Toward the end of May, the news started circulating. Longtime RV builder Lazy Daze appeared to be closed down. Lazy Daze, based in Montclair, California, had a long history and a strong, enthusiastic customer base. Practically any “LD” owner would tell you, “Nobody builds them like Lazy Daze.” And it may well be that now nobody builds ‘em. What happened?
Shop teachers become RV builders
A little history sheds light on the almost fanatical following of Lazy Daze. Back in the 1950s, two high school shop teachers, Paul Newton and Harold Hamm, took on a project of their own. They built a slide-in truck camper, and it was so well done that they soon had others asking them to build one for them. Business got so good they quit teaching and moved over into the RV business. After Hamm died, Newton kept the enterprise going, getting help from his brother Ed. The little firm became a family group.
The Newtons’ approach to building RVs was simple: Hand craft an RV that lasts. Don’t sell them through dealers, sell them factory-to-the-customer. Use good-quality materials and take the time needed to build them.
The ethic translated into Class C units—although the company flirted with a Class A attempt. It didn’t work out well, and only one was ever built. But the Class C units that came out of the Lazy Daze plant were something else. No fiberglass “delamination” problems here. Lazy Daze rigs were sided with aircraft aluminum panels, easily replaced if necessary. And don’t worry about fading. Those panels were painted with polyurethane enamel, that would probably outlive the owner. Overhead, the motorhomes were topped, not with EPDM rubber or other easily damaged materials, but, again, with aluminum.
The interior work was likewise top-of-the-line. Since the company “built to order,” you could get your rig specialized to meet your needs in many respects. From the sounds of things, the family must have been RVers themselves. Floor designs were actually something real-life RVers could not just “live with,” but actually found practical and usable.
Lazy Daze didn’t churn out motorhomes measured in the thousands per year. They quietly, and without advertising, built RVs as they built up followers. In Lazy Daze’s heyday, you’d visit the factory showroom, choose one of three floor plans, and plunk down your deposit. Then you’d wait—for maybe two years—until your own rig proudly strutted off the line. Even today, used Lazy Daze rigs are considered a “find” on the market.
Then things got ugly for Lazy Daze
Lazy Daze hummed along, occupying a happy niche in the marketplace for seeming ages. But things got ugly when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Lazy Daze held up on production. During that ugly time of masks, hand sanitizers, and staying home, Lazy Daze stayed open. But at that time, service work was predominantly all that was done. When the pandemic lifted, Lazy Daze followers expected things would go back to normal.
But “normal” came crashing to an end when, last May, the word went out that Lazy Daze was shuttering. The shuttering was practically literal. The Montclair facility which earlier had large picture windows fronting the street, allowing folks to have a look inside, suddenly saw plywood covers over the glass. The company web presence went dark, and phones went from unanswered to unworking.
Facebook groups for Lazy Daze fans were stunned. Plenty of rumors flew, but little verifiable information was available. What really had happened? We may never really know. One suggestion was that the pandemic and “supply line issues” had proven too much for the venerable company. Another said that the company couldn’t get its hands on enough “cut-away chassis” to keep up production.
Looking for real answers
With phone lines down, we kept looking. We finally tracked down Lazy Daze’s service manager, Todd Miller, by email. Todd was friendly and courteous, and promised that he would touch base with the company ownership to see if we might get some official comment. Sadly, when Todd got back to us, the response was this: “Sorry, but the owners’ situation is not conducive to giving any interviews or information on the closing.”
As we’ve said, we may never really have a definitive answer to what happened to shut down what many feel are some of the best-built RVs. In the early days of RV building, nearly everyone started as a “mom-and-pop” builder. Well-crafted RVs soon stood out in the market, and those not-so-good faded away. But then, as the “big” RV manufacturers came on scene, the move to buy up the jewels of the mom-and-pop stores began in earnest. Sadly, most RVers will agree, when Mom and Pop sell out to the big guys, the quality just isn’t there anymore. Lazy Daze bucked the trend and built highly regarded Class C units until its dying breath. Rest in peace, Lazy Daze. You’ll be missed.