By Randall Brink
I couldn’t have been happier on the day I took delivery of my Foretravel Grand Villa U300. I had done a lot of research and had decided on a Foretravel for its legendary quality and build. The Grand Villa had everything that a Class A RV owner could want and more (who really needs two ice makers?). I was also fortunate enough to find a Grand Villa within 100 miles of my home – another big plus.
When one does research on popular or iconic coach brands, there is often so much information available that a tendency is to focus on features and benefits of the RV, and perhaps overlook demerits or “issues” that prior or current owners have reported. Such was the case with my research on the Foretravel Grand Villa. I was soon to realize the danger in failing to look at all facets of an RV brand’s history.
Once home with the Grand Villa, I enthusiastically continued my reading about the marque on websites, such as Fore Forums, Facebook’s Grand Villa Owners group, and elsewhere. It was on Fore Forums that I first saw mention of “The Bulkhead Problem.” I began reading the threads regarding this issue with growing apprehension. The problem was with rust and corrosion in the lower structural components of the basement floor. The structure was built using extruded steel tubing and was welded in place between two “bulkheads,” fore and aft, one just behind the front wheels and the other just ahead of the rear duals. The problem would reveal itself by the failure of the steel bolts on the rear steel bulkhead beam, which would allow the smooth underbelly of the coach to drop an inch or two. After a late night of reading of the horrors of this problem, along with the problems of restoring the RV and the enormous expense associated with the repair, I headed out to my RV the next morning to inspect the rear bulkhead, fingers crossed that mine might be one of the lucky ones that avoided this catastrophe…
Sure enough, as you will see in the photos, my Foretravel definitely had “the problem.” Its rear “Rolok” bolts had mostly rusted out and failed, leaving the structural basement floor tubing sagging about two inches. I was crestfallen, and this was immediately followed by panic. Now what? I took photos to show the experts on Fore Forums to solicit their thoughts and advice on my situation. The news was not good.
Foretravel motor coaches are exquisitely designed, and the Grand Villa is no exception, but this one engineering faux pas has affected a good many of the classic coaches. What causes the problem is any stray water that enters the lower tube structure ends up getting trapped, and begins to work its corrosive spell on the steel tube structure. It is noteworthy that the coach wet bay, with city water connection and all of the holding tanks, is situated over this area of the basement. Some RVs, if their owners were extremely careful with fluids, are barely affected – but some require their entire lower basement floors to be replaced. I was somewhat lucky in the corrosion in mine – it only affected about a third of the length of the steel tubing – but it was nonetheless a major repair.
Some Foretravel owners are of the opinion that only Foretravel can do this repair adequately, and many owners schedule the work at the Foretravel factory in Nacogdoches, Texas. I was apprehensive about driving mine the 2,041 miles to the factory, given that my problem was, indeed, a structural and therefore a safety issue. I spent a week asking about and mulling over options, when a fellow Foretravel owner and former Foretravel technician, Chris White, recommended Truline RV – right in my backyard in Spokane, WA. I called Truline and made an appointment for my RV. Once it was inspected, I was given the assurance that they could do the work. What a relief!
My RV spent the winter in the Truline Custom RV shop, where the crew undertook the painstaking task of removing the old rusted components and replacing them with new welded steel extrusions, new insulation, new bulkhead steel bolts, and a new watertight pan for underneath the coach. The bill, just under $20K, was much lower than I expected, or that it could have been had more corrosion been found.
The moral of this story is that in your excitement to learn all the great positive things about a prospective new RV, don’t forget to search out the negatives too, e.g., potential demerits to a design or model that others have experienced. Fortunately, not all RVs and coaches have inherent design or structural problems, but for those that do, you can be sure that there is an abundance of information out there on one or more of the many websites dedicated to virtually every brand and model of RV. Such research could save you a lot of money and anxiety.