This type A motorhome boasts a generous gross vehicle weight rating and a diesel pusher "look."
By Lazelle Jones
Although Monaco Coach Corporation might best be known for the bevy of diesel-powered motorhomes built by its various subsidiaries, the company's presence in the gas-powered market is undeniable, and ever-increasing. The Monaco LaPalma has contributed to that growth. This coach incorporates many of the attributes found in today’s diesel-pusher motorhomes, yet it is propelled by an 8.1-liter fuel-injected gasoline engine. When I learned that the LaPalma may be an appealing alternative for those considering an entry-level diesel-pusher motorhome, I arranged to borrow a 2004 LaPalma 37PCD double-slideout model for a detailed look-see. The coach's many pleasing features prompted me to add it to my "A" list of type A motorhomes.
For one, the LaPalma is available on two platforms. My test coach was built on the meaty Workhorse W-22 chassis and powered by an 8.1-liter Vortec V-8 engine that develops 340 horsepower, and 455 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm (close to what many diesel engines yield). The LaPalma is also available on a Ford chassis with a 6.8-liter V-10 engine, which produces 425 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm. Wheelbases range from 228 inches to 242 inches, depending on floor plan length. My test coach featured a 242-inch wheelbase and 22.5-inch diesel-chassis-size wheels.
In addition, the front cap features a symmetry that’s very close to that found on many diesel coaches. The Velvac split power-adjustable side mirrors (which also fold away) further complement the bus-style look. But perhaps the most substantial enhancement found on the 2004 LaPalma is that it is offered with a full-body paint option.
So, just how significant is this option? Upon investigating this question, I discovered that the full-body paint that dresses the LaPalma is every bit as good as the paint jobs found on diesel pushers costing twice as much. The quality of materials and the time that goes into the full-body paint job can be quantified this way.
A total of eight layers of Diamont paint (the same paint used on Mercedes-Benz automobiles) are applied. This includes a primer; a base coat; the color coats (with wet sanding between each coat); and, finally, several applications of clear coat (the coach is fully sanded before the final application of clear coat). Monaco officials noted that the full-body paint process involves applying 24 gallons of paint and clear coat and about 165 man-hours of preparation and painting per coach. When looking at the production time line for a LaPalma, it takes about a week to complete the house portion of the coach and two more weeks to complete the full-body paint process. The end result is a surface that is said to be resistant to ultraviolet rays and capable of yielding 15-plus years of excellent appearance with only water and a mild detergent needed for cleaning. Waxing the LaPalma is not required.
Monaco LaPalma bedroomOther features set this coach apart as well. The LaPalma is offered both as a two- or three-slideout coach. The 37PCD unit I reviewed featured a living/dining slide and a rear queen bed slide, with both slides located on the driver's side. The rear of this model boasts a truly intriguing arrangement: an area aft of the queen bed large enough to accommodate a computer desk and chair, as well as a full-size rocker/recliner. In addition, an exceptionally large window graces the rear wall, which means that the view outside can be enjoyed while relaxing in bed or while sitting in the upholstered recliner. When the bedroom slideout is extended, an exceptional amount of added comfort, livability, and visual enjoyment are created.
The 37PCD includes another unusual floor plan feature. Between the center-aisle bath and the rear bedroom, a floor-to-ceiling atrium-style door and wall, including individual panes of glass, have been incorporated. This structure calls to mind a garden room atmosphere. Pull-down accordion-type shades provide privacy between these two areas. In the world of interior design, this is dynamite stuff.
Of course, these design features would be insignificant without the "nuts and bolts" that have been engineered in the LaPalma. Workhorse claims that the W-22 chassis and powertrain will provide reliable service for 200,000-plus miles. That being the case, the patented, multilayered Alumaframe Construction process, perfected years ago at Holiday Rambler (today a division of Monaco), is a natural match for a chassis with such planned longevity. The way the floor, walls, roof, cockpit, and storage bays are built also merits another look.
To begin with, rail extensions are added to the rear of the chassis. Monaco calls the substructure it builds, and upon which the subfloor sits, the “Smart Structure.” The Smart Structure design incorporates welded angle iron and Z-bar material that together create the frame around the storage compartments and the truss system. When the exterior storage bays are packed, the truss system loads the resulting outboard weight in toward the center rails of the chassis. Rotocast polyethylene storage compartments, along with insulated aluminum doors, create the exterior storage bays found on the LaPalma. The LaPalma includes a heated service bay (dump valves, etc.) along with a heated holding tank area. On the model reviewed, the exterior bays yield 105 cubic feet of storage, excluding the wet bay, which contains a hot and cold shower and sewer hose storage.
A subfloor grid pattern is created by welding 1-1/2-inch aluminum framing. Between the frame members, blue foam-core insulation is placed. The underside of the floor is dressed with a three-ply water-resistant material. For the top surface, Monaco uses a product called Structurwood, which, because of its chemical composition, has a high resistance to moisture. (Using heat and pressure, wood particles from new-growth trees and resin are bonded together to create this product, which has a 25-year warranty.) A continuous sheet of Structurwood covers the interior side of the floor. This barrier is impervious to dust and moisture, plus it mitigates the effects of road noise. The floor structure is anchored to the Smart Structure with bolts.
The LaPalma's roof is a 6-inch-thick, nine-layered structure, with an exterior of 0.064-inch-thick aluminum backed with lauan panels. It is designed with a crowned roof line for water runoff. The centerline (front to rear) features a 5-inch-wide area where the two sheets of exterior aluminum overlap. Between the overlapping areas, adhesive is applied to seal and provide a barrier against moisture, dust, etc. This adhesive runs the entire length and width of the overlapping sheets of aluminum, with rivets placed every inch to mechanically fasten the sheets together. Butyl tape covers the rivets along the entire length of the seam (on the top).
Tapered pieces of bead foam are used to create the roof crown. The infrastructure of the roof includes welded aluminum I-beams that are placed 16 inches on center, with Owens Corning residential insulation installed in between. Below this are a vapor barrier, a thermal-insulated barrier, and a half-inch of bead foam, followed by foam padding that is dressed on the interior side of the ceiling with a low-maintenance vinyl. The LaPalma roof carries a five-year warranty. Interestingly, this roof design is the same type used on Monaco’s $200,000 Diplomat diesel pusher.
Each wall is a five-layer structure that incorporates aluminum C-channel members with designed-in penetrations, which allow the C-channel members to interlock. House wiring is run through these penetrations, and each opening where a wire passes through is grommeted. The intersections at which the C-channels pass through one another are spot-welded. This type of crisscross, interlocking design of welded aluminum C-channel creates a unitized structural grid that is lightweight yet strong.
Sporting an exterior of high-gloss gel-coat fiberglass, the walls are packed with cut-to-fit pieces of residential-style insulation that are locked in place with an adhesive that prevents sagging over the life of the coach. A vapor barrier is added, as is a sheet of bead foam, to minimize heat transfer between the interior and exterior of the coach. The interior side of the walls is dressed with vinyl-covered lauan paneling. One other important feature found in the LaPalma (because of the thickness of the walls) is that the 120-volt receptacles that lace the coach from front to rear are located in the exterior walls themselves and not in the cabinets.
For safety, a welded steel cage surrounds the cockpit area and the steel firewall. The doghouse that surrounds the engine is a stingy 3 to 4 inches high, contrary to that found in many type A motorhomes, to and from the driver’s and passenger’s seats. Good job, Monaco.
The LaPalma is offered in lengths ranging from 33 feet to 37 feet. The sofa/dinette slideout on the 37PCD I reviewed measured 142 inches long by 32 inches deep. The rear queen bed slideout measured 66 inches long by 24 inches deep. Together, when extended, these two slideouts created an additional 43 square feet of living area.
I found the operation of the electric slideout mechanisms to be smooth and responsive. The two large exterior storage bays below the living area sofa and dinette extend and retract with the forward slide. This bay system, which Monaco calls the EasyStor System, is configured such that long objects like golf clubs can be stowed inside. The bay doors are modulated with pneumatic struts for ease of operation.
The exterior color scheme of the unit reviewed was called Blue Willow. However, exterior full-body paint options also include Prairie Grass, Modern Movement, and Romanesque.
LaPalma cabinetryAll LaPalma cabinetry and solid-surface countertops are created by Nappanee Wood, a wholly owned subsidiary of Monaco Coach. Nappanee Wood is located in Nappanee, Indiana, the heart of Amish country, and enjoys a stellar legacy of providing finished woodwork for custom homes. Wood choices for the LaPalma's cabinetry include Vintage Oak and optional Regal Cherry or Maple. While we're on the subject of cabinetry, the door and drawer fronts are designed to incorporate small beads of a polymer material that is inserted between the door panels to mitigate the effects that changes in heat and moisture can have on wood. This may particularly interest the coach owner who travels about the country and introduces the coach to different temperatures and humidity levels.
And speaking of travel, I found this coach a pleasure to drive. The larger diesel-size 22.5-inch wheels/tires address the irregularities of the road very well, delivering a comfortable and secure ride. I experienced the worst that the interstate and surface road systems in California can deal out over a long holiday weekend. Crammed and jammed together, a million vehicles seemed to be using Interstate 10 as I motored to the Outdoor Resorts Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, California. The coach was responsive, with good visibility provided by the split mirror system during lane changes, while climbing grades, and along city streets. One critique item noted was the location on the dash of the switch for overdrive. It is not easily reached.
LaPalma cockpit, windshieldWhen not piloting the LaPalma, I appreciated the massive flat dash of the cockpit. This area makes a nice place to set things once a campground is reached and offers an unencumbered view out the front of the coach. Plus, it features a large pullout work area whose use is limited only by the imagination.
As for systems that yield creature comforts, the LaPalma comes equipped with a centrally ducted 13,500-Btu air-conditioning system and an additional 11,000-Btu roof unit, plus a 35,000-Btu forced-air furnace. My test coach's 60-gallon fresh water tank was augmented by a 45-gallon gray water tank and a 54-gallon black water tank. These tanks range in size from 39 to 54 gallons, depending on LaPalma floor plan, and can support several days of stand-alone camping. The 75-gallon fuel tank provides a respectable driving distance between refueling stops. I calculated the fuel economy to be 6.7 miles per gallon during my test outing. With full fuel and fresh water tanks, the LaPalma tipped the scales at 20,980 pounds. The passenger and cargo carrying capacity that remained was 1,020 pounds.
The 37-foot LaPalma 37PCD that I tested carried a base suggested retail price of $112,535. As equipped with options — which included hydraulic leveling jacks; heated, power-controlled chrome mirrors; deluxe full-body paint; a rear vision system; a power sun visor; six-way power pilot and copilot seats; a four-door refrigerator with ice maker; and a patio awning, among others — the as-tested price came to $135,050.
The LaPalma is an upscale, high-end gasoline-powered type A motorhome that offers the coach enthusiast another choice when it comes to “moving up.”
Manufacturer … Monaco Coach Corporation, 91320 Industrial Way, Coburg, OR 97408; (800) 634-0855; www.monacocoach.com
Model ... LaPalma
Floor plan ... 37PCD
Chassis ... Workhorse W-22 (also available on Ford)
Engine ... 8.1-liter Vortec 8100 V-8 gas, fuel-injected, 496 cid; 340 horsepower at 4,200 rpm, 455 pound-feet torque at 3,200 rpm
Transmission ... Allison 1000 transmission, five-speed automatic with overdrive
Axle ratio ... 5.38:1
Tires ... 235/80R/22.5G, radial
Wheelbase ... 242 inches
Brakes ... ABS
Suspension ... leaf spring
Alternator ... 145 amps
Batteries ... house — (2) 6-volt; chassis — (1) high-amp 12-volt Delco, 690 cca at 0 degrees Fahrenheit
Steering ... power
Inverter ... 130-watt (optional)
Electrical service ... 50-amp service with energy management system, optional; 30-amp, standard
Auxiliary generator ... Onan 5.5-kw, gas
Exterior length ... 36 feet 11 inches
Exterior width ... 100.5 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 6 inches
Exterior height ... 12 feet
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 26,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 22,000 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front — 8,000 pounds; rear — 14,500 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... front axle — 7,100 pounds; rear axle — 13,880 pounds; total — 20,980 pounds
Payload as tested ... 1,020 pounds
Frame construction ... Alumaframe superstructure with steel cage cockpit construction
Insulation ... peaked aluminum roof with fiberglass insulation
Fresh water capacity ... 60 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... gray water — 45 gallons; black water — 54 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 75 gallons
Fuel requirements ... gas
Propane capacity ... 24 gallons
Water heater ... 10-gallon LP-gas/electric with electronic ignition, DSI
Heating system ... 35,000-Btu electronic ignition furnace
Water system ... demand with water pump
Air conditioner ... (1) 13,500-Btu and (1) 11,000-Btu, ducted roof
Refrigerator ... large double-door
Toilet ... porcelain with sprayer
Warranty ... 12-month/24,000-mile basic limited warranty and 60-month/50,000-mile limited warranty on aluminum or steel frame structure of sidewalls, roof, front and rear cap
Base suggested retail price ... $112,535
Price as tested ... $135,050