This diesel pusher from Hawkins Motor Coach Inc. matches the company's expertise in crafting high-line motor coaches will with the sophisticated demands of today's upscale coach enthusiast.
A winter odyssey to Zion National Park in southern Utah proved to be an excellent opportunity to test the mettle of the diesel pusher coach from Hawkins Motor Coach Inc. The 1995 version of this coach was called the Aerosport Special Edition; for 1996 it will be called simply the HMC. Our trek involved hundreds of miles of inter¬state driving, navigating back roads that were far removed from the madding crowd, and stand-alone winter camping that tested this high-line motor coach's ability to provide creature comforts in cold, remote settings.
The coach proved to be a rugged yet comfortable mode of transportation. Its sleek exterior lines complement a con¬temporary and luxurious interior ambience. It affords abundant storage both inside and out, and it drives and operates as well as it looks. Equally important, we found this coach to be practical and responsive to the demands of everyday living.
The HMC is built on a Gillig chassis. Our test unit was powered and pushed by a Cummins 300-cid turbocharged diesel engine coupled with a 6-speed Allison MD3060 World transmission. The coach weighed 25,600 pounds. This figure included 60 gallons of fuel (the total fuel capacity is 98 gallons), a fresh water tank that was three-quarters full, and empty holding tanks. With four people and all our gear on board, we averaged 6.5 miles per gallon.
It must be noted that this coach was not coddled. It was pressed to perform far beyond what would be considered a normal Sunday afternoon drive. We charged up Cajon Pass and cruised across the desert at speeds that averaged 65 mph. I was curious to see how this coach would handle when subject¬ed to the turbulence that's almost always encountered when entering Utah through the Virgin River Gorge. I wasn't disappointed. The coach felt as solid as the granite in the surrounding canyon walls. And on the winding mountain roads of southern Utah, the coach seemed right at home. Suffice it to say, in all driving scenarios, the coach handled very well. Experience tells me that had I maintained a speed of 55 mph and a state of steady operation, the fuel economy achieved would have been significantly better than our 6.5 mpg figure.
The HMC is pleasing to the eye. The exterior of this bus-style coach is augmented by subtle graphics, just enough to accent its sleek lines. Exterior storage is plentiful and includes a massive coach-wide storage bay that can be accessed from either side of the coach. On the curb side, a tray on rollers pulls out of the larger of the two bay doors, making it possible to utilize the entire width of the coach for storage. Shore power, which accommo-dates hookups for 15-, 30, or 50 amp service, is cleverly housed in a compartment located under the rear engine exhaust. Smooth operation of the exterior bay doors is facilitated by gas struts that provide excellent control when opening and closing them, or when leaving the bay doors in the full open position. The coach and the chassis have their own skid-mounted battery packs, which are accessible from behind their own exterior doors.
Hawkins utilizes a good door handle/locking system. Simply push a button in the center of the handle; the handle then pops out, allowing you to turn it, thereby unlocking and opening the door. When the door is closed, the handle is pushed in, where it remains flush with the exterior surface until the next time it needs to be opened again. Another convenience is the special tube that is positioned underneath the coach on the street side, adjacent to the holding tank dump valve compartment; this is where the dump hose is kept.
To make setting up camp in the dark an illuminating experience, docking lights are located on both sides of the coach. And all the way forward on the roof is a spotlight that is operated by the driver via a joystick-type mechanism.
The pilot of this coach will find a user-friendly instrument and control panel configuration. Lined up in a single column on the left side of the instrument panel and well marked are the control buttons and annunciator lights for the interior windshield fans; docking, map, backup, fog, and courtesy lights; Sure Start button; cruise control; dump valve; and "jack down" warning. On the right side of the panel is the exhaust brake switch, the emergency override button, the gauges for fuel and transmission temperature, and the auxiliary generator controls. A 40¬channel CB radio also sits to the right side of the tilt able steering wheel. Directly in front of the steering wheel are the speedometer, tachometer, voltmeter, coolant temperature, and oil pressure gauges.
Also directly in front is the monitor for the backup camera that is mounted on the roof at the rear of the coach. A control for this monitor enables the user to select either a wider or a more distant view of what's going on behind the coach. To the left of the driver on a horizontal panel below the driver's window is the pushbutton control for the automatic transmission, the hydraulic leveling system controls, the parking brake, the outside spotlight, and the control button that opens and closes the floor panel over the entry stairwell. Also located here are the control buttons for the mirrors.
The HMC is equipped with darkly tinted sun visors, mounted on robotic style arms that allow the pilot and copilot the luxury of moving them to just about anywhere they're needed. I discovered how useful this feature can be, even during nighttime driving. As we were topping Cajon Pass and descending back into the Los Angeles basin on our way home from Utah, falling and blowing rain and patches of fog made visibility extremely difficult. This was further compounded by the lights of the oncoming traffic bouncing and reflecting all over the inside of the cockpit. Because these visors are movable, I was able to mitigate the effects of the glare coming from the road by positioning the driver's visor down and to the left of my face. This feature was a godsend. The windshield wipers also did a good job as we drove through that blowing rain on Cajon Pass. The wipers operate independently of each other; each is equipped with its own high-low and wash position switches.
And speaking of descending Cajon Pass, the exhaust brake on the Cummins engine provided an excellent means of controlling our forward progress down this long and potentially fast 6 percent grade.
Because this coach is 100 inches wide and 34 feet long, all kinds of living space presents itself. Hawkins prudently manages this space to maximize utility and yet make coach occupants' leisure hours comfortable. In the cock¬pit above the driver's seat is a 20-inch color television, positioned so that it can be enjoyed from anywhere in the living area or galley. Smoked-glass doors on the two adjacent up-front cabinets disguise the VCR and whatever else you may decide to stow there. Above the main entrance is the systems monitor panel, as well as two small oak-front cabinets. Two addition¬al oak-front cabinets are located above the driver's window. Here begin the overhead cabinets that run down both sides of the coach back to the galley. In total, there are six overhead cabinets on the curb side of the coach and three above the sofa. The cabinet doors are graced with recessed latches which give each one a smooth, unencumbered look.
Special mention must be made about the interior of these cabinets. Each is lined with carpet, which helps to numb noise that might occur while you're motoring to your next destination. Inside each cabinet is a fully adjustable shelf, allowing you to make room for objects of different sizes.
By turning the cockpit seats 180 degrees to face the rear of the coach, increased seating capacity results in the living area, and the finishing touches are in place to truly enjoy this luxuri¬ous living area. Nothing is left wanting. On the curb side of the coach is an adjustable, leather-covered chair that swivels. Used in conjunction with the Corian-topped utility table, this chair makes a great place to enjoy crafts, take care of personal business, or sip a cup of tea while reading a good book. The base of the utility table is also made of bleached oak; a look behind its door reveals plentiful storage. On the street side of the coach is a beautifully upholstered sofa that instantly converts into a bed. Extra bedding can be stowed in the pull-out drawer beneath it.
The same plush carpeting flows from the cockpit back through the living area and on into the galley. For practical purposes as well as for aesthetics, half of the galley floor, where cooking spills might drop, is covered in white ceramic tile. Carpeting has been placed under the stationary dinette table as well. Even though it is mount¬ed to the wall, the dinette can be pulled apart, and a matching table leaf can be inserted when a larger table is needed. The table is topped with Corian and graced with a decorative bull nose trim. The two matching, movable chairs are made of oak. A freestanding table with an extension leaf is available as an option.
The galley is pleasing to the eye, and its design is well thought out. Neither the gourmet chef nor the seeker of midnight snacks will be disappointed. The galley counter is
L-shaped. Three wide, deep roll-out drawers and a pull-out cutting board are positioned beneath the cook top. Three smaller but very deep roll-out drawers are situated to the right of the dual-tub stainless-steel sink. A large double-door cabinet below the sink provides an abundance of storage. A built-in countertop food processor blender provides added convenience for meal or drink preparation. When not in use, the attachments can be removed and stowed elsewhere. A white designer-style microwave-convection oven sits above the cook top, and two more cabinets hang above it. In addition, two commodious cabinets hang above the galley sink. Additional standard features in this galley include a coffee maker and an ice maker.
A two-door Norcold refrigerator freezer stands between the end of the counter and the sofa. This refrigerator features two-way power (LP gas and 110-volt electric). A pantry, located just aft of the dinette, has all the utility a pantry should have. Above three deep roll-out drawers that start at floor level and behind a 3~-length raised panel oak door are three more roll-out drawers, widely spaced to allow the tallest of pantry type items to be stored. These are deep drawers that enable you to store and retrieve items from even the farthest reaches.
Throughout the coach, giant windows bring the outside world in. They are surrounded by fabric-covered window boxes that make them appear anything but bare, even when the day-night accordion blinds are fully open. When privacy is mandated, a track-mounted fabric curtain system quickly closes off the giant windshield and other cockpit windows from the outside.
Lighting, AC outlets, telephone jacks, etc. are not only plentiful but also are prudently located throughout the coach. For example, the living area contains three fluorescent lights, plus a designer incandescent light with shade. This brass light is mounted at the aft end of the sofa. Adjustable canister-type lights behind the pilot and copilot seats provide illumination without distracting the pilot during night driving. In the galley are two individual fluorescent lights, one over the dinette and the other over the counter. A giant recessed galley ceiling light trimmed in matching oak and consisting of eight fluorescent tubes, would look great in any upscale model home kitchen. The bathroom contains three fluorescent lights, as well as makeup lights above the lavatory. There are two fluorescent lights in the bedroom, plus a shaded reading light attached to a hinged brass arm adjacent to each nightstand.
AC outlets are found above the living area utility table, over the dinette, in the bathroom, and over each night¬stand in the bedroom. Behind the dinette is a complete weather center that includes a thermometer; a barometer; a hydrometer; and a large, easy-to-read clock. Here also is the thermostat for the coach and the controls for the forward roof-mounted air conditioner. Above the sofa is a telephone jack.
A roll-out pocket door is located where the pantry ends and the enormous floor-to-ceiling oak storage complex in the bathroom begins, separating the galley from the bath area. Between the bath and the bedroom is another oak pocket door. The storage complex offers an unbelievable amount of room in which to stow those must have items. It includes nine very large roll-out drawers; a cedar-lined, mirrored double-door wardrobe; and a spacious closet with three large, adjustable shelves. The entire bathroom floor is covered in the same tile as the galley floor.
On the wall opposite the massive oak storage complex is the lavatory. This room includes a designer sink and faucet and a Corian countertop with inlaid trim. Above the sink is a deep cabinet graced with double mirrored doors and large shelves. A porcelain toilet is located on the interior wall of the bathroom, and another large mirror hangs above it. In the opposite corner is a commodious shower graced with gold anodized aluminum trim. Two large towel rings are mounted on the wall adjacent to the shower, and two more bar-style towel racks are located on the shower frame itself. Two large skylights, one above the shower and one in the center of the bathroom, pro¬vide natural illumination in this area during the daytime.
The bedroom is a continuation of the same excellence found throughout the rest of the coach. It incorporates bleached oak-front cabinets, night¬stands on either side of the bed that are topped with Corian, plush carpeting, matching fabric for the bedspread and throw pillows, the liberal use of mirrors' low-maintenance vinyl wall covering, and cedar-lined closets. An AM¬FM stereo cassette player is built directly into the oak wardrobe cabinet on the street side of the bedroom. The previously mentioned designer reading lamps on each side of the head of the bed add a nice touch to the room's sophisticated interior design. A 13-inch color television mounted diagonally on the wall at the foot of the bed makes for easy viewing from either side of the bed. Large overhead cabinets with adjustable shelves line both the street side and curb side of the bedroom. Above the bed between two half-length wardrobes are two large overhead cabinets.
The central heating system of the coach is designed around a 42,000-BTU forced-air furnace, with floor registers in the living, galley, bathroom, and bedroom areas. Dual 13,500-Btu roof air conditioners cool the front and rear of the coach independently. A 7 -kW diesel auxiliary generator provides all the stand-alone AC electricity you'll ever need to power the roof air conditioners, televisions, microwave oven, and AC outlets on the inside and outside of the coach.
The construction of the HMC reflects what Hawkins has found to be time-tested and quality-proven processes. A steel sub floor covers the entire perimeter of the coach. The floor above is a one-piece steel frame with an aluminum underbelly that is insulated and vacuum-laminated. The coach side¬walls include steel tube framing with cut-to-fit foam block insulation, which is vacuum-laminated between fiberglass, lauan panel, and a layer of decorative interior paneling. Hawkins molds all of the fiberglass used in this coach. The front and rear caps, as well as the roof, are composed of one-piece molded fiberglass.
The 1995 base suggested price of the 34¬foot Hawkins HMC is $175,000. As tested, the suggested retail price of this motorhome was $203,420.
Hawkins has been building motor coaches for years, and that experience is evident in the diesel pusher HMC. Quality craftsmanship and engineering abound, both inside and out. The best way to appreciate these features, however, is to experience firsthand, as we did, the joys of traveling and living in this motorhome