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Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Twist - Party with Chubby!
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The Checkerlicious Express

It's called the Checkerlicious Express... and if you see this totally cool coach rockin' and rollin' down the highway, give a wave. It's very likely to be the King of Twist himself, Chubby Checker, behind the wheel.

The man responsible for changing the way we dance to popular music since 1959 is now making his mark again, not on the dance floors of the world, but in America's convenience, grocery and drug stores. Chubby's company, The Last Twist, Inc., and Chubby Checker Snacks are concepts of this legendary recording artist and American icon. Chubby and his team market a range of snack food products - from beef jerky, chocolate bars, gourmet fruit flavored popcorn and gourmet hot dogs to singleserve bottled water. The Checkerlicious Express is but another of Chubby's idea brought to life for two purposes: To serve as a motorcoach to transport Chubby and his band to various concert engagements, and for use as a marketing and promotional vehicle for his line of snack foods. It is the marriage of a Volvo tractor to a highly customized coach... and it is Chubby's pride and joy.

The Birth of the Checkerlicious Express

"I am a connoisseur of fine things," said Chubby in a recent interview. "I worked on the creation of this vehicle for a year and a half before I was satisfied with my design. I then explored and selected the conversion company I wanted to build it for me - Kingsley Coach of Zimmerman, MN. But the one thing I knew right from the beginning is that I wanted a Volvo tractor to power it.

"I am a big Volvo fan," continued Chubby. "I've looked at all brands of trucks in my travels across North America, and Volvo tractors have always stood out from the rest. The first heavy-duty truck I ever sat in was a Volvo, and I never wanted to sit in anything else."

In 2003 Chubby took his plans to Kingsley Coach. Kingsley had built a solid reputation as a true from-the-ground-up custom coach builder at a time when other custom builders were offering primarily base plans with customization options. Because of the level of detail required, the engineering and design work took two full months before production could begin.

"It is a fascinating vehicle - so highly customized it took over 20 months to build," said Ralph Dickenson, Kingsley President and CEO. "Our first step after design completion was to locate the Volvo vehicle that met Chubby's specifications. We located the perfect truck, a 2002 Volvo 770, at the Wilkes-Barre Volvo Truck Center in Wilkes-Barre, PA. We took the 5th wheel off the unit, stretched it, then cut the back end off the sleeper in order to bolt the 40' box onto the chassis. We replaced the dash and reupholstered the seats. In the Volvo sleeper compartment a fold-down seat was placed behind the driver's seat. A couch was installed behind the passenger seat. The overhead bunk was retained, but an opening was cut as a passageway into the coach. Modifications were also made to the exterior of the 770. The hood area in particular was customized to look very much like a 2005 VN 780."

Simultaneously as the truck was being modified, work began on the box. "The entire unit is outfitted with Corian® counters and solid cherry cabinetry," said Catherine Dickenson, Kingsley Coach Production Manager. "Behind the original sleeper compartment is a 14' long slide-out with a dinette booth that converts into a bunk. With the push of a button, a full-size couch also folds out. Above the sofa and dinette are cherry cabinets that fold down into bunks. The area also contains a 12 cu. ft. refrigerator, a glass-top electric cooktop, double sinks, a microwave and a 32" flat screen plasma TV.

"Beyond that area is the bathroom and bunk room," continued Catherine. "The bathroom is all Corian and cherry complete with a full shower. The bunk room contains three bunks on one side and a full size washer and dryer are located on the opposite side. Each bunk has its own flip-down DVD player which is connected to an in-motion satellite so bunk occupants can watch TV while the vehicle is in motion. In total, the vehicle has sleeping accommodations for 10 people.

"Behind the bunk room you step down into the store," said Catherine. "Through the use of slide-outs, it accommodates a three-door commercial refrigerator and two glass-doored freezers for display of the Checker-branded products. The area also contains cooking and food preparation facilities, two additional bunks and a second 32" plasma TV. On the curb side there is a flip-up window with fold-out canopy for serving customers. The back end of the unit is equipped with a ramp for loading products, and additional storage bays are located on the vehicle exterior.

7,000 man hours later and 20 months after start of engineering, the Checkerlicious Express was finished. Volvo dealer Twin Cities Volvo Sales and Service, Roseville, MN then completed several additional adjustments and modifications to the cab and chassis. "The back end was heavy, so two drive axles and a pusher axle were required," said Bob Nuss, dealer principal. "The total unit weighs in at 50,750 lbs. If an additional trailer is pulled, the unit could measure up to 90' in total length."

On the Road

Chubby took delivery of his "dream machine" on March 4, 2005. "It is everything I thought it would be," he said. "I drove the vehicle from Minneapolis to Carlisle, PA. I love the way the unit holds the center of gravity. It feels like I'm driving a big car, not a big truck. It has a gentle voice," he said with a smile, "and I feel very comfortable in it.

"Truck designs have changed over the years, and I know what I like about each design," he added. "I love the hood design of the 2005 Volvo 780, but also wanted the look of the 2000 VN bumper. So I had them do a little 'redecorating' on the front end. Now I have a machine that is unlike any other Volvo on the road, but it's still 150% Volvo."







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