This family-owned RV manufacturer continues to build on a foundation established in the 1970s and ’80s.
By Mark Quasius, F333630
Gulf Stream Coach has a long history as an RV manufacturer. Its roots run back to 1971, when Jim Shea Sr. began producing manufactured housing under the Fairmont Homes moniker on the site of an old sauerkraut factory in Nappanee, Indiana. Jim decided to establish Gulf Stream Coach in 1983, drawing on his fondness for the Amish and Mennonite traditions of quality handcrafted furnishings.
Jim involved his family in the business at an early age. His son Dan currently serves as CEO of Gulf Stream Coach and oversees every aspect of the products and facilities. Dan and his family make regular RV trips to campgrounds, where they meet and talk with owners of all RV brands to collect valuable input to help shape Gulf Stream’s product lines. The Shea family also frequents RV shows and rallies, interacting with customers and identifying features those RV owners consider important and then sharing that feedback with the Gulf Stream Coach team.
Gulf Stream’s first RV was the Foxfire travel trailer, which benefited from technology used in Jim’s manufactured housing operation. This allowed the company to incorporate features in the Foxfire that had not yet been seen in travel trailers.
The Sun Stream was Gulf Stream’s first motorhome, also debuting in 1983. Scott Pullin, a technician who helped build the first Sun Stream coach back in 1983, is now vice president of operations at Gulf Stream and works with motorized products.
Gulf Stream is still owned by the Shea family and now encompasses 22 brands with more than 140 different models, including Type C motorhomes, conventional travel trailers, laminated fiberglass travel trailers, fifth-wheel travel trailers, and a line of toy haulers. Over its history, Gulf Stream has produced more than 300,000 recreation vehicles. The company currently employs more than 600 people.
Gulf Stream was an early adopter of vacuum-lamination bonding, performing all lamination work in its own facility. The “Cradle of Strength” is another Gulf Stream innovation and is an addition to the chassis of the company’s motorhomes. Steel-braced box-style Tuff Trusses, capable of supporting 6,000 pounds, are added to fore-and-aft steel stringers, galvanized steel cargo boxes, and a galvanized steel subfloor to form this cradle.
Gulf Stream officials take pride in being a family-owned company that continues to innovate and seeks to provide quality and value to its customers.