Yesterday we drove across the northern-most part of Kansas, across secondary roads, and through lots of road construction to get to a very interesting and educational field trip! Probably not high on everyone’s list of places to go and things to do for an afternoon, it was still the perfect, and long awaited, destination for this traveling tribe! We were able to take a Peterson Industries Excel factory tour!We spent the afternoon at Peterson Industries, where they build Excel 5th wheels.While we have done so much to our RV to get it ‘just right’ for our large family to live in, we are also continually reminded, by our ongoing repairs, that our RV was not built to withstand the rigors of fulltime RV living.
So we arranged to have a tour of the Peterson Industries factory, where high-end, 4 season 5th wheels are built. Located in tiny Smith Center, Kansas, this company assembles these trailers from the ground up. Literally.
We got a great tour from Ralph, the customer service center manager (I think that’s what his name tag said – my memory isn’t what it used to be! lol!).
Since we have experienced frame failure, and were without our RV for 3 months while it was being rebuilt, when we found out they built their own heavy duty frames, we were impressed!
They will even add a rear hitch – with a 4k# tow rating, and a 400# hitch weight. Most 5ers you are lucky to get away with adding a bike rack 😉Excels are all built to order, and the factory puts out, on average, 3 a week, and has around 75 local employees.
After your frame is built, it heads in this bay, where it is sprayed with a rust inhibitor…
During the tour, we had to wear safety glasses (except me (Dana), cuz I already wear glasses 😀 ). Molly was not impressed…and Peanut kept shoving her’s clear up on her face so that they would pull the bottom of her eyelid away from her eyes (so Peanut). I’m thinking that the littlest girls were a bit bored, but they were good, so that was all that mattered. lol.
Honestly, Vaughn was going on the tour to humor me. RV manufacturers don’t impress him, being a builder of real things and all 😉 but as Ralph took us through the factory, and showed us how EVERYTHING is built right there (except for cabinet fronts, which are made just down the road at a local cabinet-maker’s, and the countertops, which are also made in US), I could tell he was actually interested. Everything is built specifically for each rig, right down to the cabinet layouts. This is a cabinet frame being built…no pins and staples, everything is pocket-screwed together…Even the drawers are screwed together instead of being pinned! They make all the cabinetry right in the same huge building where they assemble the RV. This is a fridge surround, with an opening for the fridge, and a pantry next to it… Cabinetry waiting to be installed in a 5er on the line. They offer hickory or glazed maple hardwoods for your cabinets…The sinks awaiting installs…
onto islands soon to be mounted in 5ers…Ever wondered what your black tanks look like? I have (ours are enclosed) – tada!
(I think Ralph said these are 59 and 79 gallon tanks.?.)
Excel 5th wheels cost a bit more than your average run of the mill 5ers, but that’s because they are literally a stick-built house on wheels! They are warrantied for fulltime use (the majority of purchasers will spend more than 6 months a year in their Excel), are 4 season and rated to 10 below, and have lots of other luxury options, like sonar tank readers (really)! The sonar readers, called the Sea Level System, are mounted on the outside of the tank (nothing installed inside to get clogged up), and are much more accurate than the traditional monitors.
Ralph was telling Vaughn about the flooring – something like 3/8″ plywood topped with 5/8″ plywood, then 3/8″ hardwood on top of that. Coming from someone who has replaced their flooring (and found particle board underneath), we were impressed.
Vaughn asked about hardwood and the slides scratching it, but Excel puts in these special rollers (will fit in the holes in the white metal trim in the pic, but weren’t installed yet) – the slides roll on the rollers, at an angle up and away from the main floor. Bathroom floor anyone? 🙂Walls waiting on the assembly line for the frame to catch up…
waiting for the slides to be installed…
Ralph showing Vaughn the recessed battery compartment…Rocking their safety glasses 😉
While Vaughn was geeking out over the fact that they use all ‘real wood’ and screws (not staples and pinners), I was tickled when we got to the furniture and upholstery area.
Everything is made custom, to order, from the dinette chairs to the sofas, right here in the warehouse!
AND, you can even send them the fabric you would like in your coach, and they will make it with your fabric (for instance, a sofa takes about 12 yards, valances 10 yards, kitchen chairs 4/5 yrd). Talk about one of a kind rv!
This was the only area that we saw them use a stapler on anything! lol
Working on the Roofs…
Don’t like maintaining your rubber roof? Excel also offers fiberglass roofs, or you can even get your roof RHINO LINED!!! Who knew! No more maintenance, no more black streaks…
Excel is constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to new amenities, and quality construction. Check it out – the entry door is IN THE SLIDE! (and for the record, the steps were awesome! – totally different design, and they were solid!)…a master bedroom in assembly… that bathroom is in the front of the 5er, just behind the nosecone, and was full width… I guess I would consider having an onboard washer and dryer if they were a set like these 😉 1 3/4″ solid hatch doors with slam latches…
The bay on the above coach is not quite done – there will be a wall installed to separate the plumbing area from the ‘basement’. You know how hard it is to access RV plumbing. Except in an Excel, where they install sliding doors in that separation wall so that you CAN get to your plumbing. (the founder actually winters down south in an Excel unit – you can tell these guys actually RV!Yay!)
Having the door in the slide made such a difference on the feel for the size of the living area, and the layout didn’t have the door right at the base of the stairs – definitely felt more ‘residential’.
We loved our hour(ish) long tour of the Excel factory! Ralph was great about answering any questions we had, and even asked us if there were any areas of the factory we wanted to revisit to get more details on. We were able to view every part of coaches on the assembly line, and to see them in every step of the building process!
Excel has a customer service center across the street from the factory. They do warranty work on their coaches here, and also do a lot of remodeling (like replacing the carpeting) for their owners here. The center has several ‘lounges’ with tvs and couches, restrooms and a laundry area, and you are not expected to move out of your coach!!! They like to have you leave the rig for the day, in the morning, while they pull your 5er into one of the bays; you are welcome to take over one of their lounges. They work on your 5th wheel during the day, and about 4:30, they will pull it back outside the bay for you to spend the night in! That hubby of mine, that toured just to humor my curiosity, went from ‘these cost HOW much?’ to ‘you know, I think it would be worth it’ (oh, if only the price included a heavy duty hauler too)! ROFL!!!
So, now we’re wondering…
Is it time to trade this old girl in???
(you can check out Excel 5ers for yourself at ExcelRVs.com – we’re trying not to covet their Wild Cargo toy hauler! LOL!)