HISTORY OF BEACHCOMBER
The design of the Beachcomber
travel trailer was created by Mr. Gil Thorpe and Mr. Ron Lord of Winnipeg, Manitoba in either late 1973 or early in 1974. The Beachcomber
travel trailer received a design award from the Province of Manitoba in 1974 and presented to the Mr. Thorpe and Mr. Lord by Mr. George Radke representing the Province.
The design was unique among the fibreglass body travel trailers of the day in that the interior included a wood frame fused into the fibreglass body, insulation in the walls and ceiling and wood panelling to finish the interior with a warm and cozy feel. Thus, the near all-season use in Canada – spring, summer and autumn (some did winter I am told) was for the first time available in Canada.
The company set up a production facility in Winkler, Manitoba with the financial backing by the Winkler Credit Union. However, partnership issues resulted in the company closing within a few months in late 1974 and a very few Beachcomber trailers were sold
but a couple sat in production in an uncompleted state.
Mr. Frank Hay and Mr. Ken Knight were approached by the Winkler Credit Union to inquire whether Hay & Knight were interested in taking over the defunct company assets and continue with production.
In March 1975 a new company, Beachcomber Industries Ltd. was formed with Frank Hay and Ken Knight as shareholders. The production facility was moved to Morden, Manitoba into a 15,000 square foot (1,400 m2) building at 401 North Railway Avenue.
Mr Hay’s role was to manage sales & marketing and all financial matters. Mr. Knight’s role was the management of production, purchasing, pre-delivery departments and compliance to regulations related to recreational vehicles. The Beachcomber was accredited by CSA and CMHC.
Mr. Hay was the President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Knight was Operations Manager. In 1977 Mr. Al Beasley was engaged as Sales & Marketing Manager.
Model Years for Beachcomber was initiated for the 1974 models that were finished in the new facility with a small production run of the 1974 model labelled B15. There may have been a few units built and sold
as 1973 models but there are no records to confirm. The trailer B15 is a 15 foot trailer hitch to rear bumper. Following is a copy of the first year brochure for the 1974 B15 Beachcomber listing its features.
Beachcomber Industries Ltd. received in mid 1975 a federal government grant to setup the new location, hire workers and start production. The grant was under the Department of Economic Expansion (DREE) program. Production started in early spring of 1975.
During the fall
of 1975, the B15 1975 model year saw renovations to the interior styling of the trailer. Sales and marketing was mainly setting up a dealer network in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. A new product brochure was developed.
The B15 1976 model year saw the continuation of production and sales and marketing with aesthetic re-styling of the interior.
Model years of travel trailers are similar to automobiles in that the model year production starts in fall
of the year prior and production changes to the new model year in fall
each year. So, the 1976 B15 model year had production issues that slowed production in spring of 1977. The Operations Manager, Mr. Ken Knight was terminated as Operations Manager in spring of 1977. Mr. Frank Hay took over that role and duties.
The 1977 B15 Model year was ended in mid 1977. The 1978 B15 Model year was resumed in fall of 1977 and continued through to the next model year change 1978.
During the period from mid 1977 to 1978 model year change over, Mr. Hay undertook a significant revamping of the engineering of the product and conducted an intensive time and motion study of the production manufacturing and assembly process.
The time and motion study results were implemented for the 1978 model year production. Production went from 80% of a trailer produced each day to 2 trailers produced each production day. Each trailer produced was subjected to 4 quality assurance checks during production.
Prior to April 1977, the number of production workers was a total of 11 with the breakdown being: 2 in the fibreglass department, 1 in the electrical
harness assembly, 2 in the carpentry/wood shop, 5 in the production assembly line and 1 in pre-delivery inspection. This calculates out to 105.6 production man hours per completed trailer. Additionally administration and management staff were 3 under the overhead category.
After the re-engineering of the trailer and the production assembly there was a total of 18 workers breaking down to 3 in the fibreglass shop, 2 in electrical
, 3 in carpentry, 8 in assembly, 1 in quality inspection and 1 in pre-delivery. A Beachcomber trailer, whether the B15 or the TM15, was produced every 3 hours and 23 minutes every production day. This calculates out to 44.6 production man hours per completed trailer.
Administration, sales and marketing and management added an additional staff of 4 in the overhead category.
Sub-assembly shops for wood frame, cabinetry, counters, appliances and electrical
wiring harnesses underwent quality assurance testing as well as on the assembly line for plumbing, propane
, electrical works and fabrication.
The model offers were expanded in the 1978 model year to include a new toilet model. The product offering went from one (1) model to six (6) models identified as B15 – Mark l, B15 – Mark ll, B15 – Mark lll, TM15 – Mark l, TM15 – Mark ll and TM15 – Mark lll. The 1978 model brochure is following outlining these various models.
With the production and sales activity increase, the company embarked on designing and producing camper vans and leisure luxury travel vans.
The core team consisted of Mr. Ken Bergman as head of Carpentry, Mr. Gordon Klett as head of Purchasing, Ms. Susan Schritt as head of Administration, Mr. Douglas Hay as head of the Pre-Delivery Inspection and Shipping and Mr. Paul Sutherland as head of Quality Control and Assurance.
In 1978 Beachcomber Industries Ltd. partnered with a USA company in Elkhart, Indiana to conduct distribution in the USA. Beachcomber displayed its product in the largest North America RV show in Louisiana in the fall of 1978. From that showing Beachcomber received 301 orders for immediate delivery into the USA.
With the Iranian change in government in late January 1979, the price of oil and gas significantly increased. In certain parts of the USA gas was not available. The RV buying public stopped buying at the same time as product costs climbed. 65% of fibreglass trailer costs consist of the resins, catalyst and acetone are derived from oil. These costs jumped 300% in 3 months.
Beachcomber Industries Ltd. was sold
to Triple E on August 31, 1979.