Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ultra Van Spotters Guide - Bathrooms

The Ultra Van is equipped with a small bathroom located curbside, between the kitchen and the bedroom. It contains a small sink, a flush toilet, a handheld sprayer for showering, a mirror-door medicine cabinet, a 12v light, and a vented skylight with electric fan. As in most such efficient RVs, there is no separate bathing area - instead the entire room is waterproofed (known as a "wet bathroom").

The bathroom door is cleverly fitted so that it can be swung open and latched onto the far side of the hallway - making the bedroom area completely private from the living area of the coach and forming a small dressing area.

The bathroom design was changed in 1968. Some differences are fairly obvious; the later bathroom (coach #411 and up) is slightly larger than the earlier version, the later sink is a smaller corner unit, and the toilet and sink positions were reversed. Since the bathroom was expanded towards the center of the coach, the resulting hallway is 5 inches narrower - forcing the bathroom door to be cut down 5 inches to fit.

Less obvious are the major changes to the coach tha
t were the real reason behind the redesign. To reduce weight, the coach was originally equipped with a greywater system which uses recycled shower and sink drainwater instead of fresh potable water for toilet flushing. This reduces the total demand for fresh water - allowing for smaller 30 gallon tanks.

However, to make all this work required a total of five electric pumps - including one mounted in the base of the toilet to pump the waste into the holding tank. This particular "Ultra Pump" (more commonly known these days as a macerator pump) demanded regular maintenance, or subsequent messy and unpleasant repair.

In order to eliminate this issue, the toilet was moved forward to a position directly over the holding tank, the greywater system was eliminated, the tanks were expanded to 50 gallons, and three of the pumps were removed.

Photo Credits:
Early bathroom: from 1966 Ultra Inc. sales brocure
(coach owner unknown)

#489 bathroom: Ronnie Large
(coach owned by John Howell)

Floor plans: adapted from 1966 Ultra Inc. sales brochure

Ultra Pump ad: from Family Motor Coaching magazine, September 1966

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ultra Van Spotters Guide - Headlights

The prototype Ultra Van (#101) was built by Dave Peterson in a rented garage in Alameda California (1961) using 1960 Corvair headlights with integrated turn signals.
24 more early Ultra Vans were built in Oakland California (1962-1966, although the last four of them were eventually transferred to the Hutchinson factory for finishing and delivery to customers). At least 19 of them used Ford Econoline van headlights, with a variety of turn signal arrangements.
Several of the Oakland coaches were built under license by the Prescolite Lighting Corporation (1963-1964). During this period, Prescolite built at least one "improved" version which they called the Travalon (#s-264105). This coach had a modified body with a unique headlight and turn signal arrangement.

Ultra Vans built by the Ultra Inc. factory in Hutchinson KS (1966-1970) used J.C. Whitney "chromed eyebrow" headlights. (#388 shown)
As with the Oakland coaches, the earliest of the Hutchinson UltraVans (up thru #216 at least) used a separate molded fiberglass fairing between the fender and the headlight. Coaches #222 and later had this part integrally molded into the fender.
The J.C. Whitney headlights were castings made of pot metal which corrodes easily, resulting in pitting or even flaking of the chrome. As a result many of these headlights have been painted, or replaced with aftermarket round headlights.

Square quad headlights were added to Ultra Van #370 by its owner.

The body of Ultra Van # 275 was heavily modified so that 1996 Ford F-150 headlights could be molded into the front.

Photo credits:

#101: Jim Davis
(coach owned by Lane Motor Museum)

#106: Joal Olson
(coach owned by Harlan and Joal Olson)

#163: Zach Kaplan
(coach owned by Brian and Kelly Goldin)

#202: Graham Dell
(last known owner: Ken Morrison)

#020: Chuck Fetter
(coach owned by Chuck Fetter)

#s-264015: Walt Davison
(coach believed destroyed)
(last known owner: James C. Farrar)

#388: Denny Sharp
(coach owned by Jim and Roy Davis)

#215: Dan Kling
(coach owned by Doug and Margaret Bell)

#216: Graham Dell
(coach owned by Jim Howell)
(coach owned by Jeff Williams, California Corvairs)

#370: Lance Fontello
(coach ownerd by Dale Smith)

#275: Graham Dell
(last known owner: William Panzer)

Ultra Van Spotters Guide - Kitchen Windows

Ultra Vans thru #352 (with some exceptions) had "full length" kitchen windows, and those after #358 had "shortie" kitchen windows.

Note how the lower edge of the earlier window aligns with the door and bedroom windows, extending below the surface of the kitchen counter.

The later window is easily distinguished, providing somewhat improved privacy.

Photo credits:
#276 exterior: Jennifer K
#276 interior: Steve Schwartz
(coach owned by Chris Hykes)

#379 exterior: Randy Coburn
#379 interior: Don Richards
(coach owned by Randy Coburn)