Metalworking lathe recommendations?

I work for a high-end plumbing shop that specializes in restorations, and we fabricate a lot of parts.
We’re looking at getting a new lathe to replace our 20-year-old Harbor Freight POS, hopefully with something in the 36 to 40" range.
Does anyone have brand or model recommendations? The owner has said that he’s prepared to spend $30K if that’s what it takes, so budget isn’t too much of an issue.

We had 2 lathes in our shop - a Clausing 21 inch and a Monarch 10EE. They were somewhat vintage machines. I recall hearing nothing but good things from the machinists about the Monarch - and some grumbles about the Clausing - but they were in rather separate classes of use. I’m always a bit hesitant about recommending a brand based on onesy-twosy experience - especially when based on vintage equipment in a shop that may have very different usage patterns from yours. That said - you might want to look at both brands - and see what you can get for your money.

Personally, I want a South Bend as many of their lathes have a spindle bored to accept a 5C collet directly, or you can put a chuck on them for larger work.

I’ve only actually used a Hardinge 5C collet based lathe and a larger ~10" Haas. We had a Royal 5C unit for the Haas but it was such a pain to install. Honestly, I don’t really like the smaller/cheaper Haas lathes as they tend to make a coolant mess everywhere and they aren’t really all that great for CNC work either as the toolpost will move on you too easily.

FWIW, lathes are generally rated in terms of the diameter of the object they can hold and not the length. The South Bends came in many different lengths and on them, the length included the space taken up by the headstock so it was more of an over all length and not a length of the object that could be fit between centers.

I worked at an industrial facility which was in large part a machine shop. The manual lathes were 20+(maybe even 50) years old and during most of that time used for 8+ hours daily. They Were Still In pretty Good Functional Shape After All that usage.
Depending where you’re located, and how much space you have, you may consider a used industrial lathe. I think ours were about 8’ long overall. I think you can get one in decent shape for about 10k.