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iMotorhome

magazine

Issue 92: Apr 02 2016

A Short

Trakk Away

Win!

$50 for the! best letter

Travel Canada & Alaska!

A reader’s account of a fabulous northern adventure

What’s On?

Don’t miss Birdsville’s Big Red Bash…

Project Polly

Powering Up with Redarc Solar!

An Easter encounter with Trakka’s compact next-gen Trakkaway 700 Remote…


Relax in Paradise

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• Built for Australian conditions. • Models available with or without slide-outs. • Superior finish with stylish new contoured exterior. • Patented moulded bins for maximum storage capacity. • Outstanding road handling & ride comfort. • Genuine island queen beds and huge wardrobes. • Spacious rear ensuites with separate toilet & shower. • Market leading layouts & lifestyle features. • Full living area slide-outs providing superior living space. • Proven reliability of Paradise’s patented slide-outs.

Enjoy the prestige of owning Australia’s best quality motorhome Paradise Motor Homes

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ph (07) 5597 4400 - email info@paradisemotorhomes.com.au Paradise Motor Homes products are protected by registered designs, patents and copyrights ™ © 2013


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! Facebook “f ” Logo

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Contributors Emily Barker, Sharon Hollamby and Allan Whiting

Published by iMotorhome PO Box 1738, Bowral. NSW 2576. Australia.

Design and Production

ABN: 34 142 547 719

Agnes Nielsen

T: +614 14 604 368

E: agnes@imotorhome.com.au

Design & Production Manager

E: info@imotorhome.com.au W: www.imotorhome.com.au Editorial Publisher/Managing Editor

Advertising Sales & Marketing Business Development Manager This could be you! Interested? Contact us on richard@imotorhome.com.au

Richard Robertson T: 0414 604 368

Legal

E: richard@imotorhome.com.au

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.

Roadtest Editor Malcolm Street E: malcolm@imotorhome.com.au


OUR 2016 RELEASE

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On my mind | 5

SMALL WORLDS Readers who live locally invited us over for coffee; partly just to say “G’day” but also to show off their brand new motorhome. It took three attempts to meet up with Jack and Jill – not their real names but they do live at the base of a hill – but eventually we were welcomed into their fine home for serious coffee, home-made biscuits and pleasant conversation. During the chat it was revealed that Jack and Jill are good friends of a colleague of Mrs iM’s; a fellow who works as her second-in-command of cabin service on international flights. Jack also asked if the Alan Whiting who writes as our Technical Editor was the same one who had worked for a certain publishing company some decades earlier. It was, and Jack had been the financial controller. Small worlds! Moving outside, we were invited to inspect their pride and joy. It’s from a major manufacturer and was chosen after much research. Rather than wait for a custom order they bought a stock vehicle from a dealer to get going quickly. A good deal was done and our hosts have already added many touches to make it truly ‘theirs’. The vehicle, which has a dinette and bedroom slideout and seems fully optioned, is kept on the driveway, packed and ready to go. They’ve done a few shorter trips but are soon off to Perth on their first serious adventure. This is Jack and Jill’s first motorhome and they can scarcely contain their excitement. Jack also said he can scarcely prise Jill from the driver’s seat, but they share the driving and love their new purchase. Well, almost. It seems during January’s heavy rains Jack discovered water running – no, gushing I think he said – from behind a ceiling light fitting. Not want you want in a new, near-$200,000 motorhome. The rains eased and as instructed by the dealer Jack removed the light and dried out the area behind it as best he could. I can’t remember how the leak was rectified but since then a nearby section of the ceiling laminate has bubbled. There have been some serious phone calls between Jack, the dealer and

manufacturer, but it appears a solution is at hand, although it might involve a whole new roof. Under warranty, of course. I’m not sharing this to rubbish the manufacturer, dealer or Jack and Jill’s purchase choice. I’m sharing this because of an insight from Michael Becker, Director and CEO of Smart RV in New Zealand. He was telling Malcolm and me about their new service centres and how customers need to understand that unlike cars, motorhomes are essentially hand built. This means the people who put them together sometimes have bad days and as a result things can go wrong. So the key to customer satisfaction isn’t just building faultless products, it’s how well a business recovers the situation if/when its products disappoint. Fingers crossed for Jack and Jill; I’ll let you know how it goes. On the way back to our car Mrs iMotorhome remarked she hadn’t seen their common friend in months, but now he’d been mentioned she’d probably run into him in the next week or so, “Because that’s just what happens.” We got to the car and I said to Jack, “Incidentally, this was Alan Whiting’s car. We bought it just a couple of months ago. Also, we’re having dinner with him and his wife tomorrow night.” “Small world,” Jack chuckled. On the drive home Mrs iM sent a text message to the mutual friend to say we’d met Jack and Jill, and that she looked forward to catching up soon. “See you tomorrow,” he replied. “I’m on your New York trip.” Small worlds indeed…

Richard


6 | Contents

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

24

Marketplace

Small Worlds…

Share your thoughts for the chance to win $50!

16

News

28

Touring Test: Trakka Trakkaway 700 Remote

46

Project Polly

58

Travel: Canada and Alaska

70

Events: The Big Red Bash

74

Advertisers' Index

What’s happening in the wider RV world and beyond

The latest Marketplace offers

The third generation of a firm favourite has a lot going for it

Powering up with solar from Redarc!

A reader report on a great North American adventure!

The Simpson Desert will be rocking this coming July…

An A to Z of who’s in this issue!

75

Next Issue 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...

Magazine Resources Ask a Question

Back Issues

Road Tests

User Guide

Marketplace

Subscription

iMotorhome

90: Mar 05 2016 magazine

Issue

Time Traveller! Malcolm samples Bürstner’s stylish Ixeo Time IT 726G…

Win!

$50 for the best letter!

Project Polly

Webasto heater installation!

Travel…

A quick dash to Melbourne and back

TechTalk!

Keeping your gas cooker in top condition…

Reader Survey

Reader Review


2015 MANUFACTURER OF THE YEAR Motorhomes, Campervans & 5th Wheelers

horizonmotorhomes.com.au


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

Just saying Cee Cee Hi Richard, just wanted to let you know I have an ex-Apollo Rentals Ford Transit that I’ve named Miss Cee Cee. Your article last issue set to rest one of the conundrums I've had recently with the little spanner showing up on start. Cee Cee’s only done about 300 km since I bought her from Discoverer Campers and I thought a service was a long way off. I guess it's the luck of the draw when we purchase one of these ex-rentals! I'm doing Cee Cee up a little different to Miss Polly, plonking a double mattress eastwest like I had in my A’van. I am used to being able to roll over and over in a queen bed to myself at home and spent my first night trying to stop myself falling on the floor (helped the second night with the esky acting as a barrier)! Like you I found her orange curtains a bit confronting, but I don’t have the funds to change them and not a clue about sewing (don't have that supposedly female gene). So I’ve settled for changing her bedding to bright tropical greens and oranges, with cushions to match. I’m now adding a bright green ice cooler

from Evacool and have been thinking of renaming her Coba Cabana! Anyhow, loving your mag and articles! Cheers, Jan Thanks Jan and good to hear from one on Polly’s Aunties! Having the spanner illuminated is a disappointment, but it just means a service is due. I suspect it’s tied to the oil or diesel-fuel filters. Interesting about the bed. If I was shorter I’d be tempted to have one east-west and make a permanent inwards facing dinette between it and the kitchen. The orange curtains are a real worry! Perhaps I can talk Mrs iM into running a set up for you? New ones make a world of difference, but with the other colour changes it sounds like you’ve got things under control. It certainly is a big learning curve. Anyway, thanks for your support and all the best with Cee Cee. Please accept this issue’s $50 as it might go some way to financing a curtain colour change!


12 | On your mind

Android Frustrations Mobile Tech in Issue 91 said caravans, campervans and motorhomes are the fastest growing vehicle types and that, “This momentum has not gone unnoticed by industry leaders, who recognise a valuable growth market when they see one”.

design “i” compatibility yet disenfranchise the vastly greater number of Android users. When will iDiots realise that the larger (by far) market is Android and design for that market first?

This cannot be said of the mobile app market. The story is on a pair of new apps by Outback Touring and they are identical in design and functionality. The problem both are only available for the iPad. So what’s the problem? Well simply, iPads and iPhones represent a tiny share of the market. Android devices outnumber “i” products hugely. Vehicle makers, app designers, etc,

Like it or not Peter, iDevices are seen as the industry and lifestyle leaders and are usually the first choice for developers. I’d imagine Android versions are probably on the way, but they will necessitate a separate build as the two platforms are very different. We’ll ask them and let you know.

Thanks, Peter.

What’s That Washer? Hi Richard, many thanks for putting your time into the 101 Day at Southern Spirit Campervans a couple of weeks ago. I certainly found it all worthwhile. I thought that there may be a story on the wallmount washing machine that you have pictured on page 46 of the last issue: things such as overall size, capacity, water usage, power requirements, length of cycle, retailer and/or distributor, etc? I saw it at the Melbourne show but couldn’t see any detail or manufacturer label on it for me to look into it further. I would be interested to see a write up/assessment on it if you can do it. I think it has potential especially as the size looks a lot more friendly than what I see elsewhere. A wall mount in the shower cubicle looks pretty appealing. All the best, Mark

Hi Mark, good to hear from you and glad you found the 101 Day useful. Re the washing machine, it’s a tiny Daewoo mini drum washer (model DWDM301WP) that handles an equally mini 2 kg load. It needs 29 litres of water per wash, has an inverter motor that requires 240 volts, and features 6 wash programs and an 80ºC steam wash function. In millimetres it measures 550 (H) x 600 (W) x 292 (D) and weighs 16.5 kg. On eBay they start just under $800 but there seem to be some earlier models from around the $600 mark, including postage. Hope this helps!


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14 | On your mind

Family Rental Help We are a family of four and would like some advice on how we can hire a motor home for an Outback adventure we are planning for late June/early July this year, for two weeks, just around Alice Springs. Do you have any suggestions? Regards, Simone

vehicle possible as you’ll value all the room you can afford when you’ve got kids along! Have a look at our website’s rentals page, where you’ll find good deals from most companies: imotorhome. motorhomeandrvtravel.com. Hope this helps and happy holidaying!

Sounds like fun Simone. As far as advice goes, take summer clothes for the days and winter clothes for the nights. You’ll probably only have in-vehicle heating at night when connected to mains power at a caravan park and temperatures can easily fall below zero at that time of year. Plan your route carefully too as most companies will have serious restrictions on dirt road use (if at all), so best to check with them first. Rent the biggest

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16 | News

LESS IS MORE

A

respected RV Industry insider has told iMotorhome the trend in Australian motorhomes is towards smaller vehicles, with a real upswing in van conversions. It seems the trend started in Europe about two years ago and has gained rapid momentum over there, and is starting to be replicated here. Even the US is seeing an increase in van conversions, although the overall trend is much more subdued there.

than buying intent. The Australian market for motorhomes 10 or more metres long seems to have all but evaporated and it will be interesting to see if local manufacturers trim their ranges if this trend becomes an ongoing phenomenon.

Certainly our recent visit to the Covi Motorhome, Caravan and Outdoor Supershow in Auckland would seem to confirm the view. There were a plethora of compact models (sub seven metres) and while the big Euro A-classes attracted a lot of interest, it was probably more out of curiosity

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News | 17

NSW CARAVAN PARKS RECORD

D

espite crying foul of freedom campers and claiming commercial disadvantage from local showgrounds and other low-cost facilities, the NSW caravan park industry has had its best year ever. According to a press release, “In the past year Australians have taken over 10.7 million overnight domestic caravan and camping trips, with NSW reaching its strongest year ever with over 3.6 million overnight trips in 2015.” “It’s been a great year with more than 14.2 million visitor nights spent in caravan or camping accommodation in NSW," said Caravan & Camping Industry Association NSW CEO, Lyndel Gray. “Our members’ parks offer amenities which appeal to families including water slides and playgrounds, mini golf, cafes and restaurants, and kids clubs. There are also terrific cabins and safari style

tents on-site for families who prefer the added convenience of these options.” "Nationally, caravan and campervan registrations increased by over 5% last year to well over 580,000 - making caravan and camping the fastest growing vehicle registration type for 6 consecutive years.” iMotorhome continues to wonder at the disconnect between what a large part of the Industry offers and what a large percentage of travellers want, or more correctly, don’t want or require. Earning potential and return on investment are the obvious drivers behind resort-style caravan parks, but we hope someone will develop a business model that balances them with providing affordable services the Grey Nomad market (in particular) actually wants. Kui Parks is a step in the right direction and we hope others will follow suit.

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18 | News

APRIL FOOL?

M

edia reports of electric car company Tesla about to release an all-electric caravan have turned out to be an April fool’s joke – from 2015! Dubbed the Model H, the elaborate details and photos of what appeared to be a converted Airstream caravan were just a joke, although we wonder if Tesla founder Elon Musk was really testing the waters. In that case don’t be surprised if a real Model H emerges at some point, although we’d love to see an all-electric motorhome with serious solar and lithium battery capabilities – and that’s no joke!


News | 19

DRUG CHARGES

A

caravaner has been charged after NSW police allegedly found about 13 kg of cannabis stashed in a water tank. The discovery was made when police at Hay pulled over a Nissan Navara utility towing a caravan travelling east on the Sturt Highway. The 43 year-old South Australian man was arrested and taken to Deniliquin Police Station where he was charged with possessing an indictable quantity of cannabis leaf. He was refused bail and will appear in Deniliquin Local Court at a future date.

Thinking about a self-drive touring adventure? Find all the inspiration and information you need for an awesome journey with our ebooks for iPad. Touring Victoria’s Kelly Country: Learn about Australia’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly, on a wonderful tour through northeast Victoria. The Old Ghan Heritage Trail: Follow the legend of the Old Ghan railway from Quorn in South Australia, up the Oodnadatta Track and on to Alice Springs. The Googs Track: This remote 4WD adventure explores the southeastern extremity of the amazing Great Victoria Desert, SA. To The Inland Sea: Inspired by explorer Charles Sturt’s 1844-46 Central Expedition, To The Inland Sea takes travellers from Adelaide to the edge of the Simpson Desert at Birdsville.

Get your FREE eBOOK for iPad* www.ebooktraveller.com.au * Applies to Touring Victoria’s Kelly Country eBook for iPad


20 | News

ILLEGAL COOKERS

A

bout a million potentially lethal butane ‘lunchbox’ gas cookers might still be in circulation, a Queensland Government minister has warned. The compact cookers are at the centre of a new safety warning after recent explosions put four Queenslanders in hospital. A family was hospitalised and a childcare worker escaped serious injury in two separate incidents. A 33-year-old man died last year after receiving 100 per cent burns when his caravan erupted in a ball of fire after a butane cylinder exploded at Casino's Glen Villa Resort in NSW.

The minister has now pleaded with people to get rid of the cookers before someone else is killed. "Anyone who bought one of these butane gas lunchbox cookers manufactured before July 2015 should stop using it and dispose of it. Put your safety and the safety of your family and friends first. Dispose of it, spend the $20 to $25 for a new one and be safe rather than sorry.” The cookers use a butane gas canister that should eject when the canisters overheat. Many models were recalled nationally last year because safety mechanisms had failed to operate.


News | 21

COLLYN RIVERS’ NEW BOOK

R

espected technical author Collyn Rivers has launched The Caravan & Motorhome Book. The former research engineer is well known in the RV world for his expert advice and easily understood technical books. According to Collyn, “This is an all-new replacement for the Campervan & Motorhome Book first published in 2002. It covers every conceivable aspect of camper trailer, caravan, fifth-wheeler, campervan and motorhome usage.”

project in the pipeline. The new Caravan & Motorhome Book costs $42.50 plus $5.50 postage and handling.

Like all of Collyn Rivers’ books it is technically sound yet written in plain English. Collyn was former technical editor of The Bulletin and has recently rewritten the 80-plus articles on his website to bring them up to date. He also has two more books plus another major publishing

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22 | News

AIRSTREAM HOTEL?

W

hile many of us bemoan rising site fees, they pale into insignificance compared to those soon to be charged at a Melbourne caravan facility. Six US-built Airstream caravans are being transformed into five-star accommodation on Fry's Fast Park's disused rooftop in Flinders Lane. It will cost between $320 to $350 a night

to stay in the luxurious 9.5 m highly-polished aluminium caravans. Local businessman James Fry bought the Airstreams in the US for A$97,000 each before shipping them to Melbourne and having them craned onto the roof for his $1 million 'Notel' project.


News | 23

MELBOURNE’S MOTORHOME CAFE! Created by Joshua Lefers as the sibling to The Grand Trailer Park Taverna and Truck Stop Deluxe, the Motorhome Majestic is billed, “As yet another outrageously fun dining adventure that's ready to take you on the ride of your life! Featuring a menu with signature cocktails, spiked shakes and delectable desserts, you'll be sitting on cruise-control all the way to a notoriously outlandish burger-and-bar extravaganza!”

M

otorhome Majestic in Ascot Vale claims to be, “A West-Coast-inspired motorhome diner serving up some of Australia's best handcrafted burgers alongside a winning variety of beer, wine and cocktails all on tap!”

Motorhome Majestic is at 236-238 Union Rd Ascot Vale and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11:30 am until late. Call (03) 9372 8093 or email enquiries@motorhomemajestic. com.au for details and bookings for groups of six or more.

BARGAIN RELOCATION DEALS They have relocations from Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Perth in a camper from $5 a day, with fuel allowances of $100 to $350 included.

R

ental relocation specialists imoova. com has a range of great value deals on $1-a-day campers and motorhomes, including free fuel in some situations.

If you’re looking to go to North America they have relocations in Canada in May and June for $25 a night. Or you can enjoy a USA relocation from LA, Vegas or San Francisco for $1 a night with $50 to $100 free fuel during April, May and June. All deals are listed on the website and if you don't see the trip you’re looking for, add your details to their waiting list. They’ll send you a text or email once they have a relocation to suit.


24 | News/ iMotorhome Marketplace

Are you living that dream? Tax returns need lodging? Do you have income from working or investments? Use a tax agent who understands. We do, because our office has 4 wheels and a Luton peak. Whether you’re in FNQ, WA or Tas., email for info Grey Nomad Tax Advisers ABN 76 114 458 058 Eric Taylor, FIPA, CTA, Reg. Tax Agent Email: eric@greynomadtax.com.au www.greynomadtax.com.au

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An Authorised Repco Service Centre just off the Hume Highway at Mittagong. Auto electrical and mechanical service specialists happy to look after your motorhome or campervan! Call Mark or Sharon and tell them iMotorhome sent you!

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iMotorhome Marketplace | 25 MOBILE

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26 | iMotorhome Marketplace

POWER CHOICE

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15Amp to 10Amp Adaptor with RCD and overload protection

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iTech World

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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

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RV Specialists

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

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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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iMotorhome Marketplace | 27

Southern Spirit Campervans FLEXIBLE STORAGE SYSTEMS FOR YOUR CAMPERVAN OR MOTORHOME Full & part fitouts Hitop, Poptop and Reimo roofs True custom­made conversions Repairs & improvements BYO van from Hiace to Sprinter

Store those additional items up and out of the way using our adjustable, transportable and modular storage system!

                                                                                         

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Our vehicle-specific insulation screens are Australian made from specially designed and tested material to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. As featured in iMotorhome’s Project Polly!

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28 | Touring Test: Trakka Trakkaway 700 Remote

star trakk – next generation

Trakka’s next generation Trakkaway 700 Remote is quite an enterprise… by Richard Robertson


Touring Test | 29

Free camping on the front lawn on a foggy Southern Highland’s Easter morning! Mrs iMotorhome only arrived home the day before so time was limited, but any stay in the new Trakkaway 700 is a welcome one. Note the depth of the new electric entry step. Very practical.

I

t’s no work of fiction to say the Trakkaway 700 Remote and iMotorhome have taken off together. I reviewed the original model in Issue 13 and since then both it and this magazine have gone from strength to strength. We toured in the second generation 700 in Issue 55 and so were keen to sample the latest incarnation to see how it has developed.

was how NOT to make them. So they came home and designed and built their own.

First Things First

T

he 700 is a four-seat two-berth B-class motorhome, although an over-cab bed is optionally available, which then makes it a C-class. Either way, it’s built on the latest X295 version of the Fiat Ducato. The new Ducato Now in its third generation the Trakkaway 700 certainly looks the business but Fiat needs to Remote – let’s call it the 700 – is Trakka’s star be chided for its seeming indifference to the Australian market. The in-dash touch-screen coachbuilt model and it isn’t difficult to see why: The 700 (so named because it’s 7-metres infotainment system has a clear display and (23’) long) is an ideal size. It’s also Trakka’s only wealth of features, but the built-in TomTom navigation system only has maps for Europe. model with a slideout; a compact 0.5-metre Seriously? There are still no cup holders (Trakka (1’ 7”) rear unit for the bed only and one that adds its own) and the speedo has reverted to wouldn’t leave you stranded if it became European 50/70/90/110 kmh markings of early stuck open. I remember Dave Berry telling me about the first model and how he and his team Ducatos, something we thought long gone. travelled to a big RV industry-only trade show On the plus side there’s a dash-top flip-up in the USA to look at slideouts. He said they unit that securely holds in place just about looked at all of them and what they learned


30 | Touring Test

Right: The latest Ducato has this terrific pop-up map holder that also has an adjustable and lockable holder for just about any phone or tablet device. I used my iPad TomTom app for the nest navigation experience ever. Below: The most carlike and involving of all light commercial cabs, the new Ducato is evolutionary not revolutionary, but still a nice place to ‘work’.

any smartphone or tablet. I used my iPad and its TomTom app for the best navigation experience I’ve had in any vehicle. The excellent 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel is retained and it’s 132 kW and 400 Nm are more than a match for the 700’s 4490 kg gross vehicle mass (GVM). A 3590 kg tare weight provides a healthy 900 kg payload, depending on options fitted. Drive is through the front wheels via the usual six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT). Although you can drive it as a clutchless manual to good effect, which is advantageous in some situations,

most people will probably stick it in auto its whole life. Dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability and traction controls also help make this a safe and secure vehicle on the road. Trakka ups the ante by specifying ALKO’s Motorhome Chassis (AMC), which is a specialised hot-dip galvanised chassis designed in Europe but assembled in Australia. It lowers the floor height and centre of gravity, widens the track, reduces weight and cleverly uses the torsion bar rear suspension as a structural chassis cross member. To that


Touring Test | 31

There are few motorhomes Mrs iM and I immediately feel at home in, but the Trakkaway 700 Remote is one of them.

excellent start Trakka adds the AL-KO Level Controller (ALC), an automatic system that ensures optimum ride height for the rear axle regardless of load. Finally, Trakka now fits AL-KO’s Comfort Suspension (ACS) to the front-end as standard.

This system eliminates the Ducato’s default nose-down stance by increasing front ride height 40 mm. Replacing the standard damper struts and springs with enhanced units not only improves ride and handling, it eliminates the Ducato’s propensity to front

end ‘crashing’ (bottoming out) over bumps at speed. All-up it’s an excellent package that provides a Mercedes Sprinterlike driving experience. Full AL-KO front-and-rear air suspension is now an option and would take the ride and


32 | Touring Test Top to bottom: For a compact motorhome the Trakkaway 700 Remote certainly has a lot going on when everything’s open! The new dimmable awning strip-LED light is a real winner, as is AL-KO’s Comfort Suspension on the front end.

handling experience to another level, but at $12,000 it’s a considerable investment. Having said that it does away with the need for levelling blocks or an aftermarket levelling system, so it’s certainly worth considering. This is the first of the new X295-series Fiat Ducato’s I’ve spent time in. Like all Ducatos before it it’s an easy driving and pleasant vehicle to pass the miles in, be they city or highway. And like its predecessors the cab is the most car like, engaging and ‘fun’ of any motorhome base vehicle.

Outer Space

T

he 700’s body is composite sandwichpanel constructed and has a high-gloss finish that looks modern and should be easy to keep clean. The cab and parts of the body are metallic-colour matched, while the balance of the body’s white finish provides a clean, stylish appearance that’s neither contrived nor likely to quickly date.


Touring Test | 33

The 700 is Trakka’s only model with a slideout; a compact 0.5-metre rear unit for the bed only and one that wouldn’t leave you stranded if it became stuck open.


34 | Touring Test

Above: The dinette window is a monster that effectively lets you sit outside. Right: The new awning light at full tilt. It dims down nicely and is literally ‘brilliant’ at illuminating the area on this side. Similar strips on the rear and driver’s side would be great too, especially for security. The latest Dometic double-glazed acrylic windows are used, which unlike earlier versions can be opened as far as you like, rather than having three preset positions. Of course, they come with integrated insect screens and privacy blinds. Over the cab is a large wind-up hatch hinged at the front that also includes an insect screen and sun blind, and which can be left partially open while driving. There’s a new motorhome-specific entry door that’s 70 mm (nearly 3”) taller than a traditional caravan door and integrates with the Fiat’s central locking, plus has a slow-fade courtesy light on entry and exit. Nice! The separate flyscreen door isn’t the security type and is a tradeoff for the new main door. There are plenty of other ways to get a cooling breeze


Touring Test | 35

through the 700, though. For the first time the 700 has a step, required since the vehicle sits higher due to the front suspension upgrade. It’s an electric model with auto retract and is probably the biggest/deepest I’ve seen. Very sensible! An electric awning is also a welcome inclusion, as is a new full-length dimmable LED exterior strip light. The Remote part of the Trakkaway 700’s name is largely because this motorhome is LPG-free. Hot water and central heating are diesel powered via a Truma Combi unit while the cooktop is a Webasto diesel-fired unit. This means there’s no external gas locker, gas cylinders or plumbing. The only other external service hatches are for the 19-litre toilet cassette, heater/hot water/water pump access and Trakka’s signature built-in mains power

Clockwise from top: New Dometic windows can be opened to any degree rather than the previous three preset positions; The new suspension adds 40 mm to front-end ride-height and allows the vehicle to sit level rather than slightly nose down.


36 | Touring Test

lead. Storage wise there’s a decent rear boot that can also be accessed via a door on the rear kerbside corner. You can still readily access the boot when the bed slideout is extended as it has a sideways opening door. This particular vehicle was the production prototype, which basically meant it was proof-of-concept. One thing to ‘prove’ was the new, optional Alfresco outdoor unit that sits between the entry door and passenger’s cab door. Think of it as an outdoor lifestyle centre that comes with its own 51-litre 12/240 V compressor fridge; a slideout shelf with hot and cold water and a removable hand basin (the tap is also a pull-out hand shower), plus space to store barbecues tools and so on. Mrs iMotorhome absolutely Top: The boot is a good size and can be easily opened when the slideout’s extend thanks to the side-hinged door. Right: The prototype optional Alfresco unit, which Mrs iMotorhome absolutely loved. We think it’s going to be a winner.


Touring Test | 37 loved it and production versions will have a side-ways opening main door and fridge door, rather than the lift-up main door and pull-out drawer fridge featured here, for easier access.

Inner Space

P

erhaps the biggest development is the raised floor. It’s now flat from cab to bedroom, where there’s just a small single step to the sleeping area. In terms of liveability it’s the single biggest improvement to the Trakkaway 700 Remote. It does away with the previous raised cab/dinette and bed areas at either end and the sunken entry/kitchen floor in the middle, and also means there’s just a small step now over the doorway lip into the bathroom.

mauve and dimmable, while reading and other individual lights are brilliant white. Electrical power comes from a pair of 100 AH deep-cycle AGM house batteries, plus the test vehicle had an optional 1200 watt inverter capable of powering the microwave or a small coffee machine, etc. A pair of 120 watt solar panels are standard and a third comes with the optional Alfresco pack, providing very good free camping potential.

Internal cupboard space is good and most are shelved for added practicality. The bed doesn’t lift – the air conditioner lives under it – but there’s a deep drawer on either side of the base. Speaking of aircon, the multi-outlet ducted system is a Truma reverse cycle unit that can also heat. This is in addition to the Trakka’s traditional decor of light timber Truma Combi diesel-fired heating system that hues with silver/grey trim accents and roller has four seperate outlets: bedroom, bathroom, cupboard doors has been updated with the kitchen, and lounge. Trakka is now specifying inclusion of gloss white paneling that also all Dometic-supplied appliances and systems adds a sense of space. Additionally, buyers so owners will benefit from Dometic’s new can choose from five colours for the acrylic national service centre for simplified product kitchen splashback-cum-window surround and support right around Australia. over-bed roof hatch trim panel. Interior lighting All Truma units operate via a single control is almost exclusively LED strip, even for the panel that sits alongside all the other major reading lights. General lighting is slightly blue/


38 | Touring Test electrical controls and readouts, in a cupboard above the cooktop. Cleverly it can now be remotely operated via the Truma App, by Bluetooth as standard but optionally by telephone using a GSM data card. This means you could turn the heating, cooling or hot water on or off from anywhere as long as you and the vehicle had mobile coverage!

Living in Space

S

erious window space provides an abundance of light and fresh air, especially in the dinette and bedroom. Up front the cab seats swivel to form a cosy lounge with the double seat-belted dinette, which has what can only be described as a massive window alongside. With it open you almost feel like you’re sitting outside. Any passengers travelling there will certainly enjoy a fabulous side view, plus they’re close enough for a great view out the front and easy conversation with the cab occupants. The large over-cab hatch provides even more light and fresh air, while the neat flip-up table on the wall beneath the side window seems to have been enlarged. A pole table with adjustable mount slots in to provide a more formal dining experience, although it would struggle with plates for a full complement of travellers. Between the entry door and passenger’s cab seat is the cupboard that houses the optional outdoor Alfresco unit. It has bench space on top and a pole-mounted TV plus a small window above. Compared to previous 700s the kitchen is even more user friendly thanks to the raised floor. This makes it less of a stretch to the overhead cupboards, electrical control panels and microwave, which is certainly a good move for shorter people. There’s a generous six-drawer stack – illuminated when open by an LED strip under the bench edge – and new handles that are easier to use and lock automatically when closed. Bench space is

Top to bottom: The main table stows by the bed when not needed and there’s a smaller flip-up unit for other times; the dinette is fine for after-hours relaxing and even has its own TV; the dinette seats are seatbelt equipped and an over-cab bed is optionally available.


Touring Test | 39

good and there’s a new adjustable shelf on the pole in the corner, just behind the dinette seat. It can also be used on the poles in the bedroom or lounge that the TVs attach to. The fridge is an under-bench 136-litre Waeco 12/240 V compressor unit. Mrs iM still isn’t a fan of the Webasto diesel cooker: the main drawback is the lack of instant heat and quick temperature adjustability. Fortunately, Trakka offers an LPG cooktop that comes with its own 4 kg cylinder as a no-charge option. It’s also available on other Remote-pack equipped models like the Jabiru and Torino, which is welcome news. Trakka’s patented Switch Mode Bathroom with its remote controlled toilet that tucks away beneath the vanity to provide an extra large shower cubicle, saves space without too many compromises: the only real one being the need to dry the floor duckboard after showering when it’s time to use the loo. Fresh, grey and hot water capacities of 165, 135 and 10-litres, respectively, are quite good and there’s a

Top: For a compact kitchen there’s excellent bench and cupboard space. The pole-shelf is adjustable and even removable and can also be used in the dinette or bedroom. Clever! Above: Under-bench lighting illuminates the drawers when open and is also dimmable. New handles self-lock on closing, too.


40 | Touring Test

Left: Trakka’s patented remote-controlled retracting toilet stores beneath the hand basin. Right: The bathroom mirror has three panels and the left one conceals the medicine cabinet. Note the mirror's back lighting complete with Trakka logo at the top. Nice! The main light is touch operated and has another, much brighter setting. mains water connection for caravan park stopovers. The 1.95 x 1.35 m (6’ 5” x 4’ 5”) island bed, with its rounded end, is also remote controlled and when you’re travelling fits snugly against the kitchen and bathroom end panels. Only one kitchen drawer is inaccessible in this mode, which is no real bother. You could also use the bed like this although it’s a bit of a clamber up. When fully extended the bed only protrudes 0.5-metres (1’ 7”) out the back of the vehicle, which is all the space you need to walk around the front to access it and the bedside wardrobes and cupboards. There’s a large electric over-bed roof hatch, big side windows and a bedhead window in the slideout, so fresh air and natural light are no problems. You can also sit up in bed

in the slideout, although if using Duvalays on top of the mattress it’s more of a slouch. The bedroom has its own TV, dimmable lights and 12 V fan with timer (which can also be swivelled to blow forward into the kitchen). There’s also a concertina bedroom privacy divider, which has been redesigned slightly to increase the feeling of bedroom spaciousness.

What I think

T

here are few motorhomes Mrs iM and I immediately feel at home in, but the Trakkaway 700 Remote is one of them. If you’re in the market for a compact luxury motorhome that combines European style with the best in Australian innovation, construction and quality, look no further. It certainly a ‘star’ ship you’ll be happy to captain…


Touring Test | 41

The island bed is big enough for a pair of Duvalays and not too short for taller people despite its rounded end. You can also sit up in the slideout despite limited headroom and the window behind.


42 | Touring Test

Specs GENERAL Model

Trakka Trakkaway 700 Remote

Type

B-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

4

Licence

Car

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato with AL-KO Chassis

Engine

3.0 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

132 kW @ 4000 rpm

Torque

400 Nm @ 1500-2500 rpm

Gearbox

6-speed automated manual transmission (AMT)

Safety

ABS, Stability Control, Traction Control, Dual airbags

Fuel

120 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3590 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

4490 kg

Max Payload

900 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

1500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

6.99 m (22’ 11”)

Overall Width

2.40 m (7’ 10”)

Overall Height

2.90 m (9’ 6”)

Internal Height

2.20 m (7’ 3’)

Main Bed

1.95 m x 1.35 m (6’ 5” x 4’ 5”)

Luton Bed - optional

2.15 m x 1.30 m (7’ x 4”)

Dinette Bed

N/A


Touring DayTest Test | 43

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

Rear – Bedroom

Awning

Dometic Electric

Entry Steps

1 x Electric

Cooker

Webasto diesel with glass ceramic top

Rangehood

Externally vented with LED lighting

Sink

Dometic round with fold-down flick mixer, glass lid

Fridge

Waeco 136 L compressor

Microwave

Sharp

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

3 x 12 V, 6 x USB

Air Conditioner

Truma Saphir reverse cycle

Space Heater

Truma Combi diesel-fired

Hot Water System

Truma Combi diesel-fired

Toilet

Thetford cassette

Shower

Flexible hose

CAPACITIES Batteries

2 x 100 AH AGM

Solar

2 x 120 W (3 x 120 W with Alfresco pack)

LPG

N/A

Fresh Water

165 L

Grey Water

135 L

Hot Water

10 L

Toilet

19 L cassette

PRICE From

$175,000 On Road NSW

As Tested - Alfresco, 1200-watt inverter, Tow bar and electrics

$184,300 On Road NSW

Pros • • • • • • •

Size Style Quality Innovation Standard equipment Drivability Liveability

Cons

• Fiat’s own goals • Limited towing capacity • Non-security flyscreen

Contacts

Click for Google Maps

Trakka Pty Ltd

9 Beaumont Rd Mt Kuring-gai, NSW. 2080 T: 1800 TRAKKA (1800 872552) E: trakka@trakka.com.au W: www.trakka.com.au


44 | Touring Test

If you’re in the market for a compact luxury motorhome that combines European style with the best in Australian innovation, construction and quality, look no further.


Open the doors to exibility trakka.com.au


46 | Project Polly

Polly

Powers Up! A Redarc solar power system takes Project Polly to the next level‌ by Richard Robertson


Project Polly | 47

A

solar power system has been a priority since I started upgrading Polly from a basic ex-Apollo Rentals campervan into something more capable and comfortable. Due to her origins Polly has just a single 100 amp hour (AH) deep cycle house. Her origins also make it extremely difficult to fit a second house battery without the most major internal makeover. The original unit was cactus and so I had Apollo replace it, at my expense, when we picked it up. The new one – of the absorbed glass mat or AGM variety – has done little work since. However, in April we’ll be at the CMCA’s 30th Anniversary Rally at Bathurst on an unpowered site for up to a week and it will certainly have its work cut out!

Warning: Semi-Technical Content

T

he accepted wisdom with deep cycle batteries is they shouldn’t be run down below 70% of their rated capacity. Well, not if you want a decent lifespan. For a 100 AH battery like Polly’s that equates to just 30 usable amp hours before entering the batterylife twilight zone.

Some people say you can drain a deep cycle battery to 50% capacity and that is true, but there would be a lifespan cost. What would that be? How long’s a piece of string? If it shortened the battery life by a year and we got three years instead of four (being optimistic), then in dollar terms that would be around $100. Compared to the cost of a solar power system you could decide to drain your battery or batteries 75% and replace them every year (if they lasted that long) and be ahead financially for quite a few years, but would that still actually provide sufficient power when needed? Consider these figures: Polly’s excellent 85-litre Webasto Isotherm compressor fridge uses an average 380 watts of power in a 24 hour period at 25ºC, according to official figures. The optional Smart Energy Control system (SEC), which Polly’s fridge has, can reduce that by up to 50%, but let’s go with 380. To convert 380 watts into amps in a 12 volt system simply divide it by 12. The answer in round numbers is 32. That’s 32 amp hours, or 2 amp hours more than our 100 amp hour’s ideal usable capacity. And that’s without lights, TV, water pump, Webasto diesel heater and so on.


48 | Project Polly

According to resident technical guru Alan Whiting, “Early in the morning and late in the afternoon solar panels have a much reduced output, with maximum output near noon. You can expect to average 40 percent of maximum output per 12 hours of sunlight, on clear days. A complication in this regard is that some companies are claiming wattages for panels that are simply untrue. We’ve seen test results on some panels that were sold as 120-watt units proving they were actually 80-watters! If a deal seems too good to be true it probably is.”

Decisions, Decisions…

W

hen looking into solar I confess to becoming bewildered by the options. It seems every man and his 12-volt dog are selling solar power systems these days. As to the quality of the panels or regulators, it also appears to be a lottery. Between eBay, Gumtree and a mate’s friend's darts partner, buying a solar power system can be a minefield.

Top: The remote readout unit for The Manager30, which is about to become the most looked at panel in Project Polly! Above: The Manager30 is a total power and battery management system. It’s also lithiumbattery compatible – and big. Note the heavy-duty white ABS plastic panel mounts in the background.

Considering the investment, performance and durability required I decided to stick with a name brand. And the brand that came to mind was Redarc. Australian owned and with many of its products not only designed but also manufacturers here – though not panels for reasons of economics – Redarc has an established reputation for quality and support. It also has a national network of authorised installers; people who could help out if we were away and encountered problems.


Project Polly | 49

Above: Wire rolls were used to weigh down the panels while the Sikaflex-style bonding agent cured. Below: Christmas seemed to come early when we opened all the boxes before starting the job. This is the smaller 50 watt panel. It’s worth noting Redarc sells amorphous flexible and folding panels too, but these are intended for very different applications. Another rule of thumb with solar is to have as much capacity as you can reasonably afford. That’s because there are cloudy days and partial shade to consider. I wanted a roof mounted system as a portable one would be too difficult to carry given Polly’s limited storage. Also, having to set it up and pack it away, plus the security concerns of leaving it unattended, made a permanent roof system the way forward for me.

Running The Numbers Redarc sells monocrystalline solar panels, which are the most efficient. To quote from Alan Whiting again, “Monocrystalline cells are the most efficient, delivering the highest current flow for a given cell area, followed by poly-crystalline and then amorphous. This means that poly panels are larger than monos and amorphous panels are larger again (but that get progressively cheaper). The up-side is that poly and amorphous panels are usually cheaper than those made of Grade-A monocrystalline cells.”

R

edarc has an online solar calculator that does a good job of predicting your likely needs, based on a range of variables. It’s well worth spending time experimenting with it to see how different options will affect your likely requirements. Unfortunately I found it after the event but you’re in luck. Try it! Roof space was a major consideration with Polly and perched atop my step ladder I worked out that A: I don’t like perching atop step ladders, at least not while leaning across


50 | Project Polly Remember, panel efficiency decreases the hotter it gets. Using Alan’s 40% rule that reduces to 768 watt hours, which if you divide by 12 (volts) equals 64 amp hours. Remember the fridge and it’s need for 32 amp hours? Seems we now have it covered, with capacity to spare.

Battle Royale

T

he reality of solar input versus battery output is the two battle each other throughout the day. A system like Polly’s should easily run the fridge and keep the battery charged with power to spare. It’s when the sun goes down and electrical load increases that the limitations of our single house battery become apparent. If we said 12 hours of night time fridge running equated to 50% of average daily usage Above: The house battery came out from under the passenger seat to allow removal of the old CTEK battery charger and wiring. The Manager30 is a neat fit and not at all in the way. Right: Measure twice glue once: the mantra of a good tradesman! to take roof measurements, and B: Polly would easily accommodate 1 x 150 watt and 1 x 50 watt panels. The 150 W panel measures 1210 x 808 x 35 mm, weighs 12 kg and produces a maximum of 8.11 amps (a slimline 1480 x 670 x 35 mm version is also available). The 50 W panel measures 645 x 540 x 35 mm, weighs 4.5 kg and produces a maximum of 2.8 amps. Both have strong aluminium frames, tempered glass coatings and come with a 5 year structural and 25 year/80% efficiency guarantee. They’re also rated for -40ºC to +85ºC, so even Australian summers and a hot metal roof shouldn’t bother them too much. In a perfect world Polly’s total of 200 watts of solar panels produces 1920 watt hours at the minimum guaranteed 80% efficiency level during 12 hours of unobstructed sunlight.


Weighing down the panel to ensure the bonding agent sticks. Note how well the corner mounts fit and how they keep the panel off the roof for better cooling. Also note the roof’s surface rust – another job to take care of – and soon.

Project Polly | 51


52 | Project Polly

The main 150 watt panel as sparky Gary prepares it for installation by pre-drilling the frame through the corner mounts.

(remember, it should drop as the temperature and compressors loads decrease) then we’re looking at 16 amp hours draw down before daylight recharging recommences. That leaves 14 amp hours from our total ‘safe’ drawdown limit of 30 amp hours for other systems for a few hours before bed and perhaps first thing in the morning. Seems reasonable. Panel output aside, managing the power is just as important. Redarc has a range of battery management systems (BMS) and topping it out is the Manager30. Sounding more like a steakhouse menu special than a piece of hightech electronic wizardry, it is also lithium battery compatible and that was the clincher. If you ever intend installing lithium batteries remember they need their own unique charging system.

This is a serious piece of kit and from what I can gather elsewhere it’s about the best you can buy. So what does it do? To quote from the manual, “The Manager30 BMS is a complete charging solution. The system incorporates 12 V solar, 240 V AC and 12/24 V DC inputs to provide a 12 V charging output at a maximum 30 amp rating. The system also includes a remote monitor (screen), which provides information such as current, voltage and temperature as well as a simplified battery (charging) percentage and charge rate.” In a nutshell it’s a bells-and-whistles device that should not only give us the best chance of getting the most from Polly’s house battery now, it’s set-up should we choose to go down


Project Polly | 53 the lithium road. I also like the fact it has a remote head unit with a wealth of digital readouts so I can keep an informationobsessed eye on charging, current draw and battery health at any time of the day or night. It’s worth noting there are less pricey Redarc BMSs with remote readouts, if a future lithium upgrade isn’t on your horizon.

Installation

A

s fate would have it my friends Mark and Sharon Willard, who I’ve mentioned in previous Polly pages and who own and operate the local Repco Authorised Service Centre in Mittagong, are my closest authorised Redarc installer. Their business started out as an auto electrician and they still also operate under the Mittagong Auto Electrics banner. They performed the major service I reported on last issue and are well set up for RV servicing, repairs and installations. Because we live 78 hours drive west of Ayers Rock (according to most delivery companies) I had Redarc deliver the panels, BMS, mounting kit and installation bits and pieces directly to them. And there they sat for a month or so. When time and tide finally allowed, Polly was delivered for her biggest upgrade project yet. That was the Monday after publishing last issue and there she remained until Good Friday eve, although to be fair there was another fiddly job to be done and a few complications. Senior sparky Gary took on the job and got to know Polly very well indeed… Because the installation was scheduled over several days and other jobs intruded there was no way I could stay to take photos and watch progress. But each morning and at least once during the day I dropped in to see how it was progressing. Gary also took photos and between us we covered most of the installation.

Top to bottom: A selection of remote screen readouts. Output Status: Almost no load to any item or the battery. Input Status: The panels are producing 20.8 volts (reduced to 14 by the BMS) but there is no mains power connected or alternator input (although the starter batteries are at 12.6 V). Battery Charge: 100% full and greater than 28 days until flat at the current discharge rate.


54 | Project Polly

The finished products. In hindsight a larger secondary panel might have fitted, but 200 watts of solar for a 100 amphour battery is an excellent if not somewhat excessive set-up!

“The hardest part of the job was finding a place to route the cables in from the roof,” Gary said. “Whoever built this screwed and siliconed everything really solidly, but with no thought for someone wanting to make future modifications.”

providing valuable cooling airflow as well as space to route wiring. The power cables enter above the cab and run neatly along the junction of the roof panelling and cab lining, then down the pillar by the passenger’s door to the Manager30.

“The rest of the job was mainly placement, including where to put things and run wires so you won’t trip over them. The main panel was straightforward to mount and this was the first time we’ve used Redarc’s plastic corner mounts, which are really sturdy. Mounting the smaller panel was a challenge because of the TV aerial and a small panel in the roof that raised one side slightly, but we got there.”

The remote readout unit is mounted high on the front panel of the bathroom, just above our battery operated LED sensor light, so it’s out of the way yet easily readable. Unfortunately, it had to be mounted partially overhanging the edge of the wall edge so the ethernet-style data cable could enter from behind. One win we had was mounting the Manager30. Measuring 445 mm x 185 mm x 79 mm and weighing 5.5 kg it’s an impressive lump of a thing and from the beginning Mark identified the rear of the passenger seat-base as the best place

Importantly, Redarc’s heavy-duty ABS plastic corner mounts lift the panel slightly off the roof,


Project Polly | 55 for it. There it would be sufficiently out of the way, but a mounting bracket would need to be fabricated. “Luckily, the pitch of the unit was exactly the same as the back of the seat and the other side was slightly grooved, so I just had to put two bolts in and it’s solid as a rock,” a relieved Gary told me later. With the job done and everything ready to go the testing phase began and the results were excellent. According to Gary, when the engine was idling the alternator was producing 14.2 to 41.3 volts. The combined panels were outputting 14.6 volts with Polly parked in the doorway and not in direct sunlight.

has a 20 amp solar regulator for $133.90 and an optional remote readout for a whisker over $100. It also has a 25 amp combination battery charger and solar regulator for $650, which is a lot more affordable. In fact Redarc has an extensive selection of units of all types, so best talk to them to find the most suitable/ affordable. What you choose will largely be determined by your budget, but there are lots of people out there making all sorts of claims. Be careful – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I believe you basically get what you pay for and the best investment is sound advice. Seek out reputable suppliers and installers and find out what the warranty and back-up support is. There’s no use buying components or a system with a 10 or 25 year guarantee if the company disappears in 12 months.

“When you check the readout it will say the panels are producing about 20 volts, but the regulator will bring that back to 14. And when the battery is fully charged it will probably knock According to Gary a very competent DIYer that down even more so it just trickles in,” Gary could have done this particular job, but it would explained. have been much easier in an empty van during a clean-sheet conversion.

Pudding Proof

A

change to this issue’s production schedule means there hasn’t been time to run tests, but next issue I’ll update progress for a week predominantly parked on our driveway with the fridge running. The Manager30 keeps a 7-day log of daily watt hour production and I’ll put some drinks in the fridge to simulate food mass, which helps efficiency, and a thermometer to ensure it stays as close to 5ºC as possible. I’ll also be keeping a close eye of readings during our future travels and bringing you ongoing updates. There’s no doubt I could have installed a cheaper system by shopping around and choosing no-name components. However, I don’t consider around $725 excessive for top quality panels. I could also have kept Polly’s basic CTEK battery charger and just added a solar regulator for a fraction of the $2097 cost of the Manager30. For example, Redarc

“The worst thing is getting the job half done and taking it in somewhere for help. More often than not much of the work has to be redone and it can cause all sorts of problems,” Gary said. “If you’re not 100% capable, leave it to an expert.” My basic DIYer sentiments exactly! Routing the wiring down from the roof was a major and time consuming challenge, but the end result is neat and tidy.


56 | Project Polly

Fast Facts Redarc solar power equipment 1 x 150 W Monocrystalline panel – SMR1150 

$ 548.37

2 x 50 W Monocrystalline panel – SMR1050

$ 175.26

The Manager30 battery management system – BMS1230S2

$ 2097.00

2 x ABS Plastic corner solar panel mounting kit (4 pc) – SM19001

$ 133.80

60 A fuse kit

$

Total 

$ 3028.64

74.21

Redarc 23 Brodie Rd North Lonsdale, South Australia. 5160. T: (08) 8322 4848 Message: redarc.com.au/contact W: redarc.com.au

Mittagong Auto Electrics Installation - 12 hrs labour, wiring, misc parts, etc Total 

Mittagong Auto Electrics 227 Old Hume Highway Mittagong, NSW. 2575 T: (02) 4872 2822 Message: m  ittagongauto.com.au/go/contact-us W: mittagongauto.com.au/

$ 1350.00


Project Polly Costings to Date

Project Polly | 57

Previous Accessories/Modifications Plastic storage containers Doormat, cutting boards, non-slip matting 10 Amp fuses & electrical tape Bamboo cutlery drawer LPG safety switch Fuses and tape Curtain fabric, hooks, thread & magnets Carpet-backed foam mats Melamine sheet for shelf (half price) Shelf brackets & screws 3 x 200 mm wire pantry baskets Pantry unit with 3 baskets Genuine Ford floor mats Solarscreens – cab ($350) and barn doors ($96) plus freight Solarscreens – custom side windows x 5 Webasto EL CR 85-litre Compressor 303 Spot Cleaner Ampfibian Narva Oval LED light P/N 87516 2 x Century heavy duty batteries, test and fit (approx) Set of 4 genuine Ford Transit hubcaps Lagun table replacement splines and handle 240 Double adaptor with 2 x USB outlets Webasto Air Top 2000 STC diesel heater Heater fitting Levelling blocks Custom insect screen for rear doors inc fitting Cab window air vents Sub-total

$ 39.00 $ 20.00 $ 5.08 $ 12.00 $ 29.99 $ 5.08 $ 136.45 $ 55.50 $ 8.50 $ 6.93 $ 78.20 $ 70.00 $ 55.00 $ 471.00 $ 332.96 $ 1,483.00 $ $11.99 $ 269.00 $ 47.00 $ 600.00 $ 181.03 $ 63.00 $ 38.00 $ 1,883.00 $ 700.00 $ 40.00 $ 417.00 $ 165.00 $ 7,218.62

Purchases This Issue Redarc solar equipment Installation (estimate to be confirmed) Sub-total

$ 3,028.64 $ 1,350.00 $ 4,378.64

Total Accessory/Modification Spend to Date Vehicle On-Road and Insurance costs in NSW Total Spend to Date Budget Surplus/Defecit

$ 11,597.26 $ 43,428.31 $ 55,025.57 $ 50,000.00 -$ 5,025.57


58 | Travel: Alaska

North to Alaska! We headed north, the rush was on‌ by Walter Kent


Travel | 59

M

y wife Gertie and I had been wondering about this trip for years, always seeing the travel agency’s stand at the annual camping show at Flemington Racecourse (please note: We have no connection or financial arrangements with the Travel agency that arranges these trips). Well, early in 2013 we finally decided it was time and we booked the trip for our USACanada-Alaska Motorhome Adventure. We chose the Northern Hemisphere spring trip that started in May in Seattle, in Washington State just south of the Canadian border, and finished


60 | Travel

Day 1: From Seattle we drove east towards Idaho to our first night’s stop at Moses Lake. It was all a bit heart-stopping at times, because of driving a large Motorhome on the “wrong” side of the road and no GPS, just maps. I had to get used to driving this big Ford motorhome; the steering being very ‘all over the place’ and I had to constantly correct it to make it drive in a Starting Out straight line. Over the next few days we found fter a long flight of 13.5 hours from out from our co-travellers that they all had the Sydney we arrived in Vancouver. From same experience. Speaking of co-travellers, we there we took a small plane to Seattle hardly ever saw any of the other vans on the and then were transported by shuttle bus to the road during the day, as we were encouraged to Ramada Inn for a welcome rest. leave the RV parks in the mornings at our own leisure and drive at our own speed during the Next day we met for an introductive meeting day. As long as we arrived at the designated at the hotel with our fellow travellers and after RV Park that day at around 5 pm, all was well. that were shown our respective motorhomes, We would all then gather around and share our lined up in the car park. We were given a quite experiences, have a few drinks – Fivesies – and exhaustive introduction to them and by late then get some hints for next day’s drive. afternoon were finally on our way. Our group consisted of 14 couples from all over Australia We filled up in Spokane – the tank was half plus an Australian husband-and-wife team as empty and took 29.5 gallons (112 L) – at a cost our guide. in June in Anchorage, Alaska. The travel agency also runs the same trip as an Autumn trip from Anchorage back to Seattle. The return leg for our journey would be by cruise ship from Anchorage to Vancouver via the Inside Passage.

A


Travel | 61

of $101.00. We did 324 miles per half tank, which was 10.98 miles per US gallon, or 21.5 L/100 km. Day 2: Our next stop was Blue Lake, just below the Canadian border. It was a very nice RV Park where there was an arranged BBQ, free WiFi and yes, diesel trains going past all night (they followed us all across America too – Ed). Day 3: Time to cross the border into Canada and make our way to Barium Springs, where we stayed at Moses Lake RV Park. Days 4 & 5: We were now right in the Rocky Mountains, with fantastic scenery on our drive towards Banff, our next stop. We travelled via a must see: Lake Louise. We had been there some years previously and it was great to see again. Those old Grand Railway Hotels are worth a visit and a walk through. The organisers had chosen a terrific camping ground above Banff – Tunnel Mountain Village – but it was a bit hard to find without GPS. It was


62 | Travel

still frosty up there, but with beautiful fresh air. We took the shuttle bus back into Banff for a look around and also spent the next day at the same RV Park. It was very chilly up there! Day 6: The following day took us to Jasper. We did a bit of shopping there, found a Laundromat and then made our way to the Whistler National Park, 2.4 miles out of town. Day 7: The next morning we went to the Jasper Tramway and took the gondola up the mountain. There was plenty of snow still up there and the temperature was 0ºC! Brr‌ From there it was on to Beaver View RV Park in McBride, quite a nice place. We started using the shower in the motorhome and also discovered a hidden switch that allowed us to heat our water via the mains electricity, rather than via our own gas (propane) tank. The tank was built-in and refillable at most service stations. We only refilled it once on the way and again at the end of the trip. Day 8: Next day we drove to the town of Prince George, shopped for warmer duvets and continued on to Tudyah Lake for the night. The RV park was full due to a long weekend


Travel | 63

in British Columbia and there was no power, water, sewer or WiFi! In Canada and Alaska it is usual upon arriving at an RV park to hook your van up to electricity and fresh water, plus the grey and black (sewer) water outlets. Hidden in the hollow rear bumper is a flexible hose about 5 inches (12.5 cm) in diameter, which hooks up to drain the van’s waste tanks. Operated by a large lever, always empty the black water tank first and then flush with the grey water. On the previous page is the photo of a carved bear and these sorts of sculptures were quite common along the road. Speaking of big things, we were regularly amazed by the size of the motorhomes in RV parks all along the route.

Day 9: At Lynx RV Park there was an amusing extra: At 5 pm a mobile wood-fired pizza van arrived! We had to order and then pick up about half an hour later and it went down very well with a few glasses of red! Day 10: Next stop was Fort Nelson. We’d driven quite a few miles in the last few days and the countryside got bigger and bigger, with mile after mile of Aspen and White Spruce. Aspen looks very similar to Birch and as it was early spring, the young green leaves were just emerging. Talking of early spring, some RV parks had not yet officially opened for the season and fresh water was not always available because the underground pipes were still frozen. Luckily the big van had also big tanks.


64 | Travel From here on we saw a large number of big animals on and beside the the road – Black Bear, Caribou and Bison – and none were particularly worried about the traffic. They were all grazing on the fresh green grass growing on the side of the highway. Day 11: We spent the night at Watson Lake, in the Downtown RV Park. Days 12 & 13: We stayed at White Horse an extra day and the tour organisers had a wonderful day trip arranged for us: the Skagway Rail, down to the coast. We had to take our passports because at Skagway we crossed into Alaska. This is a very steep mountain railway that used to be the entry point for diggers into Alaska and Canada during the Gold Rush. They had to make their way 1000 m up the frozen mountain and had to take a large amount of luggage and equipment with them, otherwise they were not allowed up. That was to prevent them stealing equipment from other miners who had already made it up the mountain. They were forced to carry their own mining tools and equipment, plus provisions, and it meant several trips up and down that frozen mountain over several days. I started reading James Michener’s book “Alaska”, published about 40 years ago and still fantastic reading. It seemed as if we were following in the footsteps of the main characters. I would highly recommend anyone undertaking this trip to get a copy for great reading along the way. Day 14: The plan was to drive to Dawson City, a fair way North, but that part of the trip was cancelled. It seems the ferry at Dawson Creek wasn’t running due to high waters from the spring thaw. Instead, we went to Kluane, staying at the Burwash Landing Resort. Day 15: We ticked along and made our way to the Village RV Park in Tok. During the day, near Beaver Creek, we entered Alaska proper with our van. No big deal as customs almost just waved us through after showing our passports.


Travel | 65 Along the Alaskan Highway we often found relics from the time the Highway was built during WWII. Heavy machinery of all kinds was just left there. The Highway was built as an alternative route for American supplies to be shipped to Russia, via the Bering Straight and then Siberia. Day 16 & 17: The next stop was Fairbanks and we had real trouble finding the RV park, which was a bit out of town. I tried to navigate via my Nokia mobile phone, but it didn’t always work out. However, we stayed an extra day to take in the surroundings. We took a cruise on a huge paddle wheeler that could take 800 passengers up the river, past old Indian settlements and a place where they trained sled-dogs. We also saw some very expensive houses along the riverbank! Dinner in a very nice restaurant with our fellow travellers and we noted there were a lot of tourists at Fairbanks. Most arrived by bus from cruise ships at Whittier and Anchorage. Day 18 & 19: From Fairbanks it was on to Denali, with wonderful views of the McKinley Mountains all along the road. We stayed at the Denali Park RV Park for two days. On the first day we just looked around a bit and booked a tour for the following day. For it we had to get up early to be at the bus depot by 7.10 am for the The Denali Park Tundra Wilderness Tour, which took most of the day. I didn’t like this trip very much as it was too crowded and in an old school bus (which was actually brand new!), and we really did not see any wildlife at all. In fact we saw more wildlife on the Canadian/ Alaskan Highway. In the evening we went to a pre-booked theatre-restaurant for a show. Again, very touristy and overdone. The meal was good, though, and plentiful. The show was also entertaining and everybody cheered the Australians in the audience! Day 20: Another early start to be in Talkeetna by midday. At 7.30 am we started the 153 mile (246 km) drive and made it in time for a short


66 | Travel rest at the RV park before boarding a small plane (pix 47) to fly up to Mount McKinley. (pix 46). At more than 20,000 feet (6144 m) it is the highest mountain in North America. The little plane took off towards the mountains, but according to the pilot had to fly amongst the rocky mountain peaks as it didn’t have enough power to go higher. We flew over glaciers and fields of ice and snow, and it was wonderful. and a highlight of the trip. At the RV Park in Talkeetna we had also seen, for the first time, the huge Alaskan Railway. Day 21: It was a beautiful drive for the last 50 miles (80 km) and we arrived around midday at our final destination: Anchorage. We refuelled for the last time, re-filled the propane tank and then found the meeting place where we would return the motorhome. Farewell to a good reliable vehicle! After returning the vehicle we were taken by bus to the local Ramada Inn, then went sightseeing around Anchorage’s shops, had pizza and an early night. Why? Because we’d been told we had to be up next morning by 4:00 to make our way to the railway station. Day 22: It was raining as we boarded the train at 7.45 am for the 112 mile (180 km) 5 hour run to the port town of Seward. We had a beautiful seat on the glass-roofed observation deck and it was spectacular. During the journey I went to buy a coffee but was told, “Sorry, we can’t take cash. Credit card only.” For a $2 coffee? Funny world! At midday we arrived in Seaward and there we boarded a ship to cruise the Kenai Fjord. We had fantastic views and saw sea lions, dolphins, whales and a huge glacier. If you look at the photos closely you can see another cruise ship in the distance just in front of the glacier. It just gives you an idea how big the glacier is. At 6.30 pm we took a bus back to Anchorage,


Travel | 67 grabbed a quick pizza at the restaurant and checked our boarding passes for the ship tomorrow. Day 23: Last day! We travelled by bus from Anchorage via a very scenic road to Whittier. The port at Whittier is where cruise ship passengers disembark for Anchorage, or like us, board for the southward journey. The Island Princess was waiting and took us back to Vancouver via the Inside Passage. The cruise was wonderful and relaxing after 22 days of driving a large RV along a very long Alaskan Highway. The ship stopped at Hubbard Glacier, Skagway, Juneau (Alaska’s capital) and Ketchikan and took seven days to reach Vancouver. We really had an enjoyable time on board, with wonderful food, plenty of entertainment and spending some more time with our fellow travellers, before saying good bye to them in Vancouver. We chose to stay for another week in Vancouver and take in the sights of this great city before reluctantly boarding the long flight back to Sydney. But it was good to be home. See you on our next trip through Europe!

Finally

I

n total we drove 3323 miles (5347 km) without any accident or mechanical problems and all-in-all it was a fantastic adventure. I believe that after a service the motorhome would be on the road again towards Canada/ USA/Seattle with another lucky traveller. I can't give a total price on the fuel, only to say the cost was approximately US$ 3.42 per gallon or CAD$ 1.49 per litre (quick calc is about 1150 litres at an average A$1.45 cpl, for around A$1670 - Ed). As far as food expenses go I don't think we spent anymore than if we were living in Sydney for the same length of time. Food was cheap and plentiful in supermarkets and if we ate out it was usually in some kind of pub or similar.

There weren't any other major expenses, as most of the excursions, etc, were included in the price.


68 | Travel

Fast Facts Cost: $11,000 per person Inclusions: • Return flights to Seattle • 24 ft (or larger) motorhome, kits, insurance and unlimited miles • 7 night cruise • Transfers • RV park fees • McKinley scenic flight • Kenai cruise • Tour guide services

Contact: Graeme Smythe Harvey World Travel, Menai W: motorhometours.com.au


Travel | 69

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world. John Muir


70 | Events

Birdsville Big Red Bash by Sharon Hollamby

O

rganisers have promised the fourth annual Bash will be the biggest and best yet. Staged at the Big Red sand dune on the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert, approximately 35kms from Birdsville, this event will be the experience of a lifetime.

The 40 m high Big Red is the perfect backdrop to one of the most spectacular outdoor concert venues in Australia. With headline acts like Jimmy Barnes and Paul Kelly this is sure to be an awesome night.


Events | 71 Jimmy Barnes, who has performed at the Big Red Bash before said, “I can’t wait to rock the desert with you again at this year’s bash.” This year will be Paul Kelly’s first Bash but he is excited about performing at such a unique Australian venue, “As long as the pub doesn’t run out of beer.” The popular Wilbur Wilde of Hey Hey It’s Saturday fame will MC the event as well as being the unofficial saxophone back-up of any acts he can sneak into. With his dry sense of humour I’m sure there will be quite a few laughs along the way as well. Top that all off with a stunning laser light show under the desert skies and you would certainly have a night to remember forever. But it doesn’t end there. Other featured artists include: •

Troy Cassar-Daley

Col Finley

Adam Brand and the Outlaws

Russell Morris

Christine Anu

The Angels

Russel Morris

Glenn Shorrock

Brian Cadd

Organisers haven’t forgotten the kids. Fun educational workshops, Australian bush songs and stories about early Australia will keep them entertained for hours. With plenty of room to explore, this is definitely the type of concert that allows kids the freedom to be kids.


72 | Events Fast Facts

Getting There

Prices Tickets include three days of entertainment and camping.

• Family – $755 (includes unlimited youth and children)

Australia’s most remote major music festival is at the Big Red Dune, (also known as Nappanerica) 35 km west of Birdsville. The concert site is accessible by a good quality dirt road and is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles. If you want to explore the desert further but don’t have a 4WD there are a number of hire places available. More information is available HERE:

• Children under 11 are free

What: Birdsville Big Red Bash

• Allow a 2.5% processing fee on all tickets.

Where: Big Red Dune, Birdsville Qld

All adult tickets will receive a free, 12 month digital subscription to Pat Callinan’s 4x4 Adventures magazine worth nearly $60. It all seems like good value to me!

When: 4-6 July 2016

• Adults – $350 • Youth (12-17) – $55

Who: The Big Red Bash Why: Reconnect with the land & your soul


Events | 73


74 | Advertisers' Index

Advertisers' Index AirBag Man  Albury Wodonga RV World 

26 7

Parkland RV Centre

26

Redarc27

Amphibian26

Robert’s RV World

26

Australian Motor Homes

RV Specialists

26

15

Avida8

Solarscreen27

Battery Traders Super Store

26

24

Bony Mountain Folk Festival

25

Southern Highlands  Service Centre

Caravan & Motorhome Covers

27

Southern Spirit Campervans

27

Duvalay27 eBook Traveller

19

e-Twow Electric Scooters

27

Grey Nomad Tax Advisers

24

Horizon Motorhomes

11

iMotorhome App

25

iTech World

26

Nomadic Solutions

27

Northcoach Equipment

16

Outback Travel Australia

21

OzCampers24 Paradise Motor Homes

15

Skytracks27 Sunliner4 Taronga Western Plains Zoo

26

Tiffin Motorhomes

27

Trakka45 Trailblazers RV

21

Webasto14 Wellington Shire

26

Winnebago13 Winjana RV

27

Wirraway Motor Homes

17


75 | Next Issue

A LONE RANGER

promises to be leak proof and carries a fiveyear Australia-wide structural warranty. Watch out for it! We’ll be updating you on Project Polly’s Redarc solar power system and how it’s handling a week of full-time fridge running while basically parked up. Plus, there’s another significant upgrade to report on and it’s a story full of ups and downs, so don’t miss it.

M

These and more will be in Issue 93, which is out on Saturday 16 April. Until then why , not join our more than 31,000 Twitter and Instagram friends and Pinterest followers?

alcolm is back with us next issue and has promised a review of an Explorer Motorhome, a baby C-class built in Queensland on a Ford Ranger 4WD cab-chassis. It’s most obvious attraction is a one-piece fully-moulded fibreglass body that

Apr 08-10

APR

08-10

MAR

11-13

South Queensland Caravan & Camping Expo Nambour Showgrounds Bli Bli Rd, Nambour, Qld. 4560 • Open 9:00-6:00 daily (5:00pm Sunday) • Parking: Free • Adults: $10 • Seniors: $8 • Kids: Free with adult

Visit Website Click for Google Maps

MAR

Apr 04-06

APR

MAY

09-1708-10 13-15

APR

09-17

May 13-15

APR

08-10

MAY

13-15

Sydney Caravan Camping & Holiday Supershow

Cairns Home Show, Caravan, Camping & Boating Expo

Rosehill Racecourse James Ruse Drive, Rosehill, NSW. 2142.

Cairns Showgrounds Cnr Mulgrave Rd & Severin St, Cairns, Qld. 487

• Open 10:00-5:00 daily (4:00pm last Sunday) • Parking: Free • Adults: $25 • Seniors: $20 • Kids: Under 16 free with adult

• Open 9:00-5:00 daily (4:00pm Sunday) • Parking: Limited free • Adults: $10 • Seniors: $8 • Kids: Free with adult

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.

0

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iMotorhome eMagazine Issue 92 - 02 Apr 2016  

Get a Free subscription from our website!

iMotorhome eMagazine Issue 92 - 02 Apr 2016  

Get a Free subscription from our website!

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