Gregory T Smith


Traveller, Photographer, & Website Designer           Greg
         
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RV Manufacturing District.

This area just South East of Chicago is where most of the RV Manufacturers produce the RV's 5th wheelers and Trailers (Caravans) in America. It is also where the RV Hall of Fame is situated and was the first place I visited. I first stayed in Elkhart for 3 days and then moved to Howe about 20 miles east. On Friday at my visit to the Hall of Fame I met Al Hesselbart Historian at the Museum who arranged an interview with Wilbur Bontrager, Chairman of the Board of Jayco the following Monday. This was a real highlight of my tour to view Jayco manufacturing facilities with a personal guide of the owner. I was amazed the relationship he had with the workers and the facilities and output each day. We viewed 3 of the 6 plants he had. The first factory produced trailers (caravans) and the second the vacuum laminating of the walls, and the third was the production of large RV in the price range of $400,000 to $600,000 and he stated he could not produce these units fast enough. I got the impression they all respected Wilber and he new the names of all the workers. At the end of the tour Wilber took me to lunch at an Amish restaurant just down the road from his office. Whilst there I visited their museum and display and found a photo of Jerry Ryan on the wall.

 

Jayco Headoffice in Middlebury, Indiana
1975 Jerry Ryan with Lloyd Bontrager with a Representative of Conway England

 

 

    

Whilst in the capital of America I also visited a couple of other factories while I was there. I was fishing to see if one would build to Australian design rules. The only one I could find was Crossroads who actually made them but due a change in the production manager they were not going to make any more. I also went to Evergreen and they were going to do something with an Australian importer and would not cut him out but said they would pass on my details to him. The only other manufacture I visited that was interested was Delux Suites who built a very expensive unit that was very heavy as they had 3 inch wall thickness to get a very high R factor rating. They were very large units and one of their biggest markets was the Canadian market who had extream cold in the winter.They did build units for long term living and from what I saw in their manufacture, the quality was there. In all the factories I saw very dedicated workers who seemed to perform their tasks expedicially and with a view to quality. Many of the workers were Amish.

I spent 2 weeks in RV District and had a number of day trips 

 

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