By merging economy and comfort, Born Free has designed a motorhome that can't be typecast.
By Lazelle D. Jones
When designers at Born Free Motorcoach -- a division of Dodgen Industries Inc. -- began developing the company's newest motorhome, they faced a specific task: how to combine the favorable attributes of type B and type C motorhomes into one recreation vehicle. The result was the Bed and Breakfast, a motorhome with the small size and big appointments that blur the line between the two motorhome types.
After reviewing the motorhome's specifications and the type of lifestyle it is meant to support, it became apparent to me that this vehicle provides another option to first-time RV owners as well as longtime enthusiasts who want to downsize.
With the Bed and Breakfast, Born Free, which has a long and respected history of building type C motorhomes, has married the interior comfort characteristics of type Cs with the diminutive exterior dimensions associated with type Bs. To help achieve this union, the company implemented several livability features into the Bed and Breakfast that European motorhome enthusiasts have enjoyed for years and that North American buyers can now appreciate.
The most noticeable difference between this motorhome and other Born Free models is its exterior size. It's smaller than the company's other coaches, which range from 23 to 26 feet. The Bed and Breakfast is 21 feet long, 7-1/2 feet wide, and 8 feet 10 inches high with roof air. This makes it a friendly unit to drive when negotiating urban traffic or tight national park campsites. The dry weight is 8,200 pounds and the gross vehicle weight rating is 9,500 pounds. Even though a hitch is not included as standard equipment, the Bed and Breakfast's Chevrolet van chassis is capable of towing 3,000 pounds. With the addition of a receiver hitch, the motorhome can tow a small vehicle or trailer.
Just a glance reveals that the Bed and Breakfast's styling is similar to that of a typical type C motorhome, with one major exception: it doesn't include dual rear wheels. This design decision was made for several reasons. First, the cost of building the unit was contained by using the less expensive but very rugged Chevrolet van chassis with single rear wheels. The motorhome's handling is said to be excellent, thanks to its modest height and aerodynamic over-the-cab design. And even with the 14.5-gallon fresh water tank full, the Bed and Breakfast can carry a respectable 1,300 pounds of passenger and cargo weight.
Another benefit of the single-rear-wheel chassis is that neighborhood parking ordinances that many motorhome owners face may not apply with the Bed and Breakfast. According to the company, the coach passes many residential zoning restrictions because of the single rear axle, which classifies it as a van; dual rear wheels would render it a truck. However, for coach enthusiasts who prefer dual rear wheels, the Bed and Breakfast is available on an optional 12,300-pound dual-rear-wheel Chevrolet chassis.
The Bed and Breakfast comes standard with Uniroyal Laredo tires with NailGard. This tire is guaranteed to self-seal most punctures that measure up to 3/16-inch in diameter. Not only does this provide greater safety on the road, but because it is so unlikely that this tire will ever go flat, the space required to carry a spare tire and jack -- and the additional weight -- has been eliminated, freeing up more space for cargo.
Born Free designers' departure from conventional thinking also dictated how the Bed and Breakfast would be equipped. Relying on input from the company's marketing department, Born Free designers surmised that the majority of RV enthusiasts who use a motorhome of this size would stay primarily in full-service campgrounds. Thus, they would have access to shore power. So, Born Free designers created the Bed and Breakfast as an all-electric motorhome. The water heater, the heating system, and the galley appliances all are powered by electricity. However, a standard 4-kilowatt Onan generator makes this a stand-alone unit should the occasion arise. Propane appliances, and a 9-1/2-gallon LP-gas tank, recently were added to the options list.
As the Bed and Breakfast name implies, full cooking facilities (a cook top and oven) are not included as standard equipment in this motorhome. The coach is designed to provide a pleasant ride, a comfortable place to relax once you've reached your destination, and a cozy bed for a restful night's sleep. The limited galley (a sink, a microwave, and a small refrigerator) is adequate for fixing a light breakfast or lunch, but it's not equipped for more elaborate culinary adventures. A toaster oven and a coffee maker are also furnished as standard equipment.
The Bed and Breakfast floor plan features a main side entrance and a rear bench-style dinette that converts into a double bed. Born Free designers gave considerable thought about how to equip the bathroom. They decided to include a private area with a marine, cassette-style toilet but no interior shower. Why? Because in a unit this size, they reasoned, the aggravation of using a temporary shower would probably be experienced only a few times before the convenience of the campground's hot showers became overwhelmingly evident. Plus, they determined, a temporary shower -- and the space it occupies -- was not worth the cost. Also, by not including a shower, the size of the gray water holding tank and the water heater can be smaller, and less fresh water would be used. This converts directly into weight, space, and cost savings.
The same thought process went into the company's decision to install the 4.5-gallon cassette toilet system. As European motorhome enthusiasts have known for years, the ease with which a cassette can be removed from the outside of the coach for dumping means that further weight and space savings can be gleaned from the coach. This is clearly a case of necessity (reduced weight and coach size; increased interior living space and cargo carrying capacity) being the mother of invention.
The Bed and Breakfast features the same traditional steel roll-bar construction, high-gloss exterior fiberglass, and residential-style roof and wall insulation as all Born Free motorhomes. The single-cap roof is made of molded fiberglass. The floor is constructed of marine-grade plywood that is covered with fiberglass on the top and bottom and anchored to outriggers that are installed onto the chassis by Born Free technicians.
A fully equipped Bed and Breakfast motorhome has a suggested retail price of $59,995. Standard features include air-ride suspension, a 13,500-Btu roof air conditioner with a 5,600-Btu heat strip, a Fan-Tastic Vent fan with rain sensor, a 9-inch TV/DVD player, a microwave oven, a toaster oven, a coffee maker, and a 3.2-cubic-foot electric refrigerator/freezer. Other standard features include an electric outdoor grill, an AM-FM radio with CD player, a 4-gallon electric water heater, and oak cabinetry.
The coach portion is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty, and a 10-year fiberglass limited warranty for corrosion or hail perforation. The chassis features a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty.
For someone seeking the amenities and comfort of a type C motorhome in an economically sized type B package, this vehicle may be just the answer.
Born Free Motorcoach Inc., Hwy. 169 N., P.O. Box 39, Humboldt, IA 50548; (800) 247-1835, (866) 267-6373; www.bornfreebedandbreakfast.com.