On our way out of Florida this Spring we stopped in Red Bay, AL. Red Bay is the “Home” of Tiffin Motor Homes and is where “Waldo” was made. Having “Waldo” now for about 3 months we had complied a list of some minor issues that needed attention so rather then taking it to a dealership we decided to come to Red Bay and have everything fixed under warranty at the factory. Red Bay, AL is located in the far NW corner of Alabama almost on the Mississippi border.
We arrived in Red Bay early on a Monday afternoon. The Allegro Campground/Tiffin Service Center is located on the edge of town about a 1/2 mile from the factory which is right in Red Bay itself. The campground isn’t much . . . a little over 100 sites, all with Full hook ups (FHU). The campground was made from an old runway at the former Red Bay Airport that Tiffin bought to build their current service center about 10-12 years ago. There are three paved roads but all the sites are gravel and are pretty close together.
While here in Red Bay we wanted to take the tour of the Tiffin factory. All our friends who own a Tiffin coach had told us this was a must see. Our last coach “Homey” was a Winnebago Itasca and while we were in Forest City, IA last fall at the Winnebago factory for service we took the Winnebago factory tour so it only seemed right to see where “Waldo” was built. At the Winnebago tour last fall the tour guides loaded everyone on a bus at the Service Center and drove you into the factory grounds. They would stop at various buildings, upholstery, cabinet shop and finally the assembly line where the coaches would move along a conveyor line slowly creeping ahead as the workers for each assembly department would add their specific parts to the coach. At Winnebago we were allowed to tour the upholstery and cabinet making buildings walking through the different depts. but as far as the assembly line, we were only able to view it from a catwalk above. Also, at Winnebago you were not allowed to take any pictures. After taking the Winnebago tour we were curious as to how much we would be able to see here at Tiffin . . . we’d been told that they take you right onto the assembly floor and you can be right up front and personal with all the coaches and workers.
So, on with the tour . . . We drove the 1/2 mile from the campground to the factory and signed in for the tour at the Tiffin Welcome Center (picture at the very beginning of the post). We had two guides (Jeanette and Harold) and they gave everyone a radio w/headset so we could hear them as we toured the different buildings (as it was quite loud in a few of the buildings). Jeanette started the tour with a history of Red Bay, AL and the Tiffin family and how Tiffin Motor Coaches got their start. You would think with a name like Red Bay that it was located down along the Alabama coast but actually they are about as far from the coast as you can get in Alabama. The name comes from the Red dirt in the area and the many Bay trees in the area (and yes . . . the Bay tree is what’s used for Bay leave seasoning 🙂 ). Tiffin Motor Homes Co. is a family business owned by Bob Tiffin and his sons Tim, Van and Lex and started as the Tiffin Supply Co. in 1941 by Bob’s father Alex.
In 1965 Alex bought a state-of-the-art cotton gin, when cotton was still king in Alabama and much of the South and the Tiffin Supply Co started building cotton gins. Unfortunately, cotton growing plummeted in the late 60’s and early 70’s so in 1972 Bob convinced his father to start making motorhomes and Tiffin Motor Homes Co. with born.
So after the history lesson off we went out into the grounds with the first stop at the cabinet/woodworking building. Tiffin makes all of their own cabinets, doors and wood trim for inside the coaches.
Here is Harold showing us how the Tiffin carpenters make all their wood joints
From the woodshop area we were taken to see the chassis prep area where all the coaches begin the journey through the build area.
Here is a “Waldo” chassis before anything is built onto it. Waldo is what’s called a “Gasser” (Gas engine powered). Waldo is an Allegro Open Road 36LA the biggest Gasser Tiffin makes, just under 38ft. overall length.
Here is a chassis of one of their “Diesel Pushers”. I believe the one below is of a Allegro Breeze, the smallest “Diesel Pusher” Tiffin makes (from between 28ft. to 34ft. overall length) . . . This one is a Allegro Breeze 32. Tiffin’s Diesel Pushers go from the Breeze to the top of the line Zephyr . . . the biggest Zephyr is 45ft. overall length. Tiffin now has a facility for making all the chassis for their “Diesel Pushers”. All the “Gassers” have Ford chassis w/V10 engines and are made by Ford in Detroit.
Here is where they are installing the thick plastic liners over the chassis frame that will make the basement storage bays. Notice in the second picture to the rear of the chassis on the right side of the picture the 7.0 kw Onan Generator ( the green thing 🙂 ).
The chassis are fully drivable when received at the build factory . . . check out the drivers seat that they install on the chassis for moving the coach through assembly . . . thank goodness they replace this with a nice cozy plush Captain’s chair for the finished product 🙂 .
New as an option this year on the “Gassers” are an addition to the suspension called SumoSprings. SumoSprings are the world’s first and only “airless airbag” suspension system which reduce sag, bounce, sway and bottoming out with a closed cell polyurethane foam airless air spring. We opted to have these installed when we ordered Waldo and so far we are liking them very much. They are installed on both the front and the rear.
From the chassis prep area the chassis enter into one of 3 build lines. Depending on what model coach it is determines which build line it goes into. Once inside the “Build” building we first come to where the coaches side walls are being built. Here Jeanette is showing us the foam insulation panels that will be part of the side walls. You can see on the edge of each panel is marked what model coach it is for.
This cutting machine has been programmed to cut out all the openings in the foam panels for windows, doors, etc. for each model coach. Also, the roof panel openings for vents, skylights, AC/HP units and satellite domes are cut with this machine.
In this picture below you can see the frames for the side walls the foam panels will be attached to.
Here are some bundles of plumbing hoses and a couple of holding tanks for Grey and Black water that will be mounted on the chassis under the coaches floor.
And here is a Fresh water holding tank which also will be mounted to the chassis under the coach floor. You can see the 34PA marked on the top of the tank which means it goes into an Allegro Open Road 34PA.
These pictures you can see all the basement storage bays and utility fixtures have been installed and they are working on installing the plumbing hoses and some electrical wiring harnesses.
Once all the basement and underside components (fresh water, grey water, black water tanks, propane tank and all the underside wire harnesses) they install the sub-floor and entrance steps.
When the sub-floor is complete they start installing some of the finished flooring and some of the fixtures.
After the floor is down and some of the fixtures like commodes, showers, washer/dryers etc. some of the cabinetry starts to get installed.
Also, some of the interior walls are put up and the cab is assembled along with the kitchen appliances.
Once all the major inside components are installed the outer sides are put on . . . notice the large openings for slides.
Here is one with both the sidewalls on but no front or rear end caps or roof. You can see both front and rear end caps strapped together at the right of this picture.
The roof is being assembled near the area that the sidewalls are installed. The roof is constructed of a metal frame with 5″ dense foam boards. Channels are cut into the foam boards on both the top (outside of roof) and bottom (inside of roof/ceiling). In the channels for the outside of the roof 12 volt wiring, 120 VAC wiring for AC/HP units and possible other 120 VAC components located in the front cap of the coach and Cable TV and Video cables not installed in the basement are installed. For the inside of the roof/ceiling channels are cut for returning inside coach air to the AC/HP units and supplying cooled/heated air into the coach.
Here is the roof panel ready for the finishing touches.
Once all the wiring harnesses are installed in the roof panels the roof assembly is covered with a fiberglass sheet and all the vent fans, skylights, TV antennas and satellite domes are installed.
The roof is then lifted with a large hoist and put in place.
The roof almost fitted into place.
After the roof has been installed the end cap is installed.
The coach then moves down to the slide unit assembly. In this area the slide units have all the cabinetry, appliances (cook stoves/ovens, microwaves, etc. ), bed platforms, couches and dinettes/tables installed. Also, all the slide unit upholstery is completed. Here are some slide units before they are installed into the coach.
Here is a large Living room slide . . . the couch has been covered with cloths to protect them.
Large hoists are used to lift and position the slides as they are installed into the coach.
Here is a bedroom slide . . . it already has the bed platform and under bed storage attached.
Completed installation of slides.
After the slides have been installed the entry door, storage bay doors and outside access panel doors (such as outdoor TV, Furnace, refrigerator, etc.) are installed. . . this is a Waldo model (Allegro Open Road 36LA).
Next the front cap is installed to the coach . . . the windshield and headlights have already been installed in the front cap and the front cap/headlights are aligned using a laser.
At this point it looks like a complete coach but many more finishing details need to be done like all the inside cabinet doors and hardware, other inside doors, TVs, stereo and audio components, etc.. You can see some workers inside doing some of these tasks.
Here is Jeanette showing us the wiring dept. where all the wiring harnesses are made. Each coach has a specific # and all components (upholstery pieces, cabinets, Wiring harnesses, appliances, flooring, counter/table tops, etc. etc. ( too many components to name them all but you get the drift 🙂 ) are made specifically for each coach and are delivered to the assembly areas the day before each coach is scheduled to start build.
Once a coach has completed the build process it is sent to another section of the plant where it is sprayed heavily with water to check for leaks. After the coach passes the leak tests it is sent off to the paint shop which is not located at the main factory. All coaches are painted in Belmont, MS just across the state line a couple of miles from Red Bay. After the coach is painted, awnings and decals are installed and various seams siliconed. It is then checked for leaks again. Also, while in Belmont any tiling or ceramic backsplashes are installed. Unfortunately, we did not go to Belmont to see the paint shop . . . would have kind of been like watching paint dry 🙂 . . . even though we did have some painting done on Waldo while at the Service Center . . . I’ll post some of those pictures on the tour follow-up blog.
When a coach has completed being painted it is brought back to the factory for the “Fit & Finish”. Here the “Diamond Shield” is installed. The Diamond Shield is a paint protection installed on the front of the coach.
Applying the Diamond Shield seemed to be like herding cats . . . the folks that have this job have to have quite the talent, watching one being installed was like watching an artist paint or sculpt . . . when he was done he seemed quite satisfied 🙂 .
At “Fit & Finish” the coach is cleaned, inspected and any last minute details that need fixing are done. If anything is found wrong or doesn’t pass inspection it is taken aside and assigned workers to remedy the issues (when we had Waldo built when he made it to this point there were a few things found that needed fixing). There was quite the crew working on this one.
When “Fit & Finish” is completed a coach is placed on the infamous “Yellow Brick Road” and readied for delivery.
Well, that’s that final stop for a new coach. Tiffin builds a dozen coaches a day.
On the way back to the Welcome Center there was an old Tiffin motorhome . . . maybe one of the first (??). Definitely a 70’s version.
Took a tour of the inside . . . boy they sure have come a long way!!
Here’s the cab . . .
The galley(kitchen) . . .
The dining room / bedroom . . .
The bathroom w/shower . . .
Sure am glad they’ve made leaps and bounds with how a the coach is made 🙂 Don’t think we could live very long in one of these older ones . . . heck, our ’06 Winnebago only lasted 4 months until we had to upgrade 🙂 .
Well we hoped you enjoyed the tour of the Tiffin Motor Home factory . . . we did . . . of course we took it in person 🙂 .
Stayed tuned for the tour follow up . . . fun at the Tiffin Service Center . . .