Feature Highlight: Monocoque Design
Monocoque is a French term that means a single shell. It refers to any structure that bears all loads, both compressive and tensile, along its skin. While it is exceptionally hard to design, difficult to manufacture, and expensive, there is one giant advantage that monocoque brings to design; weight. A vehicle that utilizes a true monocoque design will be astoundingly light.
If you look under a vehicle or RV and see a frame with tacked on rails and ribs, you are definitely not looking at even a “semi” monocoque design, as much as they may wish to be one. You are looking at some variation of the body-on-frame design.
Aircraft design was the first to use monocoque design, so it is no surprise that the first travel trailer Hawley Bowlus designed, affectionately named the “egg” by his wife Ruth, was monocoque as well. Today you find true monocoque design in the Bowlus, the modern McLaren, and plenty of their supercar contemporaries.
So why is the monocoque design so crucial to a Bowlus? Along with producing the strongest shell in the industry, the Bowlus comes with the best weight to length ratio in the world for a travel trailer. For comparison, a 25 foot Flying Cloud comes in at a gross vehicle weight rating of 7,300 pounds. A 26 foot Bowlus has a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,000 pounds, which includes 700 pounds of carrying capacity. That weight savings translates into a broader range of tow vehicles and, critically, the ability for a small adult (under 5 feet) even to pull it over and hitch it if they wish.
So there’s never a need to utter pardon my french when you’re hitching a Bowlus unless, of course, you’re celebrating your monocoque design