The Mitchell family business includes two generations and immeasurable experience in creating and marketing luxury Prevost coach conversions, marketing Blue Bird motor coaches, and providing coach service for all makes and models.
By Lazelle Jones
Owned and operated by the Mitchell family, Parliament Coach Corporation offers its clients the benefits of more than 30 years of experience in designing, building, and marketing custom coach conversions.
In the early 1970s Harvey and Pat Mitchell began marketing high-line motorhomes under the Mitchell Motor Coach Sales company name. In 1990 they branched out into manufacturing high-line motor coaches after purchasing Vogue. The couple sold the business in 1998 and traveled full-time in their motorhome until 2000, when the opportunity to return to manufacturing presented itself. Ed and Joy Christiano, founders of Parliament Coach, had been converting Prevost shells for more than seven years; with Ed’s degree in engineering, Parliament Coach Conversions were well regarded. Harvey and Pat teamed up with Steve Mitchell and Teresa Pitts, their son and daughter, and a joint family ownership of Parliament Coach emerged.
“Having been raised in the business, we have the opportunity to be exposed to all different types and caliber of coaches,” Steve said. “This gives us the advantage of knowing what most people expect out of their coaches.”
The compay also has established itself as the sole dealer of Blue Bird motorhomes in the state of Florida.
When I arrived at the Parliament corporate offices in Clearwater, Florida, to visit the Mitchells, they were preparing to leave for a Parliament Travel Club rally. (This owners club is an official FMCA chapter.) The Mitchells drive their Parliament Coaches to the rally site, then on to FMCA’s international convention, where they are exhibited with several other Parliament Coach Conversions.
Sequestered on seven acres at 13790 Roosevelt Blvd. in Clearwater, the 20,000-square-foot Parliament complex includes five service bays, a state-of-the-art paint booth, corporate offices, an upholstery shop, a wiring harness room, a cabinet and woodworking shop, and a large building where several coaches can always be found in various stages of creation. This past summer the company announced plans for expansion following the purchase of an additional seven acres adjacent to its current location. “This newest addition to Parliament Coach will greatly improve our visible highway exposure and make easy access for our customers to get to us,” commented Steve, who serves as company president.
Harvey is very up front about his philosophy regarding how they do business today. “This is a prime time in our lives,” he explained. “I love the pace at which Pat and I now live, but I still love the business, so we manage our workload at a comfortable pace. It’s perfect for everyone concerned, ourselves and our 60 employees, but most importantly for our clients, who receive our undivided attention.”
Harvey also draws a line in the sand when it comes to his chassis of choice. It is Parliament’s decision to build Parliament Custom Coach Conversions using only the Prevost bus shell. “We like the Le Mirage II and the H3-45, for when the shells arrive from Prevost the slideouts are included, which means that Prevost warranties them,” he said. He added that Parliament likes the electric mechanism that extends and retracts the Prevost slideouts and the pneumatic seal around the slideout that deflates and inflates as part of the extending and retracting sequences. In addition to the H3-45, the company converts the 40-foot bus shell, which doesn’t come with a slideout. But if a client wants a slideout in a 40-foot unit, Parliament has it installed by a company that specializes in that line of work.
Parliament takes advantage of Florida’s bustling marine industry, and that industry’s reputation for building reliable components, by incorporating marine equipment and marine technology in its coaches wherever possible. For example, Parliament uses marine-grade wiring and marine water systems. In fact, all of the gauges, monitoring systems, and plumbing fixtures that the company installs are purchased from the marine industry. Parliament coaches come standard with a 165-gallon fresh water tank and a single gray/black water tank that also holds 165 gallons. The capacity of the fuel tank is 207 gallons.
Parliament installs both over-the-road air-conditioning and roof A/C units. The over-the-road A/C system consists of four individual compressors, each yielding 15,000 Btus of cooling. Aqua-Hot is Parliament’s heating system of choice. Harvey noted that a Parliament coach is capable of providing a comfortable and safe habitat in any kind of environment, be it 20 degrees below zero or 115 degrees above zero. The bus shells arrive from Prevost with foam-core insulation. Over that Parliament installs a layer of foil-backed air-cell insulation, such as that used on the Space Shuttle. Dual-pane windows are also standard.
Parliament custom conversions are all-electric coaches. The only place you will find propane is in the disposable LP-gas bottles that are used to fuel the gas grill housed in the patio’s exterior entertainment bay. Several components are integral to the all-electric Parliament Coach. First is the standard 20-kw PowerTech diesel generator with auto-start. Should the power level of any of the eight house batteries fall to 11 volts or below, the gen set automatically starts. Two 4-kw Trace inverters (standard on every coach) support all AC electrical requirements. These inverters and the house battery pack can power two of the 15,000-Btu over-the-road air-conditioning units for up to 6.5 hours before the auto-start function on the gen set is actuated.
I spoke with several of the 60 Parliament employees and found that it is not uncommon for an employee to have 15 to 25 years of experience in his or her discipline or specialty (upholstery, paint, cabinetmaking, etc.). These are skilled, creative people who feel they have found a home at Parliament and, consequently, there is little turnover. This pool of talent includes individuals who work in leather, marble, granite, ceramic tile, solid-surface materials, and sculptured carpet.
During my tour, I was struck by an innovative design feature in one coach: an extendable/retractable galley counter. When manually extended, it creates an L-shape galley. Another coach featured four levels in the galley, an arrangement that yielded great eye appeal. A wall in the bathroom featured a lighted aquarium-style glass tank filled with water and bubbles to create a visually pleasing effect. In addition, eye-catching glass panels were etched with a theme of palm trees. This coach showcased Parliament’s use of an unusual style of washbasin called a vessel basin, designed and built in Phoenix, Arizona. As with the other appointments, this design is also beautiful and very functional.
In addition to crafting custom coach conversions, the Parliament facility also is equipped to do any kind of major insurance collision repairs, from the purely cosmetic to repairing damage to a coach’s infrastructure and systems, as well as fire damage repairs. I looked at a couple of jobs Parliament had just completed. On one a significant portion of the street side of the coach had been ripped away in an accident. The other was a new coach (another brand) that had been purchased elsewhere but brought to Parliament for a new full-body paint job (plus graphics) prior to it being shipped to Europe. The Parliament paint shop can do any kind of paint/graphics work as well as murals (the company uses a local artist for jobs that require this). With every paint job, it matters not how many colors or applications of paint there are; the final application includes three layers of clear coat, with the last coat hand-rubbed.
Parliament is one of a dozen or so other coach converters around the country that have reached an agreement to create a network of service centers for the participating coach converters. The clients of these member converters now have a nationwide system of service/maintenance centers that can be reached when service, maintenance, or collision repairs are required for member coaches. However, Parliament representatives are prepared to put a technician on a plane and fly that person to a stranded Parliament coach, if that’s required. Parliament technicians will work on any kind of motorized RV if it is brought to the Clearwater facility for service.
The entry price point on a 40-foot Parliament conversion is approximately $850,000, with the high-end 45-foot Parliament slideout conversions topping out around $1.7 million. Parliament officials contend that retail prices on the very high-end production diesel-pusher motorhomes approach the entry-level point for a Parliament Coach; so, for an incremental amount more, the coach enthusiast can enjoy a Parliament Coach conversion on a new Prevost chassis. Food for thought.
Parliament Coach Corporation, 13790 B Roosevelt Blvd., Clearwater, FL 33762; (888) 571-5755; www.parliamentcoach.com.