We did it!

After months and months of research, countless hours of looking at RVs, planning out our budget, and lowering our expectations to fit our budget

We made the purchase!

On the 29th of September, we went to our local Camping World to look at a 1996 Itasca Suncruiser 37RW that was less than $9000. We had (very) low expectations, since that’s about 1/2 what similar coaches cost. When we arrived and asked to see it, the salesman warned us away from it, saying that they’d been told that it needed a new roof, and that there was water damage, and that it was headed to the auction within a couple of days. It was dirty. It was neglected. It had (small) water stains in a half-dozen places in the corners of the ceiling. It didn’t smell like mold – which was good – but the engine also made that “chuff chuff chuff chuff” sound that old Ford 460 V-8s make when they’ve been neglected for years, which was not good. They couldn’t get the slide to run, and the coach batteries were completely shot; but it was the 3’x 4′ soft spot on the roof that turned the deal from “Serious, but Doable Fixer Upper” to “No Sale”. That’s something I’d have been willing to tackle if this were April.

Replacing a roof isn’t difficult if you can haz YouTube, it is somewhat time-consuming if you’ve never done it before, but,

  1. I haven’t done it before.
  2. It’s October, not April.
  3. That soft spot indicates that I’d likely be replacing joists in addition to plywood and roof material.
  4. The roof on the ’96 Suncruiser is fiberglass, not EPDM or TPO. This complicates the repair based on YouTube Research.

We were overly frank with our Sales Guy Extraordinaire, Chris Donovan, and told him that we could afford to buy the Itasca for cash, but if that fell through we didn’t have too many other options, since the inventory at the various local Camping Worlds usually has a few ‘beaters’ in the 8k-14k range, then they jump up to 40k and up.

Chris suggested we go up the hill to the back lot (where they keep the clunkers) to look at a 2005 Four Winds Hurricane that they had ‘out back’ that he thought there was a decent chance we could get into if we loved it.

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Chris told us that a customer had brought it in as a trade-in, and while that deal was happening, a different customer managed to sideswipe it in the parking lot, sort of sealing the deal, and sticking Camping World with a unit that was a good coach, but wasn’t up to snuff for the front lot anymore. They were kind of sour on it. All fixed up, with all the options tallied (Optional Dual ducted A/C, 50A hookup, 19″ LCD vs. CRT, Bedroom window awning, fog lamps, 40k miles, etc.) it books at $34,172 – $41,169, but with the damage down the curbside they had it listed at $29,999, lowered to $26,999. We spent 20 minutes in a light drizzle going briefly over our checklist. The damage down the side was almost entirely cosmetic – two small pieces of trim missing around the wheel wells, one bent storage latch that still functioned, some light paint scrapes at the rear of the coach, and one storage area door that had two ugly gouges in it.

Oh, and they couldn’t get the slide to go in.

We offered $25,000.

Being that it was the end of the month (The Wisdom of the Internet says *always* shop at the end of the month, right? Apparently, the Sales Manager agrees…) They accepted. We put down $1000 ‘earnest money’ with the proviso that we hadn’t driven it yet, or been able to perform a thorough inspection on level ground, and if it failed either, the deposit was refundable. We arranged to pick the coach up on Saturday, October 4. That week was the second longest week I’ve ever had at work.

We got a call from Chris on Thursday the 3rd. The slide was going to require parts, and they wouldn’t be in until the following week. We rescheduled pick-up tentatively for late Friday the 10th or early Saturday the 11th. THAT week was the longest week I’ve ever had at work.

Friday afternoon, I did the walkthrough with Wally, our service guy and learned about all the systems. I’m really happy with the attention to detail that Wally brought to getting the coach ready for us. The bathroom faucet is new, since the existing faucet was leaking onto the countertop. He put new parts in the Hydraulic system as part of the Slide repair, and did a complete fluid flush. New 50A shorepower cord. Documented for us that all 6 tires had been replaced in 2012.
10 two-sided pages of my checklist later, there were only 4 things that still needed addressing, which I was pretty amazed with, considering the exceptional complexity of something that is both an automobile and a house at the same time.

Once those were documented on the Owed to Customer sheet, we paid the rest of our down payment, and signed the rest of the paperwork to make it ours. We drove it away Friday night, and Saturday morning, our plans to go to Saint Vrain State Park overnight fell through (but that’s a story for another post…)

The coach is currently at Camping World of Denver having the 4 outstanding issues addressed.

  1. One chip in each windshield. At something like $1200 each to replace them, the chips need to be addressed before they become cracks.
  2. The power driver’s seat moves up and down, but not forward and backward.
  3. The passenger’s seat will unlock and swivel, but will not re-lock once unlocked, and the plastic tab to unlock the swivel is *extremely* stiff and tight – to the point of having to use the secondary rod to unlock the swivel action.
  4. I’ve saved The Big Deal for last… The oven will not light at all, and one of the burners (right rear) will not light consistently. Wally and I managed to fill the coach pretty good with unburned propane at one point trying to get them to go. Part of the cause for this seems to be linked to the fact that the stove/oven control panel has an obvious hole “DIY” drilled by the Prior Owner next to the gas knobs. There’s apparently a small grub screw inside that hole, and nobody knows what it does. Obviously, I’d like the stove and oven (and all of the included safety features) to work exactly as described in the Gas Range user’s manual and that, generally speaking, means that the range should not have ragged holes of an unknown purpose drilled in it by a former owner.We’ll see how that goes.

That said…here, have some pictures!

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We’ll have more pictures once we get the coach back, for sure.