Family Motor Coaching
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This page was last updated on: 19 March, 2010
Ontario, California, a small city located 30 miles east of Los Angeles, is set in an area once known for its vineyards, wineries, and farms. Today this community is the home of one of the class acts in luxury motor coaches -- Hawkins Motor Coach, Inc. (HMC).
After a few days of traveling in the 1992 HMC Limited Edition, I had the opportunity to spend a morning with company president Jerry Hawkins while touring the facilities where this excellent creation comes together. This provided me with a firsthand look at the roots of the precision and excellence I had experienced during my hands-on time with the 35-foot diesel pusher test coach.
Catering to a market segment that is sophisticated as well as savvy when it comes to "who's who" and "what's what" in motor coaches. Hawkins officials opted to begin their product with a Gillig chassis, one of the premier motor coach foundations on the market today.
Gillig tailors this chassis expressly to HMC specifications. A rugged frame consisting of 8-inch-by-3 1/2 -inch by 1/4 inch double flanged "U" channel steel and full-depth huck-bolted cross members, the chassis infrastructure includes an all-wheel air-ride suspension system, Rockwell axles, TRW Ross steering system, and a dual air brake system. The cornerstone of the power train is a Caterpillar 3116T in-line six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that is rated at 250 horsepower and 650 foot-pounds of torque. Coupled with this power plant is an Allison MT-650. All of this rides on Alcoa forged aluminum disc wheels and Michelin tires.
When critiquing a motor coach, craftsmanship, materials, features, and performance are the more obvious elements that provide an indication of levels of excellence. However, a more subtle but very important barometer of owner satisfaction is aesthetics. Even in a large RV emporium such as Traveland in Irvine, California, the place where I picked up the test coach, where the models are many and everything looks shiny and new, the HMC Limited Edition stood out from the pack. RV aficionados, who sat this coach stopped to look, look again and then looked again. It's truly a beauty -- one that even as it sits parked looks as though it should be prowling the highways and back roads of North America.
My test coach measured 35 feet long and 102 inches wide. The HMC is also available in lengths of 33 34, 36, 37, and 40 feet. Hawkins designers have taken every opportunity to make the Limited Edition coach palatial and elegant.
Upon ascending the stairwell and entering the living area of the coach, one enters a richly appointed, warm, and immensely inviting atmosphere. Everything from the beautifully configured country kitchen to the fine leather and natural wood furnishings in the living area speak of the creative genius that's gone into the interior design of this coach.
Noteworthy appointments are found throughout the HMC, starting in the cockpit. Above this area is a 19-inch Quasar color television flanked by smoked glass doors that conceal a VCR and a deep storage bay.
Among the living room furnishings is a designer sofa that can easily be converted to a bed. Beneath this sofa is a rollout drawer that provides ample room for storing extra blankets, pillows, and bed linens. Across from the sofa is a leather-covered swivel rocker and a thoughtfully designed utility table (more about the table later). Window treatments the remainder of the coach consists of accordion-style day/night pleated shades tastefully surrounded by oak framing. Both the living area and bedroom floor are covered by the plushest of carpeting.
From the front of the coach to the rear, wherever there is a table or countertop, one finds Corian surfaces. Recessed into the leading edges of all countertops and table surfaces is oak trim that smartly accents the liberal use of this wonder material. Even the vertical splash panel at the end of the galley countertop is a blend of Corian and oak.
The country kitchen table and the aforementioned utility table include a very useful feature. The tabletops have been placed on rails, and when additional surface area is required, the tops can be pulled apart and a Corian leaf inserted. Without the leaf, the kitchen table easily accommodates two diners. In this setting, the stand-alone kitchen table is accompanied by two substantial wooden chairs. When guests arrive for dinner, the table can be pulled apart and the leaf can be inserted. Additional fold-up leatherette chairs can be retrieved from a nearby closet, and the country kitchen dinette becomes a more formal dining area, able to seat several people.
There's another major plus to having this dining arrangement instead of a traditional booth configuration; Hawkins designers were able to add an etched glass corner cabinet in this area, as well as nine additional storage drawers.
A one-piece Corian countertop crowns the "J" shaped galley cabinet/drawer unit. In the crook of the "J", at a visually pleasing angle to the rest of the kitchen area, is a deep double stainless-steel sink. The sink itself can be disguised by Corian covers when not in use.
The galley is equipped with efficient, state-of-the-art appliances that should please everyone from the bona fide chef to the individual whose sole mission is to fix a snack. A Coffee Mate Space-Saver coffee maker (with a thermos for keeping the coffee hot) is conveniently mounted beneath one of the overhead cabinets. A Nutone food processor is mounted in the countertop. An Ever Pure water filter supplies quality water no matter where your travels take you. A separate tap for the filtered drinking water is located next to the galley sink faucet. A two-burner LP-gas cooktop and a microwave/convection oven afford one all the versatility of a stationary kitchen. The large pantry in this area includes slide-out shelves. The three-way double-door refrigerator includes an automatic energy select feature. And for those wishing to be fully independent while on the road, a washer/dryer combination is available as an option.
A telephone jack is located on the wall along the imaginary line between the galley and living room, making it accessible to both areas. The monitor panel above the entrance door includes indicators for holding tank levels propane level, and battery condition, as well as the water pump switch. In addition, this panel is one of three places where the 7-kw auxiliary generator can be started or stopped.
Suffice it to say that the craftsmanship that goes into the all-wood cabinetry and solid-oak doors throughout the coach is exceptional. The cabinet frames are fabricated by HMC and are a rugged ingredient in the coach's infrasture. In fact, with the exception of the doors, all of the cabinetry is constructed in-house. The raised-panel door feature curvilinear edging and the warm, deep natural tones of the wide-grained oak is a feature that by itself will give rise to many admiring comments. Furthermore the liberal use of wood throughout the coach, the galley floor is graced by three-inch solid oak planking.
Beyond the kitchen area is the master bath. This bath space merits the work 'master" to describe it adequately. From the aromatic cedar-lined wardrobe to the porcelain commode, antique brushed-brass fixtures, skylights, large angular corner shower, and ceramic-tiled floor, this coach-wide bath has it all. Pocket doors can be pulled across either side areas of the coach. A variable-speed, highly efficient ceiling vent fan (with motorized struts for opening and closing) adds one more dimension to controlling the interior environment. This fan, along with a similar unit in the galley area, can evacuate the coach interior of stale, hot air in a matter of minutes.
The bedroom occupies the rear of the coach. The highlight of this room is the 60-inch by 75-inch orthopedic queen-sized bed. Contributing to the feeling of spaciousness in this area is the mirror that hangs above the head of the bed. The cedar-lined closets on either side of the mirrored headboard are visually pleasing yet highly functional. Additional storage space is available in pull out drawers beneath the bed. An adjustable, hinged reading lamp is mounted on each closet. The nightstands feature Corian tops.
Temperature control in the HMC is accomplished by two 13,500 Btu roof mounted air-conditioning units and a 35,000 Btu forced-air furnace. As noted above. Ventilation is augmented through the use of two high volume roof-mounted air evacuation fans. And up front in the cockpit, two A&E windshield fans help to prevent heat buildup in this area during the summer months and assist in defrosting the windshield when necessary.
The exterior of the HMC Limited Edition also bears a number of features worth mentioning. The coach is graced by redesigned side skirts with integrated molded fiberglass doors and custom exterior graphics. The pass-through storage bays extend across the entire width of the coach, which facilities loading and unloading and allows the owner to stow even those long, troublesome items.
The side bay that houses the dump valves and equipment is "user friendly." Cleanup is facilitated by the soap dispenser, hot and cold eater faucet, and paper towel holder located in this compartment. The flex hose connected to this faucet makes tasks such as rinsing off after a day at the beach or cleaning up after preparing freshly caught fish light years easier. This heated compartment also houses the fresh water tank and holding tanks. The coach batteries are mounted on a slide-out rack inside their own bay door.
Powerful docking lights are positioned on the sides as well as at the rear of the coach. A&E awnings by Dometic extend easily to provide shade for the large picture window over the sofa and the window over the rocker recliner on the opposite side of the coach. A&E awnings also grace the galley window and both bedroom windows.
The HMC Limited Edition is a breeze to pilot through traffic, be it on busy street or on the freeway. The power-operated driver's seat, power operated side-view mirrors, and the tilt and telescoping steering wheel help to customize the cockpit to the varied need of drivers. The instruments and controls are positioned within easy view and reach of the driver.
Upon leaving the Traveland lot for the first time, I found myself driving this almost 25,000-pound coach under what might be considered less than ideal conditions. I hadn't realized that the traffic patterns for exiting the facility had been changed since my last visit. However, with the excellent visibility this coach offers and the responsiveness of the big Cat diesel pushing me along, I moved in and out of traffic while negotiating unfamiliar side streets. When I finally reached the freeway on-ramp, all 250 horses moved the Limited Edition along with authority as I proceeded onto the interstate and joined the flow of traffic. Yes, as had been true of other areas of this coach, driving it was a joy as well.
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pictures, floor plans & specs