61 : Dec 06 2014
because getting there is half the fun...
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About iMotorhome | 3
iMotorhome eMagazine is published twice monthly and available by free subscription from www.imotorhome.com.au. Your letters and contributions are always welcome! Contributors Facebook “f ” Logo
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Jess Ciampa, Emily Barker, Rob Davis Elizabeth & Helmut Mueller
Published by iMotorhome
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T: 0414 604 368 E: email@example.com Roadtest Editor Malcolm Street E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal All content of iMotorhome eMagazine and website is copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of content, however no responsibility is accepted for any inconvenience and/or loss arising from reading and/or acting upon information contained within iMotorhome eMagazine or the iMotorhome website.
â€œIntroducing the new limited edition Sunliner 40th Anniversary Motorhome.â€?
To celebrate our 40th birthday we have taken forty years of knowledge and combined it with the latest technology to create a motorhome that is exciting, stylish and a true reflection of our values of design, innovation and quality.
Personalise your journey....
On my mind | 5
Horses for courses! It’s not often we get to review two van conversions in one issue, especially ones that use the same base vehicle yet arrive at such different outcomes. Indeed, I'm finding it difficult to think of any two more different end products in the van-conversion sphere. I was tempted to call this piece “The Sublime and The Ridiculous,” but that of course is predicated on one vehicle being significantly inferior to the other. Which simply isn’t true. Horses for courses means just that, because neither of these “horses” will ever compete in the same buyer race. The thought behind that reminds me of how easy it is to become enthralled and infatuated with new things at the expense of the familiar/ mundane/old. A case in point is my recent upgrade from a three-year-old iPhone 4S to a new, super-sized iPhone 6 Plus. The new phone does so much more, more easily and bridges the gap between a mobile phone and tablet device. The iPhone 6 Plus lets me leave my iPad at home quite often as its screen area alone is bigger than the whole of my old 4S. This means email, Facebook updates, web browsing and the like are now quite doable from my phone. What it doesn’t mean is there’s anything wrong with the old phone, which will probably work perfectly for years to come and would actually be quite exciting for someone who's never had a smart phone. It’s interesting to note Apple still makes the iPhone 5, meaning not everyone in the mobile phone market is after the latest and greatest. It’s the same with RVs. Price aside, the two HiAce conversions in this issue serve very different markets. The Frontline is a true, traditional campervan. The Autarky 4x4, on the other hand, breaks the mould in so many ways it creates a new
category. Which is best? Neither. It depends on what you need – and what you can afford. So what’s my point? If you’re in the market for a motorhome or campervan don’t overlook mainstream models in pursuit of something new and sexy. Carefully consider your needs as well as your budget and buy with your head, not your heart. Easier said than done, I know, but for the most part you’ll be happier with the longterm outcome.
Christmas thoughts… It’s difficult to believe Christmas is coming around so soon. Religious beliefs aside it’s a great time to reflect on the state of the World – not good – and take stock of our lives. Mrs iM has recently read an interesting book that talks about four ‘pillars’ (my term) to build a healthy life: Regular exercise to stay in good physical shape; healthy eating to keep your insides happy; mental health through good communication in all your relationships, and a sense of ‘belonging’ through feeling/being connected with your local community and environment. It’s more rocket salad than rocket science, but the basis is sound and well worth pondering as you prepare for another Festive Season.
6 | Content
On my Mind
On your Mind
Who we are, where and other legal stuff
Horses for courses!
Share your thoughts for the chance to win $50!
What’s happening in the wider RV world - and beyond
23 iMotorhome Marketplace The latest Marketplace offers
24 Review: eBook Traveller
12 Great Destinations in South Australia – plus win a copy!
Technical: WERKT Update All WERKT up? Our prize winner reports…
Beach combing, iMotorhome style…
Content | 7
Day Test: Xcentrix Autarky 4x4
Mobile Tech: Geo Apps
Next Issue & Show Calendar
Our regular update on what’s happening nationally
Xcentrixity – The search for self sufficiency
Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi Good Lookin’ – Frontline’s Hi-Top HiAce camper
A Whistle Stop Tour of Peterborough’s excellent steam museum!
Getting down to bedrock – and beyond…
What’s coming up and what shows are on soon
Heritage is what Steamtown’s all about and it’s a great experience.
On your mind | 9
Win $50 for the best letter! It’s only fitting that since Ed has his say in On My Mind, you should be able to have yours too. If you have anything to say – or ask – just drop a line to email@example.com and we’ll share it with our readers. We’ll also reward
the most interesting, useful or thoughtful letter each issue with $50 to help you on your way.
Freedom of Choice The Caravan Camping Industry Association of NSW (CCIANSW) is lobbying the NSW State Government ahead of next years election to have its cake and eat it. Click HERE to read the full document and in particular refer to page 13, which clearly sets out the Organisation’s stance on what it terms Non-Compliant Camping. The following comment was posted on the iMotorhome Facebook Page in response:
Winning Letter It seems the industry is missing the big picture. They are talking about holidaymakers and yet we're talking about our lives. Holidaymakers can save up their pennies and go to a caravan park with the kids for a two week holiday each year knowing that the kids will be entertained. We on the other hand are either wanting to see Australia on a limited budget in our golden years, working as we travel, or even travelling in Australia with children and educating the next generation "on the road" with true life experiences. We don't want the shiny new amenities, the new waterslide or jumping castles. We want the freedom to choose; where simple and clean means more and friendly
genuine people make a stay in an area more memorable for all the right reasons. Caravan parks have a growing demographic, just as Freedom of Choice does. Surely this beautiful country we live in has enough room and population for both? As I have said before, I'm sure the CCIA didn't blink an eye when they introduced selfcontained cabins, thereby taking a large market away from local hotels, motels and resorts. The last time I looked we still lived in a democratic society. Maybe someone needs to remind the CCIA of that? All that anyone has ever asked for is the freedom of choice. In our travels we will spend some time in Caravan Parks, especially the new Kui Parks that are cropping up, but will equally spend time in free camps, showgrounds and other facilities where our dollars will go directly to the local community. Alana Not much I can add to that Alana! Please accept this Issue’s $50 and perhaps put it towards your travel fund.
10 | On your mind
Quick & Easy
Hi Richard, I just placed an advertisement in iMotorhome Classifieds. What a great format, it is quick, simple and very straight forward. I am selling my 2013 Winnebago Eyre because I can’t wait to get my hands on the new model. The new 2015 Fiat looks sensational. Also congratulations on the magazine it just keeps getting better.
Thanks Bob! Glad you found it easy and that you like the magazine. You’re right about the 2015 Fiats – can’t wait to get our hands on one soon! Good luck with the sale, here’s hoping we can help you find a buyer.
Hi Richard, Just letting you know that we are booked with El Monte for a USA rental relocation. Going to do 35 days (max time allowable for relocations) from April 23rd 2015 with drop off in San Francisco, so should be pleasant weather with most of our travel during May. We got the 5% discount for iMotorhome readers as well, so thanks for the tip and your interesting article. We start the planning process now, any other tips you can provide us would be well received. Happy to provide you
with feedback once we have completed our trip, too. Cheers, Sue Hi Sue, that’s great to hear and I know you’ll have an absolute ball. Look forward to your report! For anyone else looking to follow suit here is the corrected number for El Monte RV’s Australian agents, who you’ll need to book through to get this great deal: 1300 329 912.
2015 FACTORY NEW VEHICLE RELOCATION SPECIALS
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TERMS & CONDITIONS: *Run of Fleet: may be any size between 22ft & 31ft. up to 21 nights at $49 rate - additional night rate available. No one-way fee. Includes 2,500 miles, taxes, preparation fee, generator usage, GPS, VIP Coverage, airport transfer at drop off. Excludes aadditionalmiles, personal kits, kitchen Kit & fuel. Cancellation & amendment fees apply. Prices are in Australian Dollars & are correct as at 13NOV14. Booking Code RELOC. NOTE: Middlebury is 2 hrs east of Chicago or 45mins from South Bend Airport, IN. Call us for transportation suggestions.
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12 | On your mind
Hi Richard. I am getting more than a little tired of reading how WA is too expensive, won’t allow free camping and the rest. Just to clarify I am not a Western Australian. We live full time on the road in our motorhome now and have seen some amazing sights in the last 6 months in WA. We enjoyed it so much and missed so much that we are going to turn around and do it from the other direction, ending with some Dry Season time in Darwin. What do people expect? To be allowed to stay for free along the coastline in Exmouth, Coral Bay, etc? Then there are the ill informed comments on free camping Social Media such as drive past Exmouth. You can’t! You must make a conscious effort to go there and enjoy what they have, without complaining that you are asked to stay in a Caravan Park and not on the beach. What did these people do in their previous life? Did any of them run a business? Maybe they worked for someone (so they had an income)? Would they like it if someone gave away whatever they made/provided for free in opposition to them? This would mean no business/no job (income). Well that is my opinion and I expect to be drowned out by the Popular Opinion floating around now. Just don’t let the negative comments prevent you from seeing some of the most amazing coastline and both Natural and Man made attractions in this country.
We have recently travelled from the NT/WA border, ending in the Adelaide Hills, doing the coast where possible. Although we are fully set up for free camping we didn’t do a lot but did utilise the rest areas, mainly for breaks. What we found was amazing was through the Pilbara, which seems to be more about FIFO than tourism, were the best rest areas. There are a couple of places that we will not be staying at, such as Derby (we will do a day trip as they don’t want motorhomes for one night as apparently we use too much water!) and Port and South Hedland (as we are either too big to fit or they can fit us but at nearly double the price). Regards, Sue. Thanks for your contribution to the debate and glad to hear you’ve had a great time in WA. It’s always good to hear the other side of the story. What do people want? From what I understand it appears (and I stress ‘appears’) WA has the most draconian rules relating to free camping, with possibly more to come. I don’t think many people begrudge others making a living, but most resent being forced to pay for things they don’t need if there’s a viable alternative. News of the Pilbara rest areas is great, thanks, and helps balance the argument. Safe travels and I hope your return journey is just as enjoyable. Feel free to keep us updated with the good and bad you find along the way. There’s no substitute for first hand reports.
14 | News
Monto Rocks! freedom camping area. Local businessmen John McElroy has been tireless in getting the freedom camping area off the ground and starting next Friday (December 12) Monto is having a street party and offering 72 hours free parking. The site is at the bottom of the main street, in the old railway yards, and is open to all self-contained RVs.
he small Queensland town of Monto copped a bit of a lashing when a local caravan park operator run a newspaper ad opposing the prospect of the introduction of an in-town short-stay
Custom Truck Campers
â€œCome on have some fun with the locals and enjoy country hospitality,â€? John said. If you can make it along why not stop by and show your appreciation to John and the town? For more information call him on 0429 661 075.
222 Governor Road Braeside VIC 3195 Ph: 03 9588 0077 firstname.lastname@example.org www.trailblazersrv.com
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A Trailblazers RV Truck Camper has all the features of a luxury motorhome with the convenience of a slide on. Totally custom built, we design to suit any truck and purpose - touring holidays, fishing trips with the tinny behind, 4WD adventures in the outback, drive into a container for overseas journeys or as a demountable site office. Models include side and rear door layouts, optional slide outs, hard walls or pop tops. All campers are built to order to enable you to choose from a range of features and options including appliances, interior finishes and fabrics. Buy Factory Direct and SAVE
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16 | News
Ballarat ‘Pioneers’ Freedom Campsite
he city of Ballarat, Vic, will open its new free camping area at Pioneer Park on 6 December. Self-contained vehicles will be able to park for up to 48 hours in the new campground at no cost. Located in Wendouree on the outskirts of West Ballarat, the area has been designed to encourage self-contained RV travellers to stay longer in the region. This is a significant event for Ballarat as it’s the first time RVs have been able to stay within the city. The park, whilst having no facilities initially, will offer a pleasant overnight rest area where travellers will be encouraged to practice the Leave No Trace® ideals of camping, as defined by the CMCA. Local members from the Club will be welcoming visitors and providing a sausage sizzle luncheon on the day, and will be monitoring activities at the park.
The Wirraway 260 SL
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18 | News
That's the spirit!
pirit of Tasmania fares will be slashed an average 14.8 %. It’s part of a plan the Tasmanian State Government says will lift passenger numbers by 64,000 a year by 2023, after Cabinet this week approved a business case from TT-Line.
''The new business case unashamedly recommits TT-Line as a passenger-focused enterprise that will be a key driver in the Liberal Government's plan to increase tourist numbers to 1.5 million a year by 2020,'' Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said.
The shipping company believes the plan will:
''The 14.8 per cent average fare reduction delivers on our election pledge to reduce average fares by up to 20 per cent, with a number of fares likely to be discounted well above the 20 per cent figure. This will be achieved through a major refurbishment of both vessels, lower passenger fares and extra day sailings.''
• Cut fares by an average 14.8 % over 4 years, with some fares falling by more than 20 % • Add an extra 64,000 passengers a year by 2023, with an expectation there will be about 44,000 more passengers annually within about two years • Add $220 million a year in tourist spending in the State by 2023 • Add an extra 42 day sailings per year by 2018.
Mr Hidding said the extra day sailings would significantly increase space for caravans, boattrailers and Grey Nomads.
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20 | News
Marketplace Directory Grows!
he iMotorhome website Marketplace Directory is growing. It’s designed to link you with businesses that can help, no matter what you’re looking for. We’d like to welcome the following companies and hope you’ll consider them if and when you’re in need of their specialised services: Custom Towbars and Trailers Custom Towbars and Trailers of Loganholme in Queensland is now in the Mechanical Parts and Products category of our Marketplace. They can design and fit towbars and supply trailers, but also supply and fit Ready Brute towing A-frames and associated equipment, as well as levelling jacks. 4x4 Motorhomes Australia Want to drive your motorhome off the black top – way off, like serious sand, bush and beyond? 4x4 Motorhomes Australia, the latest addition in the Bus and Van Conversions category of our Marketplace, specialises in custom-built offroad motorhomes. Building on Bus 4x4's fully engineered and complianced 4WD conversion kits, 4x4 Motorhomes Australia build, convert and fit-out vehicles to a very high standard.
Gympie Caravan and RV Gympie Caravan and RV is now in the Repairs & Service – Motorhomes category of our Marketplace. They’re the complete one-stop RV shop and provide RV sales, service, spares and repairs; all in a friendly and professional manner backed by 80 years combined experience. They are happy to do small jobs, insurance repairs or convert a Denning Coach from a tour bus to a motorhome – their current project! Happy House Sitters You are about to head off on the big one! Who is going to look after the house, garden and animals? Or you’ve been on the road for a few months and you’d like to stop for a while. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could “mind” someone’s house for a while and take a break? Happy House Sitters, the latest addition to our Work Opportunities and House Minding category in our Marketplace, can answer all your questions today.
Ideal Xmas Gift?
ooking for unbreakable but stylish drink ware? This could be it! This unbreakable drinkware is made from high grade polycarbonates and comes in a wide range of styles. It won’t crack like plastic and it definitely won’t shatter like glass. It's also dishwasher and microwave proof, and the range includes an espresso cup, pilsner glass and whisky tumblers. For more information, or to watch a video of it being run over by a truck and coming away unscathed (yes, really!), click HERE. Available Australia-wide from RV Parts Express.
22 | Resources
because getting them is half the fun...
Missed an Issue? We've got them all saved in one spot for you. Click HERE to view the complete list of back issues.
Missed a road test? No problem! Click HERE to find them all listed by manufacturer. because getting there is half the fun...
Taste of Freedom!
because getting there is half the fun...
Grand Design -
because getting there is half the fun...
because getting there is half the fun...
Esprit de Cor Blimey!
Malcolm Street spends time roaming New Zealand in this compact ex-rental Kea…
Two years on how has the Trakkaway 700 evolved?
Auto-Sleeper’s Malvern is an English motorhome that’s a fine holiday destination in its own right…
Dethleffs ‘baby’ A-class is something to ogle at…
Story and Images by Malcolm Street
Review and images by Richard Robertson
Story and Images by Malcolm Street
Review and images by Malcolm Street
iMotorhome Marketplace | 23
• • • • • •
The Duvalay memory foam sleeping system - for those who enjoy a comfortable nights sleep but hate making the bed. All the comforts of home while you explore the extraordinary! To order simply call (08) 9336 7714 or email email@example.com duvalay-australia.com.au
More Versatile Than Any Other RV Camp Anywhere - It’s Self Contained Large Bathroom With Shower & Toilet Easy To Operate With Electric Jacks Models For Single, Extra & Dual Cabs Plus! Famous Ozcape Quality & Support
Truck Campers Slide Ons Fifth Wheelers 03 9588 0077 www.trailblazersrv.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Snipe... The new way of receiving TV anywhere!
LED Replacement Lamps For Motorhomes & Caravans
Standard Halogen, Incandescent + Fluro bulbs are easily replaced with our wide LED range
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Absolutely Jaw Dropping Sydney Camping Show Specials SNIPE / VAST bundle : $1495 (rrp $2545) SNIPE without VAST : $1295 (rrp $2195) SNIPE TWIN, no VAST : $1895 (rrp $2345) Special pricing subject to availability. Get in Early - Closes Sunday 4 May 2014 Order at show or on line
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No sales experience necessary.
thepainman.com.au Call 0404 661 895
24 | Feature: eBook Review
Let an eBook be your personal travel guide…
lizabeth & Helmut Mueller have been travelling, writing about and photographing Australia for years. In that time they’ve contributed to and edited magazines and now, in semi-retirement, travel at their leisure, photographing and writing about it in depth. Like all good teams Elizabeth and Helmut have their specialist roles: she writes and he photographs – and both are very good at what they do. The Muellers have identified a niche market that combines the power and opportunities of the Internet with their talents to reach a global audience. Their business – eBook Traveller – is a regular advertiser in our pages and ‘Team Mueller’ contributes bespoke travel articles, including Steamtown on page 58 of this very issue. eBook Traveller provides illustrated guidebooks on Australia that you can download to your iPad or Mac and read in the iBooks app (Android devices are not supported). Each edition is beautifully written and illustrated, and includes “video snippets” to enhance your learning and enjoyment. Five guides are available at this stage, ranging in price from free to $9.99. They are:
• Touring Victoria’s Kelly Country – Free • The Googs Track: A desert adventure – $2.99 • The Old Ghan Heritage Trail – $7.99 • To The Inland Sea – $7.99 • 12 Great Destinations in South Australia – $9.99 We’ve been reviewing the 12 Great Destinations in South Australia and it’s terrific. The eBook opens with a map of SA and the destinations dotted across it. They range from coastal locations like Innes and Lincoln National Parks to remote Innamincka in the State’s north east corner. Each is a self-contained adventure that includes what to see, access information and accommodation/camping opportunities, along with Helmut’s excellent imagery. At the end is an Info & Contacts page that provides everything you need to get going. The 12 Great Destinations in South Australia eBook is their largest edition to date and a hefty 400 MB download due to its 142 pages and embedded video (Ned Kelly is 90 MB/43 pages). You can bookmark pages, highlight text and make annotations – just like a ‘real’ book! Unlike a ‘real’ book you can click on even the smallest image to enlarge it, then use you
Feature: eBook Review | 25 fingers to ‘stretch’ it for even more detailed viewing. And unlike a real book you can carry the complete library of eBook Traveller with you for showing friends, idle reading, quick reference or planning your next journey in the middle of your current one! How good is that?
Who: www.eBookTraveller.com.au What: Australian travel ebooks for iPads & Macs with iBooks*.
12 Codes of Christmas – Win A Free Copy!
eBook Traveller is offering 12 lucky iMotorhome readers the chance to download a free copy of 12 Great Destinations in South Australia, valued at $9.99, just in time for Christmas! Simply be one of the first 12 to email letters@ imotorhome.com.au and tell us why you’d like your very own copy! Just be sure you have an iPad or Mac that can run the iBooks app*.
Where: Available from iTunes How Much: From free to $9.99 *Compatible only with iPad or OS X Mavericks or Yosemite. Requires the free iBooks app.
Thinking about a self-drive touring adventure?
Find all the inspiration and information you need for an awesome journey with our ebooks for iPad.
Get your FREE eBOOK for iPad* www.ebooktraveller.com.au * Applies to Touring Victoria’s Kelly Country eBook for iPad
26 | Technical: WERKT Update
All WERKT Up? E
arlier this year we ran a competition in conjunction with WERKT to give away an electronic engine upgrade valued at $1990. In June the lucky winner was announced – Noel Watchorn from Melbourne – and in short order his 2005 Fiat Ducato-based Winnebago Free Spirit underwent the plug-in software upgrade. You can read all about it in Issue 50 of iMotorhome eMagazine.
Noel’s daily driver is a V8 Falcon and he’s something of a self-confessed leadfoot. In the pre-upgrade consultation with WERKT’s proprietor Dom Garfi his desired outcome was increased power, with fuel economy improvements welcome but not the priority. Because the upgrade is tailored to each vehicle and not a one-size-fits-all solution, Dom offers
a range of outcomes at the initial consultation, when he ‘plugs-in’ to read a vehicle’s engine management computer software. He then sends the software to the UK, where computer gurus work their magic and send it back, ready for uploading to the subject vehicle. iMotorhome has been keen to find out the result of this electronic cleverness on Noel’s machine, especially as he was setting off soon after the upgrade to attend the V8 Supercar race in Ipswich, Queensland. Noel keeps records of his travels and had undertaken the same journey a year earlier, recording exact fuel figures. The trip went well and Noel and his wife Mandy also did a number of other shorter journeys, but before he could report Noel endured a bout of illness that has now thankfully passed. Continues...
Technical: WERKT Update | 27 ...continued
he big trip took in a loop from Melbourne through Central Western NSW to Brisbane, then home via the coast on Highway One. Here’s what Noel had to say: “I have now done about 10,000 km since this upgrade, with no side effects on any other vehicle components. As I mentioned when I won the prize I was already looking at having something similar done, but like many people I’m always cautious when spending money when results can't be guaranteed, only generalised.” “Our motorhome went extremely well after the WERKT upgrade. There was heaps of extra power and average fuel economy was 14.3 L/100 km (19.8 mpg). Fuel consumption ranged from 12.5 to 15.8 L/100 km (22.1-17.8 mpg) and obviously had a lot to do with how quick I wanted to get somewhere!”
“I was happy when Dom discussed what I wanted out of the upgrade and was able to program to what I was looking for: extra power with some fuel savings. He certainly got the extra power component organised well and I believe the fuel savings are there, but only if I slow down a bit!” “I would be happy to recommend for anyone to proceed with this upgrade.” iMotorhome is pleased to learn of Noel’s positive experience. It’s a simple way to boost performance that doesn’t involve any mechanical work or add-ons and comes with a money-back satisfaction guarantee. Considering most motorhomes work at or near their designed maximum weights most of their lives, a substantial but not excessive power increase should improve the driving experience all ‘round. Contact Dom on 1300 551 268 if you have any technical questions and/or to make a booking.
Upgrade now for $1199! WERKT is offering a special deal to have your vehicle’s turbo-diesel engine upgraded for just $1199 – a saving of nearly $800 off the usual price! The offer is subject to an appraisal to ensure your vehicle is suitable and must be booked in by 31 January 2015.
Call Dom Garfi on 1300 551 268 for full details!
28 | Feature: Freedom of Choice Camping
Freedom of Choice! A
regular feature keeping you in touch with what’s happened and happening in the world of freedom camping in Australia. These stories and more can be found in detail at the Freedom of Choice website, indexed by state and town, while you can also find the latest news and updates on their Facebook page.
1 Nov – Wangaratta sees the value in the RV tourist “By investing in this vital upgrade we are encouraging visitors back to this great location, which will ultimately benefit the broader region by having more tourists visiting the area and spending their hard earned money.” 1 Nov – Photo of "No Free Camping in Exmouth Shire" sign creates storm on Facebook When Free Choice Camping posted a photo supplied by a reader it created a huge debate on Facebook that raged for days. 4 Nov – Dungog Council looking at its options Dungog Council has put on public display its Draft Report of the Feasibility Study for Low Cost Short Term Visitor Accommodation. 7 Nov – RACQ publishes article supporting and encouraging freedom camping The concept of free camping is exactly as it implies – finding places to camp where you don’t have to pay a fee. It’s becoming increasingly harder to find free camping spots in Queensland, due to restrictions and fees, but there are still a few good ones if you know where you’re going. 8 Nov – Nature-based Parks - Review of Caravan Parks and Camping Grounds Regulations 1997 The WA government is undertaking a review of its own regulations.
Background: Regulation 49 prohibits granting a licence for a transit park or a nature-based park if there is a caravan park or camping ground within 50 kilometres. A National Competition Policy review found regulation 49 to be anti-competitive and recommended that it be removed. It also recommended that a set of minimum standards for nature-based parks become legislative provisions. Following this finding, the repeal of regulation 49 was endorsed by the Caravan Parks and Camping Grounds Advisory Committee and approved by the Minister for Local Government. In addition to the removal of regulation 49, there will also be amendments to the Regulations in relation to nature-based parks. Currently, ‘nature-based park’ is a licence category under the legislation, however, the definition is vague in its current form and requires urgent clarification. Nov 10 – Bathurst looking at attracting the RV tourist and providing facilities “A lack of publicly-available sewage dump points has left Bathurst with the unwanted reputation of not being a ‘grey nomad-friendly’ city,” Council has been warned. “An increasing number of cashed-up older Australians are hitting the road each year in caravans and mobile homes, creating a lucrative market for cities that attract the ageing tourists”. 12 Nov – Byron Bay to consider cheaper options for vanpackers Byron Shire Council is set to discuss a 12-month trial of designated ‘freedom camping’ sites in an attempt to manage the effects of illegal street camping by ‘vanpackers’. A freedom camping notice of motion has been put forward by Cr Paul Spooner and would offer "An alternative between camping in residential streets and more formalised, expensive camping options”.
Feature: Freedom of Choice Camping | 29 12 Nov – Golden Oldies blaze their own trail Interesting Roy Morgan research on the Grey Nomad tourist and where they would prefer to travel. 13 Nov – Mixed views on RV status for Esperance Article appearing in the Esperance Express creates large debate on social media but paper after calling for comments fails to publish any follow up comments. 14 Nov – No frills Network targeted at Grey Nomads A new parks network aimed at travelling nomads on tight budgets makes its national show debut in Victoria at end of November. Kui Parks is a growing group of cost-effective, clean and friendly parks for nomads of all ages. Created by experienced caravanners Bert and Kenau van Spronsen, Kui Parks has signed up its first 20 parks and aims to top 100 within a year. 17 Nov – Julia Creek, a noted RV Friendly town, wins tourism award. 18 Nov – Port Macquarie Council to consider free camping and RV Friendly Town status A free camping management trial started in early September with the placement of No Camping signs in hotspot locations and the distribution of a brochure. A progress report on the free camping management trial and research will be tabled at Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's meeting tonight. 20 Nov – CCIANSW offers advise to the Government leading up to State election "The next NSW State Government has the opportunity to build on a successful formula and stimulate further growth for the caravan and camping sector, which currently delivers close to $2 billion in economic value to the State each year. Delivering its Key Issues, NSW Election 2015 document to Ministers and Shadows this week, the State’s peak industry body, the CCIA NSW, has provided constructive advice on policy measures which will continue to drive future growth for the caravan and camping sector in NSW.”
“Last year we saw a 15% growth in the number of visitors using caravan and camping accommodation in NSW and we know the market has a lot of room for further expansion,” CCIA President, Theo Whitmont said. “Our industry has a great affinity with the Australian way of life, and we have enjoyed considerable growth in recent years, making it now one of the fastest growing and most popular domestic tourism experiences in Australia”. 20 Nov – Here is what the CCIANSW is telling government Take particular note of page 13 with regard to “non-compliant camping”. 21 Nov – Council gives the thumbs up to RV Friendly status 21 Nov – Australian caravan manufacturers travelling well Australian Recreational Vehicle (RV) production statistics released by the Caravan Industry Association of Australia tell a story of recovery and growth in the Australian auto-manufacturing sector. New RV production statistics for September show a year on year growth of 9.8 percent, compared to September 2013, and overall production for 2014 is 5.1 percent higher than it was in 2013. Since 2008, RV registrations have increased by 21.6 % (528,869, up from 414,469). 26 Nov – Esperance Council defers decision of freedom camping trial. Council decides to defer discussion for one month to seek more information. Link is to a document of all the submission they have to wade through. 26 Nov – McKinlay nabs tourism award. An indication of what being an RV Friendly Town can achieve. Interesting comment by the mayor: “Tourism plays a huge part in driving the economy of the North West Region and although we don’t have what would be traditionally called “tourism operators” in our shire, we have around 22 shop front businesses, great events and a community that understands we are all actually in tourism”.
30 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4
! y t i x i r t n e c X In pursuit of self sufficiency… by Richard Robertson
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 | 31
Above: The Autarky 4X4 takes the expression “everything that opens and closes” to a new level. Note generator box in slide-out, beneath bed, and the bathroom cubicle wall revealed behind the driver’s side sliding door. Space in the footwell there is ideal for hoses, wheel chocks, leads and other wet/dirty items. Left: The driving position is fine, but aftermarket seats would significantly enhance the overall experience.
utarky, by definition, is the quality of being self-sufficient. To Nick Reed, proprietor of Gold Coast-based Xcentrix Campervans, surfer and lover of the outdoor life, selfsufficiency is paramount. It's why he’s called this unique vehicle the Autarky 4X4 and it’s one of the reasons he started Xcentrix. Nick is a talented and passionate cabinetmaker who cut his teeth on high-end motorhomes working for Swagman and Paradise Motor
Homes. Xcentrix specialises in custom van conversions, alterations and fit-outs and has also produced camper conversions of Mitsubishi’s popular Delica four-wheel-drive people mover, brought in as low-volume used imports from Japan. Delica supplies have dried up and Nick has been casting his eye around, not just for a replacement, but for a new vehicle he can transform into his vision of the ultimate, self-sufficient getaway machine.
32 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 Top to bottom: This Mitsubishi Delica 4X4 is Nick’s daily driver and converting these low-volume ‘grey’ imports to camper units has been his main business. With tyre pressures lowered and hubs locked-in we hit the beach and the fun began. Both vehicles revelled in the conditions.
A meeting with Brisbanebased Bus 4X4 Australia, specialists in four-wheel-drive conversions of buses and vans for the mining industry, steered Nick from initial thoughts of using a MercedesBenz 4WD Sprinter. Instead, he opted for Bus 4X4’s Toyota HiAce conversion and has produced what is, arguably, the most capable and fullyfeatured compact motorhome in Australia today. It’s also the most expensive for its size, I believe, with the heavily optioned test vehicle providing little change from $200,000 on the road. Ouch! The good news is Nick says he can also offer the same conversion on a low km used all-wheel drive HiAce from Bus 4X4 for about $90,000. If you’re quick you can snap up this demo for $170,000 plus onroads – a considerable saving! “I’ve built the Autarky 4X4 for a very specific market,” Nick said. “Obviously I can’t compete with the big manufacturers, so I’ve chosen a very small market who want a very specific vehicle that will
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 | 33
A HiAce is a HiAce, except when it’s this one. take them almost anywhere and let them stay there for as long as possible, in total comfort.”
Down to Business
In effect what Nick has done is create his ultimate surfing vehicle. Given the base vehicle’s off-road pedigree, however, it should be just as much at home exploring the Kimberley, crossing the Tanami
he business end of the Autarky 4X4 is a Toyota SLWB HiAce with a 3.0 L 4-cylinder intercooled turbo-diesel driving through a 4-speed automatic transmission. Producing just
or navigating the rainforests of Far North Queensland.
Despite its considerable weight – around 3.5 tonnes in normal use – the HiAce/Autarky 4X4 handled the beach without problems. It was good to have a support vehicle along though… 100 kW and 300 Nm the Toyota engine is no ball of fire, but should be quite understressed for the capacity. Similarly, the 4-speed auto is a ratio or two short of its competitors, but should go the distance with expected Toyota reliability. Indeed it's the lure of Toyota reliability, as proven Australia-wide in the mining industry and backed by
34 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 Top: The 4WD conversion is professional and looks like factory original. This reduction unit takes power from the engine and sends it to a central transfer case where it’s redirected to both axles. Below: The battery charger and associated wiring is behind the driver’s seat, for easy access.
a massive parts and service network that is a major part of the vehicle's attraction. The HiAce is as well specced as you can get and features anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, cruise, cab air-conditioning, power steering, power mirrors, electric windows, a reversing camera and a multimedia sound system with Bluetooth and USB input. There’s little Nick could have done to disguise the HiAce’s
basic commercial origins, but a pair of Stratos suspension seats or similar would be a good move. It's underneath the Autarky where Bus 4x4 Australia has done its work – and the magic begins. It is also where a big part of the purchase price originates, with Nick reporting the conversion costs about the same as the HiAce itself! But this is no ordinary bolt-
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervansâ€™ Autarky 4X4 | 35
It's underneath the Autarky where Bus 4x4 Australia has done its work â€“ and the magic begins.
36 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4
The part-time 4WD system coped well with everything the beach threw at it. The auto transmission helped and is by far the best option for sand driving, due largely to its ability to deliver power smoothly from a standing start. on aftermarket kit. The HiAces’s standard independent front suspension is replaced by a Dana live axle with a limited-slip differential, under-axle protection, coil springs and Bilstein shocks. Upgraded rear leaf springs with matching Bilstein shocks and a limited-slip diff in the rear axle are also included. Both axles drive though a custom transfer case with high and low ranges, which are electronically controlled via dash-mounted buttons. The four-wheel-drive system is part time, meaning under normal circumstances only the
rear wheels are driven. That’s fine, but given this level of sophistication and price I was surprised to see manual freewheeling front hubs retained. At least they have simplicity in their favour. The vehicle receives a 140 mm body lift, upgraded 16 inch steel wheels and rides on 245/70R16 LT Sailun Terramax all-terrain tyres, with two spares at the rear. Interestingly, the demo vehicle rode on an older set of wheels and tyres, in anticipation of the caning they were likely to receive during this test! Do I look that scary?
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 | 37 Top: Bright red Bilstein shocks look the business, as do chunky coil springs, although the manual locking hubs seem outdated. Cab access requires an extra big step up. Bottom: Under-bed storage accessed though side locker is ideal for outdoor chairs and the like. All-in-all it’s a comprehensive package that transforms a Clark Kent delivery van into an offroad adventure Superman. Only the Standard 75 L fuel tank seems likely to stop it leaping tall adventures in a single bound, so it's a good thing an optional 130 L long-range tank is soon to be available. All that extra engineering adds weight, as expected, and the HiAce’s gross vehicle mass (GVM) has been dramatically increased from 3200 kg to 3880 kg via the suspension upgrade to compensate. The test vehicle’s tare weight was 3155 kg, but with full tanks (75 L fuel, 120 L fresh water), 2 people and luggage (not sure how much) I’m told it comes in at 3661 kg. That leaves a 219 kg load buffer. It also has a towing capacity of 2200 kg (up from 1440 kg), so taking a tinny along should be pretty easy.
onsidering a HiAce is a bit of an ugly duckling, Nick’s mods make something of a good looking swan from it. Beautiful might be pushing it; best to think of it as ruggedly handsome in a no nonsense, hi-vissie sort of way. One things for sure, it certainly attracts attention. The roof is fibreglass and has been raised 200 mm to provide walk-around headroom. A proper motorhome door with security screen replaces the whizz-bang slider, but the driver’s side whizz-bang has been retained. It opens to reveal the back of the moulded bathroom unit and provides access to the toilet cassette, plus extra storage for wet hoses, leads, a tool box, wheel chocks, a compressor or similar smaller items. Very handy!
38 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4
Hard day at the office. The Autarky 4X4 is designed to deliver maximum convenience and comfort to even the most remote location, and get there via tracks that would prevent a larger vehicle doing so. Cheers!
Other external features include an electric entry step, optional fold-down picnic table and exterior Bluetooth speaker, a Fiamma wind-out awning and a 240 V outlet on the kerb side, while on the roof is a 120 W solar panel, TV aerial, fan hatch over the kitchen, solar bathroom vent and optional Truma airconditioner. On the driver’s side are the mains power connector, water tank filler and mains water connector plus an external shower. Three Dometic Seitz single-hopper windows with integrated insect screens and privacy blinds are fitted; one on each side at the rear and one across the back. But the Autarky 4X4’s party
piece is its unique, full-height bedroom slide-out at the rear, with built-in storage. Electrically operated but with a manual override, the slide-out is rigid and fully weather sealed. On the driver’s side is a thermally ventilated generator box that sits below the bed level, which along with a 2 KvA Honda generator (and rooftop air) are part of a Comfort Pack most buyers would likely order. On the kerb side of it is a hatch that accesses the surprisingly large under-bed storage. Speaking of things electric, the Autarky 4X4 has 2 x 105 AH AGM house batteries and a Redarc 12/240 V 15 amp
The Autarky 4X4 is absolutely built to purpose and in that regard it excels.
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 | 39 Now you see it now you don’t: The rear slide-out is beautifully engineered and almost unnoticeable when retracted. charger; LED lights throughout and multiple 12 V USB and 12 V sockets for charging, in addition to normal 240 V wall outlets. As previously mentioned, fresh water capacity is 120 L (which can be increased), while grey water is 60 L and the toilet cassette is 19 L. Importantly, both fresh and grey water tanks have heavy-duty checker-plate bash guards.
How’s it Drive?
HiAce is a HiAce, except when it’s this one. Despite the extra weight and raised body the Autarky 4X4 rides nicely, with a compliant ride that neither crashes over bumps nor rolls alarmingly in corners. That’s the good news. Steering feel has suffered a bit in the transition to a live front axle and lacks some self-centring as well as precision. The turning circle is considerable enlarged, too, but if you’ve driven a live-axle Patrol, Cruiser or Discovery it will feel quite familiar.
40 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4
Engine noise is subdued at cruise but typically Japanese diesel-clattery under acceleration; a condition not helped with just four ratios for the auto transmission to choose from and all the extra kilos. Visibility is good and seat comfort decent for standard HiAce pews, while in typical Japanese fashion, “All controls fall easily to hand”. The dashboard is steeped in Toyota light commercial tradition (read: grey and dull but functional), while cab access is a little trickier thanks to that raised body kit; like the steering, something you quickly adapt to. A point to make is this vehicle’s whole purpose is to excel off the beaten track. Getting there and back is largely incidental. We dashed across to North Stradbroke Island for a few hours to sample the Autarky 4X4 on pristine beaches, deep sand and through tight bush tracks. Good approach and departure angles (24º/34º) made light work of getting on and off the ferry, while the ramp-over angle of 17º isn’t anything special in 4WD terms, but provides no real problem in the sand. With tyre pressures reduced, hubs locked and 4WD high-range electronically selected we hit the
beaches, and I’m glad to report it took them in its stride: Firm sand, soft sand and even deep soft sand were tackled without problems. Even driving uphill from the beach to the thick coastal scrub, where we followed some tracks to test out its close-quarters handling, didn’t present any problems. You do need to remember the extra height, though, when the going gets tight. While we were driving it struck me there are truck-sized expedition wagons you can buy for not a lot more money and that provide more cab space, living space, water capacity and load ability. What they can’t match, however, is the Autarky 4X4’s nimbleness; it’s ability to venture down a narrow track, squeeze between bushes and trees or do a quick u-turn. They also can’t match its fuel economy, driving ease – especially for copilots only occasionally called upon to take command – and minimal parking requirements at home between adventures. Also, most have pop-top roofs and steep access steps/ladders.
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 | 41 Many small vehicles lack storage, but not this one. A 3-shelf slide-out pantry is just one of many practical inclusions in a very well thought-out interior.
o far I’ve focused on the Autarky 4X4’s mechanical features and off-road prowess, but that’s only half the story. Inside is also where it sets new standards and blurs the lines between a traditional campervan and a ‘proper’ motorhome. By definitions, campervans are primarily for those who love the outdoor life and spend most time outside. The van is often used as a base for a recreational pursuit and just to sleep and sometimes cook in at the end of the day. Public shower and toilet facilities, barbecues and nights around a camp fire are all par for the course, as is the ability to use the camper as a daily driver or second car. Motorhomes on the other hand are usually bigger and self-contained, providing a bathroom with toilet, extensive cooking facilities and even the luxuries of heating and airconditioning. The Autarky 4X4 provides all these and more. It’s the most ‘complete’ small recreational vehicle available in Australia, but like all recreational vehicle designs has its compromises.
If there’s a major limitation in the HiAce’s design it’s the lack of a walk-through cab due to the engine being under the front seats. Some might see this as an insurmountable compromise, but Nick saw it as a design opportunity to maximise space efficiency. The floorplan is simple, comprising a kitchen split by the forward positioned entry door, a front corner bathroom, central dining space and rear slideout bed. What isn't simple is the degree of thought and engineering Nick has incorporated to make the most of the HiAce’s boxy body. It’s fully insulated with foam Insulbreak and fire retardant Earthwool, has lightweight waterproof flooring and foam-backed marine vinyl on the walls and roof. The Autarky 4X4’s interior exhibits a standard of finish, innovation and space efficiency rivalled by few. This is luxury on a grandly small scale, in a vehicle that ‘largely’ rewrites the rules.
42 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 Living Room?
o be honest there’s not a huge amount of room for living inside this vehicle, but that's not what it's about. It's about providing the most comfort and convenience in the smallest possible package and allowing you to enjoy it pretty much anywhere you choose. When you enter the Autarky 4X4 the sink and under-bench 110 L Waeco fridge are on your left, behind the front passenger seat and centre console. You can pass things between the cab and body, but you’d have to be quite the Houdini to get through yourself. There’s a small amount of bench space next to the sink, above the fridge, while nestled in the ceiling directly above this is the optional 900 W microwave, with a small wine rack to the left. The sink, under-sink rubbish bin and storage area and the fridge can all be reached without stepping inside, which is handy. The cooker sits on a stack of three drawers to the right of the door as you enter. It’s a ceramictop Webasto diesel-fired unit, which works in concert with a Webasto hot water system and room heater, making the vehicle LPG-free. At present this system has a separate 12 L fuel supply accessed through a small filler just aft of the main fuel filler, but if you specify the optional 130 L tank it will draw its supply from there. There’s no rangehood, just a cooker-to-ceiling stainless steel splashback, but the door is right along side and there’s a fan hatch in the roof. It’s worth noting you can have LPG for cooking and hot water if desired, which would save a few thousand on the purchase price but introduce the complexities of a gas system and remembering to check/refill cylinders. The bathroom, surely a first in a vehicle this size, sits in the corner behind the driver’s seat, abutting the fridge and microwave. It’s deceptively sized although you couldn’t call it roomy, with a swivel china bowl Dometic toilet in the front (against the outside wall) and a rear wall-mounted shower and a small corner hand
Top: From the door you can reach the bin, sink and even the fridge (at a stretch). Bottom: The bathroom is a very neat installation, as is the tall storage unit aft of it. Note electrical switches in top panel by TV aerial winder, LED ceiling lights and microwave up front.
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 | 43 basin. Surprisingly, a shaving cabinet and mirror is optional and while I didn’t shower in it I did stand inside and go through the motions (don’t laugh – research is a serious business!). It’s quite doable! There’s no roof hatch, just a small, clever solar exhaust fan, but there is an LED light and an opaque door to brighten it up.
Store & More…
here's a remarkable amount of usable and useful storage in this vehicle. A tall storage unit at the rear end of the bathroom has a small panel at the very top that’s home to the electrical switches, slide-out bed switch, battery indicator, tank gauges and cooker and hot water controls. Below it are two doors; the top one revealing two deep shelves and a mirror inside the door, and the bottom one a slide-out three-shelf pantry.
against the cooker and tall storage unit. Dining takes place in a very compact area, the likes of which I haven’t seen before. When the bed is extended it reveals a small inwards-facing chair on either side wall. The bases fold down but have no legs; your weight supported by substantial machined arms and hefty brackets. They are small, upright and not what you’d want to sit on for a long time, but for a meal or while using your iPad at the dining table they are fine. To aid in this there are 12 V sockets and
The centre and rear of the Autarky 4X4 is occupied by the combined dining and sleeping area. When travelling, the slide-out bed butts up
Top: Seats are wall mounted and fine for a meal but not meant for long hours relaxing. Bottom: Dining table mounts off bed-base end and can be swivelled back over the bed when not in use and when driving.
44 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4
Semi-island bed is an oasis of comfort. The slim side tables have USB charging outlets too.
double 240 V outlets in the wall by each seat, while bedside USB outlets are close at hand. Speaking of the dining table, it's stored under the bed and attaches to the end of the bed base via a multi-adjustable Lagun mount. This provides a wide range of positioning options that includes the ability to swivel the table right back over the bed, out of the way. In fact you could leave it there while travelling and just swivel it back into position when required.
ailor made for this model HiAce, the bed slide-out is beautifully finished and provides enough extra room to make the Autarky 4X4 properly liveable.
The bed base is raised somewhat and the bed lifts easily from the front on gas struts to reveal excellent storage and the afore-mentioned dining table and leg. At 1.85 m x 1.4 m (tapering 100 mm at the foot) it’s adequately long, but a foot extension would be good for taller people – like me! The bed/slide unit has a full width window at the head with reading lights and speakers above, and is nicely trimmed. Slimline bedside units provide valuable nicknack storage as well as dual 12 V USB outlets to keep your phone, camera or whatever charging while you sleep. Overhead cupboards run full length down both sides of the body, between the kitchen/tall unit and the HiAce’s ‘normal’ rear wall. The only precaution you need to make when retracting
Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4 | 45 Top: Corner bathroom has all the essentials and enough room to move. Bottom: Bed lifts easily to reveal considerable storage that can also be partially accessed from outside.
the bed is to ensure the dining chairs are folded up. One detail point worth mentioning is the use of simple rubber bungee loops to hold the chairs up and keep the bathroom door closed. Easy-to-use, rattle free and virtually unbreakable, they speak volumes on the thought and attention to detail that’s gone into this vehicle.
What I Think
he Autarky 4X4 is absolutely built to purpose for a very specific market and in that regard it excels. The design thoughtfulness, innovation and attention to detail are as good as it gets, and for a couple or single person with deep pockets and a love of getting away from it all it is, perhaps, the ultimate escape motorhome. My concern is people will first look at the near $200,000 price tag and simply scoff at it as an exotic overindulgence, ignoring the depth and quality of engineering, fit out, inclusions and ability – and I can understand that. For Nick’s sake I hope he finds that handful of insightful and well-heeled buyers he needs every year who see the value and potential in this unique vehicle. I'd like to see him offer a basic twowheel drive HiAce version for those who love the concept and features but don't need the all-terrain ability – and to build a version on the Sprinter four-wheel-drive. The Autarky 4X4 is a unique mini-motorhome that transcends boundaries, rewrites the rules and shows what can be done when someone thinks outside the box they’re building in. Here’s hoping enough buyers catch the vision too.
46 | Day Test: Xcentrix Campervans’ Autarky 4X4
Specifications Xcentrix Campervans
3.0 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel
100 kW @ 3400 rpm
300 Nm @ 1200-2400 rpm
Gross Vehicle Mass
5.65 m (18 ft 6 in)
1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
External Height with A/C
2.90 m (9 ft 6 in)
1.84 m (6 ft 1 in)
1.85 m x 1.4 m (6 ft 1 in x 4 ft 7 in)
Webasto Diesel X100
Waeco 110 L, 12 V compressor
Dometic 900 W (optional)
12 V LED
2 x 100 AH
1 x 120 W
Truma Aventa (optional)
Webasto Dual Top Evo diesel
Webasto Dual Top Evo diesel
Wall, flexible hose
Grey Water Tank
Price from (on road, QLD)
Price as tested (on road, QLD)
Demo for sale
$170,000 (plus on-roads)
Pros • • • • • • • •
Good 4WD ability Features for the size A bathroom! Practicality Quality Innovation Toyota parts & service Japanese reliability
• Price • Steering feel • HiAce a bit dated
Xcentrix Campervans Unit 1, 66 Bundall Rd Bundall. Qld. 4217 T: 0431 314052 E: email@example.com W: www.xcentrix.com.au
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Great things come in small packages With BUS 4x4â€™s electronically controlled part-time 4WD, high lift conversion, the Autarky SLWB HiAce motorhome is a very capable off-road vehicle. Our custom fit-outs are professionally manufactured and we can configure your motorhome to suit your specific requirements. Contact us today to discuss the possibilities.
1300 287 494
48 | Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape
Hi Good Lookin'
Frontline’s Hi-Top HiAce, that is… by Malcolm Street
Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape | 49
hilst many RV travellers in their younger years started out in a campervan of some sort, most later moved on to motorhomes. However, the humble campervan still has much to offer the budget/lightweight/ keen-to-go-anywhere traveller.
vehicles that have come and gone, but the VW and HiAce have been the long stayers. That is certainly the case at Sydney-based Frontline Camper Conversions, where both the VW T5 and the HiAce still reign supreme; the latter being our review model.
Although base vehicles for motorhomes have Enter the Hi-Top changed over the last 15 years, those for or the most part Frontline build pop-top campervans have not. In years gone by the conversions, but in this case the curiously vehicles of choice were either a Volkswagen named L-Shaped Hi-Top has a moulded Transporter or Toyota HiAce and that is mostly the case today. Of course there have been other fibreglass roof, which has been developed in-
50 | Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape The Hi-Top blends in well with the HiAce’s boxy body and provides permanent head room and proper windows, unlike a pop-top.
house by Frontline. It's a good fit and looks like part of the original vehicle. Undoubtedly one (or should that be five?) of the excellent features are the opening windows. There's nothing like good ventilation in a camper this size, not to mention a high level of natural light. Apart from the Fiamma F45 awning there are a few other clues that this might be a campervan and they’re mostly on the drive’s side: power socket, fridge vent and water tank filler. Being a light commercial van conversion there are two entry doors: the sliding side door and hinged
rear door. Those, apart from anything else, give easy access, especially at the rear with the optional protection bar and step. Powering the HiAce is a 2.7 L petrol engine. It puts out a maximum of 111 kW and 241 Nm of torque, which gives a more than acceptable performance when driving through the 4-speed automatic gearbox. There are a couple of options here: a 3.0 L 100 kW turbo diesel is available that’s lower powered but has a much higher torque (300 Nm) output, but adds about $4000. If a manual gearbox is acceptable that
Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape | 51
I have to say the bucket seats are certainly an improvement on the bench seat on earlier models.
52 | Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape
Left: Walk-through headroom is great and adds a real sense of spaciousness. Below: Kitchen is easily accessed via the rear door, which also provides protection when the weather turns bad.
lops about $3000 off the price on either diesel or petrol. Behind the steering wheel the HiAceâ€™s controls and instrumentation, including those on the steering wheel are functional, but lack the chic of European vehicles. The slight oddity is the under dash handbrake, which harks back to older vehicles but keeps out of the way of the centre seat passengerâ€™s legs when a bench seat is fitted. I have to say the bucket seats are certainly an improvement on the bench seat
on earlier models. Between the seats a centre console offers a decent size space for all the usual items needed when travelling.
his floorplan is different to the usual campervan layout because of the L-shaped lounge directly behind the cab. This has a removable pole-mounted table, while at night the lounge converts to a bed, which leaves the rear area for both kitchen and
Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape | 53
Clockwise from top: L-shaped lounge has storage below and converts quickly to a bed. Dining table is a good size, while roofline windows give plenty of extra light and fresh air. Thereâ€™s extra storage above the cab, which is ideal for bedding. general storage. Timber with a laminate finish is used for the general cabinetry work and it gives a simple but effective finish. Although this campervan has a hardtop, none of the airspace above the original roof line is used for anything except an all-round shelf. That might sound a bit of a waste of space but given the confined nature of the interior it's good for space perception reasons, not to mention being less top heavy when driving.
Within the confines of the van the dinette offers a reasonable amount of seating space, while a small cabinet occupies the space between the end of the lounge and the doorway. Not only does it provide cupboard space and a bedside cabinet, it also acts as a small barrier between the end of the seat and the doorway. Under the wall seat is a good sized drawer â€“ much easier to use than either a ply hatch or floor locker door. Two LED reading lights mounted above and behind cab seats do double duty as lighting for both lounge seat and bed.
54 | Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape The kitchen has full standing headroom and enough equipment for any likely journey. Storage is good and the spirit stove keeps the camper LPG free, but does take longer to cook.
Making up the bed is quite simple. First, lift out the table and stash it behind the rear cupboard. Then pull out the seat base (complete with fitted legs) from the side and transfer the back cushions to make up the bed. It measures 1.80 m x 1.24 m (5 ft 11 in x 4 ft 1 in). It has to be said that the bed is not particularly long but I suspect that if you are keen on the camper, then Frontline might shorten the rear cabinets.
n that subject, or to be more specific the kitchen area, it's surprisingly large given what has been squeezed in. Fitted into the kerb-side kitchen cabinet are a round stainless steel sink and a two burner methylated spirits cooktop with a hinged lid that together with the adjoining forward cabinet offers some bench top area for food preparation. The
Although not immediately obvious, this camper does have an external shower.
Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape | 55 Top: The fridge is within easy reach of the lounge/ dinette, as are the electrical switches on the end panel. Bottom: The bed makes up quickly but needs to be put away each day, as is usual in campervans.
forward cabinet is set back slightly to make access easier but it does offer more precious storage space. Under both the cooktop and sink, sliding doors give access for stashing all the kitchen essentials. At the rear of the kitchen bench are an LED light for illuminating the sink and a 240 V power point. Fitted into the cabinet on the opposite side of the walkway are an 80 L fridge, microwave oven and cupboards of various shapes and sizes, plus an open shelf above. On the front side of the cabinet, handily adjacent to the seat, is a small 12 V switch panel with both 12 V and 5 V socket charger outlets, together with a TV antenna connection, and there's a matching socket on the outside of the van. Although not immediately obvious, this camper does have an external shower. Being at the rear, the tap fitting for the kitchen sink also doubles as an external shower. And being under the lift-up tailgate, that area can be enclosed for privacy.
56 | Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape
What I Think
ost campervans available in Australia for the private market tend to be the pop-top variety, so it's certainly of interest when a high top model is available. The downside is of course that the campervan sits taller on the road, but I don't think that's much of a disadvantage except in undercover carparks and other places with height barriers. What this L-shape model also offers is a layout different to the more usual rear bed seat/sideways lounges layout, yet still with room to move inside. Of course the bed has to be made up every night, but with campervans there's nothing unusual about that at all.
Quick Spin: Frontline HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape | 57
Frontline Camper Conversions
HiAce Hi-Top L-Shape
2.7 L petrol
111 kW @ 4800 rpm
241 Nm @ 3800 rpm
Gross Vehicle Mass
4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)
1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
External Height with A/C
2.50 m (8 ft 2 in)
1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
1.80 m x 1.24 m (5 ft 11 in x 4 ft 1 in)
Origo 3000 Methylated Spirits
Engel 85 litre, 12 V compressor
12 V fluorescent & LED
1 x 100 AH
1 x 60 W
Grey Water Tank
Price from (on road, NSW)
• Moulded hard top • Multiple side windows hi-top • Relatively good amount of internal storage • Internal lighting • 12 V/5 V charger points
Cons • Being a Toyota, no cab walk through • A few minor finish issues • Metho stove slower than LPG • Under-dash handbrake
Frontline Campers Click for Google Maps
36 Cross Street Brookvale NSW 2100 T: (02) 9939 0600 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.frontlinecamper.com.au
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58 | Travel: Steamtown
All aboard for a rockin’, rollin’ ride through the glorious days of rail… Words by Elizabeth Mueller. Images by Hans Mueller.
Travel: Steamtown | 59
Top: Engines and rolling stock from different eras are housed in the impressive roundhouse. Left: Stop me not, but let me jog for I am Bob, the driver’s dog.
t Peterborough in the mid-north of South Australia, a bronze statue of a scruffy little dog sits to attention outside the visitor info centre. He’s Bob the railway dog, a likeable little character who called Peterborough home in the 1880s.
pursuits the settlement had developed on. By the 1920s railway staff numbers at Peterborough were pushing past the 1500 mark and the town’s expansion boomed. Peterborough enjoyed a noisy, bustling era as a railway hub for more than 100 years, but as with so many pioneering industries its time came to Bob’s quite the celebrity – for a dog, that is. an end. The rich history, however, has endured, He’s had poems and books written about him, thanks largely to the local railway preservation and he even has his own website and Facebook society. page. But despite Bob’s almost-a-star status, he’s not the main attraction at Peterborough. Steamtown takes advantage of much of the That distinction goes to Steamtown, an award- infrastructure from Peterborough’s glory days as winning heritage experience that pays tribute to a depot and workshop, once one of the largest the grand age of rail transport. in South Australia. The roundhouse, now listed on the register of the National Estate, is mostly The Steamtown complex has excellent intact and it’s the most likely place for visitors credentials to act as a showcase for what was to begin their guided tour. Don’t be put off by a huge industry not too many years ago. When the “guided” part of the tour, however. The folk the railway officially arrived in the district in early who head these tours are locals with a personal 1880 it quickly became an important business appreciation of their histories. And, like the story and grew to overshadow the agricultural of Steamtown itself, the tours roll on without a
60 | Travel: Steamtown Left: Maintenance yard workhorse, a shunting diesel. Circle: All the little details count when it comes to a sympathetic restoration. Right: A. Looking over different carriages is a lot of fun.
designated start or end – there’s no waiting for the next one to begin. For many travellers the main drawcards here are the engines; those huge, imposing locos that bring a smile to any kid’s face. While the tour includes a bit of a formal blurb about the working lives of different engines, how they were acquired and how they were restored, there’s also a bit of hands-on experience as well. If you’ve ever wanted to see under a steam engine without getting down and dirty, this is the place to do it – via a maintenance pit that puts the workings at eye level.
Other walkways and platforms offer different views, too, and open cabs can put you in the driver’s seat – literally. Not all of the engines are from the steam age and a personal favourite is NSU 55 that once headed the legendary Ghan. On a different part of the tour, keen eyes will pick out another Ghan diesel crowded behind stock still waiting for restoration and another chance at glory. Of course rail transport isn’t just about those massive engines and Steamtown has an excellent collection of rolling stock and maintenance vehicles. A prized exhibit is a 1937 Morris motor inspection car that’s still in
Travel: Steamtown | 61
Watch your speed in and out of the shed!
62 | Travel: Steamtown
working order. The communications “system” on the Morris is a beauty. Carriages show a real cross-section of railway life. Blokes who lived “on the rails” as a job had a mobile ablutions block to support them during field maintenance work, though the facilities are politely described as basic. Some of the passenger carriages are basic, too. There are also carriages set up for more utilitarian purposes, like the child health care car that would transport nurses and their equipment to remote settlements. Visitors are welcome to wander through most of these exhibits. The first class carriages give a hint as to the opulence that sometimes surrounded 1920s rail travel. Wood panelling, real leather, individual cabins, ornate sinks – all the small details that
constitute first class have been beautifully reconditioned. There’s even the clickety-clack of racing along the rails, though it’s the smoothest ride of all as discreetly located speakers create a total atmosphere. Naturally, the first class lounge is where many visitors gather for a quick break in the tour, relaxing in armchairs and waiting for the barman who never arrives. Not surprisingly the chatter tends toward the wonder of the railways, as well as those props that the more, umm, mature among us might recognise from our younger days. The volunteer tour guides of Steamtown really do know their stuff and I admire how an increasing barrage of questions can be so
What a classic! Everyone loves the Morris motor inspection car.
Travel: Steamtown | 63 Top: Afternoon tea, anyone? Below: This kitchen car’s a beauty, though it must have been interesting when things were on the boil.
expertly fielded, especially when personal experience can be added here and there. The guides aren’t the only volunteers at Steamtown, though. There’s a team of passionate people behind every aspect of the attractions, from those who collect the entry fees to others who source and arrange transport for exhibits and on to those who do the restorations. Even the local high school helps out as students go there to learn real world skills like wood and metal work. Steamtown also supports the ‘work for the dole’ scheme and the hard yakka put in by people connected with that program makes a real difference. It all adds up to a good sense of community, something carried right through town. Peterborough’s facilities have earned it RVFriendly status and its caravan park has been called one of the quietest and most pleasant to be found. Besides Steamtown there are
64 | Travel: Steamtown Top: These cars still need a bit of work. Circle: There’s always something more to see at Steamtown. Below: Hmm… sounds like good advice.
plenty of other local attractions, including the Dragon’s Rest garden, a motorbike museum and the tiny artworks of Meldonfield’s Miniatures Collection. With a range of impressive buildings, a walk around town is an attraction in itself. There’s no shortage of places to eat when in Peterborough and there’s a choice of hotels that offer pub grub, plus there are cafes and a restaurant. The town also boasts a supermarket, butcher and service station among its facilities and there’s night-time entertainment as well – at Steamtown! After sunset at Steamtown the lights go on for a show that “moves through the tunnels of time”. The old roundhouse, with the noses of engines poking into view, is an awesome backdrop for a sound-and-light show, while sitting in a carriage from 1916 that overlooks the triple-gauge turntable enhances the mood. Steamtown really is a great heritage experience and one that’s not just for rail enthusiasts. Though the day time tour is said
Travel: Steamtown | 65
to take about 90 minutes it’s not too hard to spend a couple of hours there, and apart from those access platforms and a few tricky steps to carriages, the going is flat and easy. Of course there’s a cost for the tour: $17.50 per adult or $15 each concession, but thanks to Bob the railway dog travelling pooches get in free!
Fast facts •Peterborough is in the mid-north of South Australia, about 250km from Adelaide • Steamtown is approximately a hop, skip and jump from the town centre, with plenty of parking for large rigs • Steamtown tours start at 9 am and it’s suggested to arrive before 3.30 pm to have enough time for a good look around before the complex closes at 5 pm
Top: A lounge car proudly carries the Steamtown name. Below: Inside the diesel shed.
• Steamtown is open year-round (closed Christmas Day) and admission is $17.50 for adult and $15 for concessions • The sound and light show operates every night from sunset and cost is $20 per person. For more info visit: • Steamtown – steamtown.com.au • Peterborough – peterborough.sa.gov.au • Bob the railway dog – bobtherailwaydog.com
66 | Mobile Tech: Geo Apps
Geo Apps! Getting down to bedrock and beyondâ€Ś By Emily Barker
Mobile Tech: Geo Apps | 67
ne of the great joys of traveling is getting to experience firsthand the rugged beauty and incredibly diverse terrain of this amazing country. A reader recently requested we look into the extensive world of apps to try and discover one that could assist in identifying various topographical geological formations and the processes by which they were formed. The answer, surprisingly, isn’t “There’s an app for that!” Well there is, but not for Australia, not yet.
areas you intend to visit. This all sounds great if a UK trip is on the cards! The British Geological survey certainly know their apps and with any luck Australia will soon follow.
iGeology is the epitome of such natural investigation, boasting over 500 individual maps, meaning Britain can now literally be explored from the inside out! You can discover the geology you’re standing on, with detailed descriptions of the bedrock and superficial geology of an area as well as explaining how certain features were formed. Suitable for any level of interest this app gets a mention from professional geologists to casual bushwalkers alike. It’s GPS driven, but has search features to allow for offline access of
Google Earth Free Category: Travel Updated: 26 June 2013 Version: 7.1.1 Size: 29.2 MB It may sound a little clichéd, but Google Earth really is the best tool to assist with any topographical navigation or discovery of your local surface geology. Especially with the new 3D, tilt and ground view navigation features
Until then here is a brief list of apps available for both iOS and Android devices that are all informative and celebrate the natural wonders of the land. Surface geology often gets a mention in literature provided by national Parks and local tourism groups.
68 | Mobile Tech: Geo Apps
recently optimised for the iPad. It’s an essential addition to every traveller’s app list. There are many interactive actions you can utilise when using Google Earth from a geological point of view. Landscape features such as mountain ranges, valleys and rivers systems can be viewed from a variety of angles using the tilt feature, including street or ground view. Some particularly prominent landforms offer a virtual 3D tour, which can be quite breathtaking. As you discover an area more closely you will notice small icons appear. These are links and depending on the type offer a variety of information from Wikipedia articles to contributed videos and photo imagery. Whether you are planning a journey or familiarising yourself with an area, Google Earth has volumes of useful information that will be sure to impress.
Earth As Art by NASA Free, for iPad Category: Education Released: 22 Nov 2012 Version: 1.0 Size: 190 MB Earth as Art is not necessarily a scientific app, but it certainly is an amazing one. Featuring stunning photos of Earth taken from NASA’s satellites over the last 50 years, the result is a spectacular gallery of images that captures the Earth’s aesthetic beauty from above. You can pinch and zoom your way through high-resolution images of the surface that are vivid in colour and texture. Each image has a brief description of the location and landscape, often including the geological background as well as information such as the acquisition date and the satellite responsible. This app is not one designed for use in any practical situation, its role is purely to share the rich colours, textures, shapes, patterns and
Mobile Tech: Geo Apps | 69
ultimate beauty that is our world. You can also view decades of changes in the Earth’s surface, its oceans and even the atmosphere and sun. Each image within this ‘World of Change’ series is accompanied by a feature article outlining the apparent ecological causes for such often dramatic transformations. This is quite a large app but one you can easily spend hours exploring. EarthViewer by Howard Hughes Medical Institute Free, for iPad Category: Education Updated: 27 Aug 2013 Version: 1.1 Size: 162 MB This is another app designed for theoretical use rather than practical application, but when it comes to better understanding the world
around us it literally takes us billions of years back! Presented in the familiar Google Earth fashion, the wonders and beauty of Earth can be explored as you navigate around the globe with a geological timescale panel to the left. Explore how the continents danced across the Earth’s surface from the beginning of time to the modern day. You can navigate to a desired period in time or set an automated video running. You can overlay major events in history such as impacts and mass extinctions to find out when and where they occurred. Major cities are marked on the map too so you can see familiar land shapes shift position and alter with time, you also have the ability to layer your view with atmospheric composition, temperature, biodiversity, day length, and solar luminosity to better understand the changes taking place. In terms of geologic history this app presents some quality data, including many details of major epochs of Earth's history.
70 | Mobile Tech: Geo Apps There's Nothing Like Australia By Tourism Australia Free Category: Travel Updated: 18 October 2013 Version: 2.0 Size: 181 MB This app is part of Tourism Australia’s biggest advertising push to date and while it does not
specifically fit into the category of ‘geological interest’ by nature it covers several well-known natural Australian landmarks. We are perhaps spoilt for choice when it comes to remarkable landforms, Australia is home to many uniquely spectacular places to visit, all with a rich history or tale to tell. As with any tourism based product this app is heavy with beautiful imagery and glamorous video but light on actual information, it’s a free app that’s well worth a look though.
Mobile Tech: Geo Apps | 71
Geoscience Australia For those genuinely interested in discovering the geological science and history behind the Australian landscape I highly recommend visiting the Geoscience Australia website. Although not as convenient as an app, certain maps and features can be downloaded for use offline. The features this web site offers, however, are simply brilliant! There are general and thematic maps of every description, interactive 3D models, spectacular aerial and satellite photography, a wide range of handy and practical online tools and an absolute wealth of data on every geological topic conceivable. There are currently two apps available from Geoscience Australia too; both are professionally presented and provide a comprehensive look at the geological timescale relevant to Australia. I would also keep a close eye out for further app releases, given the recent release dates, quality and innovation of this department!
Geological Timescale: Australia through time By Geoscience Australia Free Category: Education Released: 13 August 2014 Version: 1.0 Size: 18.8 MB Geoscience Australia Time Walk By Geoscience Australia Free Category: Education Released: 12 August 2014 Version: 1.1 Size: 17.9 MB If you too have a specific area of interest you would like us to look into, feel free to let us know!
72 | Next Issue
A Premium Xmas! N
From across the Tasman we also have a Burstner Ixeo IT664, courtesy of Smart Motorhomes, who use them in their luxurious Wilderness rental fleet as an Escape 4. Confused? Don’t be. All will be revealed! We also have a peek at the recent Christchurch RV show to report on what’s hot and happening on NZ’s South Island.
ext issue and just in time for Christmas we bring your a review of Avida’s luxurious Esperance Premium A-class. Built on an Iveco 50C18 and filled with all the comforts of home it could be just the thing to pop on your last minute wish list!
February 06-08 22-26 11-16
Newcastle Caravan, Camping & Holiday Expo Newcastle Entertainment Centre and Showgrounds Broadmeadow NSW 2292 • Open 9:00-5:00 daily (4:00 Sunday) • Parking: Free • Adults: $25 • Seniors: $20 • Kids: Free U 16 years with adult
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We are back in the two week cycle now and next issue appears on Saturday 20 December. Until then why not join our more than 17,0000 Friends and Twitter followers Facebook for news and plenty of laughs? See you just before Xmas day!
February 11-16 22-26 11-16 Melbourne Caravan, Camping & Holiday Supershow Melbourne Showgrounds Cnr Epsom and Langs Roads, Ascot Vale. Vic 3032. • Open 10:00-5:00 daily (4:00 final day) • Parking: Free • Adults: $20 • Seniors: $16 • Kids: Free U 15 years with adult
Adelaide Caravan & Camping Show Adelaide Showground, Goodwood Rd, Wayville SA 5034 • Open 10:00-6:00 daily • Parking: $7 • Adults: $13 • Seniors: $10 • Kids: Free U 15 years with adult
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