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iMotorhome

magazine

Issue 72: May 16 2015

because getting there is half the fun...

A Day in Rio! Win! Transformers!

Inside AL-KO’s chassis factory…

Longtermer Update

How ‘our’ Horizon Casuarina is faring!

DIY Lighting!

An easier way to add driving lights…

$50 for the! best letter

Swift’s snazzy Rio has a party trick all it’s own…


Visit trakka.com or call 1800 TRAKKA


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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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.


AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND

The Most Recognised Name in Motorhomes

2015 motorhome range now available nationwide. Proudly Australian designed and built in our Brisbane factory. Accept no imitations. Find a Winnebago dealership near you. Visit: www.gowinnebago.com.au Licensee and authorised distributor of Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest City Iowa USA


On my mind | 5

On The Road. Again…. To me, why you travel is probably more interesting than how. I was just looking back through the last six month’s iPhone photos and was surprised by how many places we’ve visited in the name of iMotorhome. When Mrs iM isn’t travelling the world for work or home fencing horse paddocks – her preference – she’s usually in the passenger seat ‘beaking’ (stickybeaking), knitting in hand or Googling what we’re seeing. For both of us travel needs a purpose, whether it’s simply getting from A to B, a road test or a destination-specific journey. Neither of us can envisage wandering with no plan or purpose, which is why iMotorhome suits us so well: We never get the chance! Why do you travel? What drives you? Do you prepare an itinerary listing things to see and do – maybe on a daily or weekly basis – and if so, do you stick to it? Do you carry maps and guide books to enrich your understanding of each area, or are you content just to sit back and watch the world go by? Do you travel because of a hobby like fishing, fossicking or bowls, and if so do you and your partner (if you have or travel with one) share the same interests? There’s no right or wrong with this, it’s just interesting. About a decade or so ago we meet a chap in Mildura, who stopped to watch us doing a photo shoot of a Wirraway motorhome on the banks of the Murray. He pulled up in one of the most unusual motorhomes I’ve ever seen and immediately caught our attention. The machine looked like an ancient A-class, made by simply placing an old caravan over an equally old truck chassis. There was no cab (I recall) and it looked like a battered push-me-pull-you driven from the dinette! There wasn’t a straight panel of faded aluminium on it, and to this day I have no idea where my photos are or why I didn’t ask for a look inside.

The owner, clean shaven and well dressed, came to admire the shiny new Wirraway. His was a remarkable story, even though we only got the bare bones of it, and I think you’ll like it. He said he was 87 and had been travelling full time since his wife passed away, some 27 years earlier. His passion was ballroom dancing and he now spent his days travelling the length of the Murray River visiting friends and dancing at every opportunity. It was mid year when we met and his next fixed obligation was Christmas with his daughter in Melbourne. We’ve often wondered what became of him, but given the unusual vehicle and his equally unusual pastime I’m hoping one of you might know. Regardless, he’s left an indelible impression and is now part of our personal travelling lore. On the road again? We just can’t wait…

Richard


6 | Content

3

About Us

9

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

22

Marketplace

One The Road. Again…

Share your thoughts for the chance to win $50!

14

News

24

Day Test: Swift Rio 340

42

Technical

56

Technical

58

Longtermer: Horizon Casuarina

62

Mobile Tech

66

Next Issue

What’s happening in the wider RV world and beyond

The latest Marketplace offers

Postcards From Rio! - Swift’s diminutive Rio 340 has plenty to write home about…

Transformers – There’s more to an AL-KO chassis than meets the eye…

DIY Driving Light Wiring!

All In The Family – Our longterm Horizon Casuarina continues to impress!

Driving Technology – 5 great apps to keep you moving…

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


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resources

iMotorhome

Resources | 9

because getting there is half the fun...

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Back Issues

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iMotorhome

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Esprit de Cor Blimey!

Road Tests

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Marketplace

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

Reader Survey

Reader Review


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

Fiat Cup Holders

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

Hi Richard, attached are pictures of the coffee cup bag we got from Beechworth Bakery to hold our drink bottles in our Fiat Ducato/Jayco motorhome. It holds up to four take-away coffee cups quite well. We originally got the bag with two take-away coffee cups, then the inspiration hit and it works quite well with our drink bottles. We think it would also work to hold wine bottles without rattling but we use a bigger partitioned bag from the Woolies bottle shop for that. It would also work to store drinking glasses or cups in the cupboard without rattling. Normally we just hook the handles through the seat belt mount for the navigator's seat as shown, but we can hook it through both sides if I am driving solo. The bag has lasted over 12 months now but a replacement is easy - just have to drop in to a Beechworth Bakery again. The bag only costs a dollar or so but more with the compulsory lunch and cakes when we visit that establishment. Thanks for the support for motorhoming. We both really enjoy your magazine each fortnight. Regards, Ray. That seems a pretty simple and cost effective way to safely carry drinks in your Ducato. Please accept this issues $50 for your ingenuity, which doubtless will come in handy next time you’re in Beechworth!


12 | On your mind

Doesn’t Add Up

Richard, I think you left off a zero when you said Tiffin makes 300 Class As a year. Tiffin quote 12 completed coaches a day, so that is roughly 3000 a year. They are looking to increase to 5000 a year as a target for future growth.

Yep, your right Robert. Damn decimal places. I blame my mother-in-law for this inherited mathematical deficiency…

Regards, Robert.

Scam Reminder Hi Richard, please see this email scam message in reply to my motorhome for sale ad which I hope you’ll share as a warning to others. “Thanks for the response,I would have loved to call you directly but due to the nature of my work we do not have access to phone at the moment,which is why I contacted you with internet messaging facility. What is your last negotiable price?,why are you selling? if do not mind my asking you, is there any history I should be aware of? if there are any extra, please do let me know.” “Please kindly send me your BANK details or pay pal payment email and name to set up

purchase,as i don't have access to my bank account online as am not with my credit card details here on our mine site but i have my Commonwealth bank account linked up with my PayPal account so I will be paying you through PayPal to your nominated bank account i will arrange for pick up and delivery it in NT by my freight agent after the cleared payment to your account. Regards, James.” Regards, Kennard. Thanks Kennard. I’ve reproduced the email as written and in the hope that if readers with vehicles for sale receive such similar notification they will identify it as a scam and ignore it.


14 | News

Stolen Motorhome Alert

P

lease keep watch for this 2000 model Toyota Coaster, stolen on Monday 11 May from North Brisbane. The personalised plate of BUZ 42 is quite unusual, but sadly the vehicle was not insured. A $1000 reward is offered for its return. The owner said, “It has Crimsafe black framed entry door, passenger side screens and black window frames, forward mounted roof solar panel, 4 floodlights (2 front and 2 rear). With only 190,000 genuine kms she was in superb condition”. If you have any information please contact Policelink on 131444

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16 | News

Vote Now for Port Adelaide RV Park!

T

ime is running out to have your say on a proposal before the South Australian Government to redevelop a disused waterfront section of Port Adelaide into a short stay park for self-contained RVs. The idea has considerable support and is being considered under the innovative YourSAy system, which allows the public from any state to vote, although (free) voter registration is required. Funding of $20,000 is sought and the CMCA is supporting the proposal. A total of $50,000 funding is on offer and only the top five voted for projects will be considered. Currently this proposal is in second place, but voting closes at 5 pm on Monday 18 May. To view the proposal click HERE. From there you can follow the links to register and vote.

Help The USB Garage!

U

SB Garage aims to bring fun and style for car lovers with engaging products that connect with automobile culture. The ‘Garage’ is launching as a project on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter and it’s initial offering includes Volkswagen Kombi USB memory sticks. “We are passionate and enthusiastic about design and automobiles and we aim to combine these passions into a new line of products that are functional, simple and presented to tell a story. We aim to produce them licensed, in small limited runs and with certificates of authenticity. With your help we will make a collection of products that engage users emotionally and celebrate automobile culture with a touch of modernity,” their Kickstarter page says. To find out more click HERE.


News | 17

Pure Coincidence?

T

his post appeared recently on the Free Choice Camps Facebook page.

“We at Free Choice Camps have just learned that the District Council of Mount Remarkable in South Australia has decided to withdraw from the CMCA’s RV Friendly town scheme and the towns of Wilmington, Melrose and Port Germein, which previously enjoyed RV Friendly status (which means there was some free or low cost camping) will no longer be recognised as RV Friendly.” “We understand that the dump points supplied by the CMCA at Wilmington and Melrose will continue to be free to the public; at least they didn’t renege on that. Perhaps our readers if they visit these towns might ask of the information centres just where you can exercise your freedom of choice to camp in the area. It will be interesting to see what the other businessmen (outside the caravan parks) have to say about the possible future downturn from the lack of RVers staying in the area. Oh! Nearly forgot to mention that the Mayor of the District Council is the manager of the Port Germein caravan park, but as our title indicates this must surely be pure coincidence.”

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18 | News

New Low Cost Campsite

A

ccording to the CMCA’s Facebook Page on 12 May, “Our newest RV Friendly Destination™ is the Pottsville Beach Sports Club, in Northern New South Wales. The small coastal town of Pottsville is approximately 798km north of Sydney, and only 132 kilometres south of Brisbane. The sports club is offering low-cost camping for selfcontained vehicles, for only $10 per vehicle for a two night stay. Included is a free 12 month membership to the sports club for one person, if travelling with a partner an additional $5.50 is payable for the second membership. Covered seating, toilets and potable water are available for use, and pets on leads are permitted.”

Queensland Drought Discouraging Tourists?

T

he crippling drought in Queensland's central-west is turning off tourists who fear there is a shortage of water for drinking and bathing, one local business owner says. Cathy Hitson, who owns the caravan park at Ilfracombe, says visitor numbers at her facility so far this year have been significantly down. Ilfracombe is on Level 4 strict water restrictions, with estimates there could be about five or six months worth of supply left. Ms Hitson said she was worried tourists were driving through. "Our numbers are probably down by approximately half as opposed to this time last year," she said. "Maybe it is because of all the bad publicity that we are getting as a result of our drought. People are talking about our water shortage and saying don't stay at Ilfracombe because they have got no water, which is not true. The last thing this community needs is for the tourists to drop off," she said. Ms Hitson said the drop off in tourists was impacting also in the wider Ilfracombe

community, affecting the local hotel, small general store and mechanics business. She said an advertising campaign may be needed and she had also taken to social media to get the message out that the town was open for visitors. "We are low on water and we do have to be careful with our water usage, but we still do have water." The Outback Queensland Tourism Association said it was also concerned about the impact of drought coverage on the tourism sector. General manager Peter Homan said it had been a patchy start to the traditional winter tourist season across the western regions. He said extra promotion campaigns were being discussed, but the message would reinforce that the outback region was open for business. "You know we can't hide the drought, but we want to make sure that the message going out to the public is a positive one, and that we still have great assets to come and visit, and all the towns have water.” From Weatherzone


News | 19

Camplify

A

fledgling business in Newcastle, NSW is connecting campers with the owners of rarely used RVs. Camplify – a finalist in the Best Regional Startup category of the 2015 StartupSmart Awards – allows owners of caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes to list them for hire for a set booking fee. More than 190 people registered with Camplify at a recent major caravan and camping show. Chief executive Justin Hales said owners could chat and choose potential renters they felt comfortable with. "Owners get to set their own prices and rules and we match them with holidaymakers who

want to hire from them. Control is all with the caravan owners and we make sure we provide them with the right people,” he said. "I think it's about a shift in people's ideals. We say hire them out for maybe 20 days and make a bit of money. It pays for your registration and insurance and you get a bit of a return out of it." Mr Hales said the average hire charge was about $80 nightly and this covered everything such as insurance and booking fees. "We have had amazing feedback from people excited to be taking their next holiday with us and from owners," he said. “We are really focused on taking this nationally so we can provide a service to everybody.” From Caravanning News

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!

ONS TINATI 12 DES $9.99 ONLY

For more information visit

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20 | News

Shepparton’s Inaugural GV Rally

T

he Goulburn Valley in Victoria says it will lay on a feast of entertainment at its inaugural rally for RV travellers on 2-8 September. The GV Rally will be held at Shepparton Showgrounds and offer an opportunity for RV enthusiasts to meet and interact, share their stories and experiences and enjoy local highlights, say organisers. It also coincides with the Shepparton Heritage Motor Rally. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the region on guided tours, including culture and history walks, visits to local farm and milk factories as well as wineries and orchards. Other activities will include golf and bowls, fishing and sailing, table tennis and woodworking, plus events like the GV Big Breakfast, comedy night, moonlight movie and a Saturday night social. For more information click HERE.


News | 21

Victorian Park Fees Cut

R

Vers and campers have welcomed news that fees to use basic campsites in Victoria's regional national parks have been scrapped. The $13-a-night charge will no longer apply at Cape Conran, Croajingolong NP, Baw Baw, Gippsland Lakes CP, Mount Samaria, Broken Boosey, Lake Eildon, Cathedral Range, Wyperfeld, Lerderderg, Great Otway NP East, Great Otway NP West, Cobboboonee, Grampians, Little Desert, French Island, Bunyip, Kurth Kiln and on the Mornington Peninsula. A basic site is defined as unserviced, with minimal ranger patrols and pit or no-pit toilets. Environment Minister Lisa Neville believed the fees for basic camping were unfair and made camping expensive for families, affected school camps and buried Parks Victoria in red tape. More than 500 basic camping sites at 70 campgrounds in 19 national parks throughout regional Victoria will have no fees. But the booking system for them will remain in place until July 1. Campers who have made a booking between now and 1 July will be refunded automatically by Parks Victoria, but the bookings will still be honoured. From July 1 it will no longer be necessary to book sites, which will then be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Meanwhile, Parks Victoria has been asked to review all other camping options to ensure a balance between affordable holidays and funding for new facilities.

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22 | iMotorhome Marketplace

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Parkland RV is the official dealer for Avida Motorhomes, Crossroads RV and Opal Caravans in WA. We stock quality used RVs and our modern service department can look after everything.

An official Avida motorhome dealer, with more than 50 new motorhomes in the largest undercover RV showroom in the Southern Hemisphere. Our service department is here for all your needs too.

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!

T: (08) 9493 7933 W: parklandrv.com.au

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Airbag Man

Battery Traders Super Store

Taronga Western Plains Zoo

We design and manufacture air suspension kits for all types of vehicles including motorhomes. Easy to install they let you ‘level up’ for stability and safety.

Batteries, solar panels, inverters, alternators and all electrical parts including cables and switches for your motorhome! We can find and fix all electrical faults and are 12 V power specialists.

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!

T: 1800 AIRBAG W: airbagman.com.au

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iTech World

Wellington Shire

Australia’s leading solar power and satellite TV manufacturers! We stock the revolutionary In Flex and Mini Flex panels, Plus our Complete Traveler Satellite TV package is perfect for motorhomes.

In the heart of Victoria’s Gippsland region. Come and enjoy our natural beauty, famous lakes, High Country and expansive beaches. Find ‘Experience 40 Great Things to Do’ on our website too!

T: 1300 483 249 W: itechworld.com.au

T: (03) 5144 1108 W: tourismwellington.com.au

Bony Mountain Folk Festival This great Aussie festival in the bush is on again, featuring the legendary Murphy’s Pigs! Many other great artists, a Bush Poets breakfast, billy tea, damper, great tucker – don’t miss it!

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iMotorhome Marketplace | 23

FLEXIBLE STORAGE SYSTEMS FOR YOUR CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME Store those additional items up and out of the way using our adjustable, transportable and modular storage system!

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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 info@duvalay.com.au www.duvalay.com.au

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24 | Day Test: Swift Rio 340

d r a c t Pos ! o i R From

Swift’s diminutive Rio 340 has plenty to write home about… Words by Richard Robertson. Images by Malcolm Street.


Day Test | 25

Open day! With a huge skylight, three roof hatches, a side door and massive tailgate the Rio 340 lets in more light and fresh air than most – especially considering its compact dimensions.

I

t’s fair to say that given the physical limitations of building a box to live in on the back of a small truck, motorhome designers don’t have too many options. Conventional wisdom dictates the smallest motorhomes to be van conversions, while larger vehicles get purpose-built (coachbuilt) bodies. Occasionally a design comes along that not only challenges such thinking, it set new standards – and Swift’s Rio 340 is one of them. Swift is a long-established UK manufacturer celebrating its 50th anniversary and builds motorhomes, caravans and caravan park cabins. From what I can see its motorhomes are built entirely on the Fiat Ducato platform, and also under the brand names of Autocruise, Bessacarr and Escape.

The Rio 340 carries and sleeps four. It’s Swift’s latest design and the Company’s UK website sums it up like this: “With the size of a van in the body of a coachbuilt motorhome, the Rio 340 is Swift Group's all-new sporty, compact motorhome with a rear fully opening tailgate. This highly innovative feature is a first for the UK and is ideal for multi-purpose use. A rear parallel lounge allows easy loading of sporting equipment or anything you may choose to take with you.” The Rio 340 isn’t the first small coachbuilt with a rear tailgate – German manufacturer Bürstner has had one for a while called the Brevio – and in terms of dimensions and floor plans the two are almost identical. But the Rio 340 is the first to reach Australia and to be honest, it’s a breath of fresh air.


26 | Day Test Top: The over-cab skylight is a beauty and can be screened for insects or shade. Middle: The tailgate has it’s own large window as well as a pair of down lights for external illumination. Bottom: The electrical control panel might look tricky, but it’s semi schematic and quite logical. The panel to the left is for the Truma hot water/heater combo.

Fully Imported

S

wift’s motorhomes, like an increasing number of brands, are imported as complete vehicles. As such they’re still subject to all the relevant Australian Design Rules (ADRs), but because full compliance is a costly thing it’s usually the province of full scale auto manufacturers. Running parallel with the mainstream system is a low volume scheme for “specialist and enthusiast vehicles” that allows the supply of up to 25 or 100 (depending on category) vehicle per year per vehicle category. To quote the Federal Government’s website, “The Scheme provides a major concession in that it allows alternative forms of evidence to be submitted against some of the ADRs. In the main this applies to ADRs where destructive or expensive testing is required.” Vehicle operating under low volume rules are fitted with a green compliance sticker and the Rio 340 has one of these. The new generation Fiat


Day Test | 27

Insert: The new model Fiat has reverted to speedo markings to suit Europe. Hopefully this will change

The Rio 340 has cup holders on the lower part of the centre console, which locally sourced Ducatos still lack. Ducato the Rio 340 rides on – the X295 in case you’re wondering – follows the European practice of fitting the least powerful engine and a manual gearbox as standard. In this case it’s the Euro-5 emissions compliant 96 kW/320 Nm version of the 2.3-litre turbo-diesel, mated to a 6-speed manual. This base spec level also comes with a plastic steering wheel, rather

than the lovely leather trimmed one we’re used to on locally sourced Ducatos. A 3-litre engine/6-speed auto gearbox option is available, but adds something like $9000ish to the price. If you’re after a selfshifting gearbox, however, it’s your only option.

unless you spend a lot of time at maximum gross weight in hilly country. While it’s short on power compared to the bigger engine, the manual gearbox shifts easily while the clutch is light and progressive. To put it into perspective, this engine is still 1 kW and 15 Nm more powerful than the 2.2-litre From our short drive, and engine in the base model given the low weights involved, Sprinter Malcolm reviewed last I’d think this standard drive issue! train is largely up to task


28 | Day Test

The lower lounge/dinette converts to a bed the same size as the rolldown one. The overhead cupboards come down with the main bed, but there’s a padded strip underneath to avoid headaches. You can adjust the top bed height to suit those sleeping below.

One retrograde feature of the new Ducato is its Euro-centric speedometer (even on locally supplied vehicles) which has speeds like 50/70/90/110/130 marked. I hope this will change in the not too distant future as the outgoing model had correct markings for Australia. Interestingly, the Rio 340 has cup holders on the lower part of the centre console, which locally sourced new Ducatos still lack (although I’m informed vehicles with these are just staring to arrive in Australia). It also comes with LED day running lights, also notably absent on locally sourced new model Ducatos at present. From what I learned on my visit to the AL-KO factory I believe the Rio 340 rides on Fiat’s ‘special’ chassis, which is its lower-height, lower-weight alternative to AL-KO’s aftermarket chassis. Weight-wise the Rio 340 apparently tips the scales empty at 2965 kg and has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of a rather unusual 3650 kg. I say unusual because English-spec models have

a 3500 kg GVM to comply with European car licence weight limits. In any case, for Australian purposes the increased GVM provides a highly respectable payload of 685 kg, especially as the tare weight includes 75 kg for a driver and a 90% full fuel tank (according to Swift’s UK website).

Body Beautiful

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he Rio 340’s body is beautifully compact for a coach built. It’s just 37 mm longer and 210 mm wider than a Fiat Ducato extra-long wheelbase (XLWB) van, like the Casuarina from Horizon Motorhomes that’s our current longterm test vehicle. Those extra millimetres of width make a surprising amount of difference, allowing an east-west bed arrangement that works for taller people. The walls and roof have an external sheet of marine grade aluminium and use polyurethane insulation. The walls are 32 mm sandwich panels while the roof is a 32 mm pressed


Day Test | 29

The current Euro trend of a massive overcab hatch/skylight is a terrific one.


30 | Touring Test Top: Headroom with the main bed raised is reduced, but not bad. Note the under-bed down lights and cupboards that move with the bed. Bottom: The chassis is neatly done and is Fiat’s ‘special chassis’ that reduces body height and overall weight.

panel. A 70 mm plywood floor with styrofoam insulation has a fibreglass underside for water protection, while the nose cone and rear endpanel are fibreglass mouldings.

Speaking of insulation, all new Swifts are now rated to the Euro Grade 3 standard for thermal insulation and heating. This involves opening all the windows and then cold soaking the motorhome at -15ºC overnight in a big freezer. The body is unique in its construction The next morning they close everything up, methodology, as far as I’m aware. I had thought switch on the heating and see how long it takes frameless composite panel construction to warm to 20ºC, while the vehicle remains in would be the go rather than more traditional aluminium frame-and-panel method. It turns out that until recently Swift used wooden frames in its caravans, and I’m presuming motorhomes. Now it uses frames made of – wait for it – polyurethane! Called PURE, it’s a polyurethane whose density Swift’s engineers can vary to suit specific load bearing requirements. Importantly, it’s impervious to water (even when screwed in to) and highly thermally efficient, eliminating interior condensation common with aluminium frames under certain circumstances.


Touring Test | 31 Top: Under-floor water pipes are insulated and the water tanks heated, which is great for winter touring. Bottom: The tailgate is designed to allow easy loading of ‘lifestyle’ equipment like bikes, paddle boards or whatever. the working freezer. Using just the standard installed heating – in this case a Truma Combi electric/LPG unit that also provides hot water – the target temperature must be achieved in less than four hours. That might not sound terribly relevant to Australia, but for those who enjoy winter free camping it’s a godsend. The overall thermal properties would also help airconditioner efficiency during summer, if one was installed. Interestingly, a winterisation kit is included that provides insulated under-floor pipes and heated fresh and grey water tanks. Very nice!

Body Features

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he body’s most obvious body feature is the huge tailgate, which lifts to provide unimpeded access to the rear and comes complete with an electric entry step. Sydney RV is having a large insect screen specifically made, which would provide a spectacular sense of bringing the outdoors inside. View and fresh air aside, the Rio 340’s tailgate is designed to accommodate an ‘active lifestyle’. This means you can load and store things like bikes, a canoe or whatever in the aisle between the rear lounges, and secure them to small tie-down points in the lounge bases. It’s an appealing concept and keeps valuable equipment secure and dry, while with the rolldown bed above you can probably leave them there overnight. A notable body omission is an awning, which if you’re like me is no great loss, but will be a minus-point to many buyers. No doubt an aftermarket Fiamma unit or similar can be fitted. Another notable omission is a mains water connector. Malcolm tells me this is normal with European motorhomes, but it means you have to use the water tank and water pump, and


32 | Day Test Top: The skylight is nicely integrated into the cab ceiling. Note custom seat fabrics that match the dinette and rear lounge. Bottom: The Euro-door has a built-in rubbish bin I’ve just managed to drop. There’s a concertina flyscreen in the door frame, too. keep topping it up. Given the relatively small 90 L fresh water capacity that could become a bit tedious. Grey water capacity is 68 L, while gas capacity is 2 x 9 kg. The single house battery is good for just 75 AH, which won’t last long free camping, although it can be upgraded to 100 or 110 AH. A 200 AH option would be a good idea, as would solar… Double glazed Seitz single-hopper windows are fitted all ‘round, as expected, along with a giant skylight over the cab and a number of roof hatches. A Seitz double-point locking entry door is standard, with a separate non-security concertina flyscreen neatly concealed in the door frame.

Moving Inside

F

eaturing a front lounge/dinette, centre kitchen and bathroom, and a rear lounge/ dinette/bed with a roll-down bed above, the Rio 340’s layout makes the most of its compact dimensions. The current Euro trend of a massive over-cab hatch/skylight is a terrific one, flooding the front of the motorhome with light when desired (it’s screened) and also volumes of fresh air. The cab integrates seamlessly into the front living area through the use of plastic ceiling mouldings and a panel that extends aft of the skylight, above the lounge/dinette. Swift’s decor choices imbue the little Rio 340 with an upmarket, quality feel, as does the liberal use of small LED down lights and concealed strips. For a motorhome essentially the size of a van conversion it feels much more spacious and ‘substantial’ inside.


Day Test | 33

Left: The freestanding table is sturdy and stores neatly in the wardrobe. Note the stylish fabric decor panel around the window. Right: The rear lounge can also be used as a dinette and has comfortable seating for four, maybe six at a pinch. Above the entry door a touch operated semischematic electrical control panel looks intimidating at first, but is actually quite easy to make sense of with a few moments study. Alongside it is the only other major electrical control – a panel for the Truma Combi heating and hot water system.

While the front lounge would probably be the focal point of the vehicle’s social scene, the rear lounge shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a versatile space that can seat two or even three on each side and also makes a good place to sit back with your feet up. That’s if there aren’t a couple of mountain bikes parked in the aisle…

Departure Lounge

An appealing touch in this motorhome is the use of colourful fabric panels around the windows as design features and also to conceal the privacy blinds and insect screens. Unusually, the privacy blinds pull down and the insect screens up – the reverse of what’s usual and how you want these things to operate. A rethink there is defiantly needed.

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he front lounge departs from usual practices by incorporating a sturdy-butlightweight freestanding table rather than a fixed, flip-up or pole-mounted item. It stores in the wardrobe and can be used between the rear lounge seats as well. The swivelling cab seats mate nicely with the seatbelt-equipped forward facing passenger seats, while the abundance of light and fresh air make it an enjoyable and comfortable space. All seats, including the rear lounge, have the same twotone great fabric trim with blue piping and it looks very smart. The ability to remove the table totally adds to the sense of space, although small flip-up wall table by the dinette would be a great inclusion for drinks and nibbles.

Cabinetry is timber laminate with a gloss finish, beige trim accents, sturdy chrome handles and equally sturdy hinges. As mentioned, there are LED reading, down, spot and strip lights throughout, creating some very nice lighting effects, although there are no reading lights over the roll-down bed.


34 | Day Test

A full cooker with three gas burners and an electric hotplate is unusual in a European motorhome. The sink is large, if not overly deep, and comes with a removable drainer.

Chef Central!

U

nusually for a European motorhome, the kitchen is well equipped and surprisingly spacious. Situated on the kerb-side wall between the entry door and bedroom, it includes good bench space, a large sink and a flip-up bench extension by the door. Very unusual is the inclusion of a full cooker with grill and oven. There’s no rangehood, however, just a window, the entry door and an over-kitchen roof hatch, sans fan. Between the kitchen’s run of overhead cupboards is a centrally mounted microwave, while under the benchtop, towards the rear, is a 110 L 3-way fridge with automatic energy selection (AES). The sink has a substantial and attractive chrome mixer tap, while an acrylic splashback runs the full length of the kitchen wall, with a cutout for the window, and includes LED backlighting. Very neat. Under-bench

storage is limited to a floor level drawer under the cooker, a couple of small under-bench drawers and a single cupboard.

Cleaning Up…

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he bathroom, mid-mounted on the drivers side opposite the kitchen, is compact as you’d expect, but well designed and finished. It’s an all in one (wet) shower and toilet, with a swivel-head electric-flush cassette toilet to the right as you enter. It does, however, have a shower screen that covers the door, towel hoop and toilet roll holder. Moulded into the driver’s-side wall is a long, narrow hand basin with a flick mixer tap unit that doubles as a pull-out hand shower, complete with wall attachment bracket. There’s a small coloured splashback behind the handbasin and big wall mirror above it. To the right of the mirror, in the top right-hand


Day Test | 35

An acrylic splashback runs the full length of the kitchen wall, with a cutout for the window, and includes LED backlighting. Very neat.


36 | Day Test

The bathroom is quite compact, but well thought out. It features a moulding on the rear wall that includes a long, narrow handbasin, a medicine cabinet and a large mirror. The basin tap doubles as the shower head, too. Note the swivel head loo. corner, is a deep, moulded medicine cabinet with a door that matches the colour of the splashback. A pair of small over-handbasin down lights and a fanless roof hatch complete what is an unusual, but attractive and functional bathroom.

Zzzzzzz

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he Rio 340’s main sleeping option is a roll-down rear bed that can be left madeup when raised. Near silent and smooth in operation – although with a fiddly switch that

requires a special key – it features an excellent Duvalay Duvalite lightweight memory foam mattress that felt very comfortable. I was also surprised by how long it felt, considering the spec sheet says it’s only 1.83 m (6 ft) and I’m 1.85 m tall. The specified width of 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) seems too narrow too, and Sydney RV tells me both the roll down and lower convertible bed are standard double bed size: 1.90 m x 1.37 m (6 ft 3 in x 4 ft 6 in), which seems much closer to the mark.


Top: A ladder provides main bed access when it’s raised to allow decent space for sleepers below. The mattress is a special Duvalay Duvalite item that seemed very comfortable. Bottom: This privacy screen press-studs into position and can be left in place, but might restrict ventilation and head/foot room. I’d leave it off. Only after we’d cycled the bed up and down a few times did we notice something grey hanging out one end. It turned out to be part of an elasticised privacy curtain that pressstuds into place and encloses both ends and the rear, turning the bed into something approaching a little cocoon. I think the idea is you leave it in place as it has a central elastic strap that gathers it in when you raise the bed, like the ones you see on some poptop roof gussets. Personally I’d remove it and have the bed open, which I think would increase leg and head room as well as allowing much more airflow. Bed access is either via a sturdy pull-out step or a ladder, depending on how far it’s lowered. There’s a hatch above the bed, but no reading lights as mentioned earlier. There are concealed LED strips nearby that would provide adequate night lighting, but these aren’t as versatile as reading lights, of course.

Long Term Test | 37


38 | Day Test The rear lounge quickly converts to a bed thanks to easily pulled-out slat bases. The backrest cushions then fill in the centre. A mattress topper or Duvalays would be a good idea to smooth out the bumps, though.

The twin lounges at floor level can also be quickly converted to a double bed, simply by pulling out slatted bases from either side and filling in the middle with the backing cushions. Depending on the claustrophobia tolerance level of those sleeping below, the top bed can be lowered quite a way down. I was please to find padded ‘bump strips’ under the rear overhead cupboards, which lower with the main bed, when testing out the sleeping options. It’s a thoughtful touch that shows a designer actually tried it!

Finish and decor wise it’s a little slice of Eurochic that has a real sense of style and quality. Specifications-wise, issues like the ‘small’ engine, manual gearbox and lack of awning and mains water connector are likely to turn some potential buyers away, although they wouldn’t deter me. The interior design flexibility and ‘active lifestyle’ emphasis are highly attractive. As an avid winter traveller the free camping opportunities its thermal efficiency and standard heating system offers are a real bonus.

There’s storage under the bottom bed/lounges, plus windows on either side and a large window in the tailgate, so bedtime ventilation in warmer weather shouldn’t be an issue.

Swift UK backs all its motorhomes with a 10 year body warranty, while a 5 year/300,000 km warranty on the fully imported Fiat Ducato is also provided.

What I Think?

All-in-all the Swift Rio 340 is an innovative and stylish ‘pocket’ motorhome well worth putting on your shopping list. Send me a post card if you buy one!

S

wift’s innovative Rio 340 will appeal to many. It caught my eye at the Sydney Supershow as an ideal motorhome for transporting our beloved-but-awkward tandem bike, while its compact dimensions and space efficient interior make it even more appealing.


Day Test | 39

Pros

Specifications

• • • • • • • • •

Manufacturer

Swift Motorhomes

Model

Rio 340

Base Vehicle

Fiat Ducato Multijet 130

Engine

2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

96 kW @ 360 rpm

Torque

320 Nm @ 1800 rpm

Gearbox

6-speed manual

Brakes

ABS Disc

Tare Weight

2965 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3650 kg

Towing capacity

2000 kg

Licence

Car

Approved Seating

4

Berths

4

External Length

6.40 m (21’ 0”)

External Width

2.26 m (7’ 5”)

External Height

2.78 m (9’ 1”)

Internal Height

1.97 m (6’ 6”)

Main Bed Size

1.83 m x 1.20 m (6’ x 3’ 11 in)

Lower Bed Size

1.83 m x 1.20 m (6’ x 3’ 11 in)

Cooktop

Thetford 3-gas/1-electric cooktop/grill/oven

Fridge

Dometic 110 L 3-way AES

Microwave

Yes

Lighting

12 V LED

Batteries

1 x 75 AH

Solar Panels

Optional

Air Conditioner

Optional

Space Heater

Truma Combi 4

Hot Water

Truma Combi 4

Toilet

Thetford swivel cassette

Shower

Flex-hose, variable height

Gas Cylinders

2 x 9 kg

Water Tank

90 L

Grey Water Tank

68 L

Price on Road in NSW

$124,990

Day layout

Compact dimensions 4 Berths 4 Seat belts 2 Living areas Tailgate Bike carrying ability Thermal efficiency Kitchen space Decor

Cons

• Lower powered engine • Manual gearbox • Small capacity house battery • No awning • No mains water connector • No reversing camera

Manufacturer Swift Group W: www.swiftrv.com.au

Supplied by Thanks to Sydney RV Group

Click for Google Maps

13-22 Lemko Place Penrith. NSW. 2750 T: (02) 4722 3444 E: info@sydneyrvgroup.com.au W: www.sydneyrvgroup.com.au

Night layout


40 | Day Test

All-in-all the Swift Rio 340 is an innovative and stylish ‘pocket’ motorhome well worth putting on your shopping list.


www.sydneyrv.com.au WHY ARE WE THE BIGGEST & BEST IN AUSTRALIA?  OPEN 7 DAYS for fantastic show deals!  Over 250 New & Used Motorhomes & Caravans on display  Award-winning Australian family owned business  Fast, Easy & Competitive Finance Available  Trades Welcome (Cars, Motorhomes, Caravans etc)  RV’s prepared by our team of Professional Technicians  We want your business wherever you are in Australia!  Flights, Airport Transfers & Accommodation arranged  RV Collections & Deliveries Australia wide  Professional handover – Learn how everything works  Free 2 night stay at local caravan park while you get used to your RV Award winning, ongoing after sales service & support   We take good care of you!  STATE OF THE ART SERVICE CENTRE, FOR ALL YOUR SERVICING NEEDS

OVER 250 NEW & USED MOTORHOMES AND CARAVANS IN STOCK!

SYDNEY RV SUPER CENTRE • 02 4722 3444 13-22 Lemko Place (Off Castlereagh Rd.) Penrith

Sydney RV Group Pty Limited Lic. No: MD19684


42 | Technical: AL-KO

There’s more to AL-KO’s custom motorhome chassis than meets the eye… by Richard Robertson


Technical | 43

Which way did it go? Fiat Ducatos destined for an AL-KO chassis arrive in pairs, bolted back to back.

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ost buyers give little or no thought to which chassis their dream motorhome rides on. After all, it’s just a part of the vehicle under the motorhome body and nothing you have any say in. Or is it? If you’re in the market for a new motorhome there are options and it’s in your best interests to consider them carefully.

There is one exception however – a specialist chassis company that provides motorhome manufacturers with a range of options otherwise unavailable. They result in motorhomes with significant real-world advantages and the name of that company is AL-KO.

A quick mental tally finds all major Australian The majority of coachbuilt motorhomes built in brands building at least one model on a chassis Australia at the moment ride on a cab-chassis from this well regarded, if perhaps unknown or supplied by Fiat, Iveco or Mercedes-Benz. A misunderstood, manufacturer. But just what is cab-chassis looks like a skeletal light truck, with an AL-KO chassis, why build on one and if they the cab up-front and a ‘naked’ ladder frame are better than a factory chassis, what makes behind – the part they build the body on. For them so good? I recently spent an afternoon motorhome manufacturers this one-size-fitsat the AL-KO factory to try and answer those all situation dictates what type of body can be questions, and the results might surprise you… built, where it can be attached, where items like water tanks and plumbing can be positioned and how weight can be distributed.


44 | Technical The AL-KO chassis is lightweight yet strong, with the rear torsion bar axle a structural cross member. Other cross members can be custom positioned, within limits, to provide room for water tanks, etc.

AL-Who?

A

L-KO is a German company founded by Alois Kober, who was born in 1907. A locksmith by training, in 1931 at age 23 he bought a locksmith’s shop, but military service interrupted in 1939. In 1945 he started again, but shifted his business focus to vehicle technology and mechanical engineering. Much happened in the following decades, but it’s 1979 that interests us. That’s when the first AL-KO Motorhome Chassis (AMC) was developed, on experience gained from 11 years of pioneering caravan chassis design and manufacture.

In 2013 AL-KO opened a purpose-built manufacturing facility in Dandenong, in Melbourne's south east, and now works in partnership with Fiat Chrysler Australia on the bulk of its motorhome products. AL-KO is also locally active in caravans and electronic stability control systems for towed vehicles, but that’s another story.

AL-What?

T

he AMC concept is simple: a lightweight, strong, hot-dipped galvanised replacement chassis that provide greater payload plus variations in length, width and height compared to a conventional chassis. Today AL-KO is a global company that Central to it is the replacement of the original commenced operations in Australia in 1986 rear axle and leaf-spring suspension assembly with the purchase of Girlock. In 2002 it by a steel torsion-bar independent suspension began importing fully-assembled Italian-made system. The torsion bar assembly becomes an motorhome chassis in partnership with the then integral, load-bearing chassis crossmember Fiat importer, Ateco. that reduces unsprung weight, as well as


Technical | 45 Ducato cabs come with a cut-out back wall and roof (covered during transport) that allows for easy mating to a motorhome body. Production Engineer Craig Greenaway is the go-to guy when it comes to AL-KO’s motorhome chassis. overall chassis weight, leading to significantly increased payload. Due of its design the AMC chassis is best suited to front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles – hence the Fiat association. AL-KO works with most, if not all, FWD light truck manufactures in Europe. It also works with Mercedes-Benz to produce a special rear-wheel drive chassis for the Sprinter, on a production line loop integrated into the main Sprinter assembly line. Unfortunately, the product is only available in Germany. Since 2006 Fiat’s Ducato has accounted for 86% of new motorhome sales in Europe and for some years has been the top-selling motorhome base vehicle in Australia. Early on, Fiat pitched the Ducato at the European motorhome market by developing its ‘softer side’. Into what started out as a basic light commercial delivery van they designed driver and passenger appeal, as well as motorhome manufacturer appeal. Features like factory-standard swivel seats, a door-side handbrake and detailing down to the passage of wiring through the chassis make it particularly motorhome friendly. These things, combined with aggressive pricing, gives the Ducato a market share other manufacturers can only dream of. Of course, Fiat imports its own cab-chassis version of the Fiat Ducato – called the standard chassis – and in recent years has started manufacturing its own Special Chassis version that's lower and lighter, to compete with the ALKO product. However, Fiat also recognises the strong and unique flexibility of the AMC system and produces equally unique Ducato cabs specifically for the conversion.


46 | Technical AL-How?

T

he original AL-KO conversion was pretty basic. Initially, the company would receive a standard Fiat Ducato cab-chassis and simply hacksaw through the chassis at the back of the cab. They would then fit what’s become known as a chassis conversion bracket and restore corrosion protection to the modified areas to as-new standards. Any desired parts were retained, but the bulk of the factory chassis was scrapped.

Top: Chassis components from AL-KO’s German head office arrive hot-dip galvanised and ready for local assembly. Bottom: The Ducato cabs are bolted together using AL-KO’s own chassis conversion brackets, which Fiat purchases and installs at the factory.

These days, things couldn't be more different. Fiat purchases AL-KO’s chassis conversion brackets and builds them into the cab of specially ordered vehicles, on the production line. The cabs are manufactured without a rear wall or full roof, allowing seamless integration into a motorhome body structure. Two of these special Ducato cabs are then bolted backto-back and delivered to AL-KO’s Australian factory like bodiless push-me pull-yous, where they await separation and chassis installation. It's strange sight to behold – a lineup of double ended Ducato cabs that can be driven in either direction! Chassis components are manufactured at AL-KO’s main German factory and shipped to Australia for final assembly. This provides quality continuity in terms of raw materials and manufacturing process, plus economies of scale simply unattainable in our small market. The chassis is made from high tensile steel 2.5 mm thick and the main rails use a C-section profile. They are also slightly taller that the standard Fiat chassis rails. All components are hot-dip galvanised in Germany and ALKO’s Technical & Manufacturing Manager, Rob Funder, said the quality of the job is beyond reproach. “We had some smaller items galvanised locally and the finish was disappointing. When I spoke to the supplier he said, ‘That’s just

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


Technical | 47

This special assembly table from Germany is where each chassis comes to life. Assembled upside down, they’re then flipped over and mated to a cab.

the galvanising process’, but I assured him otherwise!” A specialised chassis assembly table – also from head office – allows components to be brought together and assembled with millimetre accuracy. Chassis are built upside down for ease of access before being flipped over for mating to the cab. The joining method is equally impressive and eased any nagging doubts I had regarding bolting a cab to a chassis. Depending on the desired final chassis height (more on that soon) the new chassis rails are bolted on top of, or ‘around’, the special chassis conversion bracket. The bracket has what look like countersunk (female) recesses around each bolt hole. These match protrusions (male) around each hole in the attachment plate/over-fitting chassis rail, so that in addition to the bolts, the bracket and

attachment plate/chassis rails ‘grip’, making an extra-strong union. The connection is actually called a ‘conical seat’ and works through the load being supported by the entire seat instead of relying on the shear strength of the fastening bolts. “We keep stock of customers’ Ducato cabs and can basically assemble a vehicle and have it out the door in a day,” Rob said. “What’s interesting is that Fiat requires two Ducatos to be ordered at a time, because of the way they ship them. When we first started doing this – bringing in two vehicles with individual VIN numbers that are bolted together but regarded as one unit – it caused all sorts of approval problems with the regulators!” It’s important to note that while the chassis is custom made by AL-KO the actual runninggear – like wheel hubs, bearings, brake discs


48 | Technical Top: Chassis are available in three step heights. This is the highest (zero drop) and provides a flat walk-through floor from the cab. Bottom: Craig points out the special ‘conical seat’ connection system that spreads the load across the whole joint and not just the fastening bolts.

and pads – are all standard Fiat Ducato items, for ease of servicing.

AL-Why?

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hy go to all this trouble? Design flexibility and increased payload are the primary attractions. Whereas a normal vehicle requires a motorhome company to design a body around the chassis, AL-KO sits down with each manufacturer to optimise the design. For example, track widths of 1860 or 1980 mm, plus varying wheelbases and rear overhang options, provide flexibility with body widths, tank locations, storage options and even exhaust pipe location. Importantly, 3 drop-heights – the distance from the top of the chassis rails to the floor of the cab – are offered: 0 (flat), 142 and 220 mm. This feature more than any other is AL-KO’s signature as it allows for low entry-steps and roof heights, without sacrificing interior headroom. AL-KO


Technical | 49 Top: Standard Fiat Ducato brake assemblies are fitted to allow easy servicing. Bottom: Part of the wheel alignment process. also offers fully approved brackets for seat fixing systems as well as complete seatbelt frame systems that attach to the chassis. Importantly, whereas a standard Fiat Ducato cab-chassis has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 4250 kg, an AL-KO chassis has a 4495 kg GVM. That’s with a single rear axle – it increases to 5000 kg with AL-KO’s unique tandem axle chassis. That 245 kg gross weight increase is in addition to a saving of around 200 kg on the bare chassis, all of which allows more payload in terms of water capacity, vehicle options, etc, while keeping single rear axle models within the limits of a standard car licence. A gross combination mass (GCM) of 6000 kg is common across the single-axle range, providing a towing capacity of 1510 kg. Strength-wise, despite the lighter overall weight of the custom chassis the rails are still very strong. Under load testing over a 1 meter span with a 100 kg weight, deflection of only 0.438 mm was recorded. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of weight distribution in motorhome design. Simply having extra payload capacity can actually jeopardise handing and stability if the weight can't be evenly distributed. In a frontwheel drive vehicle in particular, rear weight bias can reduce drive wheel traction. By tailoring the location of chassis cross members and outriggers, for example, as well as the wheel base, AL-KO provides motorhome designers with the opportunity to produce the best balanced models possible.


50 | Technical Before sign-off every vehicle receives a full front and rear wheel alignment.

AL-Aboard!

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t seems AL-KO’s star is in the ascendancy. The number of AMC chassis sold in Europe in the last 30 years, by my calculations, must be at least 250,000 and although the Australian operation is tiny by comparison – some 1500 vehicles since 2002 – the opening of the Melbourne facility just two years ago has seen a steep increase in demand. In addition to its standard AMC chassis, AL-KO offers a number of options already finding a ready market. The first is the AL-KO Level Controller (ALC), which is a maintenance-free mechanical aid for maintaining even vehicle height under all load situations. Simple and effective, it improves on-road stability and handling by maintaining constant fore-aft ride height. Unfortunately, ALC is not available for retrofit as it requires a completely different axle and bracket assembly.

Next up, and one we recently reported on, is AL-KO Comfort Suspension (ACS). Factorystandard Fiat Ducatos tend to have a slightly nose down stance and the front suspension is prone to bottoming out and ‘crashing’ over bumps, especially at speed. ACS overcomes this by replacing the front suspension struts and springs, increasing front wheel travel and providing a level vehicle stance. Retrofittable at the recently reduced price of $1474, ACS also increases the front axle capacity from 2100 to 2300 kg, when fitted by AL-KO to a Fiat Ducato with one of its chassis. Top of the range and an exciting development is air suspension. Two systems are available: X2 for the rear axle/s only and X4 for all axles. Yes, the latter includes replacement of Ducato’s front suspension. Developed in conjunction with Dutch company VB Air Suspension, the new systems are available only on factory-new


Technical | 51 chassis. Interestingly, X2 is mandatory now in Australia for all tandem-axle models due to requirements for load sharing on paired axle groups.

Top : Air suspension is an exciting new development. Bottom L to R: Marketing Manager Brad Hooper, Technical & Manufacturing Manager Rob Funder and Production Engineer Craig Greenaway with a collection of axle assemblies ready for installation.

Air suspension provides improved ride comfort and consistent ride height regardless of loading and can be raised for increased clearance below 30 km/h. The all-axle X4 system improves on this by providing the ultimate in ride comfort, plus automatic vehicle levelling when parking on uneven campsites. Given the Fiat Ducato’s popularity in Australia and AL-KO’s range of Ducato-specific chassis, seatbelt and suspension products, it’s likely the company’s fortunes will continue to improve. If you’re in the market for a new motorhome you now have something more to consider. Yes, there is a price premium built into any new AL-KO chassis-equipped motorhome, but it’s money well spent. Increased load capacity, improved ride quality, outstanding corrosion protection and mechanical simplicity are all highly desirable attributes. Add to that better weight distribution and the AL-KO package is one that takes a lot of beating.


52 | Technical

Paradise In Hell

What I didn’t know at the time is that when a manufacturer first works with AL-KO its n late March 2014 I spent an afternoon at prototype model has to be put through the the Australian Automotive Research Centre same torture testing. This is a considerable (AARC), a highly secretive and secluded expense for both parties, not least the 2500 acre site deep in the bush, some 125 km manufacturer, who risks effectively writing off south-west of Melbourne. It’s the place car and a vehicle depending on how its body fares. truck manufacturers put new models through The good news is that lessons learned on hell to find out what works and what breaks. construction durability filter their way into It has a variety of roads from slick bitumen to production across the manufacturers whole rough-as-guts gravel, plus tracks with specific range regardless of the base vehicle used. surfaces designed to reproduce the very worst Interestingly, Paradise Motor Homes is the only conditions a motor vehicle is likely to encounter. manufacturer to my knowledge to invite the The occasion was to watch Paradise Motor press to witness this prototype testing, which Homes put its first AL-KO chassised model says a lot about the quality of its products. – the Free Time – through the equivalent of 100,000 km of normal driving – in 5 days. You can read all about it in Issue 45.

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Technical | 53

It’s difficult to pick this is quite an uneven site, but AL-KO’s X4 air suspension system has levelled the Trakkaway 860 front-to-rear and across the slope.

Suspension of Disbelief…

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y trip to the AL-KO factory coincided with Trakka completing production of its first tandem rear axle Trakkaway 860 using the all-axle X4 air suspension system. I popped up to their Mt Kuring-gai showroom one morning to experience this exciting new development firsthand, on a customer vehicle due for imminent delivery. The motorhome was positioned on uneven ground when I arrived and General Manager Martin Poate proceeded to put the air suspension system through its paces. It’s operated by a slightly cumbersome-looking handheld control unit attached to the dashboard by a long coiled lead, like an old fashioned telephone (remember them?). The controller provides quite a range of options,

but in day-to-day driving operation is largely automatic. Not only can you can raise or lower the vehicle, you can even tilt it to one side to facilitate waste water draining! It’s party piece, however, is the ability to self-level when camping on an uneven site. Imagine – no more levelling blocks! When measured, Martin’s demonstration of the self-levelling function provided seven centimetres lateral variation, measured from the bottom of the rear wheel arches to the ground. In addition to this cross-vehicle levelling, the X4 system works fore and aft, providing the proverbial ‘level playing field’. The system is activated by an on-board air compressor and you can stand outside the motorhome, remote in hand, and watch the action. Don’t get too excited, however, it’s not the fastest show in town! Rather than pumping everything up


54 | Technical

Left: The hand controller provides a variety of settings. Right: This air bellows assembly replaces the Fiat Ducato’s original front suspension. uniformly, the AL-KO system seems to operate one corner or vehicle end at a time. The full X4 air suspension system is now standard on new Trakkaway 860s. Given the requirement for all new tandem-axle AL-KO chassis to be equipped with the X2 system on the rear axles, it’s a sensible move that takes Trakka’s flagship to a new level and, for the moment at least, a unique market position.

On The Road!

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uspension calisthenics complete it was time to venture out for a short test drive; always a slightly nerve wracking affair in a customer’s brand new vehicle! With the suspension selector on ‘auto’ I turned out of the driveway and the first thing noticed was

the absence of body sway as each axle group crossed the gutter at a slight angle. On the dual carriageway of the Old Pacific Highway the ride quality of the new system became immediately apparent. The ‘new’ Trakkaway 860 exhibits the same comfortable and slightly floating ‘lope’ of a fully air-suspended luxury touring coach. There’s no wallowing, thumping or crashing over road joints or uneven surfaces, either. It simply insulates you from the worst the road has to offer. Heading further north we branched off onto the winding single lanes of the old highway, where I was keen to see how it would cope with tight, slow corners and repeated changes of direction. A good touring coach sits flat in these situations, with the self-levelling mechanism effectively ‘pumping up’ one side of the vehicle


Technical | 55

to reduce or eliminate body roll. The original Trakkaway 860 was a good handler, with the tandem rear axles acting like trainer wheels and keeping body roll down. The new system is even more impressive, ‘standing up’ nicely in tight corners but still providing the driver with good seat-of-the-pants feedback. This is a confidence inspiring motorhome I’m certain its new owners will be very pleased with. Trakka plans to make the X2 air suspension system optionally available on single axle Trakkaway models in time, and from what I sampled with the 860 it would be an option box well worth ticking. It won’t be cheap – no surprises there – but the range of benefits offered certainly make it worth spending a little more of the kids inheritance. Just don't tell them I said that…

Top: The air suspension installation is neat and clean on the rear axles of Trakka’s big 860. Above: Along with ride quality, automatic levelling is the other big attraction of a full air suspension system.


56 | Technical

Plug and Play

DIY driving light installation is now a whole lot easier‌ by Allan Whiting of outbacktravelaustralia.com.au


Technical | 57

D

riving lights make a big difference at night on country roads. Even though most motorhomers are tucked-up nicely when the sun goes down, sometimes you just need to drive after dark. Adding driving lights makes good sense and choosing the right lights is one thing, but installing them is something else again. Electrical specialist Narva has upgraded its do-it-yourself driving light harness kits, making them even easier for the DIY brigade. The new harnesses are said to require no tools, allowing ‘plug and play’ fitment, without the need to cut or splice wires to connect to the vehicle’s headlight circuit. The key to this feature is a clever adaptor piece that plugs directly into the vehicle’s headlamp circuit, suiting the H4 and HB3 globes found in most vehicles. Additional headlamp adaptor kits for H1, H3 and H7 can be purchased separately (P/No. 74416). The new harnesses are compatible with halogen, HID or LED driving lights and are available for 12-volt (P/No. 74402) and 24-volt (P/No. 74402-24) vehicles. Also, the kits aren't brand-specific and additional connectors provided with them

allow easy connection to other-brand halogen, HID and LED driving lamps. Thanks to intelligent electronics the harnesses are compatible with positively and negatively switched vehicles. The kits include an on/ off mouse switch with LED indicators and adhesive back. The kits also include a 30A fuse, waterproof fuse holder, relay and relay block, and corrugated tubing to cover the wires. Options include a panel-mount, heavy duty sealed rocker switch, complete with driving light symbol and illuminated blue screen (P/No. 74414) and a standard rocker switch (P/No. 74410). Both rocker switches come with pre-wired fitting for direct connection to the driving light harness. Narva’s 12 and 24 volt driving light harnesses are available from leading four wheel drive, transport and automotive outlets throughout Australia and retail for $99. Narva has calculated that the kit saves up to 50 percent on the price of purchasing all the necessary components separately.


58 | Longterm Test Update: Horizon Motorhomes Casuarina

All In The Family

After almost a month our longtermer feels like part of the family‌


Longterm Test Update | 59

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his issue coincides with the end of our fourth week and it’s remarkable how easily ‘Cassie’ – our long-term Horizon Motorhomes’ Casuarina – has slotted into our life. Since arriving home following the big, wet drive from Ballina the rain has continued and I’m considering selling our services to bring drought relief to Outback Australia. Usage since last issue has been varied and highlights the advantages and flexibility a vanconversion motorhome brings. From a night at Sydney airport to avoid an early morning drive in peak hour traffic to an impromptu Saturday night in Marulan, Cassie has proven highly adaptable. I also picked Mrs iMotorhome up from the airport early one morning and took her to work with me. Once there she went to bed – pyjamas and all – while I did a road test. On the way home we detoured via the supermarket and stocked the fridge with perishables. All very handy! As I write we’re staying in a favourite holiday property between Mansfield and Mt Buller, in

Top: The Casuarina’s compact size makes nipping into roadside attractions easy. Bottom: Rain, rain and more rain. Thanks goodness the wipers are large and do a great job!


60 | Longterm Test Update

North East Victoria. For this trip the Casuarina is our return transport and day-trip vehicle, and it’s convenience over the car we usually bring down cannot be overstated. On the way south we left a day early and overnighted in Holbrook after a leisurely afternoon drive. Normally the 6-7 hour drive is just ‘the cost of doing business’, but this time it’s much more relaxed, fun and part of the escape. Being able to bring bulk supplies to our self-catering retreat is a real bonus too.

Issues?

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here’s nothing to report, apart from an occasional tendency for the engine to cut out immediately after starting. It then starts and runs fine on the second go and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the engine is cold to hot. Overall average fuel consumption has increased by 0.71 L/100 km, but given the shorter trips, some city driving and the horrendous headwinds we encountered driving down to Victoria last Sunday afternoon it’s doing well.

Top Left: Moving in! Top Right: Roadside produce is always a treat: Above: Supermarket shopping is easier with a fridge to take things home.

One Fiat Ducato quirk I’ve discovered is the inability to change radio stations via the steering wheel audio controls. I still haven’t fully investigated the trip computer’s myriad functions, but I have paired my phone with the Blue&Me Bluetooth system and it works well. A bonus due to Horizon’s fitment of 5 V USB


Longterm Test Update | 61

Fast Facts

The Casuarina’s proper rear windows allow you to sit up in bed with a morning cup of tea…

charging outlets is the ability to have my phone charging securely at the back of the vehicle while still having handsfree phone capability when driving. The plastic surround for the window privacy screen on the passenger door blocks 90 per cent of the convex side mirror. The blinds are great so I’d keep them and just put a convex spot mirror on the main side mirror if it were my vehicle. There’s also an intermittent rattle in the flip-up kitchen bench extension, but we’re working on a cure for it. Overall the Casuarina continues to impress, particularly in terms of Horizon’s conversion build quality and the Fiat’s comfort and economy.

Manufacturer

Horizon Motorhomes

Model

Casuarina

Base Vehicle

Fiat Ducato

Engine

3.0-litre turbo-diesel

Kms on pickup

3258

Kms travelled

1149

Av fuel

11.01L/100 km (25.67 mpg)


62 | Mobile Tech

Driving Technology Five great apps to keep you moving‌ By Emily Barker


Mobile Tech | 63

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here’s an extensive range of apps to assist when it comes to driving. From GPS navigation to troubleshooting engine issues, there’s an app that has you covered. First of all it’s important to mention that in Australia it’s illegal to talk on the phone or text while driving, and this includes fiddling with mobile apps. So while embracing assistive technology may be convenient or even fun, we need to keep both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Ironically, there are even apps that can help with this too! The following is a brief list of (mostly) free apps that have been recognised by various motoring associations as being worthy of downloading. Often the difference between a functional app and a useless one is time. Apps that rely on user submissions to monitor real time evens can be a little touch and go. While these apps may be great in certain (metropolitan) areas, they can be of little use in others. The scope of utility apps relating to road travel is huge, whether it’s live traffic reports,

finding the best fuel prices, monitoring your vehicle’s performance, tracking your journey, deciphering engine warnings or even making your car sound like a high performance vehicle, it’ll all be found in the app store. Snarl Android/iPad/iPhone Cost: Free Size: 8.7 MB Snarl traffic is a young Sydney outfit who have developed a technologically intelligent solution to a very common problem that practically every road user encounters. Supporting NSW, Victoria and Queensland at this stage. Snarl Traffic provides real-time East coast traffic information including accidents, incidents and conditions that can impact upon traffic flow. It also provides access to literally hundreds of live traffic cameras. This app appears perfect for the city commuter looking to avoid congestion or accident related delays, however its fresh, functional interface makes it handy for a multitude of other uses including trip planning and route calculation. With the ability to set up audio alerts regarding specific areas at specific times this app has the potential to be quite the convenient travel companion, no matter where you’re going. Just be aware that continued use of GPS running in the background can dramatically impact on battery life. Cheap Parking Android/iPad/iPhone Cost: Free Size: 4.4 MB When it comes to a life hack, anything that saves money is great and this app may just be worth the time it takes to download. Now I’m sure there are other websites you can visit to determine this information, but like most apps this one is designed to take the leg work out by being far more convenient. For best results the app


64 | Mobile Tech requires location services to detect carparks near you, however there is an option to search manually. With the ability to calculate the entire cost of your estimated duration and provide contact details and particulars about each and every car park, such as height restrictions, security, car wash facilities and special rates; for one who travels infrequently to the city this app can provide valuable time and money saving information. As it’s partially crowd sourced, accuracy of information is not guaranteed and it might pay to do a little research before committing to a park, but it’s certainly a great place to start! Speed Tracker Free. GPS Speedometer, HUD and Trip Computer Android/iPad/iPhone Cost: Free (offers in app upgrades) Size: 30.2 MB Speed Tracker Free is just as the name indicates: A free speedometer and trip computer that can be upgraded with in-app purchases for extra features such as a heads-up display option and interactive map. In its free basic form this app allows you to record trip details including distance travelled, total time elapsed, actual travel time, current, maximum and average speeds, altitude and even records your location in an address form. The speedometer and trip meter feature on their own screen and the app is designed to be used on either iPads or hand held devices in landscape orientation for easy dash display. One feature that particularly stands out is the fact this app can be used while offline in areas where mobile service may fail. There are a multitude of speedometer apps available for both iOS and Android devices, and while Speed Tracker might not necessarily be the best it certainly sets a benchmark for convenience, accuracy and functionality.

PetrolSpy Android/iPad/iPhone Cost: Free Size: 3.8 MB We all know how frustrating it is to see variations in fuel prices, particularly as you drive away from fuelling up! Frankly, keeping up with the mythical ‘fuel price cycle’ is like playing the pokies. So too is finding a reliable app that provides real time pricing information. PetrolSpy, however, appears to do this better than most as it provides a cash incentive to those on the ground who provide pricing updates. Members who submit regular price updates go in the running to win a $25 fuel card every second day – not bad if you’re outand-about a lot. The app itself is simple, using a map based on your current location you can search for fuel stations nearby and compare their prices, amenities and services. At worst it’s simply a fuel


Mobile Tech | 65 station finder with no prices indicated if they haven’t been updated; at best it’s a great way to efficiently locate the best price near you or where you intend to be. Results can be sorted in a variety of ways and also included are the contact details of each station. It’s a free app fuelled by crowdsourced information, but it’s easy to use interface and minimal advertising makes it a handy and convenient tool! Gas Cubby Free Android/iPad/iPhone Cost: Free (offers in app upgrades) Size: 10.3 MB When it comes to tracking mileage, fuel economy and maintenance expenses, traditional log books are valuable tools. Of course, there are now many apps that streamline and simplify this process, too. Gas Cubby is one and has been noted for its ease of use and convenience when dealing with multiple vehicles. With quick user set-up for multiple vehicles, simple data entry when refuelling and abundant data and graphs, including average kilometres and daily fuel costs, this app ticks all the right boxes – including price! There is an upgraded version available, however as with many apps the free version does the job quite well and is certainly worth experimenting with before making any purchases. Overall this is an excellent app for tracking vehicle running costs, specifically fuel use and maintenance. It also provides a handy record of servicing, with the ability to provide push notification prompts indicating when further maintenance is due. Additionally data is able to be stored within the app or exported via email in Excel-compatible reports, making it a valuable accounting tool too.


66 | Next Issue

Power Ranger!

Travel stories will include a look at the beautiful and little-known Olive Pink Botanic Garden in the heart of Alice Springs, plus a must-visit winery on the Hume Highway steeped in early colonial history. There’ll be another Longtermer update, more apps and possibly a reader vehicle review if the photos arrive in time!

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ord’s powerful Ranger 4X4 has been a huge sales success and Sunliner appears to be one of the few manufacturers to recognise this. Next Issue Malcolm gets to grips with the Sunliner Ranger – a compact C-class coachbuilt motorhome that promises comfort, convenience and quite decent off-road ability.

May 22-24

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03-09

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22-24

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JUN

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29-31 03-09 22-24

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Mackay Home Show & Caravan, Camping Expo

Hunter Valley Caravan & Camping Show

Mackay Showgrounds Mackay. Qld. 4740

Maitland Showgrounds Maitland. NSW. 2320

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

• Open 9:00-5:00 daily (4:00 Sunday) • Parking: Not specified • Adults: $15 • Seniors: $11 • Kids: U16 free with adult

Visit Website Click for Google Maps

Visit Website Click for Google Maps

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JUN

June 03-09

03-09

Queensland Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow Brisbane Showgrounds Bowen Hills. Qld. 4006 • Open 10:00-6:00 daily (4:00 last day) • Parking: $12 (Take free train instead) • Adults: $18 • Seniors: $12 • Kids: School age free with adult

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 72 - 16 May 2015  

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iMotorhome eMagazine Issue 72 - 16 May 2015  

Get a FREE subscription from our website now!

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