Liberty Coach debuts its first luxury conversion on the newly redesigned Prevost XLII chassis.
By Lazelle D. Jones
Last summer I had the opportunity to experience true luxury aboard an Elegant Lady bus conversion, crafted by Liberty Coach Inc. of North Chicago, Illinois. I caught up with this 45-foot mansion on wheels “” coach #564, to be exact “” at the Liberty Coach facility just days before it was being driven to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the 100th anniversary celebration of Harley-Davidson. Although the time I spent with the coach was all too short, I was awed by its stunning combination of opulence, sophistication, and cutting-edge technology. Liberty Coach traditionally custom converts coaches to owner’s specifications. The coach I reviewed had been built specifically to display at rallies and shows in order to showcase the redesigned Prevost LeMirage XLII conversion shell.
Redesign of the Prevost LeMirage XLII was driven by the re-engineering of the Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine, the result of more stringent diesel emission standards that the Environmental Protection Agency required diesel engine manufacturers to implement for 2004. Cosmetically, the resulting changes to the XLII shell are subtle, but beneath the surface, the design changes are significant.
To begin with, a considerably larger radiator that features a 30 percent greater heat load rejection capability was required to accommodate the new cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) system now found on the Series 60 Detroit Diesel engine. The CEGR reduces oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions in diesel exhaust. Although it is not visually apparent, there has been a slight loss of interior space on the XLII shell because of the larger engine cooling system.
On the visual side, the larger cooling system is also the pacing item for the reconfiguration of the exterior louvers that disguise the radiator and the larger engine compartment doors. Extra-bright LED brake lights and turn signals also have been added to the rear of the Prevost LeMirage XLII shell.
On the performance side, the rated horsepower of the Series 60 stays at 500, but there has been a significant improvement in the amount of available torque. The Series 60 is now rated at 1,650 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm.
And for the 2004 model year, the GVWR of the Prevost XLII has been bumped up to 54,500 pounds. The front axle is now rated at 18,000 pounds, the drive axle, 22,000 pounds, and the tag axle, 14,000 pounds. The front and tag axles are now outfitted with larger tires “” 365/70R 22.5 “” which are mounted on 10-inch-wide rims (each tire is rated at 10,500 pounds maximum). The drive axle tire size remains the same as on earlier coaches “” a 315/80R 22.5 tire (7,300-pound capacity) on a 9-inch-wide rim.
The LeMirage XLII shell comes with a 10-ton (120,000-Btu) Prevost factory-installed over-the-road air-conditioning package and a 150,000-Btu chassis heating system. To this, Liberty Coach adds four Cruisair air-conditioning units, each rated at 14,000 Btus and featuring a reverse heat pump. There are four independent compressors; two are mounted behind the front bumper, and two are located in the center of the second bay. The evaporators are also independent: one up front, two midcoach, and a fourth one in the rear bedroom area. Altogether, the chassis and house air-conditioning systems deliver an amazing 176,000 Btus. This is particularly noteworthy when you realize the amount of insulation that is included in each coach. Every coach received from Prevost is well insulated, and Liberty augments this with its own insulation where required as the interior is added.
Adding their bit to the insulation package, the window shades are all-electric and can be actuated individually or by the touch of a single button (on the wall or on the remote control panel). All can be opened or closed simultaneously. A silhouette-type window shade is used in the living area. When the shades are lowered, the panels can be angled to regulate the amount of light that comes through the translucent material. It’s not a full blackout material, but images cannot be seen through this material. The bedroom shades feature a full blackout condition.
To simultaneously support all 120-volt-AC loads “” the house AC system, the all-electric galley cook top, a Dish Drawer dishwasher, a SubZero two-drawer 5-cubic-foot freezer below the galley counter, a SubZero refrigerator with two separate refrigerator drawers, an outdoor electric barbecue, two 42-inch plasma televisions, and a 27-inch television in the bay entertainment center “” the Elegant Lady I reviewed came equipped with a 20-kilowatt Kohler diesel generator. The gen set features a cooling system that is capable of self-cooling even in ambient temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
The coach is equipped with a 24-volt-DC electrical system, which is supported by a house battery pack of four 8D gel-cell batteries that power the twin 2.5 kilowatt inverters. This system supports stand-alone RV camping “” no hookups and without the gen set operating “” for up to 18 hours. The Kohler’s auto-start feature automatically starts the gen set and brings it on-line when battery voltage drops below 22.5 volts.
Liberty builds a “hush box” that is designed to insulate the generator to a decibel point that is nearly undetectable to the human ear. The box is located in a midcoach bay, on the street side, and is constructed using custom-made sound-reflecting foam that is laminated to sound-absorbing foam panels.
The three-zone heating system includes six heating elements in the coach and one below in the basement. These, along with the house hot water and engine preheat systems, are all serviced by a Webasto heating system that delivers 80,000 Btus. There are two electric element heaters: one in the water tank bay and one in the bathroom. Engine heat can also be used to warm the coach. For improved heating system life expectancy, only hard-wall copper tubing (1-1/4, 3/4-, and 1/2-inch no-flex tubing) is used throughout the coach. A 120-volt 20-gallon electric water heater provides house hot water when connected to 50-amp shore power or generator power.
Each Liberty Coach contains approximately three miles of wiring, and every power wire has a matching companion ground wire running parallel to it. Instead of connecting a ground wire from the load (component) to a floating ground (chassis), the companion ground wire grounds the load directly to a ground panel and then directly to the battery. This electrical configuration pre-empts possible problems caused by an inadequate ground “” either a loose ground or a ground located too far away from the load. Also, individual ground wires eliminate interference in the coach. The battery bank is arguably one of the best electronic interference filters a coach can have, and grounding directly to the battery bank eliminates any static noise that can interfere with the radio, video equipment, etc. Stranded wiring (small strands of wire as opposed to solid strands of copper wire) is used throughout the coach. This type of wire can flex as the coach rolls down the road. All 120-volt wire used in a Liberty Coach is marine grade.
Liberty was the first to introduce the Allen-Bradley programmable controller, in 1993. The logic Liberty programs into the controller interfaces with a Crestron remote-control system that manages and directs the information before sending signals to the appropriate systems as required (lights, awnings, shades, audio/video equipment, generator start/stop, and mechanical functions). This logic also controls the transfer of shore power to and from the coach. With the exception of the transfer of shore power, all functions noted are controlled from a single Crestron remote-control touch-panel screen. Simply touch the face of the screen and it turns on. A menu of icons/names appears; the user makes a selection (entertainment, living area, bedroom, etc.), which presents the next menu level of icons/names (shades, lights, awnings, etc.).
Actually, coach #564 contains three individual remote controls that are all programmed exactly the same. As a fail-safe measure, individual push buttons are located throughout the coach so that each item controlled from the touch screen can be actuated locally, just in case a remote control failure occurs or the remote control is not handy.
Liberty coaches can be enjoyed with one, two, or no slideouts. My test coach featured two slides, one in the front living area and another in the rear bedroom. The front slide houses a sofa and dinette. This slide measures 30 inches deep by 14 feet 6 inches long. The rear slide, measuring 24 inches by 8 feet, contains the queen-size bed. Liberty uses only the Prevost shell with Prevost’s designed and installed slideout(s). The slideouts come from Prevost installed and fully functional. They are extended and retracted via rack-and-pinion mechanisms that are located both at the top and bottom of the slides. The motive force for each is a single electric motor (one for the front slide, one for the rear slide) that simultaneously drives the top and bottom rack-and-pinion gears. The front slide features six stainless-steel pins that lock the slide in place when it is retracted. The smaller bedroom slide features four pins. An inflatable seal surrounds each of the slideout openings; the seals inflate both when the slides are retracted and when they are extended. This creates a pressurized, airtight, and watertight boundary.
When the control button is pushed to begin the process of extending the front slide, the air pressure in the tag axle air bags is also released “” although the tag axle is not raised “” to relieve any stress on the chassis before the front slide is articulated. When the front slide motion is complete, the tag axle air bags are reinflated. (The air pressure on the tag air bags is not released when the rear stateroom slide is extended.)
It’s important to note that Liberty Coach also relies on Prevost for the custom paint and graphic schemes that adorn its custom coaches. The designs are created at Liberty and then forwarded to Prevost for implementation. When inspecting the exterior of coach #564, I could not find a place where the paint was not absolutely smooth. Even where different colors were juxtaposed, I could not detect by touch where one color began and another one ended.
With the exception of places where solid wood is incorporated, such as for the raised panel doors, Liberty Coach uses an ultra-lightweight board that is custom made for the company to create all of the interior cabinetry. By using this lightweight composite panel material, Liberty has been able to shave approximately 2,500 pounds from the weight of every slideout-equipped custom coach. This material features a solid foam-core center with a fiberglass skin laminated to each side. After custom cutting each piece for a specific coach, Liberty then skins and finishes the edges and laminates the desired surface (wood, Vitricor, etc.) to the fiberglass-dressed foam core. To help counteract the additional weight of the slideouts, Liberty’s designers elected to incur the added time and costs associated with using this ultra-lightweight, high-tech material.
For example, wherever hinges are to be installed, a larger area on the material is machined out and then filled with epoxies. When cured, this epoxied area is then ready to receive the hardware. This provides a stronger material for the fasteners. This then has to be sanded and remachined so that screw holes can be bored into it. During my factory tour and visit to the cabinet shop, I held a finished ultra-lightweight door and was amazed by how little it weighed. I was told that most of the weight of a finished door comes from the hardware.
Liberty builds and finishes the majority of the interior furnishings that go into its coaches. One exception is etched or cut glass, which the company outsources. The countertops are a solid-surface material that Liberty machines to less than 1/2-inch-thick to strip even more weight from the coach. Liberty adds a honeycomb-type backing to the machined solid surface material to reinforce it without adding weight.
Because weight has been removed from other areas of the coach, 1/2-inch-thick flooring can be used. I was told that using a thicker flooring material eliminates any possibility of cracking in the grout lines or the material. Liberty Coach floors can be ordered in granite, marble, or porcelain. Be it a solid floor material or custom carpet, Liberty can incorporate custom, sculptured designs into either. A lifetime workmanship warranty to the first owner comes with every item that Liberty manufactures on a coach.
Liberty also offers what for this writer is a unique ceiling and wall treatment. The company creates painted ceiling scenes; the one in the coach I reviewed looks like a fine work of art out of the Renaissance period. These custom works of art can also be enjoyed as wall adornments, such as the one in the bathroom of Liberty Coach #564. Fine artists are turned loose to create these panoramas.
For safety and weight considerations, Liberty uses polished aluminum instead of mirror glass on the ceiling. I found it impossible to tell the difference. Even where the individual panels of polished aluminum are anchored to the ceiling, it is not apparent where the seams are, or even whether there are any. The reflective quality of the polished aluminum is every bit as good as mirrored glass.
Villa is the furniture of choice at Liberty Coach, and Villa does most of the furniture upholstery work for the company’s coaches. However, Liberty also does upholstery work. For example, the Ekornes recliner Liberty offers is first disassembled and then put back together after the individual parts are upholstered. Liberty also creates custom upholstery if a client wants a particular type of leather on a sofa or a chair, and the company can build its own furniture to accommodate the specific needs of a client or for those out-of-the-ordinary requests. The dinette table is designed to slide in and out electrically, which means that when it is not in use it can be kept out of the way, making more room inside for movement when the front slideout room is retracted.
Liberty Coach #564 is capable of towing 20,000 pounds, and it has a hitch weight rated at 1,500 pounds. This particular coach came with a matching trailer that could accommodate one car, two motorcycles, and a custom golf cart. On the road, the Elegant Lady was every bit a lady: quiet, comfortable, a capsule of luxury capable of effortlessly moving through a world of changing driving conditions and destinations. This is not a coach for everyone, only for those who demand the ultimate.
Manufacturer … Liberty Coach Inc., 1400 Morrow Ave., North Chicago, IL 60064; (800) 332-9877, fax (847) 578-1053; www.libertycoach.com; e-mail: [email protected]
Model … Elegant Lady
Floor plan … Everett
Chassis … Prevost LeMirage XLII
Engine … Detroit Diesel Series 60, 500 horsepower at 2,100 rpm; 1,650 pound-feet torque at 1,800 rpm
Transmission … Allison 6 speed
Axle ratio … 4:56 it 1
Tires … Michelin 365/70R 22.5 on front and tag axles; 315/80R 22.5 on drive axle
Wheelbase … 315 inches
Brakes … Heavy-duty antilock disc
Suspension … Air ride with front independent system
Alternator … 24 volts, 270 amps
Batteries … house “” (4) 8D gel; chassis “” (4) maintenance-free; generator “” (1) maintenance-free
Steering … ZF variable-assist power
Inverter … (2) Heart 2,500-watt, 24-volt units
Electrical service … 220-volt 50-amp or 110-volt 50-amp
Auxiliary generator … 20-kw Kohler
Exterior length … 45 feet
Exterior width … 102 inches
Interior height … 7 feet 2 inches
Exterior height … 12 feet 10 inches to the top of satellite dome
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) … 74,500 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) … 54,500 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) … front “” 18,000 pounds; rear “” 22,000 pounds; tag “” 14,000 pounds
Wet weight as tested … front axle “” 16,880 pounds; drive axle “” 21,060 pounds; tag axle “” 12,960 pounds; total “” 50,900 pounds
Payload … 3,600 pounds
Frame construction … Combination of rust-protected, high-tensile, low-alloy steel and stainless-steel tubing
Insulation … Cast foam panels with total R-factor of 14
Fresh water capacity … 160 gallons
Holding tank capacities … black water/gray water “” 140 gallons
Fuel capacity … 208 gallons
Fuel requirements … diesel
Water heater … 20-gallon electric with engine and Webasto heat exchanger
Water system … 110-volt Headhunter Jetpak pump
Heating system … 80,000-Btu Webasto diesel hot water boiler and 4 reverse-cycle heat pump units
Air conditioning … (4) 14,000-Btu Cruisair reverse-cycle heat pump central units
Refrigerator … SubZero 15-cubic-foot refrigerator with 2 refrigerator drawers and a 5-cubic-foot under-counter freezer unit with ice maker
Toilet … 12-volt Headhunter water jet, anti-fume
Warranty … chassis “” 24 months/200,000 miles; coach “” lifetime on workmanship to the first owner
Base suggested retail price … $1,763,000
Price as tested … $1,763,000
Options on unit tested … Elegant Lady Package