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Old 01-16-2013, 10:12 AM   #1
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Building your "Dream" Newmar Ventana (3634)

For (among many others):

Deek (thanks for the info on the 3433!)
Ma Snart
Ken Sherwin and the other engineers

I’ve had the wonderful privilege of reading all your posts from the sidelines and have concluded that anyone, like myself, who is interested in acquiring a Newmar needs to spend time thoroughly picking your collective brains. That kind of education is priceless.

We are about to embark on “the next adventure.” After fulfilling item #6 on my bucket list last May and completing a 4K mile trip over 32 days through the SW US in a rental 2011 Tiffin Allegro Open Road, we are ready to take the next step. There were so many lessons learned from that experience, so many bonehead moves by yours truly, and a 42 year marriage that actually survived the journey without PTSD or worse, that I felt compelled to write a book about it: The Virgin RV Chronicles (Feb 2013). For those 25 family members and buddies who owe me from golf bets that will be forced to buy it, I’m delighted to report ALL proceeds will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Not sure what they’ll do with the $37.25 but every little bit helps over there...

Anyway, after months of research, we’ve narrowed down the choices to the Ventana 3634 and the Phaeton 36QSH (full disclosure: will be posting in the Phaeton blog section as well). There are many reasons why we gravitated to these two, but in a nutshell it was about finding a rig small enough for our (DW + 2 Old yellow labs) modest needs but large enough to incorporate some of the great standard chassis, electrical, appliance and structural features found on the 40’+ models. After hanging on for dear life through the 45 mpg gusts in Kansas in that rented gasser with a Ford truck chassis, it’s DP and air cushion ride for us from now on. Comfort Drive sounds like a dream! And Newmar and Tiffin are tough to beat. We were looking for a happy medium as our travels will mostly be those 4-6 week vacations for the time being. All of you have had some experience with those mid length Newmar models, particularly the Ventana. My sincere apologies in advance for asking you to post again about something which has already been covered, but if you could combine what you know “now” and go back to what you ordered “then”, what options and upgrades would you consider absolutely mandatory? not that we can afford the gilded model, but at least we'll be able to make the reasoned decision on what to keep...

And....just to prove that I actually studied your posts, my mind is still spinning with thoughts of stuff like:

normally unauthorized custom paint jobs (Well done, Lass!);
Aqua hot, Oasis and hydronic water heating systems;
EMS system with auto generator start;
All electric;
GE Advantium upgrade and ditch the Frigidaire;
AF1 braking systems (I’m still recovering from the descent at Wolf Creek Pass!)
Getting extra roof insulation (R-19?);
Euro booths;
CAT-5 and external wiring for satellite;
Going up to 15K BTU on the A/Cs;
Upgrading inverter and Gensets (2800 Sine);
The macerator pump (a pleasant thought) and wiring it to the battery;
Lifeline gel batteries;
The right “Toad” and how to tow it;
MaxAir fan mate and Cyclone sewer vents;
etc etc

Well, that’s a start. Perhaps the thread of building your dream Newmar might be useful for other newbies as well. My apologies also for the lack of appropriate emoticons. It’ll take a while for this buttoned down mergers and acquisitions guy to graduate to their use.....working on it....

Part of the process will involve visits to Red Bay and Nappanee, as so many of you have recommended, and our horizon for getting this new rig may well extend into the next model season later this year or early next. In fact, a search later this year may also uncover a 2011-2013 model equipped as we want it...who knows?

In the meantime, though, thanks for all your valuable advice, past and future....



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Old 01-16-2013, 11:40 AM   #2
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I think you should get a hold of a couple of dealers about an options list.

From there you can compare both companies options and their cost.

I know Tiffin doesn't offer any extra insulation. Newmar and Entegra are the 2 heavy insulators.

We looked heavily at Tiffin, including a tour in Red Bay. Then a tour of Newmar.

Well, you've read about our decision.

Happy hunting.

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Old 01-16-2013, 05:34 PM   #3
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I've got a 3634 on order so I share your excitement. You're doing a great job with research and I'm sure I'm going to be envious that I didn't take more time to consider further options. You've already listed some of the upgrades we did, but we also upgraded the carpet to Dutch Star quality, upgraded the kitchen sink to stainless, and changed up the interior color scheme a little to suit our tastes. We decided on all electric and there are plenty of posts here debating that choice. We added heat pads for the holding tanks, one piece fiberglass roof, R19 insulation, power awnings, Energy Mgt. System, Penguin Heat Pumps, washer-dryer, central vac, open face satellite dish, high def wiring, power foot rest passenger seat, and LED light. We also moved the bath elect. outlet to what we thought was a better location. The only other thing I wish I would have done is go for a custom exterior color.
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Old 01-16-2013, 09:01 PM   #4
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Hi, Phil! Deek here.

More than a year ago, we were involved in virtually the exact same decision you are contemplating right now -- finding that we really liked the idea of motorhoming; getting the bug to buy a new coach; wanting high quality; wanting something less than 40 feet in length that we would be confident we could handle without disaster befalling us; narrowing our choices to Tiffin and Newmar; doing lots and lots and lots of research on both the Phaeton 36 and the Ventana 34 (the Ventana 36 was not available until 2012) over several months before we were ready to pull the trigger ...

In the midst of this, we were almost nightly on the TRVN (Tiffin) site as well as this site (iRV2) for Newmar Owners. A thread was posted under the heading "2012 Tiffin Phaeton v. 2012 Newmar Ventanta" by somebody asking a similar question to yours. I followed the thread for a while as it spoke directly to our thinking about the same issue. By this time, we had narrowed, then made our decision -- to buy our 2011 Ventana 3433 All Electric coach from a dealer in Ft. Myers who had it and made us a terrific end-of-season deal on it. And of course we were extremely happy with it -- right up until we got the darn bug again, to move up to the '13 Dutch Star we ordered at Halloween this past October.

After reading your post above, I went back to locate my post on the Phaeton v. Ventana thread as I thought it would shed some good light on the issue you are trying to noodle out -- the same one we did a little over a year ago. I located it (it was posted on 12-15-11), copied it and include it below. I hope my thoughts at that time will be helpful to you now in your deliberations.

Here it is:

Not an easy choice to make, for sure. We looked and looked and looked at both Ventana and Phaeton. Our choice, for plenty of good reasons, ended up being between a Ventana 34 or a Phaeton 36 -- both very close in size, weight, layout, cost, overall dimensions and features.

We debated, we checked TRVN and iRV2 discussions, we got brochures and talked by telephone with reps at Tiffin and Newmar. We visited both Newmar and Tiffin dealers and got to see both units side by side. We drove them, we measured and poked and prodded to see what we liked best and what we didn't like. We conversed with others we met, and trusted, on the TRVN and iRV2 web sites. We kept open minds.

We concluded that there is not a right or wrong choice between Tiffin and Newmar and Phaeton and Ventana -- only a choice that fits best for you and your partner. With another couple we really like and admire, and whose judgment we truly trust, we ended up deciding on the Ventana -- and they ended up favoring the Phaeton. I think neither of us is off base.

Our friends wanted more "wow" factor; we wanted more practicality and designed-in livability. They wanted more power; we wanted more fuel savings as much as possible. We wanted ease and simplicity of systems; they wanted more glitz regardless of complexity of operation of systems. Again, neither of us was wrong -- we each headed in the direction we wanted to and were happiest with. I am certain that we could have opted for the Phaeton and I am sure they could have been happy with our Ventana.

This being a hugely personal decision, here are some of the considerations that led us to the Ventana:

First and foremost, build quality -- as evidenced by what we directly observed, by what we have seen in the postings of problems after delivery from other owners, the volume of their comments about things that ended up being badly designed engineering and the things that turned out to be good and well engineered.

In this category, we were very much impressed with the quiet and solid ride of the Ventana over the Phaeton, and the ease of driving -- even by the DW whom I believe has to be comfortable and confident enough to be able to drive the MH -- for all of the safety, comfort and emergency reasons we all know about.

Second, the Comfort Steering (just a huge plus IMO), the Smart Wheel (with all important controls right on the steering wheel where you want them to be), the layout of the Ventana -- which are all unique to Newmar in a coach with this price point (Ventana and Phaeton ended up being remarkably similar in the size we ended up buying). These things to us are big and definitely factored highly in our decision -- they make the driving and operating experience decidedly better to us than any other coach in the same price range we considered. Regrettably, none of these things (Comfort Steering, Smart Wheel, layout we decided on) were available from Tiffin.

Third, and this to us was really critical -- in our Ventana we were able to get an All Electric coach with all the ease of operation, safety and comfort we were most interested in -- and we were able to get in our 34 foot model many of the very same things that Newmar puts into its top end 43 foot tandem axle coaches -- e.g., high quality GE Profile residential reefer and convection microwave, diesel / electric hydronic heat, electric cooktop, one-switch locking of all storage doors, Amish-built full wood cabinets. This stuff was not available from Tiffin in any coach of similar size and price.

Finally, we were able to visit the plant to see how they do things at Newmar. Very impressive -- quiet Amish workers just doing the job day in and day out, making sure the fit and finish are right before the coach goes out the door. Though we did not physically get to go through the plant at Red Bay, we looked at several inside-taken pictures of the manufacturing and finishing facilities there and we feel we got a pretty good idea of how they do things at Tiffin.

Certainly and undeniably, Tiffin is outstanding -- otherwise how in the world would they be selling as many new units as they do? Like our dealer -- who sells both Tiffin and Newmar says -- the Tiffin coaches they get in don't really require "selling" as other coaches do -- Tiffin buyers come to them and Tiffin products leave their inventory as soon as they hit the dealership.

But overall, we just ended up being a bit more impressed by Newmar -- again, very admittedly only a personal, intuition-based sense of things, not anything scientific or objective about it. If you told me in response to this posting that, "Hey, Deek, I think you could have been happy with the Phaeton 36 -- and that your friends could have been happy with the Ventana 3433" -- you would be absolutely correct, on both counts. Again, simply personal preference here with no right or wrong involved.

Last thing we considered before we pulled the trigger -- we felt that with the excellent track record of both manufacturers, the future should definitely be considered -- where will these guys be in 10 years, especially given all the uncertainty in the RV industry, the very real ups and downs of the American economy and the past history of so many RV manufacturers going belly up in the past same 10 year period?

On this score, there appears to be a solid plan for transition at Newmar that perhaps will not be the same at Tiffin once Bob Tiffin decides to give up the reins -- and now, how far into the future can and will that be? Many prospective and current Tiffin owners appear to have this concern, and correctly so, I believe.

We haven't seen much at Tiffin which shows that any significant heir apparent is being moved out front to take over when Bob goes off into the sunset. Perhaps they do have that person waiting in the wings, but if they do, he (or she) has not yet been put out front by Tiffin in any apparent and visible way. I do not hear posters on TRVN or iRV2 telling us they get a warm and fuzzy feeling about anyone at Tiffin other than Bob himself. On the other hand, the Millers have in fact made this transition and in the Miller son and daughter in law I see a lot of the Miller tradition and values continuing in Newmar's day to day operations. That frankly means a lot to us and we like the percentages of how that bodes for the future.

Hope some of this helps in your review process. My opinions are only my opinions so take them with whatever grain of salt is needed and use them as you find helpful. Truth is, this is all great stuff, no matter which way you end up heading.

Happy Holidays!

FMCA #363986 / 'Living the Dream' ... What an Incredible Hoot!
2020 Newmar Dutch Star 4369 / Freightliner with DriveTech / All Electric / NHSO
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Old 01-17-2013, 07:01 AM   #5
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Very informative posts regarding the selection process. I must point out something which I feel, having moved from Ft Myers-to-Phoenix several years ago: service. The aftermarket component is too often overlooked, from the "on-the-road" breakdown standpoint as well as the "at home' standard, annual inspections. The network serving you, what owners think of it, how the dealers work with the factory for parts, wait-time, costs, and other associated items.
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Old 01-17-2013, 08:37 PM   #6
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Welcome to the forum Phil you have been doing your homework and will have the advantage when dealing with dealer.
Good luck in your adventure.
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Old 01-19-2013, 11:31 PM   #7
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My experience of driving my 06 Tiffin Allegro Bus was alway great. It was big heavy and drove like it owned the lane. Thinking a 2013 36 Phaeton would feel and drive the same way. It wasn't as heavy and of course would drive different. Excuse baby. Disappointed, no smart wheel, floated in lane, and felt cheap to me. Making my decision and spending my money with Newmar a no brainer. Drive before you buy.
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Old 01-20-2013, 04:18 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Vivarose View Post
Making my decision and spending my money with Newmar a no brainer. Drive before you buy.
X2, Vivarose!!

I talked to four or five present and past Tiffin owners at the Newmar location at the Tampa RV Show over the past few days, one of them at Lazy Days when we toured their facility (a really impressive place, by the way). I said to them exactly and precisely what you said, Vivarose.

Fit, finish, build quality, reliability are all important virtues and Newmar has them in spades. Couple those with Comfort Drive and the Smart Wheel and, as they say in Nappanee, you "... will know the difference."

At the Tampa Show, DW and I spent some time with Don Pipes, former Spartan Motors engineer, now Newmar rep hired directly by Matt Miller, who is currently on the road for Newmar to explain and demo their Comfort Drive. Smart move on Newmar's part. Don is fabulous. He was actively involved in development and delivery of Comfort Drive while with Spartan and is one of the few people who knows just an incredible amount about it.

Don took DW and I on Essex test drive. He had no tough job with us as we have been sold on Comfort Drive for as long as we have known about it. As I told Don during our test drive, it is truly a game changer in our estimation. Drive with it for 20 minutes, adjust the Comfort Steering knob to see how you like the various rates of assist, and it is the very rare tester who will come away from the experience not being a believer. Why other manufacturers, particularly Tiffin and Entegra, don't use it currently, is just beyond me. Yes, I understand that it brings another $5,000 or so cost to the coach, but let's be real here -- in any nice coach in the dollar range we're discussion on this Forum, 5K is peanuts for an improvement to safety, comfort and driveability that Comfort Steering is. All the higher end coaches should have -- or offer -- it. They miss the boat by not doing so.

I would never own another coach without Comfort Drive -- it is that big a deal.

We have always liked the wow factor of Tiffin so you will not see me bashing them. But over the time we have owned coaches since 2005, I have seen nothing but steady quality engineering and comfort improvements from Newmar -- that Tiffin did not stay with them on as they could have and should have.

We spent a lot of time at the Tampa Show looking at the Tiffin Zephyr -- and compared it with the Newmar Mountain Aire. Zephyr on a deal at the show was about 565,000 (sticker considerably higher). The Mountain Aire was 488,000 (retail price at Show). The Mountain Aire was in our minds unquestionably a nicer, stronger, more quality built coach than the Zephyr -- it flowed better, it had plenty of understated but full quality content where the Zephyr seemed a bit more disjointed -- not as well laid out -- but certainly the Zephyr had more wow factor in stuff within the content of the coach. I likened it to the difference between a really loaded up Cadillac on one hand (Zephyr), and something like a BWM on the other (Mountain Aire). Many would say the BWM is less fancy than the Cadillac, but when you get behind the wheel and drive and experience it -- just like Vivarose suggests -- you realize the MA's solid quality, precise drive experience, the fact that it exudes build quality throughout and "just works." One guy inside the MA when we were doing our comparison evaluation said, "It is hands down the best deal that Newmar has." Dollar for dollar, there's a real chance this guy was completely correct. (For my take, I would want to see the dash and a few other styling cues upgraded in the MA like our new DS before considering it in the future. The DS upgrades for '13 are fabulous in my opinion and MA needs a refresh soon to keep up).

In summary, when you look carefully, when you do your research in today's market, when you drive and experience the ride (and the Comfort Drive), buying Newmar IS a no brainer, just like Vivarose suggests.

Just my very admittedly biased two cents.

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Old 05-01-2013, 10:44 AM   #9
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A big thanks to the OP and follow-up responders. This saved us a huge amount of time!

We're several years out from a purchase, but taking advantage of the time to build our knowledge base and requirements list. Started off with a broader list of manufacturers but that list has shrunk to one, Newmar.

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