A look at what was new and interesting at the 2020 Sydney Caravan Camping Holiday Supershow…
By Richard Robertson
Hot on the heels of the Melbourne Show, the 2022 NSW Caravan Camping Holiday Supershow has just wrapped-up after a busy six days, crammed between the Easter and Anzac Day long weekends. Running concurrently with the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the word amongst exhibitors was it attracted good crowds and decent orders. With a full day to wander amongst the exhibits I spied the following as stand-outs in terms of innovation and/or interest. Here they are in alphabetical order…
Belle RV: LDV Runaway Touring Van
The first motorhome conversion I've seen in a Chinese-built LDV Deliver 9 van, this one is built by Roma Caravans and marketed under its new Belle RV brand (so new its website isn’t up yet). Roma joins Nova Caravans, with its EmuRV joint-venture, and Red Centre Caravans in expanding into motorhome production, and again it’s good to see some new blood.
The Runaway Touring Van is built in a 5.546-metre LDV Deliver 9 van (there’s a 5.940-metre version coming) and is priced to sell at just $108,950 drive-away, which includes a 3-year warranty. The Deliver 9 has been on the market for a couple of years and it's basically a copy of the Ford Transit. That's no bad thing as the Transit is a capable and good looking vehicle, and if LDV can also copy its reliability and five-star ANCAP safety they'll be onto a winner.
This is a short van built to a budget price, yet it’s surprisingly stylish and Roma has made a good job of balancing value and space efficiency. Obvious cost-cutting measures include retaining the three-place cab seating, so there's no walk-through access, plus using the shortest version of the van. While a swivelling passenger seat can be arranged for a price, those happy to leave the cab and walk around, or who need to carry three people, will be fine with the standard offering.
On the plus side the standard equipment includes an instantaneous gas hot water system, awning, LED lighting, USB charging points, roof air-conditioning, rangehood, a huge (for the class) 12-volt compressor fridge, microwave, external shower, DC/DC charging and 120-watt solar panel. Impressively, it comes with a pair of gas cylinders that slide-out on a tray for easy access, plus an innovative slide-out table at the rear. Clever…
On the minus side the wet bathroom is a little spartan and from memory lacks a roof hatch; there's basically no kitchen bench space and the east-west bed will best suit those under 177 cm (5’ 10”). However, for the money it appears excellent value and is backed by a reputable manufacturer, so it should do well.
AAV 4x4: Global Xplorer 4x4 Fuso
The only vehicle of interest I didn’t get to look closely at, the Global Xplorer by Australian Adventure Vehicles (AAV) 4x4 is the real-deal according to off-roading guru and mate, Allan Whiting of OutbackTravelAustralia.com.au. Here’s what AAV 4x4’s website has to say:
“The Global Xplorer 4x4 is based on the reliable Fuso Canter: A true 4×4 light truck with high and low transmission, and a limited slip rear differential. The GX comes standard with 37” Super Single Wheels and is incredibly capable both on and off road. The 200L of diesel gives you over 1000km range in mixed driving conditions, allowing you to explore further in comfort.
“Global Xplorer has an impressive 3.5 ton towing capability, allowing you to take your other toys – boat, motorbikes or quad bikes, making it the perfect Adventure Truck for Australia”.
Horizon Motorhomes: Boronia 4x4
Horizon Motorhomes is one of the quiet, good guys of the local RV scene. Established in 1995 and specialising solely in van-conversion motorhomes, Horizon manufacturers top quality vehicles that eschew glitz and glamour in favour of quality and robust durability. Having driven one from Alice Springs to Ballina via the Plenty Highway (after it had been from Ballina to The Kimberley the hard way), I can attest to the brand’s build quality.
Evolutionary not revolutionary, new Horizon models are few and far between, which is what makes the soon-to-be-released Boronia (not yet on its website) something to get excited about. Built in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 419 medium wheel-base van, the Boronia encapsulates all of Horizon’s real-world Outback travel experience. The display van had 300-watts of solar, 300 amp-hours of lithium batteries, a 2000-watt inverter, 180-litre long-range fuel tank, 145-litres of fresh water and 55-litres of grey, an external water feed for pumping from rivers/etc, full-length sidesteps, a 175-litre fridge/freezer, air-conditioning, diesel hot water and space heating, specialist dust suppression and five all-terrain tyres, while the Sprinter was optioned with the MBUX Navi
pack and 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The display vehicle was priced at $219,550 driveaway, while the standard Boronia starts at $203,000. That’s big bikkies for sure, but you get what you pay for and it will be one heck of a capable van.
Jayco: JRV & Crafter Kampervan
As reported from the Melbourne Show, Jayco has released a pop-top version of a Fiat Ducato campervan called the JRV FD.19–4, although its not yet on the Jayco website. Pop-tops on big vans like the Ducato are a European design trend also gaining popularity in North America, and the concept is an interesting one.
In this case it makes the JRV a four-berth motorhome to match its four-seat dinette, with the roof-bed accessed via a removable ladder. The display vehicle was a prototype and I didn't get the full specifications, but the thinking is kids will sleep upstairs and adults on the east-west bed across the back. Fiat Ducatos are the widest vans and so are best for east-west beds, but they’re still most suited to those shorter than 182 cm (6’).
The display van lacked windows in the back doors and when asked about this, the sales person rather brusquely replied, "Of course it will have rear windows". When asked if they would be opening or fixed-glass, he looked at me as if I was from another planet. “They will be fixed. Why would you want opening windows in the back doors when there are opening windows on the sides?”, he replied before huffing away from my stupidity. Why indeed? Priced from $134,990, the JRV is also available without the pop-top for $10,000 less. Presumably, both models will come with fixed back windows…
Jayco’s big news, however, is its deal with Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles to, “Create the Crafter Kampervan, a mighty lifestyle vehicle that will become the halo vehicle of VW's evolving van range,” according to a press release from the German manufacturer. It goes on:
“This latest collaboration between Volkswagen's Australian Commercial Vehicle arm and a local builder, sits atop the Caddy California and Multivan California. Volkswagen is the only manufacturer to offer this range via its dealer network, complete with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
“A living-and-sleeping quarters version of the Crafter, Volkswagen Group Australia's biggest vehicle, the Kampervan will be available in three grades from July: Kampervan; Kampervan Style and Kampervan all-terrain complete with Seikel off-road equipment.
"Crafter Kampervan has been extensively tested at the Anglesea Proving Ground in Victoria, showcasing not only Australian engineering inside the vehicle – but testing and tuning that makes it perfect for local conditions.
“The Crafter Kampervan will come in seven colours, including four two-tone schemes, which are expected to be by far the most popular”.
The display Crafter Kampervan – complete with the 4Motion option and off-road suspension and tyres – looked good and opens a new chapter for Jayco and Volkswagen. However, it will be interesting to see how Volkswagen’s customers respond to a van not 100 percent VW-built. Perhaps opening back windows might help? Final specifications and pricing will be confirmed mid-2022, so fingers crossed for them…
Retro RV: VW Campers & the Kombi Keg
Anyone looking to capture that retro vibe need look no further than the aptly named Retro RV. The company mates restored-but-modified T1 and T2 Volkswagen Transporters to new bodies, to create a modern-day take on VW campers of the 70s and 80s. Individually named and already a semi-familiar sight in some parts of the country, Retro RVs are simply the most adorable “I want one!” RV you’ll ever lay eyes on.
The build process is fairly simple: Old VW's receive a 2.5-litre Subaru Forester heart transplant and either a matching 5-speed manual Subaru gearbox or they retain VW’s 3-speed auto (if fitted). As it happens, I once owned a 1974 pop-top Kombi campervan with a 3-speed auto and it was so slow snails actually passed me going up hills. I can only hope the 3-speeder does a better job with the bigger Suby donk…
The fit-out in the purpose-built body is cosy and inviting, with a big east-west bed at the back (no size problems thanks to the proper body) and a spacious L-shaped kitchen that wraps around behind the cab – there being no through-cab access. The biggest omission is a bathroom, which in a vehicle this size seems a serious one, but probably has something to do with weight limits and axle loadings. Still, if you’re a caravan park person or carry a Porta-Potti and can bird-bath in the sink, you’ll be fine.
Demand for Retro RVs seems to be outstripping supply and at present all are being sold via the company’s franchise arm as rental vehicles for use with Camplify. List price is $149,000 plus $149 franchise fee per week, but Retro RV says each vehicle has an income potential of up to $1900 per week. That’s $98,900 annually, which while probably tinged with blue sky thinking still makes an attractive investment proposition. Food for thought?
Also VW-based but nothing to do with motorhomes, Retro RV’s other business is the Kombi Keg: A Kombi with a row of beer/wine/softdrink taps down the side and a pop-up video screen on the roof! Offered as a franchise business package, the Kombi Keg is perfect for events and would be the ultimate Man Cave accessory. Want…
Suncamper: Sandy Campervan with Camplify & Sovereign Custom
Suncamper again had a wide range of vehicles on display, but perhaps the most interesting was the Sandy campervan, built in the small, LDV G10+ delivery van. The Sandy is also a joint-venture between Suncamper and Camplify (the Airbnb of RVs) and is being sold directly by Camplify as a basic two-person campervan for its rental market. Camplify says that from seven years of data the two-person campervan is the most frequently rented vehicle, with each one returning an average of $15,000 annually. Priced at just $54,999 drive away, the Sandy features a basic but attractive fit-out primarily suited to young backpackers. For a brand new campervan it’s extraordinary value and the Sandy could easily double as a daily driver for two people, with the potential to be a ‘nice little earner’ on the side. More food for thought?
The G10+ is the latest version of LDV’s popular small delivery van and has an updated 2.0-litre turbo diesel driving through an eight speed automatic. The cab is modern and comfortable, and it has sliding doors on both sides, making access a breeze. There’s also a lift-up tailgate that provides shelter for the rudimentary kitchen, which runs across the back. Comparable to the cost of an older, high-milage HiAce or VW a new Sandy makes a lot of sense and it will be interesting to see how the joint-venture develops.
Almost at the other end of Suncamper's range is the Sovereign Custom: a six-berth C-class motorhome and the first production RV in Australia to be built on the LDV Deliver 9 cab-chassis. Not yet on the Suncamper’s website, the Sovereign Custom is also primarily aimed at the rental market – Suncamper runs its own small fleet in addition to its Camplify tie-up – and plans are afoot to secure one for a few days to see what life is like with the new kid on the RV base-vehicle block. Watch this space!
Sunliner – Tone TN441
New on the Sunliner stand was the Tone TN441, a compact B-class motorhome built on a Ford Transit cab-chassis. Sunliner appears to be the first manufacturer to run with the Transit, a situation I find bewildering given its enormous popularity in the UK, Europe and even North America. Perhaps it's the high cost of engineering compliance for an all-new motorhome base vehicle? Or perhaps Ford Australia's apparent apathy towards anything other than utes? Whatever the reason, it's great to see a Transit-based motorhome on the road at last.
The Tone TN441 appears to be based on the Pinto floor plan, which features a roof bed above a pair of inwards-facing lounge/dinette seats immediately behind the cab, a decent kitchen opposite the rear-positioned entry door and a full-width bathroom across the back. Its party trick is a drop-down ‘utility bar’ at the back, whose functions remain something of a mystery (although part of it seems to be a clothes line!) and which houses the spare wheel and a jerry can. Watch for more information on this unique motorhome when it becomes available…
Windsor Daintree v Jayco Conquest RM.20-5
Not actually new but just an interesting observation: Perhaps three years back the Apollo RV Group took over the Windsor caravan business and also launched the Daintree – the brand’s first venture into the motorhome market. Built on the budget-priced and underrated Renault Master cab-chassis, the Daintree was priced below $100,000 on the road and impressed as a value package with a good layout and high standard of equipment. The model has gone on to become a great success for Windsor, which has also gone on to develop a range of larger motorhomes. From its initial value price-point, the Daintree’s cost has risen substantially in those intervening few years and at the show was on sale for $158,990. Call me old-fashioned, but I can't help thinking there's some price gouging in there based on the model’s popularity and long waiting list.
So it was with great interest I spied the Conquest RM.20-5 on the Jayco stand, which appears to feature an identical layout to the Daintree and is also built on the Renault Master cab-chassis. Unlike the Daintree’s functional but rather stark, all-white interior, the little Conquest has a more inviting look and feel, and is priced from $124,990 driveway. Even with an external picnic table and water filtration system, plus a factory towbar and alloy bullbar, the display model – priced at $130,495 – was still $28,495 cheaper than the Daintree. I rest my case…
Next stop on the RV show circuit is the Let’s Go Queensland Caravan & Camping Supershow in Brisbane, from 7-12 June. Watch for a peek at anything new and interesting later that month, and remember that if you’re in the market for a new RV of any type, it pays to do your research and shop around.