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
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%