marshall2u@yahoo.com

Diesel Pusher Class A vs. Ford 460 Class C

26 posts in this topic

Let me start by saying Thank You to everyone here for all the great advice I've been reading. I'm new to both this forum and to RVing (actually getting ready to purchase my first). I'd love to see if anyone has some input to help me make a more informed decision on my first purchase.

It's taken a couple of years, but I have my wife sold on the idea of trying out some RVing. She initially felt we should wait until we are a bit older before trying this, but she has come around and now sees the potential in this type of vacationing. Truth be told, there is no telling how either of us will feel after our first outing. I won't ramble on about how we got to this point, but we are going to jump in, albeit with a limited budget.

I figured our first rig would be a "smallish" A Class, probably a 28-32 footer. The year would probably be in the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s. I would love a diesel, but thought I would not find one in our price range. As it turns out, I came upon a 1995 Class C rig with a Ford 460. It's a 28-foot Fleetwood Conquest with 47K miles. It's in pretty decent shape and the price is right. I was ready to make an offer on it, when I came upon a 30-foot DP this morning. The DP is a Rockwood Embassy with a 190HP Cummins and a 6-speed Allison tranny. I have not seen the DP in person yet, but, at less than $2,000 more than the Fleetwood, this seems like a no-brainer (provided it's as good as it looks in the photo's). The DP has 65K miles.

I've tried to find info on the Rockwood, but have had very little luck finding much of anything. I guess my question is, can anyone offer any information about it (and the Fleetwood too, for that matter)? Is there some reason the price seems so "reasonable"? Is this rig known to be some sort of lemon or something? I know the Cummins and the Allison are know to be of very good quality, but what about everything else?

I'm a handy guy, and I've rebuilt automobiles from front to back (other than a transmission), so I have no issues with an older rig, per-se. Any thoughts, comments or recommendations are greatly appreciated. Again, I'm new to ALL of this, so forgive me if I SOUND like a total newbie, and am asking either the wrong things or unimportant things. :rolleyes:

Pictures of the two rigs I'm considering:

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post-10465-1263873617_thumb.jpg

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Just my $.02 worth but consider that normal maintenance issues like changing oils will be much more expensive on the diesel than the Ford. Parts aren't available at just any automotive store either. Also I think you will be disappointed in the 190hp on that rig. Our friends just bought a late 80's Country Coach with 300hp. They too like us pull a trail Jeep where ever they go. He is extremely disappointed with the power as he has to disconnect his toad and have his wife drive it up the steeper passes.

Also consider that the older the rig the better the chances that water has intruded somewhere to cause rust or rot. I have seen it many times before as most owners don't re-caulk all the seams like the should especially if they are kept outdoors as so many RVs are.

I would go with the class C and get an idea as to how you like RVing first. Then in a few years trade up to a newer Class A either gas or diesel depending on your desires. I have always seen diesels as a great idea for those that are retired and on the road a lot as they can usually haul much more weight. If you have a job and only plan to use your rig once a month or less I would really stay with a gas rig as the worst thing for a diesel is just sitting around. Another friend of ours had a late 90's Dutch Star diesel and even putting upwards of 7000 miles a year on it (he is a doctor and that is a lot of use for someone with a job) it still ended up leaking all over his garage and costing him over $3000 to have the engine seals replaced. He had owned a gas rig before and says he will never have another diesel again, but then his experience is not typical.

I am sure you will get many other opinions which contradict each other from the others here and in the end may just end up leaving you just as confused as you are now.

Good luck which ever way you decide to go.

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For what it's worth, our first 2 rigs were class C, simply because we were taking the kids with us all the time and the cab over bunk gave us more sleeping room. I assume the class C you're looking at is a cab over bunk because of the windows. The other reason, is back when we started RV'ing (23 years ago) we never towed a toad. Our class C's were 24 foot, because we needed to use them not only for camping but everything else you would normally use the toad for.

We went class A after the kids were gone. It was a coin toss between a new gas rig or a used diesel rig. We went gas because most of the used diesel pushers we saw were 36 feet or bigger, and we didn't want anything that big.

Have fun!

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From the sounds of your letter you and your wife have never been in an Motor Home for a night. If this is true might I suggest that you rent one for a week end. It might cost a little but if you and the wife try it and do not like RVing it is alot less expensive then buying one and finding out that neither of you care for it.

Having said that, look at both coaches inside at the ceilings. See any water spots? Spot are a sign of leaking and this can be realy bad. Has it been a smokers coach? Did they have pets? High milage and clean, used to travel. Low milage but worn, used to live in. You are wise to start with a smaller unit. Going up easy. Going back down harder. Now is the time to buy a pre-owned unit. Prices are low because of the economy. When money is tight and there is 2 feet of snow on the ground people wonder why am I making this payment?

Good luch to you and your wife. I hope you find what suits you both and have as much enjoyment as may others that have gone before you.

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Hi Marshall2u,

Welcome to the FMCA forum. Floor plan sells the coach. Think about how you will use the coach for the next year or two. Determine which floor plan fits your needs the best. Buy that coach. As to the coach condition, spend a few $s and have two techs check out the coach. One certified tech for the automotive and one certified tech for the coach. Only then make an offer.

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Hello, my wife and I are new to the motorhome world and FMCA as well. We had a beautiful Coleman travel trailer for several years and took our sons all over Eastern Canada and the USA. Many great memories but I was always envious of the lovely coaches that would pull in to rv parks where we were staying and within minutes be all set up. We dreamed of the day we might be able to get into that lifestyle. For the last couple of years I have been looking at new and used Class A's and C's. After much research and agonizing I decided to look for a well kept A, preferably Diesel and preferably something not too long-under 36 feet. I can fix most anything, so used would save us a great deal of money. We also want to travel with our coach not just park it.

We are around 5 years away from retirement and I figured that we would probably be buying a little later. However the economy went into it's downturn and I picked up my browsing a touch. I started to see several that might be in our price range and we decided to get serious. We found and purchased a 2003 Holiday Rambler 32PBD. It has 38k miles, was one owner-no pets, non smokers, the owner had a big garage where it was kept when not in use. Good service records and they were selling because they decided to devote their time to other pursuits. The owner had purchased a 39 footer back in 2001 but found the travelling somewhat awkward, campgrounds were a bit harder to find and get into, manoeuvring in traffic and in towns difficult. So he ordered this coach at 32 foot long with that in mind. He also had a bunch of options included like the larger Cummins engine and Allison transmission. Bigger diesel generator, awnings all round etc.

We had seen several coaches and I was very impressed with the design and condition of this coach. The price was excellent I think mainly due to many prospective buyers having "footitis". They looked but told the owner that it was too small. I had this condition once many years ago after buying my first sailboat. As soon as I got it-it was too small! Fortunately for us we were looking for something in this size range and are very happy with our coach. We have most of the amenities and comforts of bigger units in a smaller package. It is great for travelling and we get reasonable fuel economy (average 9.5 to 11 mpg) -depends on my foot... Don't get me wrong big is beautiful when it comes to Class A's but it just doesn't fit our thoughts.

Out of all of this I would suggest that you decide how long you intend to own a coach. We bought this one and think we are going to be very happy with it until we are done RVing. We spent enough to have what we feel we need to go where we intend to go. But buying one 6 years old allowed us to spend 1/4 of the price paid new. If you are not sure (if that is ever possible for anyone) get out and drive one, rent one -A or C, spend less if you think you will want something bigger/newer later but really look around. There is no shortage of great coaches out there. Find the right one for you-take your time. Although I bought a diesel there are many great power train possibilities. You said you have worked extensively on autos so you may be more comfortable with gas.

Not sure if any of this helps, just thought I would give you some of what we went through this year in our decision making. We have spent 36 nights on-board so far this year, 5000 miles, 3 provinces and 10 states. My coach is in a dry cold hanger for the winter and I am anxious to get it on the road again.

Best of Luck with your decision!

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I agree with the floor plan comment. My dad has sold travel trailers and motor homes for years and still does. The floor plan is the biggest reason people will trade in a motor home.

I bought a 1995 Fleetwood Bounder. The floor plan sold us. The coach only had 10k miles on it. From a technical stand point the F53 chassis have been around for years. Ford 460 engine parts are available anywhere and parts are less expensive. My regular mechanic can work on most of the frame and engine items without going to a specialist. Most of the inside parts are made by a limited number of manufactures. I can still find plenty of parts for my heaters, ac, and fridge.

I drove this motor home to Vegas and back towing my Grand Cherokee. Yes the diesels can out pull and climb me but I just climbed the hill slower. I was not in any hurry.

The older motor homes like mine were made when the speed limits were 55 mph. I know mine reaches its max torque of 2200 rpm at 55 mph. When it shifts into over drive it will shift up to max HP which is around 3400 rpm. It is really working the motor to run down the road at 65 - 70. I just do not get in a hurry.

CORRECTION

I miss spoke (typed) what I meant to say was that when the overdrive disengages and the transmission downshifts to climb or pass that the RPM hits the 3400 max HP. They designed the RV to run at 55 mph either at max torque in top gear or max HP when downshifted.

Thank you Wolfe10 for pointing this out.

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We too were always torn between gas and diesel motorhomes. For us it was always the larger up front expense of the diesel motorhomes. We have had 3 different gas class a motorhomes and just recently purchased our first diesel motorhome. (We would never go back to a gas RV) While the diesels are more expensive up front, they out last and out power the gas coaches. The ride is superior with the air suspension and better fuel mileage. Diesels are more dependable than most cars on the roads, hence why all the big trucks are diesel as they log hundreds of thousands miles. You are lucky to find gas coaches that last 50k miles without major overhauls. The diesel motorhomes are barely broke in at this mileage and run to 300k plus miles with proper maintenance.

The main thing to look at is your budget and family needs, then select what fits for you at that time.

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We too were always torn between gas and diesel motorhomes. For us it was always the larger up front expense of the diesel motorhomes. We have had 3 different gas class a motorhomes and just recently purchased our first diesel motorhome. (We would never go back to a gas RV) While the diesels are more expensive up front, they out last and out power the gas coaches. The ride is superior with the air suspension and better fuel mileage. Diesels are more dependable than most cars on the roads, hence why all the big trucks are diesel as they log hundreds of thousands miles. You are lucky to find gas coaches that last 50k miles without major overhauls. The diesel motorhomes are barely broke in at this mileage and run to 300k plus miles with proper maintenance.

The main thing to look at is your budget and family needs, then select what fits for you at that time.

Sorry Chunky but I really have to disagree with you here. Not all diesels are the same, there is a huge number of different diesel power plants out there but only one Ford 460 or Chevy 454 and their HP numbers are usually fairly close. I regularly blast past older diesel rigs pulling toads with my 37' Ford 460 powered RV pulling a really heavy Jeep. The RV in question is a 190HP diesel, that is a long way from the 350-400HP rigs with turbos that might pass me up on a hill. As for longevity, gas rigs don't regularly need total overhaul at 50K. Maintained well any engine gas or diesel will last well into the 200s, the poor fact is that you will find owners that don't maintain their equipment no matter what the engine.

The fact that a diesel will outlive a gas engine is true but a moot point as a majority of owners (emphasize Majority here) will not put enough mileage on a rig before they trade it in for that to be an issue.

Diesels do have an advantage if you have the money to buy one with a big enough engine, but in talking with many diesel owners in the past horse power is horse power and most of them have told me that they will slow right down on the passes just like I will. Again, if you can afford a 350-400hp turbo diesel rig then all bets are off.

In this case I wouldn't even consider a rig with a 190hp engine even if it is diesel. From the experience of others he will be sorely disappointed in it's performance. Any engine too small for the load will work itself to death over time no matter if it's gas or diesel.

For a first timer I'm with the others here in saying that a nicely laid out used Class C is a good way to get started and see if you like it. As the others have said "floorplan sells" and that is the gods honest truth. I don't think I will ever own a diesel if the manufacturers don't pull their heads out of the rear ends and start offering an intelligent floorplan instead of the dumb old dual couch design they always seem to through at us.

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I agree, with proper care gas engines will go 100,000+ miles with few problems (things like cracked exhaust manifolds, etc are common but not major).

Also would agree that 190 HP is on the low side. But, GCW (Gross Combined Weight) / HP is more relevant than just discussing HP. 100 pounds/HP is kind of the benchmark. Yes, many of today's multiple slide 40+ coaches are heavy enough that they do NEED 400 or more HP diesel engines.

It is somewhat misleading to compare diesel HP with gasoline engine HP. Yes, a HP is a HP-- the same amount of work can be done by a 300 HP diesel as a 300 HP gas engine. BUT, the diesel can safely operate at that output for days at a time. To spin the gas engine at the RPM's and load to produce peak HP for very long is outside their design perimeters.

But, all these power/longevity discussions aside, buy the rig that fits YOUR family's needs as you project them for the next few years.

Brett Wolfe

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Sorry Chunky but I really have to disagree with you here. Not all diesels are the same, there is a huge number of different diesel power plants out there but only one Ford 460 or Chevy 454 and their HP numbers are usually fairly close. I regularly blast past older diesel rigs pulling toads with my 37' Ford 460 powered RV pulling a really heavy Jeep. The RV in question is a 190HP diesel, that is a long way from the 350-400HP rigs with turbos that might pass me up on a hill. As for longevity, gas rigs don't regularly need total overhaul at 50K. Maintained well any engine gas or diesel will last well into the 200s, the poor fact is that you will find owners that don't maintain their equipment no matter what the engine.

The fact that a diesel will outlive a gas engine is true but a moot point as a majority of owners (emphasize Majority here) will not put enough mileage on a rig before they trade it in for that to be an issue.

Diesels do have an advantage if you have the money to buy one with a big enough engine, but in talking with many diesel owners in the past horse power is horse power and most of them have told me that they will slow right down on the passes just like I will. Again, if you can afford a 350-400hp turbo diesel rig then all bets are off.

In this case I wouldn't even consider a rig with a 190hp engine even if it is diesel. From the experience of others he will be sorely disappointed in it's performance. Any engine too small for the load will work itself to death over time no matter if it's gas or diesel.

For a first timer I'm with the others here in saying that a nicely laid out used Class C is a good way to get started and see if you like it. As the others have said "floorplan sells" and that is the gods honest truth. I don't think I will ever own a diesel if the manufacturers don't pull their heads out of the rear ends and start offering an intelligent floorplan instead of the dumb old dual couch design they always seem to through at us.

No problem, I was just passing along our personal experience with gas vs. diesel. We had a Coachmen Mirada no slides with a 460 Fuel Injected Engine, it was only 33 feet, towing a Saturn and would barely do 35-40 mph up the passes. Our second rv was a 34 foot four winds hurricane with a 460 ford and was equally under powered. Every motorhome is different as is the driving habits of rv owners, its kind of like the guy that thought he won the race when he was the only one racing. Our current diesel is 300 hp, on a 36 foot rv with one slide and it out powers any 460 ford we had, so I am sure that everyone has different experiences and each owner is equally proud of their rig whether gas or diesel and will defend the performance of whatever they currently have. HP is really relevant to the weight and driving habits.

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Hello Marshall2u,

Your second paragraph starts with the statement that you have your wife sold on RV'ing. At that point I would suggest that you should take the above advice about renting an RV and spending some time traveling with one. Try several weekends to different destinations or take a week or two vacation trip to a place that interests you. Once you have had a chance to experience traveling and living in an RV for a while, you will be in a better position to make a decision based on things like floor plans, different kinds of chassis/engines, options you like/need and other things that should be considered when purchasing a motor home.

Renting an RV is not cheap but I consider it a good investment in learning what you like and don't like about different RV's. Think of it as RV buyers school. If you have never owned or driven one, you should try before buying.

Don't be in a rush to buy. This is a buyers market. With the economy the way it is, you have the power, the seller is at your mercy. You have time to consider your options and try out several motor homes. If you do decide to purchase an RV, purchasing a used model is definitely the best decision for a first time RV'er!

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Hello Marshall2u,

Your second paragraph starts with the statement that you have your wife sold on RV'ing. At that point I would suggest that you should take the above advice about renting an RV and spending some time traveling with one. Try several weekends to different destinations or take a week or two vacation trip to a place that interests you. Once you have had a chance to experience traveling and living in an RV for a while, you will be in a better position to make a decision based on things like floor plans, different kinds of chassis/engines, options you like/need and other things that should be considered when purchasing a motor home.

Renting an RV is not cheap but I consider it a good investment in learning what you like and don't like about different RV's. Think of it as RV buyers school. If you have never owned or driven one, you should try before buying.

Don't be in a rush to buy. This is a buyers market. With the economy the way it is, you have the power, the seller is at your mercy. You have time to consider your options and try out several motor homes. If you do decide to purchase an RV, purchasing a used model is definitely the best decision for a first time RV'er!

Sound like an echo Tom. Us monaco boys have to stick together.

Herman

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its kind of like the guy that thought he one the race when he was the only one racing.

LOL, I like that Chunky!

One other tidbit of advice on choosing an RV. Coming from lots of experience here in everything from trailers, to Class C to Class A's. Sit down on the toilet! Really, it's a little disappointing to buy what you feel is a great rig only to find out your knees are under your chin when your on the crapper.

:rolleyes:

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I'm going to sneak in here with another thought:

Consider a diesel pusher RV built on a bus chassis (GMC, MCI, Prevost, Eagle, etc., but NOT on a school bus chassis).

Why?

Do a Google Images search for RV accidents, or ask any paramedic that's had to work the scene of a typical RV collision accident.

What price SAFETY?

FWIW & HTH. . .

:rolleyes:

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Hi dalltop,

You are correct. The diesel engine's advantage is torque. Like Brett posted, it is that the diesel can reach peak torque and HP and run there for very long periods of time.

There are many additional considerations the OP might want to consider. However, for a first purchase on a let's see if we like it basis, all these considerations would make a potential buyer run away from the RV lifestyle. Most likely, the potential first time buyer is not able to answer the questions an experienced RVer would ask themselves. Maybe it's just me, but I am not able to remember the engine, transmission or chassis that were on my previous coaches. They were like toasters. Maintained properly they just worked. The floor plan, now that is different. Both the wife and I can provide great detail on the floor plan faults we encountered.

So, to Marshall2u keep it simple;

1. floor plan

2. if you will tow, will the coach tow a vehicle you have

3. is a vehicle you have towable

4. get the coach and automotive checked out by certified techs

5. live with the + and - of the chosen RV. (After 32 years of owning a coach, I haven't found the perfect RV yet.)

6. ENJOY

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Thanks to everyone for your input!

I am driving my wife to the airport tomorrow and plan to "swing by" and take a look at the diesel pusher I originally talked about (look at it for the first time, that is to say). From what I've picked up from the responses, floor plan is a real biggie. This certainly makes a lot of sense, and I will try not to let my love of diesels cloud my decision making process over a good floor plan. OK, since you all now know that I love diesels, I also like the idea that it is located in the rear, and further from my ears while driving. Does anyone consider this a serious issue (I've NEVER been in a rear engine ANYTHING)?

A few other things that have gone into my thoughts on this purchase: I appreciate the suggestions that we rent first to see whether we love this whole thing or not. Although, after checking out rental rates, and comparing them to potential depreciation on a low-end purchase, I feel I have to purchase, as the depreciation over a few months of ownership still won't equal what we would spend on a rental (and I'm a very good shopper, so I ALWAYS get a good deal....unless I get duped on something! :) ). Another thing I have in the back of my mind is that I can turn this into a mobile place of business for both the wife and I. We are both self employed and are both in the process of changing the focus of our businesses.

This thread has certainly made me think much more seriously about a couple issues that I didn't think would be quite as important as some of you more experienced folks have suggested. I will absolutely keep those things in mind. That being said, I'm gonna ramble a bit! :rolleyes:

As I've said, I LOVE diesels. I have owned many and still do: VW's, Mercedes, Ford's , Chevy's, GMC's, Cummins.......I currently own 9 vehicles, and 4 of them are diesels. I have a Mercedes diesel that I have converted to run on waste vegetable oil (WVO). So, that being said, I am afraid I am going to give the DP an advantage, just based on the fact that it's a diesel. One of the most tangible things about a diesel I love is their fuel efficient nature. Do they have sluggish take off? Sure. Have I gotten used to this? Absolutely. I have a diesel Jetta that gets 44 MPG around town. I know it's a mental thing, but I cannot STAND to get in my 5.4 V8 Ford pickup and drive it @ 11 MPG. So, if my diesel motorhome gets 9-11 MPG instead of 6-7 MPG, that is a major increase, percentage-wise. And, considering that I'm in a LOW initial cost for the motorhome scenario, it's actually pretty significant, both monetarily AND mentally.

OK, so....back specifically to the Rockwell that I will be looking at tomorrow. Does anyone have any experience/knowledge of this vehicle, or the brand in general? First hand? Second hand? Any input prior to looking at it would be so appreciated!

Again, thanks for all the input. I hope to be showing you soon the pics of my first RV purchase, and then pics of my first RV "adventure!" I think we will do Florida first. Although, my wife just told me tonight that she would first like to go to Savannah GA. I told her "are you kidding? We will have a motorhome, capable of going ANYWHERE, and you choose a place so close I could spit on it??" I guess that is an argument that will be settled down the road.......

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Hello Marshal, glad you found some helpful advise. I am new to owning our first diesel pusher after 3 gas rvs. The engine being in the rear is a huge part for us as the noise of the engine is almost none existant especially like that of the gas engines that you constanly hear the rpms going up and down as they struggle to carry the heavy weight. Another factor you may want to consider is the location of the generator, preferably should be up front simply so you dont hear it running when you are sleeping if you do a lot of dry camping.

A few people pointed out on here that the 190hp may be an issue. This may or may not be an issue, depending on the size of the coach, weight and if you will be towing. Best to test drive it up some hills and see if it performs adequatly for you. So far we are extremly happy with our pusher and would never go back to gas. Good luck with your selection and hope it treats you well.

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Well, after looking at the DP, I've made my decision, offer, and down payment. I pick it up on 1/27/10. The overall unit was a little rougher (cosmetically) than I was expecting it to be, but, honestly, since I planned to do some upgrades anyway, I think it really makes no difference, other than me getting it for what I consider a very good price (but I guess time will tell on that). My wife has a hard time seeing the potential and understanding my desire for the DP over gas, but she's taking my word on both. If anyone's interested, I'll keep updating my progress with this project, including pictures (and probably lots of questions!).

Thanks again for all your help.

Marshall

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Hi Marshall,

Please do post your progress. Consider completing the renovations in small steps. This will allow time for you to use the coach. Using the coach will allow you to get a better feel for any modifications to your renovations, based on actual use.

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I picked up the motorhome. I'm going to start going through it soon, if it would ever dry up around here! I plan to make some significant cosmetic changes and perform pretty much all maintenance, just so I know where I'm starting. One big surprise, after going through all the paperwork and records, is that the original owners kept detailed MPG calculations through the first 30K miles, or so, and this coach has gotten as high as 14 MPG, averaging around 12. This is better than I expected. I also think it may have the 230HP Cummins, and not the 190 that I was told...but I have to verify this.

I have a quick question....it has the Spartan EC-2000 chassis (1993) and the speedometer does not currently work. Is this a cable or electrical speedometer?

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I'm probably going to ruffle some feathers with this one but I've owned two 460's, a 1996 3/4t pickup and a 96 1t. They were both dogs {power wise] and used a lot of fuel in the process. I also purchased a 1996 22' Class C, but I was a lot smarter when I ordered it with a Powerstroke [diesel]. Honestly, it was a great package and would run circles around the 460's. I towed a 20' Jet Boat and a 24' Enclosed Car Trailer all over the mountainous terrain of Idaho [not at the same time]; and it handled both with no problem and got 11+ mpg. I've still got that unit though it doesn't see much use anymore.

I then purchased a 33' Class A with a 400 Cummins. Plenty of power but never really liked driving it as well as my old Class C.

Traded it in on a 34' Class C built on a Freightliner chassis with a CAT 350 hp. Now this unit is really fun to drive and tows the previously mentioned items with no problem.

So what is my recommendation, find a Class C Diesel that meets your desires and enjoy the ride.

Regards,

Bill

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Hi Marshall2u,

Your best bet is to call Spartan, with your vin and ask about the speedo.

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For the gentlemen with the CC. Sounds like a bad Intercooler radiator. A common problem, or a bad sensor on the crossover pipe. Tell him to join the CC owners Yahoo group. And we'll help him to get things right. As to the 460 Issue. Show me one with over 60,000 miles thats developing full horsepower and doesn't need to be rebuilt, if used in a full class A. Sure they cost more to keep up. They are a lot more coach in every way. TWI 2004 Intrigue 11731

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