As the caregiver for my wife Sheila, I had been thinking about a Rialta for several months—since the CD rate dropped. The thought was that we might as well get something practical out of the resource that would be a good investment too.
We were having lunch at Wendy's on the day that my mind was made up about efforts to find a reasonably priced Rialta--Sheila left that sort of venture to me. Scanning the RV sales-lot adjacent to Wendy's, there was no Rialta. "Ah, let me get a bargain finder [South Coast Shopper]."
Opening it, there it was; a photo of a Rialta and for only 11,500—and the Shopper had just been distributed. It seemed almost providential, but even providence awakens reaction (transaction too), right? "Sheilla, we need to move fast on this." My phone call was the seller's first, so even though another buyer was there, I was allowed to be the first customer. Within the hour the Rialta was ours. Sheila loved it, and that was the most important thing.
Sheila had had a stroke affecting a paralysis of her left side. TPA was given within an hour and the clot was dissolved. She was in the hospital for two days and left with little indication of the physical paralysis. During the next months it would be determined that there had been several strokes, and the physician told me that there would be more.
After that, and finally, it was also found that she had a slipped vertebra of long standing. Surgery was advised against due to her age. This explained why she had such difficulty walking for the last several years. The back problem had been with her so long that she thought it was normal, and did not complain about it in particular. Her discomfort took the form of more silently than otherwise expressing a need for going home.
So…the Rialta was just the thing. She was petite (and beautiful), and prone to being very active. After the stroke she had fallen and broken a hip, so was using the wheelchair and occasionally the walker. I removed the wheelchair hand wheels so that it would fit through the doors of the Rialta, and take up less space when folded (and we were always together anyway). She would use her walker and/or the wheelchair as a walker.
I had renovated the deck with a ramp that would lower and level into the Rialta. It was perfect. Once inside she could maneuver to the front seat, and later to the middle seat. The dining area was so convenient and the view of the Pacific was wonderful. A portable handrail was easily attached whenever the bathroom was needed.
It can be said with confidence that the Rialta resulted in some much-needed happiness in her life, and of course mine too with her. I had also made a folding ramp that unfolded for use while away from home. It stored easily too. Her last ride in the Rialta was two weeks before her passing into paradise. When she left, the greater part of me left too, as did the purpose the Rialta served for us.
Why this is the best year made—Why this is the best year made—In my somewhat informed opinion the earliest Rialtas were the best mainly due to later regulations that eventually led to the discontinuation of the Rialta. That plus the effort to portray the changes as advantageous for the buying public led to a misconception regarding the need for "improvements".
Going from the early 5-cylinder to the v-6 sounds good, but it gave Winnebago the occasion for using cheaper but much heavier pressed-wood (I call it) type cabinets that can pull away from the ceiling (and the vinyl coating warps loose too). A measurement of my daughter's 1997 Rialta revealed it to be about 10 inches longer from the door to the rear—an unnecessary selling point made from the larger engine (which is harder to maintain). I suspect that the changes also resulted in problems like increases in pressure causing gas-line leakage, potential for axle breaking, and overworking a transmission designed for the earlier engine.
It does not take a lot of talent to compensate for the lesser-powered 5 by simply, when needed, shifting down the automatic manually; it is easier and less shocking to the transmission. The earlier model also has one adequate battery, is cheaper, and half the weight than having two in the coach area. It is easier to keep one battery charged than two whether attached to the shore AC or running DC. But here again the two batteries sounds like a selling point to take advantage of a larger and heavier engine.
This might appear as rationalization, but not as much as those who "feel" that changes mean progress, and say, "well, if changes were not better they would not have 'evolved'". It's a relative matter with lots of variable, but it is easy to see that this is a case where first shall be last and the last shall be the first to be extinct.
History of repairs—Moister solution--After purchasing the Rialta and on the first real rainy day (and the rainy season had begun) it would not start. The distributor was found to be wet, and the carbon post in the cap had eroded to nothing. Also it was found that a heater hoes clamp needed tightening, for when warmed up the fluid would spray toward the cap. The hoes clamp fix and the new rotor and cap fixed the problem—a problem no doubt contributing to selling it during dry days.
I could quietly work on it when not needing to be close to Sheila. The carport was attached to the covered deck, and close enough to hear Sheila.
The Instrument Panel—The tachometer did not work. This bothered me a lot not knowing where the problem might be and how serious it might be. After much research I located one on the Internet. It took the cable driven speedometer/odometer, so the original was transferred and that resolved the tachometer problem to my great relief.
Alternator—I noticed that the alternator took higher revolutions to charge, so I replace it with a new one, and kept the old one just in case. At the time a timing belt, water pump, pulley was also purchased, but a check of the timing belt showed that it was loose but in good shape and not knowing if things had been replace the parts are available and carried if long trip planned (which we never took). I tightened the belt according to specs.
Catalytic Burner—A rattle during idle was bothersome, and a dent was seen in the catalytic burner. I replaced it 8-25-12 and that was the rattle. I have repaired by replacement the tail pipe.
Wheel Bearing—There was a rumble coming from the right rear. It turned out to be the bearing, so I replaced it--which was no small task but it was very successful. The old one had pockets worn into the bottom race which strongly suggested that it had been shipped by truck some distance which can lead to that sort of damage (weight would have been on that side and to the rear during shipment—vehicles shipped that way should be blocked with weight off the wheels. I suspect it had been trucked from the east coast).
Macerator Pump—A macerator pump is included if wanted. It operates from the couch battery and a receptacle on the outside near the drain-valves.
Upholstery—Upholstery is good for its age. The front seats were worn but not to the point of affecting the stuffing. Upholstery from rarely used bed cushions (that store under center seats) was used to make repairs. Seat cover material was replaced on the cushions. My daughter is a seamstress and did a good job.
Coach Generator—The generator works fine as far as I know. It has been used little. We would heat up coffee etc at the shore with the microwave occasionally. But these need to be warmed up per the instruction manual that comes with the Rialta and that should be studied. One needs a little course in operating a Rialta.
No leaks—There are no known leaks now. There was one that would run done the tail light harness into the back but no problems and I fixed it.
Batteries—Both batteries (coach and eurovan cab) were replace within short time after purchase.