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Old 01-10-2014, 12:24 PM   #1
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2015 Dynasty "unveiling" at Charlotte, NC

Much of what follows mentions folks on the Yahoo Monacoers forum, but I hope you find it interesting, also. Not much for me to add to what Bill G already posted there, but brace yourself—I’ve got a lot to say about the new Dynasty and the motor home industry in general.

Quite frankly, even after becoming accustomed to driving something as large (to me) as a 36 DP, the new coach was somewhat intimidating in its size. It drove very well, but it was HUGE. That means nothing to you folks already driving 45’ coaches, of course. As Bill G said, we were both instantly impressed by the power of the coach. And as engineers, I’m sure we both appreciated how quickly that big ISX could move that coach away from a stoplight. And at 55 MPH, you can floor it and see 65 MPH very quickly. It was also very quiet inside, in spite of the large engine.

For those of you concerned about the near-epic ride that earned the earlier Roadmaster chassis so many accolades, let me assure you that you will not be disappointed. I have always thought both my Dynasty’s rode very, very well. I think my 2000 Dynasty 36 rides better than my 1993 Dynasty 36 did, even after all my chassis mods. But this coach was absolutely awesome in its blending of two often mutually-exclusive goals—smooth ride and responsive handling. Bear in mind that my drive was probably less than six miles total, but on miserable, under-construction roads in heavy traffic. The coach rides over rough roads truly as if it is just flying low above the pavement. And a few quick jerks back and forth on the steering wheel assured you that responsiveness was not sacrificed to attain that ride. From that standpoint, I do not think any of you will be disappointed. Again, my time behind the wheel was very short, but I tried to pay attention to those things that would interest you.

During the “unveiling” the coach was indoors on a slick, clean, polished floor and I was able to wiggle under a great deal of it. The FL chassis should not be pre-judged as “second best” to the old Roadmaster. Believe me, after working for well over two years on chassis improvements for the older 8-bag Roadmaster, I’m well aware of some serious shortcomings in its original design, that were never corrected in its entire history. IFS—for me, the jury is out on whether it is really superior in great measure to a simple, rugged beam axle. Once one supports a coach on eight air bags, it is certainly less important what is under the bags, supporting them. The cushy ride is already there just due to the air suspension. But I must admit that the coach rode like a dream. The IFS components are certainly rugged and there are some good design points. I did not go to the FL plant tour, which I’m sure would have shed much light on how it is constructed, but I did the best I could lying on my back under it. A major difference is the way the truly massive steering gear is mounted. It is central between the two very sturdy lower A-arms. That location, it seems to me, allows the coach some of the benefits of rack-and-pinion steering—the number and length of the steering components is reduced, making them stiffer and less prone to deflection. It did, however, necessitate a somewhat more complicated path from the steering gear to the steering wheel. As is normal, there is a U-joint just under the steering wheel to allow it to tilt. But the shaft below that U-joint connects to a 90* gear box. The output of the gear box goes to the steering gear. I can’t remember for sure, but I think that shaft from the gear box to the steering gear had U-joints as well. I think that layout, from an engineering standpoint, is OK as long as the 90* gearbox has minimal play. That could be accomplished by constructing it much like the Saginaw-style steering gears, or by using a spring-loaded input gear to give zero play. I don’t know any details there, but in driving the coach there did not seem to be any noticeable lost motion.

Here endeth the accolades, and begins the critique…

I have never owned a coach with slides, so I don’t know “how the other half lives”, but I will say that Bill D has a valid point—the coach should be at least minimally usable while driving down the road with the slides retracted. It’s not my place to second-guess Mike Snell’s choices in the floor plan, and I believe he made a great effort to have this coach be the best compromise possible in response to a surprisingly large number of replies to the survey he sent out. However, this coach is difficult to gain access to the kitchen area with the slide retracted. That could be largely cured by modifying the luxurious reclining office chair taking up the space between the end of the kitchen crossways-mounted island and the computer desk, or perhaps by stowing the recliner elsewhere. But as is, you’re going to have to forgo having Betty make you that sandwich while you are underway, Bill D.

As others have posted, the bath-and-a-half concept is lost on me, even for folks with children. But as Mike Snell explained, it was one of the overwhelming choices in the survey, along with the pull-out round dining table. I think the round dining table could be worked over by some talented engineers to come up with a more usable design, but retain the attributes so many folks wanted.

I will say that the new Dynasty was an impressive coach…but an impressive coach among an OCEAN of impressive coaches of other brands. I’m not sure that Monaco will regain its former “king of the hill” status without doing something other brands are NOT doing. Personally, I think one of the few areas that Monaco can explore to put its brand apart from others is GREAT ENGINEERING. All high-end coaches are now an assembly of commercially available parts from multiple suppliers. And almost all high-end coaches share the same brand names of equipment, and differ only marginally in how they assemble them. Think about it—how much “innovation” can result from that? A coach that can combine two things—top-notch equipment AND innovative engineering will dominate, even in a market like this one. It is another way of saying what Bill D often repeats—“pillow arranging just ain’t gonna make an outstanding coach, no matter how well it’s done.”

Imagine if Monaco, or any other coach manufacturer, had used in-house dedicated engineers to overcome shortcomings in the components that all manufacturers were using. How about an absorption-cycle fridge designed exclusively to overcome the limitations of the Norcold or Dometic? The Amish unit appears to be superior to the Norcold design, and as far as I know there ain’t no Amish engineers, so it probably isn’t rocket science. Or a version of a residential fridge modified to address the specific needs of the RV? How about an exterior vent on the ubiquitous microwave/convection oven that all RV’s have? How about a flat-screen TV that goes down, goes up, pivots (or whatever) so that when you are not using it, you have a WINDOW—all it takes is some REAL engineering in the mount. And the dining table?—it should have long ago been designed to disappear COMPLETELY when it is not being used, which is the vast majority of the time. And the dining chairs should be doing double-duty as something else, or fold up using an ingenious mechanism and stow conveniently out of sight (think—Chrysler corporation minivan). Showers are always on outside walls and no amount of insulation will make the enclosure warm when the door has been closed for some time—they need to be heated somehow. And what about the shower water control valve?—Aren’t we long overdue for a setup that recirculates the hot water so that you can shut it off momentarily knowing you won’t get a blast of cooled water when you turn it back on? Why does everyone have to come up with their own pet method of securing dishes?—it’s a moving house, for Pete’s sake! Why are there not systems/racks/innovations to keep all your tableware readily available without requiring you to secure them every time you move the coach? Why do drawer slides and cabinet hinges have to be so clunky, requiring a fearsome yank to get them open?—how about you flip a switch, instead, and dozens of cheap DC electromagnets or ?? activate to secure all openings from which things might come flying out while moving? Why is there not an internal rear-view mirror so you can look behind you to see what caused that sound of something falling just was as you hit that last bump, or to see what your passengers are doing? Why does someone have to decide whether outside rearview mirrors should be mounted up high or down low—why not both, even if the upper or the lower is just fixed?

Or how about addressing the single largest topic that upsets coach owners of ALL brands—failures that can turn what should be a wonderful vacation into a near-nightmare? I’m not talking about making routine maintenance easier to accomplish. I’m talking about failures in components or systems that are all too common. And the single most common failure seems always to be electrical. And of all those failures, a surprising majority are simply the result of a poor connection. If competent, but not extraordinary, engineers can put together hundreds, if not thousands, of feet of wire with a zillion connections, assemble them into a space capsule and send it to the moon, can’t RV manufacturers make connections that will weather less than 100* temperature swings, a bit of vibration and some water/humidity?

And about failing systems and devices—Start with the coach MANUFACTURER (NOT the component manufacturer) assessing the most common maintenance failures of all the components and systems it uses in manufacturing their coach. Based on the resulting list, do TWO things. First, work with the device manufacturer and require them to furnish Corrective Action Reports each time a device they furnish fails, much the same as all suppliers are required to do in ISO-compliant industries. The CAR details what the device manufacturer deemed the problem to be, and what he will do to see that it does not happen again. Second, supply the coach owner with detailed, well thought out and well-written diagnostic/troubleshooting procedures for all systems for which “Joe’s RV Repair Shop” might not instantly be able to find/fix the problem. Not only might that help “Joe” figure out what is wrong, but many coach owners are competent, self-reliant folks who can fix some pretty sophisticated systems with just a little help. One step better—imbed all that diagnostic/maintenance/repair info on a cheap laptop, and backed up on SD or other removable media, and give it to the owner when he purchases the coach. If the manufacturer wants to also furnish the same data on printed media, that’s fine. Many of us are happy just to have wiring diagrams when troubleshooting, but a few paragraphs explaining how a system basically functions would go a long way to shortening diagnostic times. But the core “go-to resource” should be easy-to-update media so that the owner can easily download updates/tips/diagnostic procedures from the manufacturer. And almost all of us keep maintenance logs, right? How about if the manufacturer loaded the same laptop with a pre-formatted maintenance log to make maintenance easier to keep up with and communication between the owner and the manufacturer about diagnostics easy and quick? The owner performs his maintenance, logs it on the laptop and uploads to the manufacturer, who keeps track of his records, and can even remind him of something he has overlooked.

Lastly, why should the RV industry, especially the luxury motor home industry lag so far behind other industries (most notably the auto industry) in improving the basic quality/reliability of their product? This can become a subject too deep for a forum post, but the auto industry allowed foreign autos to gain so much traction many years ago for one main reason. American consumers voiced the fact that they found the basic quality of American cars to be so abysmal compared to some imported brands that they totally switched their loyalty. Back then, far too many consumers of American vehicles became accustomed to the “punch list” routine with a new car—drive it a couple of weeks, and make a list of all the things that whose performance or appearance were sub-par, then return to the dealer to get those things fixed. I would make a prediction (and a wager) that the first motor home manufacturer who can truthfully advertise the claim, “We make the coach that works and looks right the day you take delivery…and two years later” will snare a huge part of the total market.

No, I am not in the market for a new coach at present.

Van W. 2000 Dynasty 36 pulling one Harley
Eastern NC
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Old 01-10-2014, 07:02 PM   #2
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Great post Van: Part of the problem with RV quality is that the RV industry evolved from early mobile homes. These mobile homes were cheap POJ's. Quality control did not exist. Early motorhomes were mostly built by trailer mfrs. and most were based in Indiana. Every time a new plant opened it was managed by people that had worked at other plants. Newmar came from HR. They brought all their bad habits to the new plant. Do you remember when Navistar started production of the Monacos. Every one talked about how they were going to bring auto industry quality to the RV business. Never happened. I have toured a lot of RV factories and although some are better than others they all leave a lot to be desired. I know that Mike Snell talked about keeping the former design and engineering staff. Monaco never had more than a few engineers and according to Bill D until the last few years of the OLD Monaco they had ZERO engineers. Why do they only warrantee the parts that they manufacture. If my leveling jacks stop working why do I have to contact HWH? Monaco installed those parts they should stand behind them. Why do they not provide sufficient reimbursement for dealer warranty costs? Why do they not train dealer vtechs? Why does a $500,000 MH have a one year warranty? Obviously the mfr. does not have much confidence in their quality. Why do RV manufacturers keep on buying Norcold 1200 fridges knowing that there is something wrong with them? I think the answer to these questions is that the profits on a $500,000 unit are huge. Once the unit is out of warranty they do not care. We as consumers keep buying them! We are to blame for poorly constructed units! Knowing all the work you did on the wandering chassis I suggest that Monaco hire you to be the head of QC at a 7 figure salary!
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Old 01-10-2014, 07:44 PM   #3
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Van: Just a few other comments. Do you think an engineer and designer were part of building a $600,000 MH that is not usable while the slides are in? Who decided to go with the economy model of AH. And the lack of windows? Who wants an RV where you cannot see outside? I think they have to go back to the drawing board. I bet Newmar and Entegra are not very worried. That model is a dud! Maybe they will do some re-engineering!
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:54 PM   #4
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In a world of RVs built on predominately Freightliner chassis, Monaco Dynasty used to be respected as a premiere coach on a proprietary Roadmaster chassis at a relatively affordable price. That alone removed a lot of competition.

It seems to me that the new Monaco Dynasty is just another motor coach built on a Freightliner chassis. A walk through many Fleetwood coaches, and American Eagles, American Dreams, etc. will no doubt confirm that the only real difference between any of them, and the new 'Monaco Dynasty' is the name plate that's fastened on the coach.

If this truly is the case, it seems to me that the only 'special feature' that can be used to motivate sales of the new Monaco Dynasty, is price.

It would, after all, be the only thing different about this coach.

Jim
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Old 01-11-2014, 06:32 AM   #5
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Quote:
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Van: Just a few other comments. Do you think an engineer and designer were part of building a $600,000 MH that is not usable while the slides are in? Who decided to go with the economy model of AH. And the lack of windows? Who wants an RV where you cannot see outside? I think they have to go back to the drawing board. I bet Newmar and Entegra are not very worried. That model is a dud! Maybe they will do some re-engineering!
Moisheh,

I have worked most of my life in engineering design and development and currently consult with a company that is staffed with 60% engineers. I can assure you that an engineer could have designed the present non road use characteristic of the new Dynasty. You know the old saying; "What do you call a medical student that graduates with a 4.0 - Doctor, what do you call a medical student that graduates with a 2.5 - Doctor".

I know from experience that many of the final decisions are not made by the design engineers. In a non flight, non weapon, or non nuclear manufactured product most of the design decisions are based on the cost. I have petitioned for the more reliable solution many times only to be told it was to expensive. Solutions that reduce labor always win over the alternative design.

Bob
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Old 01-11-2014, 06:44 AM   #6
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Just my observation

Van,

Good post and looking forward to meeting you at the MI Pre-Rally in March.

We spent New Years week at Lazydays as we do most years and always kick the tires on the new and used RV's on the lot. We are not in the market for another coach and certainly not one in the $500k to $600k range. We just like to look. We have noticed over the past several years since ASV acquired Fleetwood that the quality and innovation in the Fleetwood line has improved. My guess is we can expect the same improvements in the Monaco produced products.

Bob
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:06 AM   #7
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IMHO

The reason things stay the same is, someone still thinks $500k is a good value for what they are getting.

The margin expectations are astounding, from manufacturer to service with %100 mark up at each stage apparantly being the rule.

Unfortunately the demographic they are selling to also has to carry much of the blame. There are few who are internet savvy with some being unable to even operate a computer. What is their expectation of innovation? Further what is your expectation of engineering. If one thinks an installer of your stereo is a sound engineer, guess again. Everyone love a nice interior and that is easy to build. Sadly, it won't stay that way without a very stiff chassis. Even after 13 years my cabinets are tight and the tile is not cracked. Fleetwood has the resources to build a very nice Coach, I hope they do.

Finally, for $100k I can buy someone else's castoff and be plenty happy.
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:45 AM   #8
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Van, that was a great writeup! Maybe you could go to work for Monaco?

Good luck, happy trails, and God bless!
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:55 AM   #9
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Perhaps lost in the length of my post is the greatest reason I have for optimism for Monaco Coach--engineering. I think it is likely to be the single thing that separates any one coach manufacturer from a sea of look-alikes. Perhaps Monaco's first Dynasty is not the best for everyone. Perhaps it is not the best for anyone. But if anything causes it to rise above the pack, it will be that the parent company now owning Monaco has great experience in specialty vehicles of many types--fire trucks and ambulances, for instance, as well as huge materials handling machines. And their emphasis, and very likely the reason for their success, is their depth of expertise in ENGINEERING.

Good engineering will not only distinguish a coach from dozens of similar coaches, it will result in better DESIGN and better QUALITY CONTROL. My point was that both those elements are sadly lacking in the DP segment of the RV industry. If I am wrong, the new Monaco RV company will be lost in a sea of mediocrity. If I am right, we may all witness the transformation of the entire industry in the same way that our domestic auto industry was transformed--under pressure from competing products that were superior in design and especially in quality. I believe that will propel ASV to improve its products. The push will come from AIP, a collection of essentially venture capitalists rich in engineering, who have transformed, made profitable, and raised the quality of several specialty vehicles. I believe AIP has demonstrated its prowess in turning around mediocre companies, and done so by forcing its INDIVIDUALLY RUN subsidiaries to follow good engineering practice and quality control.

I think Mike Snell will have a good deal of freedom to mold Monaco. That is as it should be. But he will also be answering to a savvy group of investors with much engineering expertise. If they see their new acquisition is not distinguishing itself, they will call Mike on the carpet and expect him NOT to "Jay Carney" explain things. They will call him on the carpet to explain what he is going to CHANGE to fix things. And I do not believe the senior management of AIP is going to accept cheapening the product as a viable way toward brand supremacy.

I am NOT in the market for any new coach, let alone something as pricey as a new Monaco. I am not a friend of Mike Snell. I have no monetary interest in AIP. But I am hoping we are about to see a fundamental shift in emphasis in the DP high-end market. I hope so.

Could I be wrong about all this? Sure. I have two ex-wives to prove I have made some monumental misjudgments in my life. But I have also turned around a failing small company, and believe that Mike Snell, under the watchful eye of AIP, can do the same with Monaco.

Van W. 2000 Dynasty 36, pulling one Harley
Eastern NC
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Old 01-11-2014, 01:20 PM   #10
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Van: I have some questions that maybe you can answer. Did you notice if they kept the Monaco way of wiring with a front run bay and a rear run in the engine compartment? Did they do away with the infamous scissor style entrance door retainer? Thanks
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Old 01-11-2014, 07:09 PM   #11
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Bob,

Honestly, I'm not sure about the door retainer. But there is not a conventional RRB and FRB as I think we are accustomed to. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I just don't know where all those fuses and relays are (assuming they still exist), anymore than I know where those (8) AGM batteries are. I wish I had taken pix.

The more I see what some folks' comments are, the more I realize what a tough job it is to be Mike Snell and genuinely trying to please everyone. I remember looking at the new dash layout and thinking to myself, "They've lowered the top of the dash, giving a lot better visibility to things close to the front of the coach--a child, for instance." I had no longer formed that thought than someone said, "Can't you raise the instrument panel a bit so we don't have to look down to see it?" Rock and a hard place...and in the end someone has to call the shots...and take the heat, if there is any.

Van W. 2000 Dynasty 36, pulling one Harley
Eastern NC
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Old 01-11-2014, 07:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Bob,

...... I remember looking at the new dash layout and thinking to myself, "They've lowered the top of the dash, giving a lot better visibility to things close to the front of the coach--a child, for instance." I had no longer formed that thought than someone said, "Can't you raise the instrument panel a bit so we don't have to look down to see it?" .....

Van W. 2000 Dynasty 36, pulling one Harley
Eastern NC
Now there is an area that is ripe for innovation. Heads up display, digital gauges as opposed to the round analog style.

How many folks add a scan gauge (D) with 4 digital gauges?

Just say'n.
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Old 01-14-2014, 09:03 AM   #13
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All, once again I am lucky enough to be working a project just north of Tampa, so one again I will make the Tampa "Super Show" this weekend 18/19 Jan. The New Rig is scheduled to be on display.

Last year I was very disappointed with the "Then New" Navistar Dynasty, all I saw was a Camelot with a new front end and a Maxforce engine on the Camelot Chassis. (Please do not assume that I am talking bad about the Camelot) I think they are a very nice rig and would consider one if they were still made, but just would not pay the Dynasty price for it.

I am looking forward to seeing the new (ASV model. If anyone would like me to look at any thing specific I will be happy to do so. Just post here and I will try an answer early next week.

George
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Old 01-15-2014, 05:11 AM   #14
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All, once again I am lucky enough to be working a project just north of Tampa, so one again I will make the Tampa "Super Show" this weekend 18/19 Jan. The New Rig is scheduled to be on display.

Last year I was very disappointed with the "Then New" Navistar Dynasty, all I saw was a Camelot with a new front end and a Maxforce engine on the Camelot Chassis. (Please do not assume that I am talking bad about the Camelot) I think they are a very nice rig and would consider one if they were still made, but just would not pay the Dynasty price for it.

I am looking forward to seeing the new (ASV model. If anyone would like me to look at any thing specific I will be happy to do so. Just post here and I will try an answer early next week.

George
George,

Bruce, myself, and others are interested if they still are using the crappy door swing arm. Take a close look at the door and the swing arm and let us know what they are using. When we were at Lazydays a few weeks ago I noticed that some new coaches are using a gas piston at the bottom.

Bob
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