Born Free Motorcoach offers this small but mighty Type C motorhome.
By Lazelle Jones
Despite being a writer who frequently embarks on trips to review RVs and other vehicles, I don’t often have the opportunity to travel for three weeks and 1,700 miles in one unit. But this past March, I had the good fortune to do exactly that, experiencing everything from balmy coastal settings to frigid Rocky Mountain primitive RV camping. I delivered a 22-foot Rear Side Kitchen motorhome — the newest addition to Born Free Motorcoach’s lineup — to Albuquerque, New Mexico, site of FMCA’s 83rd International Convention.
After picking up the unit from company officials in California, I set a meandering course for Albuquerque. From California I journeyed to Utah, Colorado, and on to New Mexico, where I finally had to say good-bye to the motorhome. Yes, all good things must come to an end.
This 22-foot-long, 96-inch-wide Type C motorhome features sweeping exterior lines that slip easily through the air. During my trip, the unit yielded a very respectable average fuel economy of 11.9 mpg. The terrain I traveled through included urban, freeway, and mountain pass driving. With its very reasonable overall size, this 22-foot Type C was a joy. Even as I experienced snow and ice conditions, my level of confidence and comfort behind the wheel remained high.
The roadworthiness of this vehicle is only half of the good news. Even though this motorhome is compact, the livability and functionality it provides have not been compromised. Quite the opposite; the 22-Foot Rear Kitchen model has everything one would need and expect for a comfortable motorhome journey, be it a weekend, several weeks, several months, or longer.
I decided to engage only in primitive (stand-alone) RV camping, even when the March winds came howling down the sides of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado, and the temperatures at night dipped and lingered at 12 degrees Fahrenheit. The only evidence that things were quite different outside compared to the comfy conditions inside my motorized residence was the blustery view through its dual-pane windows. Sipping a morning cup of joe, with the 30,000-Btu, thermostatically controlled forced-air furnace delivering heated air from front to rear, I enjoyed observing a challenging world outside while remaining insulated inside the motorhome. It just doesn’t get any better than that!
The unit reviewed was built on a Ford E-350 chassis, with a 158-inch wheelbase and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 12,500 pounds. The actual gross weight I recorded at the scales, which included a full tank of fuel, fresh water, and propane, was 10,560 pounds. The motorhome was powered by a Triton V-10 gasoline engine and a five-speed automatic transmission with tow mode. (This unit can tow another 5,000 pounds above and beyond the GVWR.)
Born Free designers have ingeniously incorporated humongous amounts of livability, luxury, and functionality inside this 22-foot Type C. Between the fold-out 76-inch sleeper sofa in the living area and the optional queen-size bed above the cab that folds up and out of the way when not in service, this motorhome will comfortably sleep four adults. When the queen bed is folded up, movement between the cockpit and the living area flows easily.
The ladder for the cab-over bed area remains stowed in the bed until needed. The ladder is substantial and provides a feeling of confidence when one is stepping up and down each rung. For privacy, or if you don’t want to heat the cab-over area, it can be closed off with heavy, lined, fabric curtains. The same kind of fabric curtain (this one snaps on) permits you to seal off the living area from the cockpit and windshield. I like this method better than having to pull curtains around the perimeter of the windshield. With the drape in place, heating of the interior cabin becomes even more efficient.
When the driver’s seat in the cockpit is turned to face the living area, and the curbside living area lounge chair is swiveled to face the sofa, the motorhome offers sufficient seating and room for guests and entertaining. Born Free designers have incorporated a stylish but subdued pull-up dining/utility table, situated just forward of the lounge chair. In addition, a flat-screen television is mounted on a robotic-type arm in the lounge area adjacent to the galley. It remains folded flat against the wall and totally out of the way until it is needed; then, the robotic arm permits the screen to be adjusted to meet the viewing needs of those wanting to watch television — a thoughtful convenience.
The side-entry stairwell marks the boundary between the living area and the rear curbside galley. Immediately to the rear of the stairwell is a floor-to-ceiling split pantry and storage cabinet complex (two-thirds above, one-third below). Aft of that is a 7-cubic-foot, two-way refrigerator/freezer that is dressed with a smart-looking stainless-steel-style surface. In the rear curbside corner is an L-shaped galley countertop that sweeps along the side wall and then across the rear exterior wall. A large double-tub galley sink with covers sits below a generously sized rear window that looks directly out onto the area behind the unit. A three-burner propane cooktop rests below a tempered glass cover, which yields additional counter surface for food preparation when the stove is not in use. A microwave-convection oven sits directly above.
In my opinion, on a scale of 1 to 10, the functionality of the galley in this model presses the upper limits of the scale. The “L” shape of the counter puts everything immediately at the disposal of the individual preparing food, be it dinner for company or simply a raid at midnight of the goodies stowed in the cabinets, pantry, and refrigerator.
The rear corner street-side bathroom is a dry bath that features a marine-style toilet and a separate full-size molded fiberglass shower. With prudent fluid management, the holding tanks on this coach will accommodate several days of stand-alone RV camping. The sink is ingeniously located outside the bathroom, against the street-side wall. It features a solid-surface granite-look countertop with an oval basin. The solid-surface material matches the countertop in the galley. Below the oval sink is storage, and above it is a handsome oak medicine cabinet.
Immediately forward of the sink/counter/cabinet complex is a wardrobe that runs nearly floor to ceiling. It is quite capable of housing hanger-mounted clothing and keeping it wrinkle-free for extended periods of time.
The interior cabinetry in my test vehicle was a rich oak; cherry and hickory also are available. For low maintenance, the floor from the cockpit back through the galley and rear corner bath is covered with vinyl inlaid slate flooring. A damp mop is all that’s needed to restore the luster when outside dirt is tracked in. As mentioned earlier, all drapes are fashioned using heavy, lined fabric, which presents yet another barrier to help the interior stand vigilant against extreme outside temperatures. The entryway stairwell privacy drape employs this same lined fabric. When a campsite is reached, the drape easily snaps into place and flows down into the stairwell, below the bottom of the magazine/map rack that is attached to the wall and handrail to the left.
Windows in the living area are equipped with the American Duo day/night roller shade system from MCD Innovations. The day shade utilizes a clear-view solar screen to provide superior outward visibility and heat protection. The night shade is 100 percent light-blocking.
Every Born Free Motorcoach comes with a noteworthy safety feature that cannot be seen, and whose function will probably never be needed, but could prove absolutely essential in case of an accident: a roll bar system. This system consists of three tubular steel roll bars anchored to each side of the chassis. The system creates a huge arc that sweeps up each of the exterior walls and across the roof of the motorhome.
Residential insulation (with an R-value of 11) is packed between the horizontal and vertical members that create the exterior walls and roof structures. A layer of 1/4-inch low-emissivity foil and foam provides a vapor barrier, and molded high-gloss fiberglass is used to create the aerodynamic exterior surface skin of the motorhome.
It’s important to note how Born Free Motorcoach uses the team method to build its motorhomes. Like a well-oiled machine, four individuals who routinely work together begin the construction of each new coach with a “tailboard” meeting. Here, each member of the team is focused on the exact coach to be built, plus any unique considerations the customer may have asked for in ordering this particular motorhome.
Unlike a production line where an RV moves through successive work stations, with a new team of individuals working on each phase, the Born Free team remains together from the initial tailboard meeting until the coach rolls out of the construction bay, complete and tested. This team approach can pay huge dividends in terms of quality control, quality assurance, and control of the man-hours consumed in building a motorhome. Each team member has a personal investment in the production process from beginning to end, and in the satisfaction of the client.
Road, livability, and functionality testing also are performed by the same team that builds the Born Free motorhome. Next, a final road and functionality test is completed by an individual separate from the group. Once he or she is satisfied that the coach has met Born Free’s acceptance criteria, this individual signs off on the unit. At that time, the motorhome is certified as good to go. Through this process, every Born Free employee who has a role in creating and testing the unit takes personal responsibility for the entire coach.
I have reviewed several Born Free motorhomes over the years, and it is apparent to me that the attention to detail and the quality of the work found in the company’s products have remained consistently high. Creativity, too, is evidenced by the fact that Born Free designers continue to engineer and create new, innovative floor plans and models to meet the changing tastes and needs of motorhome enthusiasts.
The base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the 2011 Born Free 22-Foot Rear Side Kitchen motorhome is $93,875. The options on my test unit included a 3.6-kilowatt auxiliary generator; a 13,500-Btu roof air conditioner with a 5,600-Btu heat strip; an awning; and a TV/DVD player. As equipped, the suggested retail price for the 2011 model is $99,885.
If you are downsizing from a much larger coach but you are not willing to sacrifice luxury and lifestyle, or if you are entering the world of motorized RVs for the first time, Born Free’s 22-Foot Rear Side Kitchen Type C motorhome deserves a long look.
Dodgen Industries Inc./Born Free Motorcoach, 1505 13th St. N., Humboldt, IA 50548; (800) 247-1835, (515) 332-3755; www.bornfreemotorcoach.com
22-Foot Rear Side Kitchen
Triton V-10; 305 horsepower at 4,250 rpm; 420 foot-pounds torque at 3,250 rpm
4.10 to 1
coil spring/leaf spring and Super Spring suspension
chassis – (1) 12-volt;
coach – (2) 12-volt
2,000 watts (optional)
22 feet 6 inches
6 feet 4 inches
9 feet 8.5 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 5,000 pounds;
rear — 8,000 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
(weighed with full fuel, water, and propane tanks)
front axle — 3,460 pounds;
rear axle — 7,060 pounds;
total — 10,560 pounds
OCCUPANT AND CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
2,556 pounds (figure includes 616 pounds for four people @ 154 pounds each)
wood/tube steel framing; fiberglass skin and roof
spun fiberglass; 1/4-inch low-emissivity foil and foam
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
black water — 21 gallons;
gray water — 29 gallons
Suburban, 6 gallons
on-demand water pump
13,500-Btu roof air with 5,600-Btu heat strip (optional)
lifetime fiberglass limited warranty against corrosion or hail perforation; 36-month/36,000-mile limited warranty on manufactured motor coach
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED