Well, some people might call it the Safari Condo factory, but I think of it as the Alto nursery, where all our trailer babies are made. It was really interesting to see the technologies and the construction techniques behind that Alto I now own. This place more than a factory, an assembly line of just some trailer – it’s passion for quality and it’s pride in their products.
This is my own experience of the factory, and I may have gotten some things wrong, or forgotten others after 10 months. The emotion I still feel when I look at these photos is joy – the people I met working on cushions, piping, wiring, aluminum, windows, and assembly all take the greatest of care in their work and they were happy to stop for a few moments and meet someone who would be using their creations. I was mostly introduced (in French) as owner 821, and it’s amazing how many people knew what that trailer was! The woman behind the service desk knew my cabinet and cushion choices the second she heard my Alto number!
So, how DO you make an Alto? It goes something like this…
First, the cushions and covers, the piping, and the wiring are assembled. While each Alto is different, the wiring harness is the same, allowing owners to add features later if they change their minds (like putting in a microwave or TV). The piping package is custom to each Alto, based on what water heater and other options are chosen by the owner.
Material for the Alto construction is selected from big rolls of aluminum, imported from the Netherlands. You can see the top roll is blue and the middle one is silver, the two colors you can choose for the outside of the Alto. The Alto exteriors are insulated with honeycomb stuff, so the team takes two aluminum pieces and then makes the insulated sides using a vacuum process.
Next step is to take that insulated piece, put it on this huge cutting table and then select the program to cut out the roof and sides. This jig table is a relatively new item for the team, as they used to cut the aluminum by hand!
After the cutting is done, you get something like this, the side wall of a 1743 model. The walls are all custom to the specific Alto being built. In this case, the owner has selected a propane/120v fridge, so the team cut two rectangles (one above the other) into the wall. The other holes are for window, a hatch, and various plugs.
The Alto is assembled in three stations. The first assembly station starts with the aluminum frame, attaches the tanks underneath, then the floor, and finally, the walls. This is all done by hand and uses the piping package created earlier (and shown earlier above). This photo is of an R-series Alto model.
At the second assembly station, the team builds out the interior of the Alto, adding cabinets, windows, and hatches, as well as the fridge and toilet. In R-series Alto, you see the kitchen cabinet (far left) and fridge opening next to it.
This is also the station where the wiring is laid where it needs to go. Look at all those wires! Again, it’s all done by hand. Real people build these Altos, one at a time.
In the third assembly station, the roof goes on and the big front window (if required) is installed. This is a F-1743 model being assembled. Look closely and you can see the earlier stations ahead of it; they are all in a row so that the Alto just moves down the line as it gets progressively closer to completion.
That blue overhead crane you see in this photo is used to lift up the roof and put it in place. You can also see the air-conditioning/heat pump being installed by a worker. And off to the right is an R-series model roof at the roof/window assembly station.
When the Alto is all assembled, one of the quality assurance tests is to “soak it” three times. They pour water all over it to simulate heavy rain, and then go inside and look for leaks everywhere. (When I was sitting in heavy downpours in the fall of 2016, I remembered this and sent a mental “thank you” to everyone who soak-tested my Alto!)
And the final step: delivery to the happy owner!
Thanks to Dominique Nadeau for taking the time to show me the factory and answer my questions about making Altos. And special thanks to Daniel Nadeau, who I met as he was walking through the factory – what a thrill to meet the designer of the Alto!
For more information on the Alto by Safari Condo, you can visit their website. And since they are hip to social media, they have a Facebook page and they also have used Virtual Reality on Google Maps where you can walk around their Quebec showroom and even go inside the models for a 360-degree view.
(Note: I am not paid by Safari Condo, nor do I receive any remuneration from them for posting about their trailers. I just love mine and want to share my enthusiasm with others.)