A motor home manufacturer is ordering the new Workhorse chassis with the new suspension, said Chris Christy, the national service manager at the Workhorse satellite office in Southfield, Mich.
'The old Chevrolet P chassis was a narrow track,' Christy said. 'Motor home owners and the industry manufacturers were asking us to make this improvement.'
Until Workhorse began production of its wide-track chassis in November, Ford was the only manufacturer to offer a wide-track Class A motor home chassis for front gasoline engines.
Production at the new plant and sales have doubled since the November introduction of the wide-track chassis, said Tony Monda, director of marketing at Workhorse. The company would not provide sales numbers.
From January through December 1999, RV manufacturers sold 676 motor homes with the Workhorse chassis, according to Statistical Surveys Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., a company that tracks the RV industry.
'We had to do this to compete in the Class A marketplace,' Monda said.
Georgie Boy Manufacturing Inc. of Edwardsburg, Mich., developed a new line of Class A motor homes called the Suite specifically for the new Workhorse chassis, said Fred Emmert, Georgie Boy president.
The Suite comes in two lengths: 24 feet and 29 feet. The interior is white, designed with a young buyer in mind, he said.
'The rideability of the new chassis is outstanding,' Emmert said. Workhorse has done a good job of identifying what motor home manufacturers want in a chassis, he said.
GM exited the RV chassis business because its product no longer was competitive, Emmert said.
Workhorse developed the wide track and increased the gross vehicle weight rating of the chassis, moves that allow the motor home manufacturers to place a wider body, from 96 inches to 100 inches, on that chassis, Emmert said.
'With the wide-track chassis, there is not as much body roll, much better cornering and driving,' Emmert said. 'This was a welcomed move.'
On the Workhorse wide track, the front wheels are 131/2 inches wider than the previous chassis, from 69.7 inches to 82.95 inches.
'We improved on an already accepted product,' Christy said. 'Motor home owners will see the benefits of our wider track in wind, while cornering and during stopping and taking off. There will be less lean. There is more stability in all facets of operations.'
The new wide-track suspension uses Bilstein gas-charged shock absorbers and Bilstein gas-charged steering dampers for smoother steering. The anti-sway stabilizer bar is longer and has a larger diameter. The suspension air bags were upgraded from 90 per square inch to 110 per square inch and the wall thickness was increased.
Workhorse offers the wide-track independent front suspension on its chassis with gross vehicle weight ratings of 15,000 and 17,000 pounds. The wide-track chassis uses GM's 290-hp, 7.4-liter V-8 gasoline engine, or an optional 190-hp, turbocharged, 6.5-liter diesel engine. Both are front-mounted engines.
Workhorse has an engineering staff of 30.
GM has a long-term agreement with Workhorse to supply the chassis builder with powertrains.