Driving the $1.56M Newell P2000i RV
Ships Alloy! Newell makes the fanciest damn aluminum-clad bus you ever saw.
Makes sense that the world's fanciest motorhomes would be constructed in Miami, right? Miami it is, only this Miami is in Oklahoma, where, as Keke Rosberg once observed, "the beaches are not so good." Still, celebrities and pro drivers flock here in scores, dropping $50 million annually at the 120,000-square-foot Newell Coach factory, founded in 1967 by L.K. Newell.
The plant abuts a statue of the region's most famous son, Mickey Charles Mantle. "A great teammate," the inscription reads. If the Mick had kept every dime he was paid to swing bats professionally for his 18-year career, he'd have possessed $1,123,000. Today, the cheapest Newell fetches $1,355,000.
The company produces 24 coaches annually — 20 for customers, four as demonstrators. The average transaction price is $1.6 million, but a heavily optioned version — such as Roger Penske's — can easily bang hard against $2 mil. Each 45-foot-long Newell requires six months to construct, assembled by 165 workers who fabricate nearly everything in-house, save the engines and transmissions.
In the preceding 44 years, Newell has built 1341 coaches, no two identical. "One thousand are certainly still on the road," says company president Karl Blade, who has subscribed to C/D for 55 years. "I can't prove this," he adds, "but I think a Newell coach represents the lowest-unit-production, road-legal vehicle in the world." Maybe, maybe not. What we do know is that every 12 inches of an average Newell costs more than a Nissan 370Z.
Names Will be Dropped
Newell owners have won 27 Indianapolis 500s — more than a quarter of all such races run. That's a lot of spilled milk. Random owners whose surnames you'll recognize: Penske, Kenseth, Johnson, Ganassi, Speed, Waltrip (two of them), Rutherford, Spencer, Unser (three of them), Rahal, Montoya, Villeneuve, Button, Barrichello, Andretti, Scheckter, Franchitti, Tracy, Earnhardt (two of them). And lots more.
A Newell was even ordered by Dodi Fayed, who hoped to drive it to North American movie sets, but then he and the princess came a cropper in Paris. Blade thus shipped Fayed's coach, left-hand drive and all, to London, where it presumably still collects British dust in Harrods' fleet.
One Newell customer owns a pet cheetah. "When he shows up to have his rig serviced, he often walks the thing," says Blade. "So I call the neighbors and say, 'Now'd be a good time to bring in your dog.' "
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NASCAR stock-car drivers/owners currently eschew bedroom windows in their Newells -- too many paddock voyeurs. They also stipulate generators with exhausts vented skyward rather than toward adjacent picnicking Sprint Cup champions. And because racetracks are dirty, interior carpeting has largely given way to hardwood or marble floors.
Today, NASCAR drivers demand a huge underfloor storage compartment to accommodate a foldaway golf cart. "It's a big deal," says Blade. "At the end of each race, the drivers flee to the helicopters that carry them out of the track and to their private jets."
Newell's assembly line includes 11 stations, and a coach a-birthing will linger 84 hours within each. Every coach winds up in one of four 60-foot-long paint booths, where customers dictate their own graphics, however weird, starting with 20 gallons of standard-equipment paint applied in 12 coats. All stripes are painted, no tape. Pearlescents and DuPont's "flop" — which flickers gold to blue to green in varying ambient light — are common, as is "blending" from white to silver to gray to black, a $4500 option. One bus was adorned with an abstract open-wheel racer on its flanks. "I didn't know what the hell it was for four years," says VP of sales Patrick Dwyer. Two coaches recently went out virgin white — one for Crown Royal and one for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who later upped its curb appeal with orange flames and a recurring human-skull motif.
Strength in Numbers
Each coach is powered by a 912-cubic-inch (14.9-liter) Cummins ISX 650 diesel — 650 horsepower and 1950 pound-feet of torque — mated to an Allison six-speed automatic. The engine is lubricated by 44 quarts of synthetic oil. Newells are governed to 90 mph. "Ungoverned, however, they're easily good for 105 mph," says Dwyer, who knows because he's tried it. Cruising fuel economy averages 8 mpg. Every vehicle carries 225 gallons of fuel and 143 gallons of fresh water.
Designed by Design
The late stylist Larry Shinoda did much of the custom work on Roger Penske's Newells. Meanwhile, Porsche Design created the new Euro nose that all Newells currently sport. Both Roger Penske and McLaren boss Ron Dennis made multiple trips to Oklahoma. "I couldn't believe how fussy they were," says Blade. "They insisted on custom touches over every square inch. Roger even had a chrome dress-up package for the engine [a custom-built, high-output Detroit Diesel that was dropped off by Rusty Wallace]. His coach took 10 months, maybe the most expensive we ever built. I'm pretty sure I lost money on that one."
Alcoa to the Rescue
The roof of every Newell is made from a single 45-foot seamless span of aluminum sheet, and the flanks are wholly aluminum, too, with stainless-steel accents that owners are peculiarly prone to paint. Only the end caps are fiberglass. Customers can specify any size windows and as many as they want. Or none at all. Each windshield is 8.5 feet wide and five feet tall yet, amazingly, costs only $2100.
Buyers who stipulate more than 150 square feet of granite flooring must purchase it in lightweight "aircraft grade," meaning it's 3/16-inch thick and bonded to aluminum honeycomb. That will add $20,000 to the stone's cost. Even so, the coach's curb weight will reach 55,000 pounds. More than half of that heft — 33,000 pounds — lurks below the floor line, attributable mostly to the rear-mounted engine and the hand-built steel chassis.
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All you people whinning about how rich people spend there money, do not realize how many people are working at the factories to build these land yachts. If I had to spend 8-9 months of the year out on the road, never being home because I had a race every weekend.
I would want something nice for my family to come along also.
AMERICA NEEDS TO LIGHTEN UP!
ASK NOT WHAT AMERICA CAN DO FOR YOU, ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR AMERICA!
Might as well go in style...
If people who use these buses in their work...
They can probably write them off taxes as business expense....
More power to them...enjoy life
I was a Truck Driver for awhile & you would be amazed how many of these are on the road these days. They are absolutly gorgeous doing down the Highways. I always dream, some day, I may be able to buy on of these beautiful MotorHome (Bus). There are different companys that can make about the same type of Bus, but for a lower price, I'm sure. Great article..
Good job Newell, keep up the good work.