Industry Icon Pioneer: Bob Lee

by Wendy on October 18, 2017


Country Coach Inc. founder and RV industry icon Bob Lee, 78, passed away on Oct. 8 at his Oregon home surrounded by family.

“RVIA mourns the passing of Bob Lee, one of the RV industry’s leading innovators and pioneers,” the leadership of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) stated in a Tuesday (Oct. 17) morning release. “His entrepreneurial spirit and vision shaped and defined the high-end luxury RV market as he successfully founded and built two iconic RV companies in Monaco Coach and Country Coach. He was also a passionate supporter and advocate for RVIA, providing tremendous leadership and guidance as a member of the board of directors for nearly 20 years and as chairman and member of the National Show Committee. He was honored with RVIA’s Distinguished Achievement to the RV Industry Award in 1995 in recognition of his outstanding service to the industry and association. He will be profoundly missed, and on behalf of our membership, we send our heartfelt condolences to his friends and family.”

Born in Klamath Falls, Ore., into a farming and logging family, Lee served in the U.S. Navy and worked at as an equipment buyer for North American Rockwell in the Apollo space program, meeting and marrying wife, Terry, in 1961. In 1968, Lee left the aerospace program and with two friends started a camper manufacturing business in Oregon.

“We left our families and took off up I-5 having no idea where we were going to get off,” Bob reminisced in Family Motor Coaching magazine, adding that they ended up in Junction City and began what would ultimately become Monaco Coach Corp. In 1972, Lee left Monaco to start his own company, working days as an RV service manager at a Ford dealership and building camper canopies in the evenings in a rented garage with partner Lowell Swartz.

Lee’s business, incorporated in 1974 as Country Camper after his daughter’s Barbie doll camper, built truck campers. And when the demand for slide-in campers waned in the late 1970s, he decided he wanted “to be in the high end of the RV market as that wasn’t as volatile.” In 1984, his company, renamed Country Coach, grew to encompass more than eight city blocks in Junction City, employing 1,500-plus employees at its peak. “Building hundreds, not thousands per year, allowed Country Coach to focus on the quality upon which the business had been founded,” Lee stated in FMCA’s magazine. “I always told my employees, ‘Build it as if your own mother will be driving it,’ and they did.”


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