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Start-Up Builder to Offer Custom Midrange Cabovers

April 21, 2014

Photo courtesy of Rainer Truck.
Photo courtesy of Rainer Truck.

The medium-duty cab-over-engine market abandoned several years ago by General Motors and more recently by UD Trucks will get new products from a start-up company in Washington state.

Rainer Truck & Chassis LLC, based in Yakima, is developing a series of Class 4 through 7 COEs that can be customized to suit buyers' needs, according to Gary Jones, president and founder. He said he is a mechanical design engineer by trade with long experience in buses and motor homes.

The trucks are designated RT 1600, 1950, 2600 and 3300 to indicate their gross-vehicle weight ratings in pounds. They will feature domestic diesel, gasoline and alternative-fuel engines, and familiar drivetrain, axle and suspension components.

All four models will use the same 86-inch-wide cab, which will be obtained "offshore," said Jones. Frames will be of the same dimensions throughout, with stronger steel for customers needing higher yield numbers. Aluminum frames are possible for those wanting lighter weight.

Eight wheelbases are listed with model specifications on the company’s website, www.rainertruckandchassis.com.

"We heard a lot of people wanted custom COE trucks, and current manufacturers didn't want to do it," he said. "They want to do cookie-cutter products. We'll do custom work, like dual-steer for a custom COE street sweeper, which is a neat niche market.

"We heard the market (for midrange COEs) is anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 pieces a year. We don't want the whole pie, we just want to focus on the custom arena. You can do it if you control your costs, control your growth and don’t get a big head over it."

The company started up two and a half years ago, and along with design work his small staff has built one prototype from which they "learned a lot of lessons." They'll build another prototype this summer, and plan to begin production in October with one truck a day. That might ramp up to 250 per year.

The initial standard engine is a 200-horsepower Cummins ISB6.7 diesel with seven additional ratings to 325 horsepower. Vertical and horizontal exhaust systems will be available, and fuel tanks can be saddle-mounted or placed between frame rails in back.

Allison 2500 and 3000 RDS (rugged-duty series) automatic transmissions with push-button selectors and PTO mounts will be the only transmissions; no manuals will be offered. Rainier will also use Dana axles and Reyco suspensions, "stuff that people are accustomed to," he said.

"We also found that there was no Class 5 gasoline cabover out there," Jones said. "So we're going to do that," in the RD 1950 and the other models. "The mom and pop business, landscapers, sweeper contractors, others — they want to lower their costs. Gasoline is the way to do that."

Six- and 8.8-liter gasoline and natural gas V-8 engines from Power Solutions Inc. are based on GM cylinder blocks, and come as complete, ready-to-install packages from PSI, he said.

Rainier is run by Jones with financial backing from several investors knowledgeable about the automotive industry, he said. It is a privately held company and he prefers that it not go public.

Reflecting on why General Motors got out of the medium-duty business, he added, "Maybe GM wasn't making money, but we can. We'll have about a 35- to 40-person team. That's all you need. We're not part of a big thing. We don’t want to be."

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