Marathon Coach Inc.’s 1,000th custom coach conversion rolls off the line and onto the highway.
By Lazelle Jones
When Marathon Coach Inc. opened its doors in 1983 to design and build custom coach conversions, an uncharted journey began. MCI shells were used primarily throughout that decade, during which approximately 200 conversions were completed and delivered to clients around the world.
At the dawn of the next decade, Robert Schoellhorn, a former pharmaceutical industry executive, bought his first Marathon coach. In 1992 he purchased a minority share of the company, and in 1993 controlling interest. He continues to add his personal touch to the company and to the custom coach conversions it builds. With Mr. Schoellhorn at the helm, another 800-plus Marathon coaches have been added to the total, with most of them created using the Prevost chassis — Marathon’s current chassis of choice.
On November 4, 2005, in Coburg, Oregon, Marathon Coach reached the first-of-a-kind milestone in the coach conversion industry. Still on Bob Schoellhorn’s watch, Marathon rolled out its 1,000th custom coach conversion, dubbed the M Celebration Edition by Marathon Coach. The “M,” the Roman numeral for 1,000, stands for the 1,000th coach as well as the special ultra-luxurious edition of coaches that the company will release throughout the year.
Steve Schoellhorn, president and chief operating officer, noted, “Marathon is proud to dedicate its 1,000th coach to its customers, its employees, and everyone who has contributed to the success of the company.”
Curious to see this unit, which is offered at a suggested retail price of $2,001,000, I paid a visit to Outdoor Resorts in Indio, California, where it was being displayed. While there I talked with Steve Schoellhorn. As I explored the coach, I discovered what it features, learned what went into reaching this 1,000th unit milestone, and asked what future milestones Marathon Coach envisions.
Steve cuts straight to the chase when explaining what underpins the tremendous success Marathon Coach has experienced over the past 22 years. He said he believes it is Marathon’s pool of talent (time on the job and depth of skill levels) in all departments that bodes so well for completing the next 1,000 coach conversions.
A recently completed audit of the Marathon workforce shows that more than 65 percent of the employees have been on the job in excess of 5 years; more than 32 percent have worked at Marathon for more than 10 years. For the past several years, Marathon Coach has completed and delivered 70 coach conversions a year. Some recent clients include Jeff Gordon, Nextel Cup Series driver; Tim Allen, comedian and actor; Tim Petrovic, professional golfer; and Tom Cruise, actor.
Marathon Coach has 450 employees who work in a network of locations laced throughout North America. These include the home office and conversion, sales, and service facility in Coburg. Other locations include sales and service in San Antonio, Florida (near Tampa), and Grand Prairie, Texas (near Dallas). In an extremely competitive and unique high-end niche market, where the number of players has dwindled, Marathon continues to prosper. For the past several years, its annual sales have exceeded $100 million.
So how exactly does the $2.001-million invoice for the M Edition break down? To begin with, the 45-foot H3-45 Prevost chassis is used; it features driver’s air conditioning; independent front suspension; and Prevost-designed, -built, and -installed double-slideout rooms. The coach is powered by a 14-liter Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine (515 horsepower) and an Allison World transmission. The invoice line item for the H3-45 chassis is $452,897. The standard equipment conversion package is listed at $1,491,000, with the price tag for the options being listed at $57,103.
The package of options includes marble flooring (in a pinwheel pattern) with lighted 4-inch keys that are randomly placed. There are two leather recliners and one leather sofa. The coach has a total of six televisions, with three televisions being optional: a 32-inch Sharp LCD screen in the rear bedroom, a 15-inch disappearing-screen television at the dinette, and a Sharp LCD television in the bathroom mirror that can be seen only when turned on — at which time it simply appears as an image in the vanity mirror.
The three standard-equipment televisions include a 42-inch flip-down plasma flat screen in the salon area, a 15-inch LCD flat screen in the salon slideout, and a 32-inch LCD flat screen in the underbelly. Actually, a total of eight monitors can be used to view video. The dash monitor and the small passenger-side screen that swings around so the copilot can view GPS navigation system information also can be used as television monitors while parked.
Other M Edition options include the Eaton VORAD anticollision system, which includes features called Blindspotter and Smart Cruise. If an object is detected near the sides of the vehicle, the Blindspotter system triggers a warning light on the display located near the side-view mirror until the object is out of range. If the turn signal to change lanes is activated, the system sounds an audible alarm to alert the driver that there is a vehicle in its blind spot. Smart Cruise reduces the stress of driving in traffic by automatically slowing the speed so as to maintain a safe following distance and returning to preset driver speeds once traffic has cleared.
My eyes were immediately drawn to several things that Marathon has done inside and out to enhance the beauty of this unit. For example, the coach incorporates a Girard awning system that is mounted along the top of the roofline. With this and along with some custom design work to the front and rear caps, the four roof-mounted air conditioners are now totally concealed from view. Clean, uninterrupted lines are all that appear top to bottom on the exterior of the M Edition. To facilitate this, Marathon has created a rear spoiler that is mounted on the top of the very back of the roof, giving it style without compromising the graceful lines of the H3-45 bus shell. Up front, the cap blends in with the fairings and lines of the cassette that houses the Girard patio awning.
On the interior of the M Edition, Marathon has created a floor plan configuration that, for me, was a “first.” Instead of a dinette or a table and chairs, the designers have incorporated a breakfast bar that runs parallel with the driver’s-side exterior wall and includes two bar-type swivel chairs. The bar itself features curved but subtle lines fashioned and handcrafted from walnut. One of the flat screens is positioned adjacent to the exterior window for ease of viewing when the breakfast bar is in service.
In the midcoach guest bathroom and in the private rear bedroom/bath area are two sinks that immediately draw one’s attention. They look as though they have been hand-fashioned by a metal artisan out of a copper alloy. The custom handcrafted surfaces suggest Old World elegance and craftsmanship. Further evidencing the skill level of those who work at Marathon is the handrail on the interior side of the main entry door. It is drop-dead gorgeous! The sculpted, curved handrail is finished in a polished rosewood pattern.
The rust-tone leather that covers the sofa and recliner is both visually appealing and inviting to the touch. The marble floor features inserts that provide accent lighting on an individual basis as desired. The ceiling is graced with an interesting and very attractive series of reflective panels that are staggered in size and pattern; each is accented with subtle neon lighting. The wall surfaces are dressed fore and aft with a light Vitricor-type material that yields an elegant, upbeat feeling to the interior. And in the rear bedroom is a Dreamscape adjustable bed with a Diana mattress. Via individual controls for each side of this queen-size bed, firmness can be tailored to the individual, and the head on each side of the bed can be individually raised (approximately 45 degrees), as can the foot of the bed to elevate one’s knees to a desired level. And to further accent the elegance and luxury of the bedroom, Marathon has included a faux mink throw; when unfolded, it covers the entire top of the bed.
When a company achieves a milestone, such as Marathon’s completion of its 1,000th coach conversion, the event merits attention. It’s even more noteworthy since Marathon became the industry’s first coach converter to reach this number. And it doesn’t stop there. Steve Schoellhorn noted that Marathon already has set its sights on building coach number 2,000. With the company’s staying power, quality craftsmanship, and creativity, no doubt this milestone will be reached.