Friday, October 20, 2006
THE EAGLE IS BACK
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Silver Eagle bus is back and soon will be appearing at a concert or in a campground near you.
Craig Hanloh and three business partners, none of whom are affiliated with the former owners, have revived the historic name. They are building Silver Eagle “shells” in a factory in Brownsville, Texas, and doing business under the name Silver Eagle Bus Manufacturing Inc.
Hanloh serves as COO while his wife, Robin, is CEO for the fledgling company and his brother, Blair, is CFO. There is a fourth, unnamed investor.
The new owners are targeting the motorhome and entertainment industry with their Model 25, an updated version of the Silver Eagle luxury bus that first appeared in Europe in 1956 and later made its way to the U.S. No new Eagle buses have been made for the U.S. market since Eagle Coach Corp. went bankrupt several years ago.
The new business partners purchased the original molds, tooling and blueprints of previous models and moved them into a 68,000-square-foot leased facility in Brownsville. They’re building a demo bus for the seated or commercial market and a “shell,” which they call the Model 25, for the motorhome and entertainment industry.
Model 25 is 45 feet long (40 feet for the “House Car” motorhome version) and 102 inches wide. “It’s Eagle’s answer to Prevost’s H3-45 VIP,” Hanloh said, noting it features more floor-to-ceiling headroom than the Prevost.
The shells will cost around $250,000 and require final interior conversion by upfitters after purchase. The new owners say they are committed to building a bus with the same smooth ride and quality that was a hallmark of the original Eagle.
The new Silver Eagles feature a torsion suspension, tag axles, sharper turning radius, modern electronics and disc brakes. The company offers a choice of engines, including motors from Cummins, Caterpillar and the Detroit Diesel Series 60.
And, with the exception of the exterior windows, the new Eagles will have the same traditional look and are available with either stainless steel or aluminum exteriors.
The company has two production lines in the works and is currently filling eight orders scheduled for completion in mid-November. “We have more orders than we can produce,” Hanloh said, adding that the firm also is making replacement parts available for older models.
The Hanlohs decided to go after the original Eagle business about two years ago when they were living in Nashville and converting a Prevost shell. They learned that the Eagle brand had gone out of business and began to consider reviving it. Ultimately, they discovered the tooling in Aguascalientes, Mexico, where the Eagle was last built, and purchased it out of bankruptcy. They began production in spring 2005.
With a goal of producing two shells a week, they are targeting the entertainment industry based in Nashville. “We did our homework and discovered a market,” Hanloh explained.
Silver Eagles can accommodate up to four slideouts, but Hanloh has learned that entertainers don’t like slides because they curtail movement inside while the coaches are in motion, he said.
Meanwhile, Hanloh said his company was nearing an agreement with a Mexican client to provide an entirely separate line of 50-seat passenger buses. “They want the coaches down there the first of the year,” he said. “You never know how things fall into place.”
That contract will allow Hanloh to bring employment up to around 80 workers by the end of the year. They also plan to build the original Model 15s and 20s for the domestic seated market. “A lot of touring companies want to go back to the Eagles,” Hanloh noted. Both models are government-approved.
The company maintains an inventory of new, used and refurbished parts for all models of Eagle buses. Parts have been purchased from different sources in the U.S. and Mexico, and Eagle is fabricating some of its own hard-to-get parts. The company’s website: www.silvereaglebus.com.