The story of Barth Motor Coaches begins with the company’s founder, Bob Barth. Barth owned the Beeline Trailer Company, a manufacturer of aluminum travel trailers. He left Beeline in 1963 and formed the Barth Trailer Company in Milford, IN. Barth sold the Barth Trailer Co. to Mike Umbaugh in 1968.
Umbaugh, whose expertise was in banking, saw the Barth Company as an opportunity for investment, provided that the business plan shifted from travel trailers to the burgeoning motorhome market. Rather than try to compete with companies like Winnebago and GMC that sold median-priced RVs, Umbaugh decided to focus on high-end motorhomes for affluent buyers.
With a focus on quality and innovation, Barth shuttered the travel trailer side of the business in 1970 and switched to building high-quality motor coaches. The rich history of Barth Motor Coaches is a story about how the Barth brand transformed the world of recreational vehicles for a relatively brief moment in RV history.
The early days of Barth Motor Coaches
The Barth Trailer Company was founded on the principle of building high-quality all-aluminum travel trailers. At the time, many travel trailers and almost all mobile homes used a wood frame with aluminum sheathing. Barth’s innovative design approach using all-aluminum construction set the company apart from its competitors and laid the foundation for its future success.
The transition to motorhomes: 1973-1998
Barth built motorhomes from 1973 to 1998, starting with their first Class A motorhomes. During the 1970s and 1980s, the company primarily manufactured motorhomes on General Motors P-30 chassis, equipped with a Chevy 454 gasoline engine. These motorhomes ranged in size from 22 to 35 feet, offering various options to accommodate different preferences and needs.
Barth’s commitment to quality and innovation extended to its Class C motorhomes and travel trailers, which the company also produced during this time. Each Barth motorhome was custom-built with the same attention to detail and precision that had become synonymous with the brand.
The diesel pusher era: 1990s
In the 1990s, Barth expanded its product line to include diesel pusher motorhomes, utilizing Caterpillar, Cummins, and Detroit engines. These powerful, high-performance motorhomes further solidified Barth’s reputation for quality and innovation in the RV industry.
The legacy of Barth Motor Coaches
Although Barth ceased production in 1998, the company’s legacy inspires RV enthusiasts and owners. Barth motorhomes are renowned for their durability, thanks to their all-aluminum construction and meticulous attention to detail. Today, a dedicated community of Barth owners and enthusiasts proudly maintains and restores these classic motorhomes, preserving their unique charm and character.
One such community is Barthmobile.com, a forum where Barth owners share their experiences and where Barth coaches can sometimes be found for sale.
A Barth historical timeline from Barthmobile.com:
- 1982: Mid-1982 to early 1985 Regency model with the MCC Chassis. The aluminum styling of the earlier era Barths reemerged but on steroids. The round headlights have been replaced with 4 square headlights designed for the Cadillac Division of General Motors. These Barths were much larger in all areas from their gasoline-powered coaches. Because of the MCC Chassis, the size was still limited to 35′.
- 1985: Early 1985 Barths built on the GILLIG Chassis to replace their MCC Chassis. These airbrake chassis could now be offered in lengths up to 40′ with a choice of different engines.
- 1987: In April 1987, Barth produced a composite brow around the front windshield.
- 1989: Barth is now offering a choice between GILLIG and Spartan Chassis.
- 1989: Regency offers a Widebody option increasing the width from 96″ to 102″.
- 1994: December 1994 final days for Barth, Inc. and Mike Umbaugh.
We had a Barth 25′ Travel Trailer back around 1965 to 1973 when I was a kid. Mom and Dad sold it to a friend of ours in ’73. When they were ready to sell it in 1990, my Mom bought it back from them and had it set up permanently at a private campground. She would go there on the weekends and stay. It was only 8 miles away from where she lived. Those Barth trailers are some well-made rigs.