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iMotorhome

magazine

Issue 69: Apr 04 2015

because getting there is half the fun...

See Win!

$50 for the! best letter

Breeze! A Power of Good!

Kicking back in Tiffin’s Allegro Breeze 32…

Battery types explained…

Pros not Cons

Building the perfect custom camper!

Up Up and Away!

Canowindra’s 2015 Ballon Challenge takes off…


The Most Recognised Name in Motorhomes

2015 range of Motorhomes, Campervans and Caravans now available across Australia

Find a Winnebago dealership near you. Visit: www.gowinnebago.com.au Licensee and authorised distributor of Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest City Iowa USA


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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Facebook “f ” Logo

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Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Jess Ciampa, Emily Barker, Elizabeth & Helmut Mueller

Published by iMotorhome

Design and Production

PO Box 1738, Bowral. NSW 2576. Australia.

Design & Production Manager

ABN: 34 142 547 719

E: agnes@imotorhome.com.au

Agnes Nielsen

T: +614 14 604 368 E: info@imotorhome.com.au W: www.imotorhome.com.au Editorial

Advertising Advertising Manager Keith Smyth M: 0408 315 288

Publisher/Managing Editor

T: 03 9579 3079

Richard Robertson

E: advertising@imotorhome.com.au

T: 0414 604 368 E: richard@imotorhome.com.au Roadtest Editor Malcolm Street E: malcolm@imotorhome.com.au

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.


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On my mind | 5

Anniversary… Three years ago this month I got to work on making iMotorhome a reality. It meant leaving behind a cushy-but-dull job I’d unexpectedly fallen into as an advertising agency copy writer for the uncertainties of self employment. I put together a magazine mock-up and together with Malcolm did the rounds of the Sydney Show, calling on people we knew to gauge their reaction. The emagazine concept was new and there was a lot of “Um, well, it looks interesting, but…” as well as enough “That’s a great idea!” to encourage us to carry on. Issue one appeared on 5 May 2012. I can’t say we’ve taken the market by storm, but our growing subscription base and the genuinely positive feedback we get from readers like you shows we’re on the right track. They say the first three years of any new business are the most difficult and we’ve certainly faced some challenges. But the major one – attracting new advertisers and retaining existing ones – will likely remain our biggest. I still find it amazing some people think that because we don’t print things on paper our services should be free. Another major challenge is our twice-monthly production schedule. It seemed a good idea at the time – so did the Titanic – and does give advantages over our paper-bound competitors, but it’s a good thing I didn’t realise at the time just how much work it would entail. For example, it’s been a busy two weeks since last issue; what with a flying day trip to the Gold Coast to check out the $400,000 Tiffin Allegro Breeze A-class, plus three nights away in a Trakka Jabiru culminating in the media launch of Canowindra’s Challenge Balloon Festival. Fortunately we seem to have become good jugglers of time and when each publishing day rolls around there’s a new magazine issue ready to go.

As anyone who works for themselves knows, set working hours, days off and weeks of paid holidays become a thing of the past. Apart from the few days spent sitting on planes heading to/from our American adventures there hasn’t been a single day in the last three years that I haven’t done something work related. Not that I’m feeling sorry for myself or asking for sympathy, it’s just an observation. iMotorhome isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle. Speaking of observations, it’s Good Friday morning as I write and I’m watching a steady trickle of 4WDs with camper trailers heading past our gate and down the Wombeyan Caves Road. It’s the same every holiday weekend: Sydney people escaping their 9-5 humdrum for the ‘adventure’ of a few nights under canvas. I watch them come back at the end of the break too, usually dusty or muddied as they head for suburbia and the routine of their jobregulated lives. As uncertain and demanding as iMotorhome is I wouldn’t swap it or the freedom it brings for any Monday to Friday security. A lottery win would be handy though… To those of you still working but dreaming of, or preparing for, retirement and your new life on the road, thanks for reading iMotorhome. To those of you already retired and enjoying life on our highways and byways, thanks also! And to those of you now able, but who haven't made the leap to chase you dream – whatever it might be – just do it. Because you might not get another chance and life is short, but thanks for reading iMotorhome anyway. Here’s to the next three year!

Richard


6 | Content

3

About Us

8

Resources

Who we are, where and other legal stuff

Find back issues and more on our website

5

On my Mind

11

On your Mind

26

Marketplace

Anniversary…

Share your thoughts for the chance to win $50!

14

News

30

Day Test: Tiffin Allegro Breeze 32

50

Technical

56

Reader Report: Custom Fiat Ducato

60

Travel: 2015 Canowindra International Balloon Challenge

68

Mobile Tech: My Environment

72

Next Issue

What’s happening in the wider RV world and beyond

The latest Marketplace offers

Shooting the Breeze – but one day just wasn’t long enough!

Power of Good – Batteries explained…

Pros Not Cons – One man’s pursuit of the ultimate van conversion

An annual event that’s really taking off!

Two apps for those who care about their environment…

What’s coming up and which shows are on soon!


iMotorhome

resources

8 | Resources

because getting there is half the fun...

Magazine Resources Ask a Question

Back Issues

magazine

iMotorhome

because getting there is half the fun...

Esprit de Cor Blimey!

Road Tests

User Guide

Marketplace

Subscription

Dethleffs ‘baby’ A-class is something to ogle at… Review and images by Malcolm Street

Reader Survey

Reader Review


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On your mind | 11

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 letters@imotorhome.com.au and we’ll share it with our readers. We’ll also reward

Bucket of Tricks!

Just a quick email to say how much I enjoy the magazine, especially the ingenious things people come up with. I found this tip on the internet a little while back for joining power leads and keeping them dry and it works fine, although cutting holes in a plastic bucket is easier said than done. I use tent pegs to secure the leads either side of the bucket to stop the connection from sagging, and sometimes stuff scrunched up plastic shopping bags into the holes to stop water entry if it looks like heavy rain or is windy. It will certainly do until I can afford one of those fancy Ampfibian connectors!

the most interesting, useful or thoughtful letter each issue with $50 to help you on your way.

Thanks Artie, looks like a good idea to me. Please accept this issue’s $50 for your effort, which will go some way towards a “fancy Ampfibian”!

Cheers, Artie.

Careful! Hi Richard. I read with interest last issue the idea of the yellow light over the doorway of a motorhome to ward off insect pests. May I suggest that a red light is not used instead (or by mistake) as it could well attract pests of a different sort! Thanks for an interesting magazine that I look forward to down loading. Regards, Neil.

What can I say? Great advice Neil – and one I’m sure our readers will be careful to consider… ;)


12 | On your mind

Tooraweenah Calling…

Hi Richard. We wondered who iMotorhome was when you 'liked' our Facebook page and now we know! We had some guests who stayed last night because of your article and educated us! Thank you for going the extra kms to find us after visiting the Gilgandra Visitor Centre last month.

stopping in, but also for including us in your article. If you should pass this way again please do not hesitate to call in to say hi.

There was something however that wasn't quite right. Whilst we do not have an actual camp kitchen we do have barbecues, three in fact (one of which is in a photo you published), all gassed and free to use; a microwave for guest use (which is in the laundry along with our book exchange) and a double kitchen sink with hot and cold running water at the rear of the amenities block. We are sorry you were not told of these facilities, but they are there!

It was our pleasure to stay in your neat, tidy and affordable park, Geoff and Sarah, and sorry about the barbecue mix-up. Hopefully this will set the record straight! Glad iMotorhome has brought you some extra business, hopefully we can bring you more in the future too. People like you give caravan parks a good name and I’d encourage any readers heading through the Coonabarabran/Gilgandra/ Warrumbungle National Park part of NSW to put your park on their itinerary. We’ll certainly be back, especially to see how how our watermelon plant is going. You should have found it by then!

Now, will you tell us where you parked, we'll need to keep an eye out for a melon plant beginning to germinate! Once again, thank you for not only

Kindest regards, Geoff & Sarah Hill. Tooraweenah Caravan Park.

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14 | News

Floating Cafe Launches

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floating cafe that services houseboats, water-skiers and anyone along the banks of the Murray River, from Echuca’s Victoria boat ramp to Torrumbarry, ‘launches’ this Easter long weekend. The floating cafe will be serving coffee, cold drinks, slushies, chips, snacks and newspapers directly to river goers. Two years in

the making, the project is the brainchild of Adam Crosby, who said he was surprised no one had done it before him. “I was inspired by the blokes doing a similar thing in Sydney a decade ago," he said “They were under the pump and so in demand. It's something we really need here on the Murray. I would kick myself if I didn't at least give it a go.” To contact Adam and order in your riparian delights call 0407 804 883.

WIN A DUVALAY!

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16 |News

THL’s UK Move

T

ourism Holdings Limited (THL), the largest motorhome rental company in Australia and New Zealand, said it acquired 49 per cent of UK-based Just Go, which operates 130 vehicles. The price was not disclosed. Nick and Sarah Roach, who founded Just Go, retain a controlling 51 per cent stake and continue to manage the business. As Just Go operates vehicles for only 18 months before selling them, THL believes that it might then import British vehicles into New Zealand to extend its sales offer. THL expects to post a profit of NZ$17 million this year, up from NZ$11.1 million in 2014.

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18 | News

North Queensland Italian Festival century art of flag throwing, in period costume accompanied by their own musicians and ladies of escort!

T

he Australian Italian Festival on 1-2 August in Ingham, North Queensland, claims to be a truly authentic festival like no other in Australia. Homemade Italian food and wines and nonstop entertainment will feature, on two stages. This year a group of 24 from Italy will be performing the 15th

The Blue Roo Theatre Company is also perform Commedia Dell’Arte, a pantomime, at the Hotel Pantelone. The Company features tenors, sopranos, musicians, dancers, comedians and more. Free amusements rides and a baby animal farm will be available for children. Powered camping facilities are available at the show ground and for further information contact Donna Zanotto on (07) 4776-5288 or 0429 060 356.

The Wirraway 260 SL

With it’s Full Length Slideout Room & Apartment Styled Layout !

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News | 19

April & May Relocation Deals

i

Moova.com says April/May is a busy time for relocations and a great opportunity for you to snap up a trip from $1 per day.

“In Australia we have trips from Cairns and Darwin in the north, Hobart in the south and Perth in the west, for $1 to $5 per day. In the USA most of the deals come with an allowance of free fuel! Many new deals are coming in everyday so watch our website for updates. We will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday over Easter, with updates to our website everyday,” a spokesperson said.

From the ocean to the outback and destinations in between. Fancy some scenic touring through the Flinders Ranges, or paddling a kayak on Cooper Creek? Perhaps a bit of camping solitude in the Gawler Ranges is more to your liking. Maybe a spot of fishing at Beachport or just lazing back at Melrose for a couple of days. Whatever your fancy, this ebook for iPad contains a selection of 12 of South Australia’s most accessible and beautiful destinations that offer travellers great touring and fantastic camping opportunities. Whether you’re travelling by motorhome, towing a caravan or just packing a tent, there are destinations for everyone!

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20 | News

Dual Battery Gauge

R

edarc says its new 52 mm dualvoltage gauge is ideal for battery systems mounted in 4WDs, campers, motorhomes and other similar vehicles. The LCD/ LED display allows you to monitor the charging performance of both your main and auxiliary batteries. The G52-VVA gauge has pre-set alert levels (<11 V and >16 V) to notify you of these situations by changing the gauge backlight colour to either amber or red, and initiate an audible beep when the vehicles ignition is on. The gauge is also equipped with an optional 100 amp-rated current display that monitors the amount of current to or from your main or auxiliary battery. This device can be fitted around the earth connection of the main or auxiliary battery. Visit the Redarc website for more details.

Babinda Creek Reopens

E

arlier this year the freedom campground at Babinda Creek was closed for upgrades, but has now reopened. Babinda is located approximately 60 km south of Cairns and has numerous specialty stores as well as a supermarket, butcher, newsagent, chemist, hotel, tavern and a few cafes. The campground is situated beside the creek and is east of the Bruce Highway.


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22 | News

Recently on facebook.... BALLARAT PIONEER PARK were non-compliant (how they can confirm that without an internal inspection I don’t know). Of course the “claimed” downturn (no proof, just statements, were included with the letter) has only happened since the trial started, of course. Surprisingly survey forms being collected from campers overwhelmingly claim they would not have come to Ballarat if the freedom of choice camping was not available.

S

ince starting the Freedom of Choice website and Facebook page we thought we had seen just about everything in the constant argy bargy with regard to our freedom of choice when it comes to camping. At the moment I am travelling in Victoria and was encouraged by a friend to travel via Ballarat and spend a couple of days in Pioneer Park, the trial freedom camping site being run by the local Council for a 12 month period. The site is for self-contained vehicles and is an excellent site being well patronised. The benefits to the town are obvious, with over $63,000 in shopping receipts collected in the 61 days they have been collecting them. So the town is benefiting by over $1000 per day and that most likely does not include fuel fill-up, etc, as people leave after their 48 hours maximum stay. But what is astounding me is the lengths some people will go to in an attempt to destroy this trial. Recently I had lunch with Grant and Bill, the two gentlemen largely responsible for obtaining this site for our use. The stories they tell would stand your hair on end. Two caravan parks in town have written to the Council with “statistics” (for want of a better word) decrying the effect on their business and pointing out the detrimental effect the trial is having. The letter included dozens of photos of vehicles on-site that they claimed

What is disturbing is the method being used to collect the so called “statistics” to support their case. Vehicles know to be owned by caravan park owners are regularly seen cruising through the site slowing checking out vehicles – a form of intimidation in my opinion. This goes on day and night and some of the photos I saw were claimed to be taken at 9 pm or early in the morning. One noticeable incident, a vehicle was intercepted by campers at 12:15 am taking flashlight photos of camping vehicles. I believe this is extreme behaviour, and shades of Monto in Queensland, with the same caravan park chain (Big 4 – Ed) responsible. For the life of me I cannot understand why supposed mature businessmen and women behave in such a manner. It is obvious the trial has brought additional travellers to town – and they are SPENDING! Smart business men would be taking advantage of the situation and if was a caravan park owner I would be visiting the site daily and offering an incentive for the campers to stay longer in town after their two free days, by offering a discount to use their parks. After all, there is a lot to see. It is constantly amazing how some business communities entice travellers while others adopt a blinkered approach and can’t see past the boundaries of their own business premises. Continues...


i o P n e s er Villag d l e fi h g i e H Presents its 18th Annual

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24 | News Continued.

Regardless of the eventual outcome of this trial one thing is for sure, one particular caravan park chain will not come out of it smelling like roses, because of the actions of a few in that chain. Sounds a bit like the problems a small minority cause for the majority in freedom camping. Big 4 once before issued an apology for the wayward behaviour of its member at Monto and I believe it is time for them once again to council their members in Ballarat for what we consider unacceptable harassment of freedom of choice campers. This is a big country and there is room for all to coexist in harmony, but when it gets to the stage where big business takes on the consumer, the consumer will always win. Public opinion, the dollars in our wallets and the right to choose where to spend them is an enormous weapon. It

will be very interesting to see how this behaviour will be viewed in terms of the competition policy review mentioned earlier. As a full time traveller I am appalled at this behaviour, but unfortunately not surprised by it. I have taken a personal stance and now refuse to patronise any Big 4 affiliated caravan park. I will not support any organisation that is actively working to deny my freedom of choice and chosen lifestyle. Whilst I readily accept that not all Big 4 affiliates are actively doing this, their silence in not publicly condemning these actions means that they are actively supporting those that do. I believe it is now time for all of us to take a similar personal (or collective) stance and boycott all Big 4 caravan parks and any other organisations (lets name and shame them here) that do not support our right to exercise our freedom of choice.


News | 25

Recently on facebook.... Competition Policy Review The Harper Review has handed down its report and there is some interesting reading going by the media reports. We are yet to read the 400plus pages of the report but this struck us as being very relevant. "Probably the most controversial proposal will be the panel's recommendation that the competition law be amended to replace a "dominant purpose" test with an "effects" test when assessing abuse of market power and

anti-competitive conduct. Section 46 should instead prohibit conduct by firms with substantial market power that has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition, consistent with other prohibitions in the competition law," the report recommended." Thanks to Freedom of Choice Camping and Tommy Griffiths for bringing this to our attention. Read more HERE.

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26 | iMotorhome Marketplace

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Australia’s leading fifth wheelers, designed here in Australia and built to suit our demanding conditions. Fifth wheelers from 24’ to 36’ available. Call 02 4953 7141 for information!

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Visit our world famous 300 ha open range sanctuary, home to some of the most exotic and endangered animals on earth. Explore by foot, bike, electric cart or in your motorhome!

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iMotorhome Marketplace | 27

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28 | Feature

Freedom Camping

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ur 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 Mar – New rules for WA’s nature based parks Rules banning small nature-based camping areas within 50 km of West Australian caravan parks have been scrapped. Changes to the Caravan Parks and Camping Grounds Regulations 1997 will now allow more of them throughout the state. 1 Mar – Interesting debate at Lakes Entrance re RVs “How about making Lakes Entrance the most raved about RV Free Camping place in the Southern Hemisphere? Give them somewhere quiet, natural, private and peaceful to park their RVs. Not directly opposite our Visitor Info Centre, competing with boat trailers.” 4 Mar – With advice like this... This snippet from Caravanning News, and they wonder why the client is suspicious. “Caravan park operators are being urged not to publish their tariffs. The Queensland-based FreeSpirit Holiday Park management company believes this is one way to increase revenue. "For too long, caravan parks have set their tariffs months in advance and published these for the guest to insist that they are honoured," it tells its members in a suite of strategies for maximising income. By not publishing tariffs, parks could remain "flexible" and adjust them when necessary. "It is not uncommon to raise tariffs as your property inches closer to

being fully booked," privately-owned FreeSpirit points out. Officially founded in 2004, the company has more than 20 properties under its wing. 4 Mar – The debate rages From the Sydney papers to small community newspapers the subject of freedom camping is debated all over the country. So much talk but so little action to solve the "problem". This is an example from a small community paper at Rainbow Beach. 5 Mar – Lakes Entrance is an RV Friendly town, but not under our noses... Lakes Entrance is a camper friendly town. However, it will not accept free camping to occur under the noses of local accommodation providers. Caravan park operators met with the Lakes Entrance Action and Development Association last Wednesday night so LEADA would reject East Gippsland Shire Council’s plans to trial free parking at sites in “prime real estate” in Lakes Entrance. Caravan park providers agree and support free camping away from East Gippsland townships, but would not accept parking at the Shire’s planned Jemmy’s Point and Gippsland Lakes Fishing Club car park sites. 5 Mar – Bulahdelah – an interesting story from the Time to Roam magazine Oh dear, the claims that are made in the on going debate on freedom camping. A town that was never exactly a tourist destination has one business claiming a 90% loss in trade and forcing them into receivership and another claiming they are doing good trade from the campers. Just who are we supposed to believe (click on photos to enlarge).


Feature | 29 6 Mar – Margaret River "A range of financial and economic restraints prevent the Shire from opening a free campground for these workers, but recent changes to the Local Planning Scheme allow for the temporary housing of rural workers on land used for agricultural purposes (a planning application is required)." Here is a shire that desperately needs the backpacker worker but at the same time seems to not want to supply their needs and is duckshoving the problem on to the vineyards to accommodate the workers by changing the Local Planning Scheme. Note not once in the press release or the information sheet is there any acknowledgement of the RV tourist. We would seem to have been conveniently forgotten. 16 Mar – F  raser Coast finally turning positive, or are they? After many years of agro from the caravan park fraternity on the Fraser Coast, with their aggressive anti-freedom camping stance, we are now seeing some positive signs emerging. Still a way to go but lets hope a new more balanced outlook will emerge from the Council’s final deliberations on this matter. Maryborough/Hervey Bay, like many towns and cities, has to draw people off the highways that bypass them if they wish to survive and thrive. 18 Mar – The industry doing well With figures like this why do the caravan parks continue to insist that freedom camping is hurting them, particularly when their own research says that only 15% of campers freedom camp. 19 Mar – Fraser Coast This site has been brought to our attention today and deserves our support. If you live in the Fraser Coast and even if you don't you might like to give your support. Nancy Bates is a former Editor of the Fraser Coast Chronicle and we wish her well in her campaign to make the Fraser Coast RV Friendly. A lot going on in the Fraser Coast at the moment! 20 Mar – Fraser Coast again. The Fraser Coast Regional Council has published its Camping Options Strategy paper for public comment. The paper is getting quite a bit of flack from the Grey Nomads Fraser Coast FB page, so

click on this link and have your say. 23 Mar – C  offs Harbour Council fines illegal campers "Tired of illegal campers ignoring warnings, the Coffs Harbour City Council has dished out fines during a blitz of the town's foreshore.” The ongoing issue of "vanpackers" resurfaced, as scores of backpackers pitched camp in an Ocean Parade car park. 23 Mar – B  each suburb actually want Grey Nomads “While most local authorities around the country are looking for ways to deter budget-minded grey nomads and backpackers in campervans from staying in their area, one Sydney council is taking the exact opposite approach. 26 Mar – An interesting situation – not often seen Existing use rights and the Council is powerless to object. 26 Mar – C  omment on the Maryborough, Qld, situation A comment published on Facebook in response to the Fraser Coast Freedom Camping proposals struck a cord with Facebook readers. 28 Mar – East Gippsland Council calling for public comment Council would like to request your feedback on a proposal relating to Recreational Vehicles in Lakes Entrance. Background Over the last few years Council has been working on a project to ensure East Gippsland is seen as a Recreational Vehicle (RV) friendly Shire in order to support and capitalise on the growth in the market of fully self-contained and non self-contained RV vehicles.This project supports Council’s objective to increase visitation to the region, the length of stay of those visitors and increase spend whilst visitors are in East Gippsland. The RV and caravanning market is an important target market for East Gippsland and one that we are able to support with our abundance of natural assets, wilderness, lakes and commercial and noncommercial infrastructure (caravan parks, boat ramps, jetties, rail trails, walking trails).


30 | Day Test: Tiffin Allegro Breeze 32

Shooting the Breeze!

A day spent photographing and reviewing Tiffin’s new Allegro Breeze 32 just wasn’t long enough… by Richard Robertson


Day Test | 31

To many people an A-class like Tiffin’s Allegro Breeze is the ultimate dream. Packed with features inside and out – including a satellite and an external TV – it makes long term travel a comfortable possibility.

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he Australian RV Murrayet is almost devoid of A-class motorhomes despite their obvious appeal. Big, flash and often extremely expensive they are the epitome of motorhoming aspiration to many people. When the general public thinks motorhome they invariably picture one of these machines. There are a variety of reasons why big A-class motorhomes are no longer locally manufactured, ranging from cost through to their size being unsuitable for many Australian caravan parks and campsites. However, the concept remains highly desirable – witness the number of bespoke coach conversions – and if the right balance of price and size present themselves there is sure to be a small but viable market. Enter the Tiffin Allegro Breeze. Tiffin is a well regarded US manufacturer that only makes A-class motorhomes.

From what I can make out from my own American travels, Tiffin sits above the larger, mainstream manufacturers in terms of quality and desirability. Gold-Coast based MJR Autocentre now has the exclusive distribution rights to Tiffin Motorhomes in Australia and proprietor Murray Robertson – there’s a good name – is now a regular at Tiffin’s factory in Red Bay, Alabama. Tiffin manufactures about 300 A-class motorhomes per year and it appears the company is small enough to respond to outsiders like “Crazy Australians” and their requests for an Australian-adaptable model. I say “adaptable” because Australian-bound motorhomes are still built left-hand drive. It seems considerable numbers at a time are required to warrant right-hand drive production, but Tiffin does provide some of the componentry for the body conversion in


32 | Day Test An outdoor barbecue is one of the few options and would work well with the TV for those who like to live and cook outside. Below: Opposing front slide-outs maximise living space, while air suspension provides a low entry step level. addition to various engineering tweaks. MJR Autocentre started out many years ago as an automotive compliancing business and is well placed to complete the mechanical and structural conversion once the vehicles land in Australia. Murray started Tiffin Motorhomes Australia as a separate business to help establish the brand’s local identity, although it operates from his current premises. In a perfect world there will always be one or two Allegro Breezes on hand for inspection, but in reality it depends on the vagaries of shipping timetables as well as Tiffin USA’s production schedule. If you want to drop by and check one out it’s best to call ahead!

American Dreaming…

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n America, A-class motorhomes are subdivided in two groups: gas (petrol) and diesel. Gas A-classes are front-engined and ride almost exclusively on a Ford F53 Super Duty motorhome chassis. They’re powered by a front-mounted


Day Test | 33 Lockers provide ample storage, with the front containing 2 x 9 kg gas bottles and the rear the water management system.

The Allegro Breeze comes with a swag of external lockers, the central two of which provide through-storage for longer items. 6.8 L V10 engine that drives through a 5-speed auto gearbox; ride on steel spring suspension and are the budget end of the market. Diesel A-classes are almost always rear engined – they’re know as ‘diesel pushers’ – usually have a 6-speed Allison automatic transmission and ride on air suspension. A number of off-the-shelf chassis/engine packages are available to

motorhome manufactures, I believe, and they represent the top end of the market. As an aside, you can easily pick a gas A-class as it has a grill at the front for the radiator.

33 ft 1 in (10.1 m) long and has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 10,660 kg, meaning you need a medium rigid (MR) driver’s licence. Its tare weight of 8660 kg provides a payload of 2000 kg, depending on options, plus it has a 3500 kg towing capacity.

The Allegro Breeze 32 is billed as the smallest diesel pusher in America and is a relatively recent addition to Tiffin is unusual – perhaps the Tiffin range, commencing unique – in that it production in 2012. It’s actually manufactures its own A-class


34 | Day Test

The 5 kVa diesel generator draws fuel from the main tank and has its own starting battery. It’s positioned between the chassis rails and has a hefty cross-member in front for protection.

chassis. They call it a PowerGlide™ chassis and it appears to be tough as nails. The chassis rails are bolted together using huck bolts: specialised fasteners from the trucking industry that look like bolts but work more like rivets. Tightened to 27,000 lbs pressure, they never need checking or tightening once installed and cannot be removed except by cutting out. It’s a system more durable than welding and should ensure a long and troublefree chassis life. Power comes from a 6.4-litre V8 Navistar MaxxForce 7 turbo-diesel engine producing 179 kW @ 2600 rpm and 840 Nm @ 1400 rpm. It drives through a 6-speed Allison automatic and the whole package rides on air suspension, with levelling valves in each corner (3 is the industry standard). Interestingly, the same engine is rebadged by Ford as a PowerStroke V8 and fitted to its big F-Series pick-ups. With a design life of 500,000 miles (800,000 km) chances are you won’t wear it out… In the US, new Allegro Breezes have

independent front suspension with disc brakes, but for the moment Australian-spec models use the earlier rigid-beam front axle with drum brakes. It seems there are technical issues adapting the independent front end to righthand drive that Murray and his team are still working on, but after having driven the review vehicle I can honestly say it lacks nothing in ride quality or braking performance.

American Driving…

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aving travelled extensively in America in motorhomes from the three major manufacturers – Fleetwood, Winnebago and Thor – I was keen to inspect and drive a Tiffin. Prior to this review my only American A-class driving experience was last September in a near-new Thor Windsport 34J Bunkhouse . Being a front-engined ‘gasser’ it couldn’t have been more different, technically, and those differences translated into an equally different driving experience.


Day Test | 35

I only spent a short time behind the wheel, but it took me straight back to my coach driving days.


36 | Day Test

Top: The driving position is commanding while the big captain’s chairs provide plenty of comfort, although the arm rests are either up or down and have no fine adjustment like Euro seats do. Insert: Instrumentation is comprehensive and easily read. Bottom: The consolemounted monitor can be configured several ways. Here it displays the rear view plus has inserts for both side cameras. Very clever!

The Tiffin’s front seat occupants are well catered for with deep, comfortable Flexsteel captain’s chairs that feature electric adjustment over a range of functions. There’s plenty of storage too, with cupboards above the windscreen and side windows for both front seat occupants, along with personal fans and window shades and blinds. The driving position is genuinely commanding and the four-spoke steering wheel is nicely sized and provides a range of tilt – but no reach – adjustment. Front and side vision is excellent despite fairly thick A-pillars and the large side mirrors provide a good field of view. In the centre console a colour screen displays the reversing camera view when you drive, as well as the view from side cameras whenever you activate their respective indicators. It’s a good system but requires looking inside when about to change lanes or turn and is best used as

support to the side mirrors. The centre console also houses the cab’s ventilation controls and a good sound system, plus the expected cup holders for that touring coffee… Driving is a simple affair, requiring nothing more than starting the engine and selecting D from the touch-pad transmission selector (R and N are your other options), releasing the air-


Day Test | 37

Top to Bottom: The passenger’s view is also commanding, while on-road presence means you’ll be easily seen in traffic. External power connection requires manual switching between modes, which seems a bit dated. operated hand brake and moving majestically away. Okay, you have to ensure the autolevelling jacks are retracted and that there’s adequate air pressure for the suspension and brakes, but it really is all very easy. And enjoyable. I only spent a short time behind the wheel, but it took me straight back to my coach driving days. The combination of smooth riding air suspension and the muted growl of an engine 10 m behind reminded me of why a diesel pusher is the most desirable heavy vehicle driving configuration. Engine response was good from the fairly long-throw accelerator and the Allison-auto shifted almost imperceptibly. Body role seemed well contained and manoeuvrability was good, while braking was almost too good, with strong initial response from the pedal that took a bit of getting used to. I was out for the day with sales manager Alex Rees-Hyde and it was only after my drive session I discovered the test vehicle’s rigid front axle/drum brake combination. As I said earlier, in no way did it seem to diminish either the ride quality or stopping power, both of which were impressive. In fact a major part of the steering and ride quality can be attributed to the rigid front axle being removed and placed on a computer-controlled jig that adjusts it with millimetre accuracy to suit our left-hand cambered roads; such is Murray’s obsession with getting every detail right.

Spics and Specs

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ecause Tiffin builds its own chassis it’s able to configure them specifically. For example, the 265-litre fuel tank has fillers on both sides of the vehicle. I should also mention that along with full air suspension comes full air brakes, while an exhaust brake


38 | Day Test works in conjunction with the Allison automatic. The Allegro Breeze rides on 265/70R 19.5 tyres and has a 5.13 m wheelbase. It has a maximum height of 3.4 m, is 2.49 m wide and carries 265-litres of fresh water, 190-litres of grey, 115-litres of black and has a 23-litre hot water system. LPG capacity is 18 kg in 2 x 9 kg cylinders. Automatic hydraulic levelling jacks are a standard inclusion, as is hydraulic operation for the slide-outs (with manual override). Australian-spec Allegro Breezes come with pretty much all the bells and whistles, including plenty of power – and I’m not just talking engine output. On the roof are 3 x 200 W solar panels that feed into 4 x 6-volt 216 AH house batteries (432 AH 12-volt equivalent), while in the nose is a 5 kVA Onan diesel remote-start generator that feeds from the fuel tank. A 4000 W sine-wave inverter is also included and all internal 240 V power points are connected to it. It’s an impressive package that essentially guarantees power independence wherever you travel. I was surprised, however, by the absence of a Webasto-or-similar diesel-fired heating system, but having so much electrical power on tap and two roof mounted reverse cycle air-conditioners explains the omission. One other notable inclusion is satellite TV, so you’ll never lack for entertainment wherever you travel. Tiffin follows traditional/conventional American motorhome construction techniques by using aluminium frame construction with foam core insulation and fibreglass outer wall panelling, plus fibreglass end-caps front and rear and a one-piece fibreglass roof. Full body paint is also standard and this not only looks good, it helps protect the fibreglass body work. The Allegro Breeze has two slideouts: one for the kitchen and a three-seat sofa bed, on the kerb side, and one opposite it for the large U-shaped dinette. Impressively, the slide-outs are seamless one-piece fibreglass units made

The only problem with the slide-out on the kerb side is it impinges on outdoor living space close to the entry door.


Day Test | 39

by Tiffin, which makes them air and water-tight.

of replacements, the warranty is three years on engine and driveline, one year on the body For a vehicle this size the windows seem and ten years on wall delamination. Naturally, relatively small and basic, being simple sliding appliances carry their own manufacturer’s units with a separate fly screen. This is standard warranties. American design stuff that reflects the tendency of such vehicles to be closed-up and run with The Allegro Breeze comes with a swag of air conditioning whenever parked up, while the external lockers, the central two of which occupants watch TV or a movie. Bear in mind provide through-storage for longer items. most Americans with an A-class tow a vehicle While there’s no single, large boot or locker for sightseeing at their destinations, thereby for oversized items, I’m sure most owners using the motorhome very much just as a will find the external storage set up more home base. The massive one-piece windscreen than generous. A remote-controlled Thule is the exception to the smaller window rule electric awning is fitted, but it still requires the and the view through it can only be described legs to be manually lowered and positioned. as panoramic. In case you’re wondering, Given the size and weight of the awning that windscreen replacements are available could be a bit of a struggle, especially if it’s in Australia for around $1500 plus $500 windy. Unfortunately, Australian vehicle width installation – and of course freight charges to restrictions prevent the fitting of a fully electric wherever you might happen to be. Speaking awning as you’d expect on such a motorhome.


40 | Day Test The lower half of the roof ladder stores in a side locker and prevents unwelcome roof-top visitors.

Engine access via the lift-up rear door is limited to the massive radiator and items for daily checks like oil and other fluid levels. There is, I'm told, good engine access from below, while any major engine work requires access through the floor of the bedroom, beneath the bed. The Onan generator is positioned between the chassis rails at the very front of the vehicle and is reached via a lift-up hatch beneath the windscreen. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a good position as it keeps as much sound as possible from the living area and bedroom, while in the event of an accident its protected by a hefty cross member in front. Reaching the roof for things like cleaning the solar panels is straightforward thanks to a twopiece ladder, the lower section of which stores in a luggage bin to prevent unwanted roof walkers!

Moving Inside

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he Allegro Breeze seats and sleeps six, should you ever need to carry and accommodate so many. The opposing


Day Test | 41 Top: The U-shaped lounge/dinette is a generous size, but the table could probably be a bit bigger to maximise its dining potential. Bottom: With the slide-outs retracted, aisle width is quite sufficient for easy bathroom and bedroom access.

slide-outs at the front of the vehicle provide a spacious living area when extended yet still provide sufficient room to “access all areas” when retracted. Vehicle entry is via a door ahead of the front kerb-side wheel, as is common with diesel pushers. This is the preferred arrangement in America and perhaps it’s to maximise underfloor storage space. Gas powered A-classes, by comparison, have their door mounted somewhere aft of the front axle, due to the engine being ahead of it. The problem with the bus-style door location is it means the front passenger seat is slightly rear set and requires a board to be inserted above the stair well for safety, as well as to stop feet dangling in mid air. To its credit Tiffin has located the passenger seat as close in line with the driver’s seat as possible and you very quickly adapt to the stair situation. I did, and also found there was enough floor space available to make using the insert board optional. Once inside you pass between the two huge, comfortable captains’ chairs and move into the open plan living area. The U-shaped lounge/ dinette is to your left and the three-seater sofa bed is to your right. Aft of the sofa bed is the main kitchen area, which forms something of an L-shape and terminates at the bathroom wall. Opposite it is the two-door fridge/freezer and pantry units, between the lounge/dinette and shower cubicle. The end of the kitchen effectively marks the end of the public area of the Allegro Breeze. From there you move down the aisle through the split bathroom (shower on the left, toilet and vanity on the right) and into the bedroom, with its queen island bed. There are two opaque glass sliding doors that provide various combinations of privacy; one at the bedroom that still allows bathroom access for those up front and the other at the kitchen,


42 | Day Test Clockwise from top: Living area is expansive with slide-outs extended. Note the slits that allow extra light and prevent the seats looking like tombstones. Under-bed storage is good, with four drawers at the front and room for bulky items at the rear. A proper bedhead means you can sit up to read, watch TV – or enjoy breakfast in bed!

which provides the bedroom occupants with a private ensuite. Decor is distinctly American, with solid-wood fronted drawers and cupboards throughout. It looks a little dated to our Euro-accustomed eyes, but the test vehicle’s combination of light timber finish and cream coloured Halo Leatherette upholstery certainly lightened up the interior. Other decor combinations are available if you order a vehicle from scratch and Murray is experimenting with a glass splashback in the kitchen, but the penalty for that is a delivery wait of somewhere around seven to nine months, on average. Overall cabinetry

quality looks on-par with the other American brands and Murray said all the manufacturers seem to use the same fixtures and fittings. LEDs are used throughout and the ceiling is absolutely dotted with flush-mounted lights, but it’s a pity there’s no dimming control. There are plenty of double 240 V power points, which as mentioned earlier are all connected to the inverter so you can run mains powered devices any where, any time. I was pleased to see there are also strategically placed USB charging outlets, though none by the dinette. The twin roof-mounted reverse-cycle Dometic


Day Test | 43 air conditioners deliver their cooled or heated air via ducted ceiling outlets and that can be zoned to a degree to allow, for instance, the front unit to run at night and provide the rear bedroom with air. Each airconditioner has separate domestic-style wall mounted controls, again typical of US motorhomes. It’s worth noting you can start the generator while driving and run the aircon units to cool or heat as you go, which is handy when approaching an overnight stop or simply in extreme weather conditions.

Living Room

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he whole thing with an A-class – and particularly one with opposing slide-outs – is you’re buying living room. That is, room to move without breathing in every time you pass each other by, room to move when you invite friends over, and room to ensure sufficient personal space that months on the road won’t feel like a custodial sentence. In its public areas the Allegro Breeze delivers well in this regard. There’s a genuine feeling of spaciousness and you can easily kick back and enjoy each other’s company and/or the company of friends, feeling more like you’re in a holiday apartment than a motorhome. A large screen Smart TV sits in the centre of the top of the windscreen and is easily viewed from all seats. It’s connected to a Blu-Ray home theatre surround sound system as well as the satellite system, so you can enjoy some cosy nights in with a bottle of wine and a good movie. There are plenty of overhead cupboards, while the space beneath the sofa bed and lounge can be accessed for additional storage if required.

Dining and Cooking Room

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he dining table is a height adjustable unit I forget to properly check out, but it’s mounted on what appears to be a very sturdy single pole. I’m not sure the table is quite big enough to provide dining room for

Top to bottom: Domestic-style units operate front and rear air-conditioners independently. The bedroom’s drop-down TV. A convection/steam microwave replaces the grill and oven.


44 | Day Test The main kitchen unit is in the kerb-side slide-out and is well equipped, with good bench and storage space.

the U-shaped dinette’s overall seating capacity, or that you would sit close enough to it without stretching forward a bit. But table size is a small matter easily rectified. Of course, to dine you need food and perhaps the first thing people say when they see the Allegro Breeze’s kitchen is, “It’s got no oven or grill”. That’s true, but what it does have is a large, all-singing all-baking convention microwave that grills, steams, crisps, jet defrosts and can even cook. It also runs off the inverter and is available any time. There’s a three-burner gas cook top, a range hood, and a very useful twin-bowl stainless steel sink with flick mixer tap. The rangehood is above the gas cooktop – no surprises there – and the microwave is above the rangehood. That is surprising because so many Australian designed motorhome have their microwaves somewhere up near the ceiling, maximising space efficiency – and inconvenience.

The benchtop looks like Corian but apparently isn’t, having the same smooth, moulded look and easy cleaning capabilities. It includes a pair of inserts that conceal the sinks and could also be used a chopping boards. Speaking of the benchtop, it’s an unusual shape because of the kitchen’s semi-L-shape. You stand at about a 45º angle to the side wall of the vehicle when standing at the sink, facing into the aft corner of the kitchen/sofa bed slide-out. If it sounds odd don’t worry, it provides a very deep work area and makes good use of available space. There’s good drawer and cupboard space and it’s worth pointing out that all drawers have strong metal runners and some are surprisingly deep/long, but you'll need to provide your own cutlery tray. The actual drawer construction looks a little basic, using what appears to be simple plywood for the sides and base, but again this is the standard US construction method as seen in all the American motorhomes I've driven.


Day Test | 45 Top to bottom: Individual shower taps make it more difficult to get the right water temp, even though the shower nozzle has an on/off button for flow. The bathroom cubicle gets a mirrored shaving cabinet and good ventilation, and while the loo looks low it feels okay when seated.

A two-door Waeco 215-litre compressor fridge sits across from the kitchen work area, in the space between the U-shaped lounge and bathroom. To the right of it are two cupboard doors; the top one being a simple storage space with a single shelf, while the bottom one is a slide-out pantry unit.

Bathroom, Bed and Behind

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iven how spacious the front of the Allegro Breeze is it’s easy to forget the vehicle is ‘only' 10.1 m long. The bathroom and bedroom are comparatively compact, especially as neither is located in a slide-out. The bathroom sits between the kitchen and bedroom and is split, with the shower on the left of the aisle and the toilet cubicle on the right as you head towards the bedroom. The shower is a decent size and requires a small step-up to enter, but once inside there’s good head room even for taller people thanks to a clear-but-sealed acrylic dome in place of the usual fan hatch. This is another American design trend built on the premise of having the air conditioning running whenever you're stopped for the night. The cubicle itself is a moulded one-piece fibreglass unit that includes a full width shelf and even a small seat that's surprisingly convenient. What's less convenient is the typically American-style separate hot and cold water taps for the shower, rather than a more convenient flick mixer, and the absence of anywhere to store soap, shampoo, etc, without it falling to the floor when the vehicle moves. When you open the door to the ‘little room’ across from the shower you're confronted by an unusual sight: a corner toilet that appears to be set way too low. I'm not sure what the reasoning is for its low stance, but in practice it doesn't feel too short. The corner hand basin is set ‘flush’ – no pun intended – into a piece of benchtop that matches the kitchen’s, while


46 | Day Test

The queen island bed has an up-market mattress that looks like memory foam but apparently is something different. Bedroom storage is good, note the bedside rear-aircon controller.

above it is a corner mirrored shaving cabinet. There's plenty of additional storage above and below the hand basin and this little room also gets a small opening window, although again no roof hatch. The bedroom has a queen island bed running north-south, with decent walk-around room on both sides. There are side windows but not one behind, which is good as it means you can comfortably sit up against the padded head board and read or watch TV. Speaking of TV, the bedroom’s is ceiling mounted and swings down into view when required. Don’t forget there’s satellite TV as well as Blu-Ray for DVDs, so the bedroom TV might get quite a work out. You can also operate the rear airconditioner from the bedside control unit. The bed lifts on gas struts and the rear half is available for bulky storage, while the front half is home to four forward-facing drawers

you can use when the bed’s down. There’s a mirrored double wardrobe and five drawers on the back of the bathroom cubicle’s wall, plus cupboards above the bedhead. Finally, small bedside tables have a double USB charging outlet and three drawers beneath them, plus a slim mirrored wardrobe above. If you run out of storage in this motorhome you’re doing something terribly wrong…

What I Think

I

t’s difficult not to be impressed by the Tiffin Allegro Breeze 32. Murray and his team have done an excellent job of the right-hand drive conversion and integration of Australiansourced appliances and systems, to the extent it looks and feels like a factory-fresh motorhome. They have a special relationship with the Tiffin factory team and an obsession with detail, and it shows in the finished product.


Day Test | 47

Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s difficult not to be impressed by the Tiffin Allegro Breeze 32.


48 | Day Test

The powered Thule awning operates by remote control, but still requires the legs to be set-up manually. Vehicle width limitations prevent a full electric awning being fitted.

On the road the Allegro Breeze is a delight. It provides an outstanding driving experience that rewards occupants with a luxurious ride, ample performance and near whisper-quiet operation. Yes, there are the expected body and interior noises, but overall it’s a highly refined and desirable package. I also think it’s good value. When you consider the depth of mechanical engineering, component quality and ability, and the remarkably comprehensive standard equipment list, it stacks up very well. Far from being an over-priced import the Tiffin Allegro Breeze 32 is almost something of a bargain. Only the falling Australian dollar could delay or derail plans to establish the Tiffin brand in Australia and fingers crossed that doesn’t happen. If you’re in the market for a big motorhome be sure to drop by the showroom for a chat with Murray and Alex and to check it out. There’s nothing quite like shooting the breeze…


Day Test | 49

Specifications Manufacturer

Tiffin Motorhomes

Model

Allegro Breeze 32

Base Vehicle

Tiffin PowerGlide chassis

Engine

6.4 L V8 twin-turbo diesel

Power

179 kW @ 2600 rpm

Torque

840 Nm @ 1400 rpm

Gearbox

6-speed Allison automatic

Brakes

ABS Disc

Tare Weight

8660 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

10,660 kg

Towing Capacity

3500 kg

Licence

Medium Rigid (MR)

Approved Seating

6

External Length

10.10 m (32 ft 2 in)

External Width

2.49 m (8 ft 2 in)

External Height

3.40 m (11 ft 2 in)

Internal Height

1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)

Main Bed Size

2.00 m x 1.50 m (6 ft 6 in x 4 ft 11 in)

Sofa Bed Size

1.72 m x 1.05 m (5 ft 8 in x 3 ft 5 in)

Dinette Bed

2.10 m x 1.00 m (6 ft 11 in x 3 ft 3 in)

Cooktop

3-burner gas

Fridge

215 L Waeco 2-door 12/240 V compressor

Microwave

Whirlpool Convection/Steam

Lighting

12 V LED

Batteries

4 x 216 AH 6 V

Solar Panels

3 x 200 W

Air Conditioner

2 x Dometic ducted reverse-cycle

Space Heater

Optional

Hot Water

Atwood 23-litre

Toilet

Pedestal

Shower

Separate cubicle

Gas Cylinders

2 x 9.0 kg

Water Tank

265 L

Grey Water Tank

190 L

Black Water Tank

115 L

Price on Road QLD

$404,560

Mention iMotorhome

$399,000!

Pros

• • • • • • • •

Sheer appeal! Living space Storage – inside and out Comfort – driving and camping Quality RHD conversion Chassis/drive train quality Extensive standard equipment Few options

Cons

• • • •

Awning compromise Shower fittings/storage Decor won’t suit everyone Special order delivery time

Contact

Tiffin Motorhomes Australia

Click for Google Maps

8 Energy Drive Molendinar. Qld. 4214 T: 0411 616 617 E: alex@tiffinmotorhomes.com.au W: www.tiffinmotorhomes.com.au For more iMotorhome Road Tests click here


50 | Technical

A Power of Good!

Battery types explained…

by Allan Whiting of outbacktravelaustralia.com.au

B

ack in the good old days you could have any battery you liked, so long as it was black, heavy and full of easily-spilled acid. Now, there’s a choice.

should go on indefinitely, but the chemical world isn’t perfect: some salts fall out of suspension and build up on the bottom of the casing; some energy is lost to heat; a small amount of lead is lost to electrolytic Lead-acid batteries, be they the traditional action; and hydrolysed water (hydrogen and ‘flooded’ type, or no-maintenance, valveoxygen gases) is produced. Another issue is regulated lead acid (VRLA), store energy in a ‘settling’ or stratification of the electrolyte in reversible electrochemical reaction that takes flooded batteries that aren’t shaken about very place between lead and lead dioxide plates and much, reducing the efficiency of the chemical sulphuric acid. reaction. Of all battery inefficiencies, electrolyte ‘stratification’ and hydrogen and oxygen (water) In theory, the discharge and recharge action loss have proved to be the easiest to improve.


Technical | 51 Flooded Batteries

T

he traditional flooded, wet-cell battery is the lowest-priced option, but it suffers from the aforementioned stratification and water-loss issues. Stratification of the electrolyte needs to be countered by ‘equalising’ or ‘boost charging’ a flooded battery periodically. In this operation the slight overcharge results in oxygen and hydrogen bubbles being produced at the plates and this action ‘stirs’ the electrolyte. The method of water loss replacement in a traditional ‘flooded’ battery is quite familiar: periodically remove the caps and top up the cells with distilled water. However, both these operations are often neglected or wrongly done, shortening battery life.

and ‘recombined’ using an internal catalyst, so there is no water loss. Often marketed as low- or no-maintenance batteries is a crop of cheaper, semi-sealed, flooded batteries that are not true VRLA types. These modified starting batteries have reserve electrolyte storage, but once that’s used up, they’re finished.

Gel Batteries

T

No-Maintenance Batteries

V

alve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries were developed to overcome water-loss and stratification problems. Although called ‘sealed’ batteries, VRLA types do have a relief valve to prevent an explosive gas buildup in cases of extreme overcharging. However, in normal discharge and charge operation the VRLA battery does not vent to atmosphere. The hydrogen and oxygen gases produced at the plates are retained inside the casing

his VRLA battery has its electrolyte thickened to a jelly state, which prevents stratification. Another plus is that a gel battery case fracture results in an oozing of electrolyte, rather than a flood of acid. Gel batteries can be left in a discharged state for a long period of time and still recover. However, gel batteries require lower-voltage charging than flooded batteries and most gel batteries should never be equalised. In a gel battery that is being incorrectly overcharged, gas bubbles cause voids that increase resistance and can cause damage through heat build-up. The gel battery manufacturer’s charging recommendations must be followed to the letter.


52 | Technical Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries

Where the familiar rechargeable appliance lithium-ion battery is a lithium-cobalt type (LiCoO2), the automotive deep-cycle version he AGM VRLA battery type has its acid uses lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) suspended in a glass-fibre mat, which technology. This LFP battery (Lithium Ferroovercomes electrolyte stratification and Phosphate) uses LiFePO4 as a cathode leakage problems. Like any VRLA battery, an material, because it’s a more stable compound AGM battery should not be overcharged. Some that resists breakdown much better than high-quality AGM batteries can be equalised, LiCoO2 if short-circuited or overheated. The but only under controlled, constant current LFP battery won’t catch fire in the way an conditions. Manufacturer recommendations LCoO can and also offers longer life, a better for correct charging must be followed closely. power delivery rate and a constant discharge AGM batteries don't like heat and won't be voltage. The downside is heavier weight than warranted in an under-bonnet location unless an LCoO, but both types weigh only around the casing is a special heat-insulated type. one-third of lead-acid batteries.

T

Also, where a lead-acid, gel or AGM battery should not be discharged below around 70 per cent of its amp-hour capacity the LFP battery is said to be fine with discharge as low as 20 per cent. That allows the LFP battery to deliver more than twice the power of a traditional battery, from around one-third the weight. On top of that, the LFP battery holds 12.8-12.5 V until it reaches that 20-percent point, allowing the battery to deliver virtually full power until it is discharged, whereas a traditional battery loses voltage progressively as it discharges. But wait there’s more! Charge cycle life is said to be up to 10 times that of a traditional battery, while charging times are typically 1.5 to 4 hours.

Lithium-ion Batteries

E

veryone these days is familiar with the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers most mobile devices, from phones to power drills, so it seems strange that it’s taken so long for battery makers to produce a reliable, automotive deep-cycle lithium battery. The principal issues that have delayed them are safety improvements and development of a specific charging system. Well-publicised fires in aircraft using lithium-ion batteries have to be avoided!

The basic cell being used by Revolution Power Australia, one of the leaders in lithiumion battery development, is 3.2 V. Four of these make a 12.8 V unit that’s topped by an integrated battery management control powerboard and packaged in a case that makes it look like any normal battery. However, the LFP equivalent of a 120 amp-hour AGM battery weighs only 9 kg – around 25 kg less. Put another way, an LFP battery of the same weight as an AGM can produce constant power for up to four times as long.


Technical | 53 But, before you rush out to buy a lithium replacement for your deep-cycle battery, there’s a catch. To avoid damage to the LFP cells that could be caused by excessive charging voltages, temperature-based voltage compensation, equalisation or continuous trickle charging, it’s vital that the LFP battery is connected to a purpose-designed charger. Your existing charger cannot be used with an LFP battery. Redarc has been working with a number of companies, including Revolution Power Australia and Trayon/Traytek Campers, in the development of a lithium-battery charging system.

that a flat vehicle battery cannot cause the LFP battery to drop below the critical 8 V mark (below which the battery can suffer severe damage). At Outback Travel Australia we’ve replaced the 12 V AGM battery in our Traytek Slide-on Camper with a Revolution Power Australia 100 AH LFP battery kit. The installation was done at RPA’s Brisbane HQ in February 2015. We’ll be testing this kit for its durability and performance throughout 2015 and report on its progress.

Starting and Deep-Cycle Batteries

F

looded batteries, gel batteries and AGM batteries can be starting or deep cycle Redarc’s LFP1240 charger is specifically types and top-quality models of all three designed for the task of charging an LFP types can perform both functions if they’re auxiliary battery, via normal alternator voltage, correctly sized for the task and maintained with or through a solar panel. The solar charger the appropriate charging system. Lithium-ion uses top-shelf maximum power point tracking batteries are deep-cycle only. There are also (MPPT) technology. dual-purpose, flooded, gel and AGM designs In addition, although Revolution Power Australia that aim for the middle ground between true LFP batteries have inbuilt under-and overdeep-cycle types and starting batteries. voltage protection, the Revolution kit includes As the name suggests, a starting battery is a Redarc Smart Start battery isolator with primarily designed to start an engine. It also low-voltage disconnect function, to ensure


54 | Technical powers ancillary equipment while the engine is running and the alternator is recharging the it. Engine starter motors need a large starting current for a very short time, so starting batteries have a large number of thin plates, for maximum plate-to-acid surface area.

to guarantee a 30 AH supply a conventional battery needs to have 100AH capacity. A lithium battery can be considerably smaller.

When a starting battery is discharged, some of that light plate material falls to the bottom of the casing. Repeated discharging erodes the plates to the point of failure. Pure, deep-cycle batteries’ heavy plates resist erosion, but there’s usually less surface area to deliver the cranking amps that a similar-size, dedicated starting battery can. As stated, a lithium deep-cycle battery can be discharged to as low as 20 per cent of capacity, although traditional deep-cycle batteries shouldn’t regularly be taken below 70 per cent of capacity.

How Big a Battery?

T

ypical lead-acid battery cells are rated at 2.1 volts, so a nominal 12-volt battery has six such cells. It’s easy enough to calculate what size battery you need and how long you can expect it to last before recharging.

Battery Health

K

eeping batteries in good condition is as important as the choice of type. If at home or close to mains power it’s easy to keep the batteries charged by connecting Batteries are rated in ‘amp-hours’. A battery them to a mains-supply battery charger. Oldrated at 100 AH will deliver 10 amperes over a style 240 volt chargers didn’t have the ability 10-hour period, at room temperature. For those to charge batteries optimally, but modern of us camping, if we assume 4 hours of fridge electronically controlled units can be connected operation each day you’ll need 300 watt-hours/ permanently. day (75 W x 4hrs). Two hours of fluoro light operation (or about three times that of LED If you have different battery types, on separate lighting) is another 30 Wh/day. Add another circuits, they need to be charged separately, 30 Wh/day for a couple of hours of radio using a different charging regime for each type. operation and that totals about the minimum If two batteries are to be connected to a single power consumption a 4WD camp can expect: circuit via a typical rotary isolation switch it’s 360Wh/day. important that the battery types be similar: two flooded, two AGMs or two gels. Lithium On the face of it the battery capacity needed batteries need a dedicated charger and cannot is 360 divided by 12 V = 30 amp-hours (AH). be used with a conventional charger. A modern However, battery makers recommend no amp/volt meter gauge will show your battery more than 70-percent battery discharge, so situation and remember, a ‘flat’ battery is one


Technical | 55 with an open circuit voltage of around 11.8 V and a loaded voltage around 10.5 V.

Gel batteries need a specific charging regime, via a modern, electronically controlled charger.

Which Battery Type for You?

Lightweight, spiral-wound AGM batteries can be mounted in any position – even upside down. VRLA batteries are around the $500 mark. However, AGM batteries don't like heat and need to be insulted if mounted in an engine bay. Lithium batteries are around twice the price of conventional batteries, but are one-third the weight, are claimed to last much longer and can be discharged to much lower levels.

I

n the battery world, generally you get what you pay for. The traditional flooded battery is the most popular choice because it’s usually the cheapest and most readily available. However, within the flooded battery ranks there is a wide quality spread. If you have a good battery maintenance regime it’s worth spending on a heavy duty battery that will last four times as long a ‘cheapie’ and deliver more power in the process. Flooded batteries are priced in the $140 to $300 bracket. The next step up the quality chain is to VRLA, gel-filled or AGM, no-maintenance batteries. No-maintenance is something of a misnomer, because regular charging greatly extends battery life, but you don’t have to top up cells.

Check out the current lithium situation here:


56 | Reader Report

Pros not Cons One man’s determined effort to build his perfect compact motorhome… by Kennard Davey

I

retired from the Transport Industry in November 2006. It was time to slow down and smell the roses. My vehicle of choice had to be economical, easy to drive, park anywhere and with all the bells and whistles of the big boys, just minus a few centimetres. Yes, a tall order, but at the time you and Malcolm gave glowing reviews on the A-Van Applause 500. So I marched into the local A’van dealer in Western Australia enquiring about stock, he laughed at me and said “Never, no way, who in their right mind would buy one of those dinky toys?” but his face changed when I pulled out

my cheque book, and I left with him running after me. Faced with a quick trip east and after making a rushed decision – me being a smart arse know-it-all who does not know when to give up – I decided on plan B and to do my own conversion. Now it was the missus who laughed. She gave me six months and many others called me many other names, which only made me more fired up. So a then brand new run-out model Fiat Ducato landed in my garage and after three months of measuring, designing and


Reader Report | 57

This home-converted Fiat Ducato is neat as a pin and looks as good as a factory conversion. procuring, I started. It took a lot of guts making the first of 14 holes in a brand new van! My design brief was to keep all of the ‘Pros’ and get around as many of the ‘Cons”. So first to go was the stupid porthole window at the dining table, I replaced this with two Fiat OEM fixed bus windows. Next, the cramped two seater dinette I replaced with a replica drivers seat that can be slid back and forth to suit the table. Next to go was the rickety table. I installed a shelf for quick coffee breaks and a lift-up drop-down table that locks into the side of the van: steady as a rock and no leg to get in the way. I had concerns about the cooktop being near the bed – fat and fire, etc, – so I moved the entire cupboard up front behind the passenger seat and put the fridge at the back,

only I turned it north/south so it opens into the access way. It works fantastic and you can get your beer without climbing inside. It’s great to restock after a shopping trip, too. To the cupboard upfront I attached a drop down table on the outside. I used a Cramer three-burner cooker/sink combo,and underneath it are four bins and a slide out pantry. At the rear end I put a switch panel for the electric step and water tank gauges, a microwave underneath, a slide out shelf to stir hot dishes, a pot drawer and a secret drawer that houses our Laptop, which we use as a portable TV/DVD unit. A standard shower takes up so much room in a small vehicle, so I turned it east/west! It has a


58 | Reader Report

vacuum toilet with a full size classic drop-down basin, hot and cold water, a shaving cabinet, and an adjustable shower hose on a rail as used on larger vans. A standard shower base is in the walkway to the bed and includes a duckboard and waste pump. A mirrored door with another hinged on the inside makes two walls of the shower when opened out, while a shower curtain on the bed side completes the shower. Malcolm recently did a review of an Avida with a similar set up, but I did it in 2007 and it works fantastic. And when you finish you pull back the curtain and you can sit on the bed to finish of drying or get dressed, and takes up so little space. I was reluctant to cut another big hole for the gas bottle so I left it where it was â&#x20AC;&#x201C; accessed through the rear doors â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but I added a small access door on the outside which allows me or anybody else to turn the Gas on or off without the need to open the rear doors. I was told this meets WA requirements. Now for your pet hate: the open window/ sliding door conflict, which I believe is an unacceptable safety issue should you need to vacate in a hurry. An Internet search of

Top: The small kitchen unit removes any bed-side fire hazard. Bottom: Ingenious shower uses a double-folding door, curtain and in-floor shower base for maximum space efficiency.


Reader Report | 59

Mud map to success: Kennard’s home-built Fiat Ducato camper is an ingenious beauty… Dometic’s website showed a sliding version of the same window. I ordered from three suppliers only to be told it was not available. After a heated discussion with the head honcho who said, “There is no calling for it in Australia,” they removed it from the website. Can you believe it? Not to be beaten I ordered one from the UK, which had to be delivered to a UK address and was delivered to a friend’s house within 24 hours. They posted it to me via Royal Mail/Australia Post within 7 days (the max window size to post was 900 mm x 550 mm). So I think I have the only matching S4 window in Australia! It is double insulated the same as the hopper, includes the shade and flyscreen, and can be left open during travel, creating great flow through ventilation. Problem solved!

I am very proud of the finished job as I am very fussy and it had to be done right. Unfortunately, I might now have to sell as arthritis is making it hard to climb into the cab, and being a manual does not help. But it is a shame to keep it locked up in the garage. I hope someone else can get better use out of it as it has only done 29,800 kms. I just wished I lived in the East as I would love to show you what even a novice can achieve if you think outside the square. Thank you for all the great stories/reviews, etc. I look forward to the Magazine each fortnight and the above was achieved because your Pros and Cons made me determined to do it!


60 | Travel

Canowindra International Balloon Challenge

Gentleman start your, um, never mindâ&#x20AC;Ś by Richard Robertson


Travel | 61

Canowindra’s Historical Museum is in the old railway station, adjacent to the Age of Fishes Museum.

I

t’s short notice, but if you’re at a loose end after Easter make you way to Canowindra in Central Western NSW and be a part of the 2015 Canowindra International Balloon Challenge from April 12 to 19. Canowindra has a long association with ballooning and I attended a forerunner of this event more than 15 years ago when it just a fun, social event. That festival – Marti’s Fiesta – ceased some time back, but in 2010 a new volunteer-run organisation called the Canowindra Challenge resurrected the

concept, except this time making it competitive and a part of the Australian National Balloon Championships. The Canowindra International Balloon Challenge is now the largest ballooning get-together in Australia and attracts international entrants. In fact this year there will be two reigning world champions taking part: Japan’s Yudai Fujita, the men’s world champion, and Australia’s own Nicola Scaiffe, current women’s world champion. It’s also recognised by the World Sports Aviation


62 | Travel Everyone wanted to have a close look at the tethered balloon on display, which needed regular ‘burning’ to keep it inflated. Short up-and-down rides were going to be a highlight for the visiting school kids, but sadly the wind came up just at the wrong moment. Maybe next year?

governing body, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), as a Category 2 event. In fact just recently the event’s organisers won the right to bid for the 2018 Women’s World Hot Air Ballooning Championship; just the second time the event will be held.

“Competition flights require pilots to exercise skill in manoeuvring their balloons over a set course with goals, targets, scoring areas, time and distance limits. Good results in competition tasks are achieved using a combination of winds at various altitudes to fly in the direction of a goal and accurately approach the target within If you think a ballooning festival is a fairly passive the designated competition area,” according to happening that just involves slow moving the organisers. curiosities floating up and down, think again. Entrants generally fly twice daily during the “Balloons do not land on the target itself. Crew competition – weather permitting – and are members aboard the balloons drop markers tasked with a range of complex challenges that onto or as close to the targets as they can fly. require a combination of chess, piloting and The markers are small sandbags with streamers meteorological skills. attached and even the way they land can


Travel | 63

Up Up and Almost Awayâ&#x20AC;Ś


64 | Travel

There were plenty of officials and politicians on hand for the launch event, but the kids only had eyes for the balloon. And who can blame them? affect point scoring. Balloons will be flying from Tuesday 14 to Sunday 19 April. Launches happen between 6 and 6:30 am and 3:30 to 4 pm, with flights lasting up to 2 hours.” A hugely popular highlight of the event is the annual Balloon Glow, held this year on the evening of Saturday April 18. It’s when all the balloons gather after sunset and glow against the night sky, illuminated by their roaring burners. Held in conjunction with a Twilight Wine, Food & Craft Market, buskers, local

performers and this year, fire dancers from the Razed In Flam troupe, it’s a not-to-be-missed event. Gates open at 3:30 pm, with a local rugby match kicking off at 4 o’clock that’s followed by non-stop entertainment. Admission is $15 and tickets are available at the gate, the local tourist office in the Age Of Fishes Museum or at tourist offices in Orange, Cowra, Parkes, Forbes or Bathurst. Thousand of people descend on Canowindra for this event and finding a place to stay can


Travel | 65 If you’re in Canowindra we’d recommend breakfast at the cleverly-named Deli Lama. It also does great coffee and has a comfortable lounge in an adjoining room.

be difficult. However, the local show ground has designated motorhome and caravan parking – many sites with power thanks to the original Marti’s Fiesta – just across the road from the Ballon Glow site. For further event information click HERE and for accommodation availability and bookings click HERE. Alternatively, call (02) 6344 1008 or email info@ageoffishes.org.au.


66 | Travel The Canowindra Story started 360 million years ago in a time when creatures were just starting to leave the oceans. Fast-forward to today and 3500 unlucky fish now bring the town a steady income stream. How’s that for a positive outcome from evolution?

Something fishy…

C

anowindra is a small rural town of about 1500 that was launched on the road to international scientific fame by a chance roadside discovery in 1955. That’s when an initial find of fish fossils from the Devonian period – dating back some some 360-370 million years – were unearthed during routine roadworks. Today, after a long and uncertain journey the Age of Fishes Museum stands as a tribute to those who realised the importance of the

discovery and campaigned against sometimesindifferent authorities to bring it to fruition. The fossilised remains of more than 3500 freshwater fish – many new to science – have been discovered. Even David Attenborough has visited and been fascinated by the fossil exhibits, which are thought to be unique in their number and variety. It appears the fish died at almost exactly the same time – perhaps within a few days of each other – thus providing an unprecedented snapshot of coexisting creatures of all shapes and sizes.

The museum is a must-see attraction.


Travel | 67 The museum is a must-see attraction and also serves as Canowindra’s local tourist office. It hosts a fascinating display best viewed in conjunction with an audio tour that’s included in the admission price. In fact you can even download the free Age of Fishes app for iOS and Android devices, which includes the full audio tour. The museum also has a gift shop, picnic and barbecue facilities and plenty to do for children, including fossil dig pits. Fast Facts:

Click for Google Maps

What: Age of Fishes Museum  nr Gaskill & Ferguson Sts, Where: C Canowindra. NSW. 2804. When: O  pen daily 10:00-4:00 (except Xmas Day and Anzac Day morning). How Much: Adults: $10 Concession: $ 8 Senior Students: $8 Junior Students: $5 Family: $25 Contact:

T: (02) 6344 1008 E: info@ageoffishes.org.au W: www.ageoffishes.org.au

You can actually touch some of the ancient fossils on display. Note to Grey Nomads: Don’t take offence at the sign saying “Fossil Education Centre”...


68 | Mobile Tech

Environmentally Speaking Two apps for those out-and-about and who care about our environmentâ&#x20AC;Ś By Emily Barker


Mobile Tech | 69 My Environment Platform: iOS Cost: Free Size: 13.6MB

M

y Environment is an information-filled app developed by the Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Designed to be used on the go this app provides a clever and informative snap shot of an area by highlighting sensitive environmental features, natural assets and places of national, Commonwealth and World Heritage significance – even including shipwrecks! Various ecological features of interest are also presented including protected and invasive species of both plants and animals. In terms of exploring a region’s natural environment, this app provides an incredibly detailed overview of what you can expect to encounter or experience. The app utilises your device’s GPS to locate your position, or you can search for an area by name, postcode or directly via the map. Search results are determined by area according to a grid system: 8 x 8 km for urban and 32 x 32 km for rural and regional areas. Each search is divided into categories: heritage, invasive species, protected areas and protected species, shipwrecks, threatened communities, weed species and wetlands. Results can also be further filtered for ease of use, with individual entries able to be added to a favourites tab for quick reference. The primary focus of the My Environment app are ‘Environmental Assets’ that include protected species and areas of environmental significance. The communities and species listed are all threatened, endangered or vulnerable, or are a threat to the natural environment (in the case of weeds and invasive animals). Commonly found plants, animals and ecosystems not classed as threatened are not listed, making this app more of an academic tool rather than simply an attractive field guide or tourist reference. The depth of


70 | Mobile Tech Field Guide to Pest Animals of Australia Platform: Android and iOS Cost: Free Size: 41.3 MB For those actively interested in the impact feral animals are having on the Australian environment and its native inhabitants there is an ingenious app available for both iOS and Android devices. Produced by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, The Field Guide to Pest Animals of Australia is a comprehensive guide to the identification and control recommendations of more than 53 individual species. Each listing contains extensive information regarding the history, origin, biology, damage generated and best practice control as well as distribution maps, images, resource links and even audio files.

information provided in most entries is also well beyond most casual publications, making this the perfect app for those with a keen interest in native flora, fauna and ecology. The app itself is, unfortunately, technically a little glitchy and slightly unfinished. Navigate too fast between screens and the entire thing crashes and closes. This might be due to the sheer volume of information and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an issue the creators are aware of. The overall performance of the app, however, is quite good, with a pleasant interface and clear concise navigation tools, while some listings are more complete than others. Most have images, including a national distribution map, although some are lacking anything further than this, while others have volumes of information. Despite its small flaws this app is full of fascinating information that might otherwise be missed when travelling through an area.


Mobile Tech | 71 Australia has a long and troubled history with feral and invasive animals. From wild brumbies to the cane toad we have more than 80 introduced species of vertebrates impacting our lands and waterways. Some are well and truly established, like cane toads, rabbits, wild dogs, foxes, feral pigs, feral cats, carp, and tilapia, while others like the corn snake might still be combated. This app contains enough information for educated identification, including relevant call sounds, track prints and even scat images. It also provides links and details of what action if any is required by the casual observer; this particularly relates to the early control of emergent threats or high risk species such as ferrets, squirrels, corn snakes and certain birds. Technologically this app is flawless. The interface is a delight to view and use and the information is displayed clearly, while images are all focused and appealing. The creators should be quite proud because from both a scientific and technological point of view it ticks all the right boxes. Australia is currently facing a crisis when it comes to feral and invasive animals, and our delicate eco systems, prized agricultural lands, livestock and even entire species of native mammals and birds are at risk. This app is part of a National initiative by the Invasive Animals CRC to raise awareness and ultimately combat the threats by working with the community to facilitate humane, cost efficient and ecologically appropriate solutions. Should you wish to become further involved in these projects there is also an app available called FeralScan that maps where pests are located and records the damage occurring. You can find out more information here: www.invasiveanimals.com


72 | Next Issue

Last of the Mohicans!

Malcolm tells us he’s just reviewed a new Avida Esperance with a full length slideout and will have that report in time for next issue too. Details are sketchy but it’s built on the new model Iveco and should prove popular, as the Esperance is (or was) Avida’s top selling model.

W

e’ve got a Trakka Jabiru on the driveway at the moment – the one we took away to Canowindra for the launch of the Balloon Festival – and it’s a bit special. Trakka mostly builds Jabirus on Mercedes’ popular Sprinter but ours is built on a VW Crafter (the Sprinter and Crafter are essentially twins under the skin), which Volkswagen has now discontinued. It’s a long APR

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story which we’ll explain next issue, but suffice to say this particular Jabriu is the last Crafter-based version – and it’s available at a very special price!

Issue 70 will be out on 18 April, the Saturday before Anzac Day. Please drive safely this Easter holiday weekend, we hope you get to enjoy it with family and friends. Until next issue why not Friends join our more than 23,000 Facebook and Twitter followers to share the laughs, fun and news. See you in two weeks! Facebook “f ” Logo

April 17-19

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MAY

APR

22-24 22-24 May 11-19

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APR

17-19

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MAY

22-24

Sydney Caravan, Camping & Holiday Supershow

2015 South Queensland Caravan & Camping Expo

Mackay Home Show & Caravan, Camping Expo

Rosehill Racecourse, James Ruse Dr, Rosehill. NSW. 2142 • Open 10:30-5:00 daily (4 pm last day) • Parking: $5 • Adults: $25 • Seniors: $20 • Kids: Free U 16 free with adult

Nambour Showgrounds Coronation Ave, Nambour. Qld. 4560 • Open 9:00-5:00 daily • Parking: Free • Adults: $10 • Seniors: $8 • Kids: School age free with adult

Mackay Showgrounds Mackay. Qld. 4740 • Open 9:00-5:00 daily (4:00 Sunday) • Parking: Not specified • Adults: $10 • Seniors: $8 • Kids: U16 free with adult

Visit Website Click for Google Maps

Visit Website Click for Google Maps

Visit Website Click for Google Maps

Know of a local or regional show coming up that attracts and promotes motorhomes, campervans and the great RV lifestyle in general? Drop us a line at info@imotorhome.com.au and we’ll happily promote it in this calendar.

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Profile for iMotorhome Magazine

iMotorhome eMagazine Issue 69 - 04 Apr 2015  

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iMotorhome eMagazine Issue 69 - 04 Apr 2015  

Get a FREE subscription form our website!

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