Smooth Sailing in this Class A Motorhome!
By Norm Rosen
This article originally appeared in RV Lifestyle Magazine 37-1
There has always been a certain mystique associated with the Holiday Rambler line of recreational vehicles – for experienced Canadian RV’ers, it was like forbidden fruit – for many years, you just couldn’t buy a Holiday Rambler in Canada – thankfully, this changed soon after Holiday Rambler became part of Monaco Coach Corporation, and today, with a network of Holiday Rambler dealers from sea to sea, Canadians enjoy full access to one of the premiere lines in the RV industry.
Our RV Lifestyle Excellent Adventure series focuses on family touring, with emphasis on livability in the various RV’s that we select for our travels. When the time came to prepare our Niagara Adventure (featured in this issue), we consulted with Gary Sicard at Sicard Family Campers, in Smithville, Ontario, to select the ideal motorhome for a family of four.
Sicard’s handles many of the top names in the industry, but Gary had one model in mind, that has not seen very much press exposure – the 34’ Holiday Rambler Admiral, a class A model distinguished by it’s unique floor plan integrating optional hallway bunk beds and TV into a layout that easily accommodates up to six adults.
The concept of building bunk beds into a motorhome is nothing new, but the Holiday Rambler designers took a very clever approach – the optional hallway bunks are built into a slide-out section in the passageway between the master bedroom suite at the rear of the vehicle, and the galley area amidships. The use of space is quite ingenious, with the width of the slide quite sufficient to accommodate the bunks, and the location providing a totally unobtrusive addition of sleeping capacity to the unit. The base of the bunk area is outfitted with bottom drawers, the bunks themselves were large enough to accommodate six-footers, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the 13” TV and AV game plate entertainment system built into the wall facing their private quarters. If you don’t need the bunk beds, you can save the $1,713 option and the slide-out section will be outfitted as a rather large wardrobe, and the area used for the TV facing the bunks would be outfitted as a linen cabinet.
Since 1966, Holiday Rambler has been famous for its exclusive Alumaframe Superstructure, utilizing a series of C-channel cross-members that run the length of the vehicle, double welded at intersections for greater strength. Lighter and stronger than conventional tubular aluminum frame construction, the Alumaframe structure carries a five-year warranty, but even more important, it carries the Holiday Rambler reputation for durability and excellent resale value. In the motorhome models, a steel cage cockpit construction further adds to the structural integrity of the vehicle.
The peaked one-piece fiberglass roof tops off a nine-layer insulated sandwich (luan backing, thick tapered bead foam insulation, aluminum double I-beam superstructure filled with fiberglass insulation, vapour barrier, structure foam, thermal insulative barrier, half-inch bead foam insulation, foam padding, and the padded vinyl ceiling). This contributes to climate control during warm and cold weather, as well as helping to keep the vehicle nice and quiet, both on the road and in the campsite.
Sidewalls are constructed with a five-layer sandwich, and slide-outs have a multi-layer construction to reduce the chance of warping, twisting, or shifting. All slides have Topper slide-out awnings to keep out leaves, water, and other foreign materials. The front fiberglass cap of the motorhome is fitted with a Panaview TM 1-piece windshield, and the rear cap has a ladder and automotive style taillights.
The four-layer floor construction features Structurewood TM, blue foam insulation, 1-1/2” aluminum tube, and three-ply poly underbelly.
All in all, this motorhome is built to last, and retain value for years to come.
On The Road
Over the years, we have had the pleasure of road testing several class A motorhomes built on the 22,000 LB capacity Workhorse chassis, and the roadability of the chassis makes long distance travel a pure pleasure. The six-speed transmission with overdrive shifted smoothly and effortlessly during our trip, as it has on a number of previous road tests of motorhomes utilizing the Workhorse chassis with similar engine and drive train specs.
Driving the motorhome is a very comfortable experience – slide into the leatherette six-way power pilot’s seat, and power steering, power brakes, and automatic transmission contribute to easy handling. Look up and enjoy the view as the huge one-piece windshield provides excellent visibility. Pull-down sun shades and power sunvisors are part of the “standard run” option package, that also includes your 3-camera rear vision system to give you command of your surroundings. If you go for the rear vision system, you can also opt for the high speed DVD GPS navigation system. Remote control heated mirrors are standard equipment; a driver’s door with electric window is an option.
For practical purposes, once you get used to the overall size of a class A motorhome, it really isn’t very difficult to drive – you just have to learn to gauge your distances, and keep in mind that a vehicle of this size is not designed to be driven like a sports car – plan your lane changes in advance, keep an eye of the 3-camera rear vision system, and your passengers will be amazed at how smooth your ride can be.
The Holiday Rambler class A models in the 34’ to 37’ range are also offered on the Ford 22,000 LB chassis, which some drivers prefer – it’s all a matter of the “feel” of the vehicle, your preference for GM or Ford engines, and whether you like a firm or more luxurious ride. If your RV dealer has both chassis is stock, it would be a good idea to test drive both, over the same route, and arrive at your own conclusions.
The smooth gel-coat fiberglass exterior walls of our test vehicle were finished with a full body paint job with vinyl graphics, a $4221 option that most RV’ers agree adds to the long-term appeal and resale value of the motorhome. The Admiral was also outfitted with an optional 3M front mask, which is a wise optional addition at $1337.
In The Campsite
For a vehicle of this size, you would be surprised at how maneuverable the 34’ Admiral can be in a campground situation. Docking is easy during the daytime, and once you switch on the docking lights, a nighttime arrival is relatively easy – especially if you follow the advice of our road test teams, and place a small lantern-style flashlight on the various campsite obstructions – one for the electrical hook-up box, one for the water hookup, one for the sewer hookup, and so on… we use FM family two-way radios and put a “spotter” at the rear of the vehicle to assist in fine-tuning the positioning of the RV in the campsite. It usually takes only one attempt to get into the perfect position in the campsite, since we either back-in or drive-through to a point close to where we will ultimately park, then walk around the vehicle to fine-tune the process.
Once the vehicle is in the perfect position, it’s a simple matter of setting the parking brake, then activating the fully automatic hydraulic leveling system – in a matter of seconds you’re level, solid, and ready to connect to the campsite facilities.
Hooking-up a vehicle as well designed as the Admiral is a cinch, with the RV water and electrical systems having dedicated compartments, each outfitted with 12-volt lights that come on automatically when you open the compartment door. As soon as you hook-up the electrical system, water supply, and sewer hose, you can extend the slides, and you have officially arrived at your campsite. If your campsite is equipped with cable TV and telephone service, your jacks are ready – right inside the electrical hook-up compartment. You also have the wiring prep for a digital satellite dish, in case you choose to have one installed.
One of the major attractions of a class A motorhome of this size is the availability of exterior storage compartments, and the Admiral certainly offers a full complement, including pass-through storage bays under the slides, all outfitted with easy to clean polyethylene compartment liners, and side-hinge baggage doors that provide easy access to all of your gear. We found only one area that could be a problem – when the slide out sections are extended, you have to crouch down under the slides to load or unload the compartments – if you aren’t careful, you could easily bump your head on the slide-out, or the slide mechanism.
Keeping the motorhome neat and clean is easy, thanks to the optional central vacuum system, worth every penny of the $356 price tag.
The Admiral was elegantly decorated, especially for a vehicle in this price range, with Newport Cherry cabinetry, a $685 upgrade from the standard vintage oak décor package. The 2008 models will be available with the Newport Cherry or Champagne Select wood finish. With quality furnishings and upholstery, and a floor plan that is obviously created by people who have RV experience, you’ll feel right at home as soon as you walk into this unit.
Entertaining the family in the Admiral is a pleasure, with the front lounge area equipped with the very comfortable Hide-A-Bed, and an optional soft-touch vinyl recliner. You can screen the latest movies on the 26” LCD TV mounted in the cabinetry above the dash, and a Sirius-ready CD player/audio system in the dash with really good six-speaker sound quality.
In the master bedroom, a 20” LCD TV and optional DVD player let you watch your favourite selections, while the rest of the family enjoys different programming on the front TV, or the TV opposite the bunk beds – three different shows at the same time – that’s about right for the modern multi-tasking family.
The washroom area is well equipped, with the six-gallon LP gas/electric water heater controlled by electronic ignition and DSI. The shower stall is large, with a Protecta Glaze tinted Plexiglas skylight above the shower stall, and a powered Fan-Tastic Vent fan with automatic rain sensor above the sink. To round out the washroom appointments there is a generous linen closet that could double as a wardrobe.
In The Galley
For the RV gourmet, galley appliances are a major attraction, and the Admiral was well equipped with a microwave convection oven, a high-output 3-burner cook top, and a large double-door refrigerator. Our test unit had the optional 12 cubic foot four-door refrigerator, with raised wood panels… very nice, indeed. The solid surface countertops were easy to keep clean, and the sink featured a high-rise faucet – very well chosen for an RV application. The pull-out pantry in our test unit was quite generous in size, but lacked a rear surface to keep the contents of the compartment from falling back into the rear of the cabinet – watch for a design modification the latest models. If you decide to for the standard size refrigerator, you will have an additional pull-out pantry in the galley, with full-height wire roll-out storage; in the long run, our group decided that the larger four-door refrigerator was the better choice, especially for long trips.
All of the drawers in the unit feature heavy-duty ball bearing guides and wood construction. Satin finish nickel cabinet hardware and bath accessories add a touch of class.
There are a number of optional packages that make this class A motorhome a very interesting vehicle for families of two to six people. Sleeping accommodations in the master bedroom are spacious, with a queen size bed, compact nightstands, convenient drawer and hanging clothes compartments, and the comfort of a rear AC unit. With the optional bunk beds, as noted above, you lose the space that would otherwise be used for a very large wardrobe, but gain the sleeping accommodations for two adults. The front Hide-A-Bed is very comfortable when you inflate the air mattress. We tried the Hide-A-Bed without inflating the air mattress, and it was almost as comfy – inflation and deflation time was only a few minutes. At $880 for the Fab Hide-A-Bed with air mattress, it’s a livability option that you should discuss with your dealer.
Depending on how many people travel with you, the standard dinette may be sufficient. Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional free-standing dinette, with two chairs and two additional folding chairs. This $774 option gives you quite a bit more flexibility with the floor plan, and most RV’ers prefer the comfort of the free-standing arrangement.
For summer touring, the Admiral features dual 13.5M BTU air conditioners, with ducted air and wall thermostats. A range of upgrades is available for RV’ers planning extensive travels in the warmer climates.
The Bottom Line…
For a class A motorhome in this price range, the Holiday Rambler Admiral represents an excellent value – in terms of features, quality of construction, and handling.
Holiday Rambler Admiral 34 SBD
Workhorse 22,000 LB Chassis
Interior width 94.5”
Height (w/AC) 12’9”
Interior height 84”
GVWR 22,000 lbs.
GCWR 26,000 lbs.
Front GAWR 8,000 lbs.
Rear GAWR 14,500 lbs.
Engine 8.1 L V-8 w/ EFI
Power 340 HP
Torque 455 lbs./ft.
Transmission 6-speed automatic w/overdrive
Fuel capacity 75 gal.
Rear axle ratio: 5.86:1
Tires: 235/80R/22.5G radials
Water heater 6 gal.
Gray water tank 42 gal.
Black water tank 40 gal.
Fresh water 60 gal.
LP gas 20 gal.
Fully automatic hydraulic leveling system
5,000 lb. Hitch receiver w/ 4-or 7-pin connector
Base price, FOB Smithville, ON $113,214.
Price as tested: $133,321.