A 1983 Tiffin Allegro motorhome went from being abandoned and unloved to becoming a popular and lovely lady with the attention of FMCA members Sperry and Pam Randolph.
By Peggy Jordan, Associate Editor
The deserted 1983 Tiffin Allegro motorhome sat in a field near a home in La Vergne, Tennessee, so long that a small tree had grown through one of its entry steps. Its carpet was rotted; its brown paneling and dash were woefully out of style; its tires were toast “” and those were only a few of its problems.
In the summer of 2004 Sperry Randolph drove past the 30-foot motorhome, and, as he was already in the habit of seeing things as they could be, he figured the old RV had potential. He returned to his home in Murfreesboro, told his son, Trey, about it, and the two of them visited the old motorhome to see if it was worth salvaging. Before long, a wrecker truck was hauling their decrepit prize back home with them.
Meanwhile, wife and mom Pam Randolph had no idea the guys were about to add an ancient vehicle to the driveway. She was at work in a beauty shop along the same road the men were traveling with the wrecker, and Sperry was eager for her to see it. “Right before we got there I called her on the cell phone and told her to look out the window,” he said.
Pam was not amused. “One of my customers started laughing and called it an ark!” she said. As for Pam, she was so embarrassed, “I could have slid under my mat!”
“When he came in I was really upset,” she explained. “I just didn’t see the thrill; I just didn’t get it. That’s when I got really jealous and started calling it ‘the other woman.'”
Ah, but this “other woman” was a gem that had been discarded too soon. She would sparkle once more, if given adequate attention. So Sperry set to work.
He had plenty of mechanical experience, having learned how to work on cars and engines at an early age. Plus, he had purchased fixer-upper homes, rehabbed them, and rented them. With Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) close by, and the market for student housing being what it is, he’s been a landlord for many years “” and the guy to call if something needs to be repaired at one of the rental units. “I was always handy with stuff and was always the kind of person who could watch somebody do something and do it,” he said.
But still, he admitted, the old motorhome “looked pretty bad.”
“The big thing was to see if it would run,” Pam recalled.
“I changed the filters and put on new belts and hoses, a new water pump, and stuff that I thought might give us trouble,” Sperry said. “Changed the fluid and filter on the transmission. It shifts real well. I got under it when I was checking everything out.”
The coach’s Chevrolet 454-cubic-inch engine had 46,000 miles on it. And once it was equipped with its new belts, hoses, water pump, battery, and radiator (they found the coach’s original radiator lying in a shack on the property where the motorhome waited), plus some starting fluid, the engine roared to life.
And that’s not all. The central vacuum system still worked, as did the Onan generator, which had 205 hours on it, and even the two roof air-conditioning units. In fact, according to Pam, the A/C units run so well that the coach gets positively frigid, much colder than air-conditioning in a nearly new motorhome owned by some friends of theirs.
Of course, that was just the beginning. Much more had to be done.
“We put brakes on it all the way around,” Sperry said. “That was something I was very impressed with: Allegro motorhomes had disc brakes on them all the way around way back in 1983!”
Tiffin technicians also impressed Sperry with their ability to help him rehab the old motorhome. Pam said, “He could pick up the phone and call those people; he had them on speed dial on his phone. He’d be under the unit on his back, talking to the guys at Tiffin.” They were impressed that people familiar with such an older coach would still be with the company, and that “they would just walk him through it. They never lost their patience with Sperry,” she added. The couple has talked about taking the 30-footer back to the Tiffin factory just to show her off. “Red Bay, Alabama (location of Tiffin company headquarters), is not so far from Murfreesboro,” Pam mused.
If you have not already guessed, Pam lost her motorhome envy not too long after the coach came to stay. Her change of heart most likely occurred the day Sperry asked her to help him with the interior décor. “Then I thought, I’m gonna have to live with this thing,” she said.
“She did a tremendous job on the vinyl seat covers,” Sperry added.
As it turned out, once she overcame her initial distaste for the project, Pam joined in enthusiastically, searching all over the Internet and elsewhere for certain replacement items for the interior.
And it seems that nearly every new part of the coach has a story attached to it. For one, consider the bathroom, which occupies the rear of the vehicle. Its toilet was horrid, and its bathtub was a dark gold color that, although popular in 1983, is not considered so stylish today. To bring the tub back to the future, Sperry used Krylon-brand Fusion paint. “It adheres to fiberglass and outdoor patio furniture “” it worked like a million dollars,” he said. He also replaced the accordion-style doors to the bathroom with a set of bi-fold doors, and installed a new bathroom light and medicine cabinet. He added a built-in hair dryer, plus an all-brass toilet paper dispenser that fits into the wall.
Additional details such as built-in soap dispensers in the kitchen and bathroom, and homelike fixtures also make the inside comfy. Sperry is proud of the fact that he added residential-type wall switches throughout the coach, which quickly illuminate a room, rather than installing those “little bitty RV switches.”
To further enhance Miss Allie’s interior:
“¢ The Randolphs put light-colored wallpaper atop the dark wood paneling to brighten the inside of the coach; plus, they applied mirrors to the refrigerator door and bathroom doors to reflect light.
“¢ Using that same wallpaper, Pam fashioned window treatments (shades) by folding sections of the wallpaper in one-inch increments. She used a paper puncher to pierce holes on the edges and threaded a string through them. Because of moisture in the bath area, the window there has a Roman shade.
“¢ They added quite a bit of brass. It all sprang from the day Sperry came home with an unwanted piece of brass railing. That one railing, which now is the entry handle to the coach, launched a widespread brass attack. “Then I went on eBay and found some brass 12-volt fixtures, and started finding brass things,” Pam said. “All of a sudden, it (the coach) had a sparkle.”
“¢ They added blue countertops, which look classy with brass strips along their edges.
“¢ They brightened the brown 1980s vinyl dashboard. “I found vinyl paint that I had to use on a motorcycle seat a few years ago,” Sperry said. “We painted it white.”
“¢ The refrigerator was replaced, with millimeters to spare. “We found one on eBay, a brand-new Dometic,” Pam said. “He and I measured and measured, and I told them to make good and sure the measurements are within 1/16 of an inch. We couldn’t get the fridge through the door or the driver’s door without taking off the steering column, so Trey helped him take the side window out “” but it worked!”
“¢ The twin bunk beds that were located toward the rear of the coach were converted to studio beds. Pam worked her upholstery magic on these, and on other seating in the motorhome.
“¢ The brown-and-white-striped original awning ripped down its entire length upon its first re-deployment. When a new awning was affixed, “It was one of the certain little milestones along the way,” Pam said.
As the months rolled on, the old Tiffin became “Miss Allie” “” a new name for a much beloved “other woman.” The completed Miss Allie debuted in all her glory in October 2006 at an MTSU football game, and has since proved her mettle in towing a bass boat and the family’s golf cart on a matching blue trailer.
Miss Allie’s final cost was approximately $5,000. The Randolphs paid $1,300 for the coach itself, and spent the rest of the money on upgrades. The motorhome now is flashy and clean, shiny and welcoming. She can accommodate a party of up to 12.
“It’s got glitz!” Pam said enthusiastically. “It’s called glamping “” glamour camping!”
Tailgating with two
With her Middle Tennessee State University colors and slogans, Miss Allie seems to have been born to tailgate. But so does another vehicle the Randolphs use on game days: a golf cart. The couple admits that Miss Allie followed in the tire tracks of the cart, because they already had converted it a year before they found the motorhome.
School logos and MTSU slogans such as “Raiders Rule!” and “Go Blue Raiders” cover the cart. Sperry and Pam had the decals made at a sign shop.
It’s no surprise that Miss Allie is similarly decorated. The words “This is Blue Raider Country” are emblazoned right below the front windshield. “Follow Me To Middle Tennessee” appears on the back of the coach.Inside, all the upholstery colors are MTSU blue and white. “When Miss Allie came along, do you think we’d have it plain?” Pam asked.
No one can help but notice that the motorhome and golf cart look like official MTSU-sanctioned vehicles. Sometimes the Randolphs have to tell tailgaters that Miss Allie is a private coach, for folks just assume the university has provided her for their use.
The Randolphs’ love affair with MTSU began years ago. They met at a university basketball game, and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this past August. The Randolphs rent housing to students, and their son, Trey, graduated from MTSU in 2006. For the Randolphs, being MTSU boosters is a given.
But, according to Sperry, their ownership of the Blue Raiders golf cart was not premeditated. “I ran across a three-wheel Harley-Davidson that was an electric, and I liked the look of the cart and fixed it up and eventually sold it,” he said. “I liked it so well that we found another one that was a gas one, again, old.
The body of the golf cart was fiberglass. It was just a pretty blue, and here we live so close to MTSU, we thought we’d just fix the cart up.”
By the time the golf cart was rolling around like a gas-powered cheerleader, the Randolphs’ son, Trey, was a sophomore at the university. He frequently could be seen driving the cart, and even installed a stereo system. “And we put two air horns on it, and an ‘ooga’ horn,” Sperry said.
On the spot where one would normally write down golf scores is a rare item to obtain, indeed: an official MTSU football helmet. It was a gift to Sperry from someone inside the university’s sports department “” proof that enthusiasm for the Blue Raiders does not go unnoticed among the higher-ups.
These days the golf cart looks like Miss Allie’s baby when it’s being towed, and the duo attracts considerable attention on game days. “We love to see people’s faces and all the grins,” Pam said. “It brings out a carnival, circus-type feeling in people who see us coming. Miss Allie and the golf cart just make a lot of people smile.”