A Ford F-550 crew cab type C that seats four, sleeps four, tows nearly eight tons, and offers 100,000 guaranteed miles of carefree motoring on its Super Duty diesel engine.
By Jim Brightly, F358406, Technical Editor
In the early 1960s, I was fortunate to be the co-owner of a 1928 Ford Model A pickup, in which I spent a summer traveling to and from Rhode Island and Southern California. Little did I know at the time that many of its brother Model A pickups (and the earlier Model Ts) were the basis for early house cars, some of which were built for and used by such luminaries as Mae West, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison.
Later, in the 1970s, I owned a motorhome that was built on a pickup frame with its cab cut away, which was known as a chassis mount. Nowadays we categorize all such coaches that are built on frames with cutaway cabs “” regardless of whether the cab is from a van, a pickup, or an 18-wheeler cab “” into a group of vehicles known as type C motorhomes.
Recently a plethora of large, heavy-duty type C coaches on a variety of chassis such as International, Freightliner, and GM’s Kodiak have entered the marketplace. And a growing number of motorhome manufacturers are using various heavy-duty pickup chassis as the foundation for innovation, especially Ford’s lineup of F-450, F-550, and F-650 chassis.
Among them is Host Industries, of Bend, Oregon, a company created in 2000 by Dave Hogue and Mark Storch, sons of the founders of Beaver Motor Coaches. Initially known for its slide-in truck campers, Host has recently moved into the motorhome arena. The company currently bases several motorhome models and coach lengths on the versatile Ford F-550 Super Duty 4×4 four-door crew cab chassis. These include the 300 TS, which I had the opportunity to evaluate just prior to FMCA’s February 2008 convention in Pomona, California.
The 300 TS designation indicates that the coach is 30 feet long and equipped with three slideouts. Other models offered by Host Industries include a toy hauler and a quad-slide model with a rear bedroom in which almost the entire rear wall is a picture window.
Many TV viewers likely have seen those TV commercials in which a Ford pickup is swung around a circle by its front recovery hooks, accompanied by a shot of an F-550 frame. Ford has built these trucks tough!
The F-550 Super Duty chassis offers many benefits to RVers interested in getting the most out of a motorhome. To start with, its 6.4-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel engine produces 350 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 650 pound-feet of torque starting at 2,000 rpm. Ford has incorporated a high-pressure, common rail fuel system; piezo electric fuel injectors; and an advanced diesel particulate filter that reportedly reduces particulate output by more than 90 percent and produces emissions on par with gasoline engines. A new cylinder head design and piston bowl design optimize the fuel system to provide more efficient combustion, resulting in increased power and cleaner emissions.
The Host 300 TS, weighing 17,440 pounds and towing a 5,000-pound Jeep, moved up Cajon Pass in Southern California “” a 6 percent grade “” at a steady 55 mph without hesitation. To me, that indicated an excellent power-to-weight ratio.
Two sequential turbochargers provide improved throttle response throughout the entire power band with better low-end performance. A smaller, variable-geometry turbocharger comes on at low rpm to provide extra boost at takeoff. As engine speed increases, the larger fixed turbo joins the smaller turbo to boost power through the middle of the torque curve. As optimum engine speed is reached, the larger turbo takes over.
Ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel is fed to the engine via a high-pressure common rail fuel-injection system said to better control emissions, optimize acceleration, and improve cold starts down to -29 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Super Duty cooling system has been designed to handle extremes. Engineers based the system tests on the F-550 chassis cab’s pulling gate of 33,000 pounds combined weight. The Super Duty’s radiator has grown by 33 percent compared to earlier models, and a larger water pump nearly doubles the coolant flow rate from 75 to 140 gallons per minute.
For 2008 the Power Stroke’s engine control module (ECM) has been improved. Fuel controls and engine controls are now integrated into the same cast-aluminum housing, facilitating engine operation.
The system also includes the TorqShift transmission with tow/haul mode and extended trailer towing mirrors. This transmission changes shift points under acceleration, keeping the coach’s engine at a higher rpm and further up in its power range. Tow/haul also prevents the transmission from upshifting when the vehicle crests a hill, and it provides downhill braking that allows the transmission to downshift, letting engine-compression braking slow the vehicle and maintain a steady speed while descending. The system continuously receives information from the antilock braking system (ABS) module and from the powertrain controller, and adapts trailer braking based on vehicle speed.
The F-550’s brakes, which are four-wheel disc and four-wheel antilock with hydroboost, can really pull the 300 TS down from highway speeds to a safe stop in a big hurry. And the gas and brake pedals are adjustable.
The F-550’s Tow Command System still includes a factory-installed and factory-warranted electronic trailer brake controller, which offers smoother operation and stronger trailer brake activation when the ABS is operating. This integrated brake controller, the Class V (16,000-pound-rated) hitch receiver, and the F-550’s power-to-weight ratio combine to make the Host 300 TS an attractive choice for equestrians, boaters, and all-terrain vehicle fans.
On The Inside
A fireplace, flat-screen TV (one of two), raised-panel cabinetry, and designer fabric window valances are among the interior touches that give this coach a homey feel.
Ford’s Super Duty models utilize several technologies to provide a quiet cab. Quiet Steel, a composite laminate steel sheet used in the dash, works with extra sound padding in the dash and floor and thicker side glass to help minimize cab noise. The driver and front-passenger seats are outfitted with air bags, safety belt reminders, and height-adjustable shoulder belts. The two rear captain’s chairs have shoulder belts as well, but they are not height-adjustable.
The dashboard’s “center stack” houses most of the vehicle’s switches, integrating all the functions into one easy-to-reach central area. The gauges are better organized and easier to read than in earlier models. The large center console is designed to hold file folders and keep a laptop computer out of sight.
A redesigned climate control system provides more balanced airflow and quieter operation to improve cab comfort. Floor ducts for the heater now run under the seat, out of sight of the rear-seat passengers. Dual-zone electronic automatic temperature controls have been added as a standard feature on certain trim levels, and are available in the Host 300 TS, allowing the driver and front passenger to set individual temperatures. Host Industries customers also can opt for a rapid-heat supplemental heating system “” said to be the first in the United States “” that augments the diesel truck’s heater to provide faster warm-up on cold mornings.
My test coach included a Kenwood double-DIN in-dash DVD receiver with an embedded GPS navigation module. The DNX1700 has SD card slots for software and map updates and features two switches or relays to activate external equipment such as a garage door opener, a community security gate, or other devices. It includes a 7-inch touch-screen monitor with an advanced graphic user interface. The DNX1700 can play back almost any audio or video format, including DVD, JPEG, VCD, MP3, and Dolby Digital and DTS discs.
A Kenwood rearview color safety camera has been added as well. The touch-screen navigation system can display routes in either 3D or map design and includes voice commands. The Kenwood rearview color camera is smaller than previous models, and it offers low-light operation and also provides a wider viewing angle for better vision behind the vehicle.
The streetside slideout contains the dinette and measures 24 inches deep by 84 inches wide.
Camping in the 300 TS is very comfortable with all three slides deployed (galley, 14 inches by 154 inches; rear, 20 inches by 76 inches; dinette, 24 inches by 84 inches). Hydraulic jacks keep everything level. A short ladder leads to the queen-size bed in the cabover area. For those who don’t mind climbing in and out of a cabover bed, this coach could be ideal for a younger family of four, providing plenty of floor space while in camp with the slides deployed, not to mention the four seats in the crew cab for traveling. Additional sleeping positions are provided by the dinette, which folds down to a bed for one, and the rear sofa, which also folds down to accommodate one person.
The rear slideout created a comfortable living area when extended; however, with the entrance door near this slideout, the slide must be deployed before one can enter the coach this way. It took a long arm to reach in through the door and access the switch, a maneuver that I found difficult and uncomfortable. In addition, with both side slideouts retracted, the passageway between the two halves of the coach becomes tight; however, that shouldn’t be a problem, because walking between the sections while traveling would happen seldom, if at all. All slideouts are electric worm-gear-driven.
The bath area includes a porcelain toilet and a one-piece fiberglass shower stall with a neo-angled enclosure.
I do have one caveat as well. If you don’t enjoy meeting new folks, driving or camping in a Host Industries motorhome might attract more attention than you’d prefer. This coach proved to be immensely popular during our test outing. People came by to ask about it whenever we stopped for fuel or water, to dump, or to camp. They were very intrigued by its design, its attractive looks, its seating comfort with four front captain’s chairs, and its potential for outdoor sports with its four-wheel drive (actually, in the military the Host 300 TS would be known as a six-by-six “” six wheels/six-wheel drive).
The “house” interior offers an excellent but judicious use of mirrors, which add a feeling of space without being ostentatious. Mirrors are on the full-length closet doors, the front wall by the cabover bed, and in the bathroom. In the galley, deep countertops provide plenty of workspace. The galley includes a Suburban three-burner range with two LP-gas burners and one electric induction unit, as well as an 8-cubic-foot two-way Dometic refrigerator (AC and LP gas).
Visual entertainment is provided by two flat-screen televisions, a 37-inch in the rear living area above the electric fireplace (yes, fireplace), and a 19-inch LCD unit in the cabover bed area. The latter TV is mounted on a swivel device so that it can be pointed to the most comfortable positions.
The Host 300 TS might be considered an ideal choice for an outdoorsman’s rolling home. As I said earlier, its power allowed us to climb a 6 percent grade at the legal towing speeds with a 5,000-pound Jeep in tow. On its 0-to-55 mph acceleration tests, the coach averaged 17.3 seconds to achieve that speed. During our entire test, which included many hundreds of miles through Southern California traffic, high desert freeways, twisty mountain byways, and some dirt roads along the foot of Mount Whitney (the highest point in the contiguous United States), the Host’s Power Stroke engine provided us with an overall fuel mileage of 6.8 mpg. It’s an enjoyable ride “” easy to steer, easy to maneuver into campsites, easy to align at the fuel pump, easy to check engine fluids, and easy on the eyes.
The manufacturer’s base suggested retail price of the Host 300 TS is $165,060. The as-tested price of the unit I reviewed was $189,575 and included these options: leveling system; navigation system; 70-gallon fuel tank upgrade; 3.0-kw diesel generator; 1,200-watt inverter; insulated windows; bedroom 12-volt 19-inch flat-screen TV with DVD; rearview monitor package; marine exterior entertainment package; microwave/convection oven; ceramic sealed-burner gas/electric range; electric fireplace; 16-foot roof-mounted power awning; stainless-steel body trim; and full body paint.
In addition, Host Industries offers an optional Outdoorsman Package on any of its four-wheel-drive models. This optional package includes taller, more aggressive tires; a heavy-duty Buckstop bumper with a grille guard; a Warn 12,500-pound-rated winch; and a slightly raised chassis for additional ground clearance.
Whether you’re a fishing fan, hunter, field-trials trainer, or off-roader, you’ll want to look at, drive, and consider a Host Industries motorhome. Unfortunately, I only had three days with the Host 300 TS; otherwise, I would have loved using it to relive my Rhode Island trip of 45 years ago.
Host Industries Inc., 20545 Murray Road, Bend, OR 97701; (541) 330-2328; http://www.hostcampers.com/
300 TS Host Motorcoach
Ford 6.4L Power Stroke V-8 turbodiesel; 350-horsepower @ 3,000 rpm; 650 pound-feet torque @ 2,000 rpm
Ford Torqshift 5-speed automatic
4.88 to 1 with limited-slip differential
225/70R19.5G BSW all-season
19.5-inch Alcoa aluminum
four-wheel antilock hydraulic disc
front, wide track mono-beam axle with coil springs; rear, standard drive axle with leaf springs
Power-assisted variable speed with tilt wheel
chassis (2) “” 750 cca;
coach (4) “” Interstate 6-volt DC
Magnum, 1,200 watts
Cummins Onan 3.0-kilowatt
11 feet 4 inches with A/C
seven bins; 144 cubic feet
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front “” 7,000 pounds;
rear “” 13,660 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
front axle “” 5,220 pounds;
rear axle “” 12,220 pounds;
total “” 17,440 pounds
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
1,560 pounds (weighed with full fuel, fresh water, and LPG tanks)
welded square-tube aluminum
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water “” 38 gallons;
black water “” 38 gallons
Suburban, 35,000 Btus
(1) 13,500-Btu low-profile roof air conditioner
Dometic 8-cubic-foot two-way (AC and LP gas)
coach “” one-year limited warranty;
chassis “” 5 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper;
engine “” 5 years/100,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED