My First Interior Bus Mod: The Happy Jack Bunk, Starring Lucy The Dog!
Is Floor Plan The Best Place To Start?
When I made the decision to pursue my dream of motorhome ownership, prior to entering the first dealership, like many others potential buyers I began my search online and turned to various forums for guidance.
It seems the common advice contained within numerous threads was to start by selecting a desirable floor plan. The next step was to find a company that manufacturers models with layouts that suit my needs. Then, select the interior and exterior color schemes, write a check and drive away. Seems simple, huh?
The Important Factors
Allow me to state that I couldn’t disagree more with this “floor plan first” method and while it’s an important factor, it should not be the first consideration. I say this as much of your future enjoyment will come from the reliability of the chassis and mechanical items that lies beneath the beautiful interior and not from a comfortable recliner. Selecting a dealership and manufacturer that values its customers and offers timely and effective service is equally important. Drivability and Safety are other factors that should be on the top of the list.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of having a floor plan that works for your specific needs. After all, if you’re traveling solo or as a couple, your needs will be different from those who take long vacations with a family of four, or those who choose to use a motorhome for tailgating.
It didn’t take too long for me to understand that for the way I was planning on using a motorhome, a bunk floor plan was the best solution. And while I evaluated numerous motorhome and chassis manufacturers, I found a pre-owned Prevost to be the most logical solution to provide as much of a headache-free experience as possible.
In my opinion, Prevost is the gold standard of luxury motorhomes and has earned a reputation for safety, reliability, long service intervals and offers multiple service locations across the USA and Canada.
Huh, a Prevost? Those are for rich people!
Yes, you have to pay for quality, but if you’re considering a new Class A motorhome, you may be surprised to find there’s numerous pre-owned Prevost’s available that are not as much of a price leap as you may think. If you don’t believe me, just check out Prevost-Stuff as this site is a great database of pre-owned Prevost models currently for sale. If you choose to go this route, make sure you hold back some funds to make sure all services are brought up to date and start by replacing wear items such as tires and batteries.
With that said, while the 2014 Marathon I selected incorporates a bunk floor plan I found desirable for my travel needs. It’s built on Prevost’s newest X3 chassis that offers desirable technologies that were on my wish list and because I’m not the original owner, the price was reasonable for coach of this quality. In my opinion, Prevost is the gold standard of luxury motorhomes and has earned a reputation for safety, reliability, long service intervals and offers multiple service locations across the USA and Canada.
The Importance Of Timely Service
During my shopping adventure I learned that long waits for service have become the norm in the mainstream RV industry. After much research I decided that selecting a motorhome from a manufacturer that delivers a reliable, tried and tested product with a strong record of safety and has the ability and facilities to provide timely service were the most important factors in my decision to press the buy button. While I knew a bunk floor plan was desirable, it was a secondary decision.
I say this as I’m not one who considers camping in a dealer’s parking lot awaiting a service appointment a recreational activity and prefer dealing with companies who values a customer’s time. In my opinion this means working by appointment and getting the coach in- and out-of service in as promised and in a timely manner. This is why I advise potential purchasers to not only spend time in the dealer’s showroom, but to take the time to evaluate the service facility as once the purchase transaction is completed, that’s where you’ll be spending time when service is needed.
With Prevost having six service centers in the USA and combined with Marathon, which has three service locations, you’ll understand why I selected this specific coach. To date, my wait times for service have been minimal and short notice appointments have been honored. You can view a story and video that states why I selected this combination of chassis manufacturer and converter here.
A Bunk For My Needs
Just prior to purchasing my Marathon, I came fairly close to purchasing a well maintained, pre-owned entertainer Prevost model. One of the features that captured my attention and one I had not seen before, was a convertible bunk system. It incorporated a three bed, air-operated bunk system that could be adjusted to sleep one, two or three people. I found this attractive for the way I use my coach as if I’m traveling with a Friend, I would feel a bit strange asking him/her to sleep in a bunk with only 24″ of headroom. While that may be acceptable for a family with children or for a band traveling from one performance to another, it wasn’t something that worked for the way I wanted to use my coach.
During my search I found a video online and learned Marathon Coach offered a bunk modification where a press of a button triggered an electric motor to lower the top bunk to nest on top of the lower bunk. It incorporated a fold-down closet rod mounted to the ceiling and the promoted the major benefit of this design was to create a large closet space when the bunks were not needed for passengers. The result was four-foot tall, 71-inch wide closet. Understanding that in a motorhome, closet and storage space is precious, this design seemed like a creative way of converting the bunk to a very large closet.
While there’s not a one-size-fits-all floor plan, as owners use coaches differently, I found the floor plan I selected already incorporated ample closet space for my needs. Prior to the purchase, I approached Marathon to learn if this modification would work to convert the bunk from one that sleeps two, to one that sleeps one and results in a comfortable passenger compartment that delivered twice the headroom of a normal bunk. As a bonus, I asked if this modification would maintain the ability of using this space for a closet when needed. The answer was yes. What truly captured my attention was that converting it from a dual to a single sleeper or into closet space could be accomplished with a touch of a button.
Yes, it’s nice to have choices based on how I’m using the coach at any given time in the future.
So, What’s A Happy Jack?
I just delivered my bus to Marathon in San Antonio, FL where this modification is underway. The email exchange that documented this and other service items named the modification of the bunk area, the “Happy Jack.”
That seems to be an unusual name for this type of modification and since this company is known for thinking outside of the box when it comes to custom coaches, I made the assumption the first customer who sought this mod was named Jack and he was happy with the results.
I couldn’t be more wrong.
It seems the mechanism that is used to raise and lower the upper bunk is called a HappiJac and it’s rated to hold up to 2,800 lbs. So, while the video posted below refers to this as a Happy Jack, now you know the rest of the story.
Why Am I Doing This Modification?
My thought was, that since the lower bunk rested on a set of drawers, the height of the lowered top bunk would be just around hip height. This meant that someone could easily slide onto the (now lowered) top bunk without the use of a ladder and make getting in and out of the bed and easy maneuver. The additional height will allow the passenger the ability to sit up in the bed and read or watch TV. While kids seems to have a great appreciation for sleeping on bunk beds, if you’ve delegated a bunk space to an adult, you already know that while appreciative they are not sleeping on a sofa, they are anything but happy. If it turns out as I envision, then the larger bunk space will convert this passenger sleeping space into a comfortable compartment that incorporates numerous creature comforts that are highlighted in the video below.
Some Changes To The Original Plan
While this video shows the overhead video monitor is being replaced with a larger unit and moved a few inches towards the rear, since that video was produced prior to delivering it to Marathon’s Florida location, we came up with a better solution and will be adding a larger monitor mounted to the wall at the foot of the bed. It will be raised just high enough where it will be above the level of the passenger’s feet, and just low enough where it provides a clear line of sight under the folding closet rod.
Other tweaks to what is mentioned in the video have been made as well. One is the incorporation of ceiling lighting. Because adding dimmable LED ceiling lights would require changes to the coach’s electronics, I learned that adding a separate LED lighting fixture to the interior leading edge would not only allow for dimmable lighting, it would illuminate the area when used as a closet.
In this video you’ll see a description of the work being performed on this and a modification being made to a vanity cabinet in the bedroom. The goal of this video is to document the bunk space “before” this modification and the plan is to deliver an “after” when I’ve had a chance to learn the pros and cons of performing this modification. You’ll also meet Lucy The Dog who adds her thoughts to her somewhat long-winded Dad’s descriptions and commentary!
Here’s The Video:
To Be Notified Of New Posts:
Prevost For Newbies, Part 3: A New Class A Motorhome or a Pre-Owned Prevost?
Prevost For Newbies – Part 1: Passenger Side Bays Of A Marathon Coach