A brief look at the Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow, literally…
By Richard Robertson
The doors have just closed on the 2022 Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow. Returning after a Covid absence, the event kicks off the annual ‘Big Three’ East Coast RV show season, with Sydney to follow from 19 to 24 April and Brisbane from 7 to 12 June.
The Show’s organising body – Caravan Industry Victoria – sees the event as the premier RV show in Australia. That’s not only because it's the first major capital city show for the year and is often the showcase for the latest product releases; Victoria regards itself as the RV manufacturing capital of Australia, being home to Jayco and other industry heavyweights.
This year’s event was the first at the Melbourne Showgrounds since February 2020, after which Covid lockdowns fundamentally changed the way of things (and hence account for this year’s April scheduling). Since 2020, however, the Australian RV industry has gone into overdrive due to international travel restrictions, with demand for all types of recreational vehicles reaching all-time highs and significantly outstripping supply. The local supply issue has been exacerbated by the global effects of the pandemic in regards to base-vehicle and component production and shipping, throwing already-stretched RV delivery times out to two and even three years. Such supply and delivery problems have had a major impact on RV shows too, not only because of vehicle supply constraints, but in enticing dealers and manufacturers to participate, given they can basically sell everything they have – and shows are expensive to be a part of.
Keeping all that in mind, I wasn't surprised to find the 2022 Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow a little light-on in regards to exhibitors, and for that matter, visitors. Due to other commitments I wasn't able to visit until the Friday, with an industry colleague giving me the heads-up on who was and wasn’t in attendance:
“In terms of the motorhome content, it’s limited. Horizon Motorhomes, Frontline, Wirraway Motorhomes, EmuRV, Suncamper Motorhomesand Sunliner all have stands in what’s become a spacious (read largely empty) motorhome pavilion. Avida isn't here, neither is Trakka, Explorer, Paradiseor Latitude.
I quote my colleague’s observations because my day-trip from Sydney didn’t go well. I’d planned a full day at the show, but less than two hours into it I was notified that my return flight had been cancelled and basically I was on my own! To cut a long story short, I hightailed it back to Tullamarine Airport, managing to grab the last seat on a mid-afternoon flight as the impacts of Covid staff shortages and school holidays commencing merged into a perfect storm of Friday air travel chaos.
But Wait There’s More…
Fortunately, my journey wasn’t a complete waste. In addition to the afore-mentioned exhibitors I found Geelong-based boutique manufacturer Achtung Camper's new VW Crafter, plus the first van-conversion motorhomes from Red Centre Caravans.
German-founded Achtung Camper is an interesting operation, largely flying under the radar of mainstream buyers, but producing some of the most innovative, interesting and technically sophisticated campervans – and now compact motorhomes – on the market. You can read my review of Achtung’s funky VW T6.1 campervan in The Big Lapand it was good to finally see the new, larger VW Crafter conversion. It moves into compact motorhome territory and while there is no ‘legal definition’, it's largely accepted the difference between a campervan and motorhome is that the latter has a bathroom. In typical non-conformist style the company calls its new Crafter conversion the Achtung Camper Motorhomeand it really is a breath of fresh air inside. To quote the company’s website:
“A long time in the making, the Achtung Camper Motorhome has without a doubt the most thought-through layout on the market. We’ve put our heads together with tiny-home architect firm Winter Architecture and come up with a 6 metre motorhome that carry’s(sic) 3 passengers + driver, has a 1.95 x 1.7 sized bed (!) that’s always made up, will take you off road and has all the comforts of home plus more. What’s more, it has 2 separate seating/eating areas, and that’s just on the inside!”
That’s some claim and I look forward to the chance to review it properly sooner than later. In the mean time, what struck me most was the longitudinal roof-bed that operates on a simple cord-and-pulley system (although power operation is optional). I also liked the surprisingly spacious bathroom with composting toilet, plus Achtung’s trademark use of natural materials and ‘human-centric’ design. Combined with obsessive attention-to-detail and quality, Achtung delivers an interior that’s a world away from most RVs on the market.
When I stopped by the Red Centre Caravansstand to check out the company’s first motorhome offering – a Fiat Ducato van-conversion – I spotted a familiar face, Dave Murray, formerly of Albury-Wodonga RV World. Dave was only too happy to explain all about Red Centre and its products, and as someone I respect in the industry it was interesting to hear his take on a brand I’ve been unaware of. In a nutshell, Red Centre Caravans is an established manufacturer based in North East Victoria and ‘powered’ by the apparently boundless energy of founder Dean Goudie. The move into motorhomes is a natural progression, starting with converting long-wheel-base Fiat Ducato vans before later moving into full coachbuilt models.
Red Centre’s first motorhome, which as yet doesn’t appear to have a name or model designation, is modern, well equipped and appears well built. As you’d expect, it borrows directly from the company’s caravan design language and experience. Featuring swivelling cab-seats, a minimalist wet bathroom aft of the driver’s seat, a kitchen just inside the sliding side-door and an east-west bed across the back, it’s largely conventional. However, it has some interesting features and inclusions, like individual tables for the swivelled front seats and full Earthwool insulation. Priced at $139,990 is comes with all the expected conveniences, from reverse-cycle air-conditioning to an electric entry step and, impressively, a sizeable 152-litre compressor fridge-freezer and 195-watt solar panel. Able to be driven on a standard car licence, power comes from a 118 kW/400 Nm 2.3-litre turbo-diesel driving the front wheels through a 9-speed automatic transmission.
It’s good to see new blood coming into the motorhome market and Red Centre’s first effort reminds me of EmuRV’s E2S Fiat Ducato van-conversion motorhome, which from memory appeared at the last Melbourne Show. Both are refreshing takes on the entry-level motorhome and will challenge established players. Watch for a comparison of these two new models, which although closely priced have different layouts and features.
Stars of the Frontline stand were a pair of campervans built on the latest Toyota HiAce, which isn't just a world away from its predecessor, it's in another solar system: Five-star safety, a walk-through cab and an enjoyable driving experience are the most obvious differences from earlier HiAces. Inside, Frontline’s conversion appears thoroughly conventional and while lacking ‘pizzazz’ it’s certainly up to the job.
Suncamper’s display seemed to circle the wagons, primarily around variations of its compact C-class Sherwood motorhome. Toyota’s HiLux in two or four-wheel drive has always been the Sherwood’s cab-chassis of choice, so it was interesting to see one built on a Ford Ranger 4x4. If the opportunity presents itself I'll bring you a report on Suncamper’s new Ford-based Sherwood.
I momentarily set foot on the Horizon Motorhomes stand, but the message about my return flight arrived and subsequently I didn't have time to find out what’s new. Apologies to Ken, who must think me rude for waving and then disappearing after borrowing power for my phone…
That was my last stand visit for the day, but subsequently I learned one of the most interesting new RVs at the show was on the Jayco stand. Named the JRV FD.19-4, it’s another Fiat Ducato van-conversion motorhome, but with a pop-top roof like a small campervan. The rear-hinged roof provides a ladder-accessed upstairs bedroom probably best for kids, but makes this a four-berth motorhome. Downstairs, the main bed is positioned east-west across the rear, while up-front is a Euro-style four-seat dinette that incorporates the swivelled cab seats.
European in origin, I first saw this style of pop-top Fiat Ducato at the Louisville RV Show in Kentucky in 2017 and wondered how long it would take the style to appear locally. Like any other, the design has its pros and cons, but I think it has much to offer and look forward to a closer inspection.
Finally, it was good to know the KT Insurance Team was at the show, working alongside the Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA). While the CMCA is out there advocating to governments at all levels the benefits of our fabulous RV lifestyle (and to make sure our lifestyle continues into the future), KT Insurance is working to provide CMCA members with the peace of mind to enjoy that lifestyle today. Take the newly introduced $10,000 Emergency Medical Assistancecover, now automatically included in ever KT Insurance recreational vehicle policy. It’s part of what sets an enthusiast insurer like KT Insurance apart from the mainstream and provides genuine peace of mind in the event your travels don’t go as planned.
Given the challenges of Covid on staffing and supply chains, not to mention insatiable buyer demand, it’s good to see established businesses still innovating, plus new manufacturers entering the market. It will be great to have plenty of time at Sydney’s upcoming Caravan Camping Holiday Supershow, to play RV catch-up and see what else is new, free of airline shenanigans!