iMotorhome magazine May/June 2021
CAMPERS! BESPOKE VW CAMPERVANS FOR INDIVIDUALS...
DRIVEN - FIAT DUCATO AUTO VAN I READER - VW VAN BUILD PT 2 TECH - BATTERY RECHARGING I PRODUCTS - COFFEE TO GO
ON MY MIND
Happy Birthday to Us! Nine years ago this month the first issue of iMotorhome Magazine hit the electronic news stand: That’s close to 200 issues when you take into account our New Zealand and North American ‘experiments’ over the years. What changes we have seen and who’d have thought we’d still be here? To be honest it feels like I have been doing this forever, and so it’s time for a surprise break. This is a combined May/June issue that will help us ‘reset’ to (hopefully) make it to our 10th anniversary. Given the ‘annus horribilis’ of the past year and a bit, Mrs iM and I have decided to take-off all of May and into June, to ’chill’. That means May will be the first month in nine years without any publishing deadlines. I can’t really comprehend what it will be like, but you have no idea how much I’m looking forward to it… April was a busy month, what with spending a week driving around in the latest automatic Fiat Ducato van, plus my first trip to Melbourne since the Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow in February 2020. In fact it was 13 months to the day that I boarded the flight south; the anniversary coinciding with returning from the Covi Supershow in Auckland and beating Australia’s international border closure by just two hours. As a formally very frequent flyer I was looking forward to getting back in the air, but to be honest, it was all rather ho-hum. Air travel isn’t what it used to be and I’m in no hurry to return to my former ways.
left me feeling ho-hum. That’s when I decided I really need a break.
It was interesting talking to industry people – the Speaking of Supershows, I attended the opening day ones I could find not swamped by customers – about of Sydney’s first such event since 2019 and it also left business and lead times. It seems eight to fourteen me feeling a little ho-hum. The direct rail link to the months is quite normal now for new vehicle orders venue – Rosehill Racecourse – no longer exists and and I wonder just how long buyers will be prepared so the convenience of public transport has taken a to wait (and hence the buoyant used RV market)? big hit. Now, you have to catch the train to Parramatta One thing I came to realise some years ago is that, and wait for a free shuttle bus, which runs on the half “when you gotta go you gotta go”. No matter the state hour and takes 20 minutes or so. Driving to the show of the economy or even a global pandemic, all of us also appeared fraught with difficulty due to the massive have a window of opportunity to fulfil our RV travel construction going on in the area. All-in-all it was dreams. Usually framed by health, family or financially enough to put people off, although that didn’t seem considerations, this window only remains open for so to happen because the opening day was absolutely long. I wonder how many have left their run too late bustling (show withdrawal perhaps?). The show itself to ‘Live the Dream’, or will find they have because of felt like Groundhog Day and like my flying experience, order lead times? 2
ON MY MIND
On the personal travel front, one thing I am looking forward to is escaping to New Zealand’s glorious South Island in October for a 10-day tour reconnaissance trip. Delayed from April 2020, the trip is to finalise the itinerary of our second escorted New Zealand motorhome tour, which I’m planning to run later in 2022. Of course our October adventure is also dependent on the pandemic, so fingers crossed.
before international travel returns to some kind of normality. I hope I’m wrong, although it would mean the local RV industry’s current boom time will continue. When we whinge about local lockdowns and interstate border closures/travel restrictions, we really need to take a good look overseas: Along with our Kiwi cousins, we’re living in absolute paradise. Just sayin’… Finally, thank you for your support over the years (and especially those who so generously contribute articles and/or finances): It really is appreciated! Some have been with us from day one and that really blows me away. I know it’s cliched, but it really has been a hell of a ride! Whether we make it to 10 remains to be seen, so for now it’s just a simple ‘thank you’ and see you in July. Safe travels!
It’s unlikely we’ll operate another escorted motorhome tour in North America, given not only the effects of the pandemic, but the social upheavals rippling across US society. Whilst I dearly love motorhoming over there, there is too much angst amongst the populace – and now too many mass shootings – to again feel comfortable taking a band of happy holidaymakers down Route 66. More’s the pity…
Still on the travel front, given Covid appears to be spiralling out of control in much of the world, the appearance of new mutations and the ineptitude of politicians in keeping vaccine promises, I’m now thinking it will a solid five years from the outbreak
P.S. There are still a few spots at our Reader Weekend in Jugiong in September. Email me at richard@ imotorhome.com.au to be a part of it… 3
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2 7 11 22 36
ON MY MIND Happy Birthday to Us!
LETTERS Sharing what’s on your mind!
NEWS A glimpse at what’s happening in the wide world of RVing
TESTED Achtung Campers! – A bespoke German-inspired campervan
DRIVEN Italian Job – A week driving the new 9-speed auto Fiat Ducato
READER Olive Van Project Pt 2 – A reader’s DIY VW Crafter van conversion
TECH Recharge of the Lights Brigade – Putting battery energy back
PRODUCTS Coffee Anywhere Anytime – A great portable coffee machine
TRAVEL Tripping Around North East Victoria – a Reader’s adventure
RV FRIENDLY Three more country towns supporting our great way of life!
Much Food for Thought! when going to bed, but I ended up taking that out and putting back the thinner piece of foam to make a seat between the two mattresses and shortened the box to form a back rest whilst seated in the mid-point of the U. Getting in and out from the U-position was a bit cumbersome.
I read with interest your wish list for project Polly. If you are interested we have a pair of reasonable quality made-to-measure mattresses that we had made for our Sprinter. Unfortunately I had them made a little too wide and my wife found the gap between them a bit tight. They have been in storage for the past three and a half years as I kept them when we sold the Sprinter (with narrower mattresses) and bought a Birdsville, two years ago.
I should have thought of that consequence because very early on I installed a swivel base for the passengers seat. I converted the passenger seat to a swivel seat using a converter base plate available from SeatsRus in Brisbane and it worked well. The swivel base added another 80-100mm to the height of the seat and consequently that meant that my wife’s feet could no longer reach the floor – very uncomfortable for her to travel. So, I made a small raised floor for her feet, but uh-oh, that then covered the access to the vehicles battery. So I converted it to a hinged set-up attached to the base of the passengers seat. I also made a drawer to fit under the hinged raised floor and kept my collection of tools in there.
They are tapered at one end, which reduces the width from 730mm to 600mm over a length of 500mm. On the diagonally opposite corner there is a 200 by 200mm chamfer to fit the corner of the Sprinter. Although not innerspring we found them really good and only used them three times. They are 1950mm long and 170mm thick and you are welcome to them if you think they may be suitable. I was going to give them to my nephew who is building his own motorhome on a new Mercedes 4WD Sprinter, but getting them to Brisbane (from Canberra) has been difficult.
However, the floor of the Sprinter sloped downwards from the firewall to the sliding door entry – and more than first appears to the eye. Once the seat was swivelled around to face rearwards, my wife’s feet were 150mm off the floor! So I extended the raised floor between the drivers and passengers seats to make another storage area and again made a hinged/ folding foot rest for the rear facing seat that did not block access through the sliding door. The raised floor between the front seats allowed me to install a small swinging table between the seats and still have internal rear access that was suitable for the quick morning/ afternoon tea.
We found the 600mm wide beds in our Sprinter a little narrow so I unscrewed the hinges of the “lids” off the under-bed storage and placed a spacer along the back edge and re-screwed the hinges back on. Initially that made the beds 730mm wide, but I had to reduce the width to 650mm which still worked better than the 600mm. We also found the wall insulation in the Sprinter to be non existent, so I used two way tape on some scrap and very thin floating floor underlay (I think < 5mm thick), which had a plastic backing. I attached it to the walls of the bedding area and then held that in place with some thin plastic coated MDF. I used half an MDF ‘joiner’ long the lines of the attachment to fasten the top edge of the MDF to the walls, while on the bottom edge I used an L-piece of plastic screwed to the base. The difference in winter is very significant, with no more cold shoulders. If Polly suffers from poor insulation this is a very cheap way to vastly improve the insulation in bedding area.
I had a Hayman Reece tow bar fitted to our Birdsville, but the installer said that they do not connect the wiring for reversing lights. I came across the same situation when I had a tow bar fitted to our Honda with reversing lights not wired into the 7 pin plug. It astounds me that it is mandatory for all vehicles to have reversing lights but not mandatory for tow bar wiring to include wiring for trailer reversing lights. I wrote to the Federal Department responsible for motor vehicle standards as this seems a bizarre situation. The reply was less than As mentioned, the replacement of the thin standard mattresses with much better quality ones certainly was satisfactory, but I suggest that reversing lights are a safety measure especially for pedestrians around a big improvement. But, my wife suddenly found that when seated on the bed at the table, her feet no longer a reversing vehicle. You may want to make sure that the reversing wire is connected when you get the touched the ground. Initially I had made a box to fit tow bar fitted. The bar for the Birdsville was fitted at between the two mattresses to put bits and pieces in 7
LETTERS Canberra Tow bars and I also bought a Gypsy Trailer from them. They were very good to deal with.
front tyres and oversteer will occur. Oversteer in a motorhome is likely to induce a roll over. The second situation is aquaplaning. Aquaplaning can occur at speeds above 80 km/h and a water depth that I cannot now remember, but is reasonably shallow around 2.5mm. It can happen very quickly and unexpectedly.
I also made a frame around the rear door to which I fitted a cut-down security door I “bought “ from the recycling place at the tip. I fitted the security door with gas struts from CaravansPlus and used a bar to keep the rear doors of the Sprinter at right angles and open. I then used a piece of canvas to hook to the top of the door frame and then held by occy straps over the bar across the rear doors. I used simple barrel bolts to secure the security door closed. This meant that on hot days we could leave the vehicle rear doors open and security door down and locked and the van would ventilate but still be reasonable well secured. I hinged a bottom back door that covers under the beds from the bed frame, so that is also was lockable. It hinged upwards and became a bench/table across the rear and was good for fishing stuff or as a work bench when fixing bits and pieces. I also fitted a small awning to the drivers side using simple sail track.
As an example, you may recall the Federal Highway about 500m from the NSW border was only duplicated over Horsepark Drive in the late 90s, with a right hand curve heading towards Sydney. The designers got the water flow path wrong and there a succession of single vehicle crashes every time it rained through vehicles aquaplaning without warning. The road had to be reshaped to fix it. Having the tyres with the deeper tread on the front makes aquaplaning more likely (although still a relatively rare event in ones driving experience). You also asked about an awning in your article, so here goes: I think the first decision is: Do you just want an awning, or an awning with privacy screens or an awning that could form part of an external room? As mentioned, I am not familiar with the precise ‘line’ of the Ford, but the Sprinter had a slightly curved roof and that necessitated a Fiamma 65 awning. The Fiat on the other hand has straight sides and a Fiamma 45 awning. At the time of my enquiry re an external room on the Fiamma and Caravans Plus websites, I found that one can fit privacy screens to a Fiamma 65 but NOT an enclosed annex, whereas the Fiamma 45 can have both privacy and external rooms attached. I have no idea about other brands – Fiamma’s were fitted to the three motorhomes we have had so I had no need to look at other brands. We bought a full annex that fits the Fiamma 45 just on 2 years ago, when on special, but we have not properly used it yet. The first time I tried I really struggled to get the ends to stretch to the already stretched awning. Also, for the front long panel I found that the ‘wall’ was quite heavy and the supporting rail sagged. I made two support poles from two tent poles (from Aldi) and curved plastic-coated brackets that now sit at the one-third points. For the Sprinter, I bought the long-side privacy screen again from Caravans Plus and then later Aldi (yes Aldi) had end screens on sale. They are only sun shade cloth but they did the job. I attached a couple of brackets to the Sprinter to use an awning rafter at each end, for them to hang from. It worked okay but was far
I converted the slide-out TV to a slide-out mini pantry (bending down is a pain) and fixed the TV in pace of towel racks shown. All up the changes cost way less than $100, except for the swivel base, but added lots of comfort and increased sales value at the end. One last thing that you may want to consider before committing to your wish list is the difference in cost between your trading up versus fixing up. But I suggest you also include in the benefits of trading-up the added safety features you would have with a newer van. Does your Ford have stability control? Vehicles with stability control are involved in 38% fewer crashes than those without. A later model vehicle is likely to have more safety features than the Transit such as dual airbags rather than a single airbag, stability control, etc. As one gets older this is more important because the same severity of a crash that can see a 20 year old walk away with relatively minor injuries can be fatal for a 70 year old. You may recall my writing to you about having the best tyres on the rear of the vehicle and you thought that no one ever drives a motorhome in a way that induces oversteer, so having them on the front is better. Motorhome drivers do not drive like that under normal circumstances but there are two situations where this is critical: In an emergency braking situation and without stability control, if the front tyres are better than the rear, the rear wheels will continue faster than the 8
LETTERS from being made to measure. The privacy screens I found are not full length and hang about 300mm from the ground, so not much good at keeping the dog contained. The full external room goes all the way to ground level and provides full privacy and can contain the dog. Nothing is ever as straight forward as it initially seems is it . Anyway thanks for reading and hope that gives you something to think and write about. Kind regards, Tom.
Thanks for all your thoughts and tips, Tom, they really are appreciated! A note to readers: Tom’s letter is an amalgam of multiple email conversations that I’ve tried to put into one cohesive, if epic, tome – no easy task! Firstly, I did consider Tom’s generous offer regarding the mattresses and measured Polly accordingly, but unfortunately the sizing doesn’t work. Like Tom’s sprinter, Polly seems to have no insulation around the bed area and so his concept is an excellent one. I’ve added it to the list of potential upgrades and will see what happens. It’s interesting Tom added the U-shaped section between the bed heads; something I think would work well in our situation. I was very interested to read about the passenger’s seat swivel conversion and had already realised that doing so would considerably raise the seat base. Fortunately there is sufficient cab headroom, while Polly’s seats are set relatively low to the floor, so I think Mrs iM would be okay and not find her legs dangling in midair! Ditto facing aft, although that remains to be seen. Tom’s comments on the reversing light wiring situation were interesting and not something I’d thought about. I wonder what the official thinking behind it is and why, apparently, it’s not a legal requirement for trailers to have reversing lights? If any readers can shed light (pardon the pun), please do. I’m fascinated by the concept of the rear security door, along with the under-bed section that lifts up and doubles as a workbench. What ingenuity! It would go well on Polly, especially with a proper side door in place of the current slider. Regarding safety, it’s easy to think an older design like the Transit series from 2006-2014 would be lacking in this department, but that’s not really the case. Polly has dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control, which isn’t bad for an old (2010) girl. To date I’ve not had cause to activate any
of the systems – not even traction control – as far as I’m aware (and I hope I’m not that unaware!). Regarding aquaplaning, I’m not sure I follow Tom when he says that in an emergency braking situation the back wheels would be going faster than the front. Surely, if you jump on the brakes everything is going to slow down at more or less the same speed, and especially so with ABS? I also think that if there is water on the road the front tyres are going to hit it first and thus run the greater risk of aquaplaning. In the process they’d clear much of it for the rear wheels to follow through. In that situation, I believe it far more important to have the best tyres on the front wheels to give you the greatest chance of regaining steering control, especially under heavy braking (remember that the front brakes do most of the work due to weight transference). As far as an awning goes, we are only after occasional shade and have no desire – or space to store – walls, or to make it an outdoor room. Not only do we never stop in one place long enough to require that, to me, having such an elaborate fixture on the side of a motorhome largely defeats the purpose of such a readily mobile vehicle. Also, I will never leave an awning out and unattended. I’ve seen too many twisted wrecks to have any faith in aluminium legs and guy ropes. Tom, you are completely correct, however, when you say nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems! Thanks for all your thoughts and I look forward to readers’ comments…
Two-Pack Blues I was recently repairing my motorhome’s Luton peak and dripped some two-pack paint on a side mirror. The mirrors regularly get a spray of tyre black to keep them pretty, yet I can’t remove that little drip/run for love nor money. The run is lovely and shiny! Applying two-pack with a small roller or brush is simple yet the finish is smooth and glossy. A great tip I was given is not using even half as much hardener as advised, because the longer drying time allows the paint to smooth out better. Two-pack is cheap and very hard wearing. Cheers, Rohan That’s a great tip re the two-pack thanks Rohan, here’s hoping you get the mirror problem sorted! 10
Ken Tame’s New Owners Ken Tame Insurance has been acquired by insurance distribution and investment company, Envest. Formerly owned by Allianz, Ken Tame and Associates has an exclusive arrangement to provide motor insurance for the 70,000-plus members of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia Limited (CMCA). Envest Managing Director Greg Mullins said Ken Tame is a well-established brand with a reputation for providing exceptional cover and claims service in the RV space, and scope to grow its offer and customer base in a growing adventure tourism sector. The sale was completed on 31 March 2021 by Envest controlled entity, Envest Direct Agencies.
popularity of this sector will only continue to increase, particularly while overseas travel is restricted. Ken Tame is a natural complementor and extension of what we already do through Envest Direct for our Club 4x4 brand and will be an integral part of our strategy to service the growing outdoor adventure and leisure markets”. Ken Tame CEO Con Tsobanopoulos said the common synergies within the Envest group and the entrepreneurial focus, will continue to drive strong growth and great service for customers. Mr Tsobanopoulos said Ken Tame strives to be the market leader in recreational vehicle insurance and being nimble, adaptive and responsive would help them realise this goal.
“Tourism Research Australia estimated that Australians enjoyed 13 million domestic caravan and camping trips annually in 2019 - an 8.5% increase from the previous year,” Mr Mullins said. “Camping and caravanning also represents a significant proportion of the domestic leisure market accounting for a third of all trips to regional Australia and we anticipate that the
“We’re delighted to take Ken Tame on the next part of its journey and can’t wait to introduce a broader range of insurance options and value to its customers and CMCA members”.
NORTHCOACH NORTHCOACH STARFIN AUSTRALIA PTY LTD
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Winnebago, Talvor and Windsor Recalls Some 500 Winnebago and Talvor motorhomes sold between January 2014 and May 2019 could be in danger of catching fire, according to the ACCC. The recall says that if refrigerators are operated on 12 volts for around 4 or more hours, heat could build up and cause the fuse block to melt. "This increases the risk of a fire and serious injury," it said. "Consumers should stop using their fridge on the 12 volt power source and remove the fridge fuse from the four-way fuse box located in the battery box. The fridge can continue to be operated on all other power sources." Models affected are Winnebago's Balmoral, Bondi 2SFB, Burleigh, Byron, Coogee, Cottesloe, Jervis and Kirra and Talvor's Euro Deluxe, Euro Star, Keppel and Murana sold between January 1, 2014, and May 31, 2019, and Winnebago's Airlie and Whitehaven, and Talvor 's Euro Slider and Hayman sold between November 1, 2017, and May 31, 2019. Additionally, more than 700 motorhomes have been recalled after fears water tanks could fall off and cause a fatal accident. An ACCC notice said underbody water tank mounting rods on 711 vehicles could crack, causing tanks to dislodge and fall off. "It may increase the risk of an accident causing injury or death to road users," it warned. Affected models are Talvor's Euro Deluxe (Iveco Daily), Euro Star (Iveco Daily) and Hayman Slide-Out, Winnebago's Airlie, Burleigh, Coogee, Iluka, Jervis, Kirra and Whitehaven, and Windsor's Simpson and
Flinders. All were manufactured between February 2012 and December 2020. Dealers who sold the vehicles include Apollo QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, TAS; Paddo's RV Centre; Sydney RV Centre; Kratzmanns Caravans; George Day Caravans; Albury Wodonga RV World; Camperagent RV Centre; All Boats & Caravans; Australian Motorhomes and Jefferson RV World. For more information on both recalls owners can contact AMH Products on 1800 497 017 or email email@example.com. 12
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Ford E-Transit Makes Debut
Ford Transit Production Paused
In the USA, Ford has launched a pure-electric Ford E-Transit van it hopes will appeal to businesses aiming to reduce their carbon footprint. Featuring a 67kWh lithium-ion battery, Ford claims the new E-Transit – which will be offered across the full range of Transit body styles – can cover up to 350km between recharges.
Ford has paused production of Ford Transit and Transit Custom in Europe due to chip shortage. According to the latest reports, Ford has had to temporarily stop production of the Ford Transit and Transit Custom at its plant in Turkey due to the shortages of microchips that is affecting the whole automotive and RV industry at the moment. The Ford plant in Turkey is not expected to start production again until mid-June.
Externally, only subtle changes announce the E-Transit's zero-emission credentials, such as blue horizontal bars on the grille, a nose-mounted charging socket and the 'E-Transit' badging. Under the bonnet, Ford has installed a powerful single electric motor that produces 198kW and 430Nm and drives the rear wheels.
There is currently a global shortage of microchips due to a fire at the Renesas Naka, Ibaraki facility in Japan, which supplies virtually all the top carmakers with its state-ofthe-art microchips.
In total, Ford says there are 25 possible configurations that can be ordered, include varying lengths and body heights and with the option of either being a delivery van, utility or cab/chassis. Choose the traditional delivery van and Ford says the maximum payload is 1616kg. That's some way off the diesel version's 2209kg maximum, but the cab/chassis can handle up to 1967kg.
The Ford plant in Spain, which also builds the Transit Custom, is also going to shut down production for an extended period. The Ford Transit and Transit Custom are popular base vehicles for several campervan and motorhome conversions in Europe. Ford is not the only manufacturer to be pausing or slowing production due to the shortage of microchips. For example, Jaguar Land Rover have also paused production for a “limited period” at certain plants.
Since the battery is mounted under the body, the Ford E-Transit offers exactly the same cargo bay as the traditional van, with up to 15.1 cubic metres of space available. As standard, the E-Transit comes with an 11.3kW on-board charger that takes around eight hours for a full charge, but using a 115kW DC charger it can be topped up from 15-80 per cent in just 34 minutes. There’s no word on if or when the E-Transit might arrive in Australia or New Zealand. 14
Sydney Show Success STOP PRESS!
Aladdin’s Cave Police have allegedly uncovered an Aladdin's cave of stolen property at a caravan park on the Gold Coast.
Sydney’s recent Caravan Camping Holiday Supershow has been hailed a great more thanupdate Just as we were going success to press,after the following 61,000 people attended; turnout since thein was received regardingthe thebiggest legal battle as outlined new six-day introduced Sorry Stateformat in our was Letters section: in 2017.
It happened after officers from Mudgeeraba identified a vehicle of interest that was thought to have been involved in recent property offences in Robina and Broadbeach. That led to a search warrant being executed at the Mudgeeraba caravan park, where numerous tools and construction site equipment were found. Police also allegedly located two syringes and a plastic water pipe.
“Our exhibitors were thrilled with the customer “Good morning to all our friends and supporters. Your engagement withbeing manywell reporting donations are spent. record sales and strong demand as people looked for products, services and inspiration for their next holiday,” Caravan & “Excellent news: Following further hearings, Camping Industry Association chief executive provisional orders have been(NSW) handed down until such Lyndel Grey said. time as a full hearing is held, which could be some time, due to the current circumstances.
New Vicman Road Rules A 45-year-old and 23-year-old woman, both
from Mudgeeraba, were charged with two counts of RVers arewith reminded that count new rules regarding entering intent, one of stealing, onethe count passing of cyclists came into force Victoria on April of possessing tainted property, oneincount of receiving 26. They must beone given at least onedamage metre clearance tainted property, count of wilful and three on roads with speed limits over 60km/h and 1.5m when counts of drug possession. speed limits are higher. Under the updated rule, drivers can briefly cross painted lines to give cyclists the space they need – including solid lines, double lines, painted tram lane lines and painted islands – but only when they have a clear view ahead and it is safe to do so.
“The Orders: Everybody gets their land and buildings back and all are to be given quiet enjoyment of their sites, no more threats or bullying or blocking friends from visiting. To keep good faith, we will be paying appropriate fees, which will be determined by an independent expert. I will keep you posted when we get details. Bye for now, Rich”.
ACOF Back On The Australian Camp Oven Festival (ACOF) is back on – from 1-3 October – with online ticket sales opening on 1 July. What started as a little friendly competition around the campfire has evolved to become one of Queensland’s flagship tourism events. Located in Millmerran, 82km from Toowoomba, the ACOF was the brainchild of outback icons Gary Fogarty and Ned Winter. Following modest beginnings in 1999 the festival is now widely known as Australia’s most iconic camp oven festival. “Our quirky program celebrates authentic Aussie traditions including camp oven cooking, damper throwing, billy boiling, bush poetry, country music and bush heritage displays. Come October 2020, the coals will be stoked, caravans unhitched and the damper rising as we welcome people from all walks of life to our quiet, rural town. So dust off the camping gear, prep the camp oven and start planning your trip as we celebrate the Australian Camp Oven Festival”. To find out more about this iconic festival and to buy tickets from 1 July, visit https://acof.com.au.
JABIRU AWD Off the Beaten Track
Iveco’s China Sale Off According to a statement from CNH Industrial (CNH), which owns Iveco commercial vehicles, buses and quarry and construction vehicles, it has terminated discussions with the Chinese automobile group First Automobile Works (FAW) regarding selling its onhighway business. However, CNH says it is continuing to pursue existing plans to spin-off its On-Highway division early in 2022.
Australian RV Imports Grow
Various news agencies reported that CNH had abandoned the talks because the Chinese automotive group hadn’t presented an acceptable offer for Iveco, citing a person familiar with the discussions. Italy’s government had signalled its opposition to Iveco being sold to a Chinese company and praised the decision. The Italian government had followed the development closely, because it had said via its Economic Development Minister, Giancarlo Giorgetti, that it considered the production of heavy vehicles of strategic national interest.
The Caravan Trailer International Trade figures for February 2021, released by the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, show a 14 percent increase in total rolling annual imports to 11,609 units, compared to this time last year. The data, provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics International Trade Data series, shows a total of 1169 units were imported into Australia in February, representing a record 88 percent increase on the previous year. However, although consumer demand continues to remain high, the significant growth is also reflective of weakened trading conditions in February 2020 as the initial lockdowns in China impacted the Australian import market.
“The government is prepared to help ensure that this production remains in Italy,” said Minister Giorgetti. “CNH Industrial believes there are significant opportunities to develop its On-Highway business by accelerating the deployment of ever more sustainable transport solutions and infrastructure, in line with the EU’s Green Deal ambitions.” CNH is a global leader in the capital goods sector, with a wide range of products. Each brand belonging to the company is a major force in its specific industrial sector and includes: Case IH, New Holland Agriculture and Steyr for tractors and agricultural machinery; Case and New Holland Construction for earth moving equipment; Iveco for commercial vehicles; Iveco Bus and Heuliez Bus for buses and coaches; Iveco Astra for quarry and construction vehiclesMagirus for firefighting vehicles; Iveco Defence Vehicles for defence and civil protection; and FPT Industrial for engines and transmissions.
This high growth trend is expected to continue over the coming months as the market continues to return to trend from the declines experienced in the first two quarters of 2020. Year to date, imports are 67 percent higher than this time in 2020, with 2540 units (of all RV types) arriving in Australia.
Fraser Coast RV Park Makeover Larger sites and dog-friendly spaces are among the key features of a $17m plan to redevelop the four beachfront caravan parks operated by Queensland's Fraser Coast Regional Council. At its March meeting, Council adopted master plans for the Burrum Heads and Scarness Beachfront tourist parks. "The infrastructure and services in the parks were designed for a different era and have reached the end of their working life,” Cr Jade Wellings said. "The master plans were developed in consultation with holidaymakers so we could understand their needs and aspirations. Funding for the redevelopment of the four beachfront caravan parks has been included in Council's long term Capital Program, with the works to occur over the next five years starting with Scarness where work is already underway”.
Most Popular Destinations Cairns and Far North Queensland are the most popular destinations among RVers and campers, according to a new national survey. The study by Great Northern Brewing indicated that the tough circumstances brought about by the pandemic had inspired Australians to get out more and enjoy the great outdoors. "Almost 60 percent of Australians have rediscovered a passion to explore their own backyard," spokesman Ian Giles said, adding that more and more people are wanting to get back to basics when it comes to holidays.
Surveys were made available online and emailed to more than 3100 guests who had previously stayed at either Burrum Heads or Scarness Beachfront tourist parks. Comment was sought through articles on the Caravan Parks Association of Queensland's Let’s Go Caravan and Camping website, the Fraser Coast Chambers of Commerce, mail outs to residents and businesses adjacent to the parks and at Fraser Coast Visitor Information centres. Under the master plans, the number of sites at the Burrum Heads and Scarness parks will be cut by up to 30 percent to allow for bigger sites.
"Three quarters of Queensland survey respondents said they normally participated in some sort of outdoor recreation activity when not in lockdown, with 20 percent keen to camp or fish," he said. Top destinations in the survey were: • Cairns/Far North Qld • Whitsunday region • Sunshine Coast/Noosa region • Uluru/Alice Springs, southern Northern Territory • Kakadu, Northern Territory • Gold Coast region • South Australia • Central Victoria and High Country Northern • New South Wales • Outback Queensland
"Making the sites larger and offering dogfriendly spaces will improve our ability to attract more users across the year, which will offset losses from the reduction in sites," Cr Wellings said. "We are listening to the feedback we have received. Visitors want larger sites to accommodate the increase in travelling families who require larger caravans and therefore more room”.
The survey showed 44 percent of Queenslanders had spent up to $2000 on outdoor equipment in the past year, and nearly a third of that expenditure was on camping, fishing and boating. 20
AKUNA Get away from it all in style
TESTED: ACHTUNG PREVIEW CAMPER VW T6.1
ACHTUNG CAMPERS! by Richard Robertson
Attention VW campervan buyers, German-born Achtung Camper is out to change the way you buy and design your next vehicle…
t’s not often we get to bring you a new Australian recreational vehicle manufacturer, so when we do it’s worth paying attention. Achtung Camper, based in Geelong, has been around for five years or so and isn’t actually ‘new’, but it is different. It’s also well worth finding out about. Originally from Germany, founder Ronny Probandt says he started out with a love of cutting-edge design and a background in the highest quality workmanship, and coupled it with his passion for campervan travel. Ronny and partner Tania Differding met in 2004, in nearby Torquay, and two weeks later set off on a yearlong trip around Australia in a 1983 Toyota Tarago. Complete with curtains made from bed sheets and a cheap esky filled with ice, it was to be the start of something very special.
“This was the beginning of our obsession with campervan travel and the freedom that owning a campervan brings. And so Achtung Camper was born! Today, not much has changed, we still make sure we take each new demo campervan and motorhome for at least one long ‘test drive’, trying out new features and thinking up future innovations to make life on the road easier than ever”. The couple’s stated goal is to make Achtung Camper’s vehicles the most innovative, durable and stylish on the market – and they’re off to a good start. From those humble beginnings Achtung Camper has grown into a solid business with a loyal following and just recently moved into a main-road showroom on Geelong’s busy Mercer Street. Not only providing High Street visibility, the move gives more space and lets customers call-in during office hours to inspect the products and meet the team.
eing German and obsessed with quality and attention to detail, it’s no surprise Ronny builds new campervan conversions using Volkswagen’s ubiquitous Transporter van. Interestingly, after years of making campervans, Achtung Camper has released its first motorhome – a conversion of the new VW Crafter of course – but that’s another story for another time…
“The line-up features a range of standard safety and convenience items that include front assist with city emergency brake, crosswind assist, side assist including blindspot monitoring and rear traffic alert, multi-collision brake and, in some models, the intuitive digital cockpit”.
The other notable development is a power increase for New to Australia this year, the T6.1 is really a ‘dead the top-spec version of the 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel: Its van walking’ as it’s due to be replaced by the all-new output climbs to 146kW/450Nm (from 132kW/400Nm) VW T7 sometime in 2022 (although when we’ll see it and it’s only available with the 7-speed DSG auto is another matter). You can expect an electric T7 too, gearbox, although with the option of 4Motion all-wheel which should be a very interesting machine. In the drive. Except for one very basic model, the standard meantime, the T6.1 is as good as a small van gets and engine of the T6.1 is a 110kW/340NM single-turbo at once feels both happily familiar but interestingly new. version of the 2.0-litre diesel, available with a 6-speed It was only in the March issue I reported on the T6.1 manual (2WD only) or 7-speed DSG auto in two or allfor the first time, in the form of Trakka’s Trakkadu 450 wheel drive. AT – a hairy-chested 4x4 version for serious off-road exploration and very different to Achtung Camper’s test Like all European auto-manufacturers these days, machine. To save reinventing the wheel, here’s some Volkswagen plays the options game at purchase time. of what I wrote in that review about the T6.1: That means to experience a new T6.1 at its best you need to dig deeper and tick all the boxes, and there Subtle styling cues aside, the T6.1 update is primarily are plenty to choose from. While there’s no doubt the focused on technology. According to Volkswagen, new Transporter T6.1 is a premium product, there are 24
a number of unexpected omissions, like digital climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, even as options. There’s a new infotainment system with Apple Car Play, but oddly, AM and digital radio are missing (AM is important in the bush for emergency updates). And in a taste of things to come, VW’s dash-mounted USB ports are now the tiny USB-C type rather than the bigger USB-As most of us use. Fortunately, a simple adapter cable is available. While not yet tested in Australia, in December 2020 the VW T6.1 came out on top as the safest commercial van in Europe from a field of 19, and was awarded the Euro NCAP Gold Medal. Like all VWs, the T6.1 now comes with a 5 year unlimited kilometre warranty and the option of a pre-purchased service plan that keeps running costs affordable.
hat’s basically the T6.1 side of things dealt with and it’s where Achtung Camper’s – let’s call them AT – vehicle options differ from other manufacturers. Usually, when you buy a campervan or motorhome, you buy a specific model built on a specific vehicle. Perhaps there will be a few vehicle options aside from decor and trim choices, but otherwise you get what the manufacturer dictates. However, that’s not the case with AT… Its purchase process has two main steps, with the first involving specifying the VWT 6.1 model and options you want. For example, choose between short or long wheelbase, engine output, colour, window arrangement and a whole list of options. You can do the initial work online through the AT website (although you’ll want to talk to them directly for very specific options) and they will come back to you with a quote for your highly personalised VWT6.1. The second step is for the fit-out: AT has three conversion layouts – Nature Lover, Social Butterfly and Long Weekender – and a wide range of options, and once you work through them you then get a separate quote for the conversion. You then add it to the vehicle price to get the final costing for your (probably unique) campervan. While it might sound a bit convoluted, what it gives the buyer is absolute control over the vehicle specification and interior, and complete transparency on pricing. AT says its starting price for a complete van is around $75,000, with an average of $90,000, although you can go a long way north of that if desired.
The test campervan was a long-wheelbase front-wheel drive T6.1 with the 110kW/340Nm engine and 7-speed DSG auto for a price of around $56,000. Coupled with its Nature Lover conversion (closest to a standard campervan fit-out) and various options, the total price worked out at $107,000 plus on-roads.
here are only so many ways to arrange things inside a box and just occasionally I’m surprised and delighted by the innovation fresh minds bring to the challenge. As mentioned, the test vehicle had the Nature Lover conversion and it’s basically what you’d expect in a standard fit-out. The Social Butterfly is a variation of the first, with a little less cupboard space and equipment, and more relaxation room, while the Long Weekender is a minimalist design for shorter trips and day use. Whichever you choose, all are highly practical in their own ways. There’s nothing fussy or frilly about AT’s conversions; rather, they are practical and pragmatic designs providing space efficiency and comfort. Achtung Camper also helps out with DIY projects on customers’ VW Transporters, from insulation to electrics, seat swivels and even pop-top roofs. They also supply VanEssa ‘Mobilcamping’ modular campervan systems for those on more of a budget or only needing occasional campervan capabilities.
TESTED Achtung Camper’s regular VW conversions are fully insulated and built using lightweight Maxi Film birch plywood from Maxiply in Melbourne. According to its website, “Maxi film is a premium exterior-grade birch plywood, covered with a smooth melamine film on both sides that is weather and moisture proof and resists abrasion and damage from commonly used chemicals, meaning no maintenance is required”. There are eight cabinetry colours, from ‘Transparent’ like the test vehicle to bright red, yellow or blue (imagine!) and others in between.
You also choose any accenting colour for the underbenchtop ‘keyline’, which is painted on for an added touch of style. Additionally, there are four colour choices of carpet lining for the walls and roof. But the really wild bit comes with fabrics: You can choose any heavy domestic or commercial fabric from select ranges from Warwick, one of the worlds leading fabric and textile wholesalers, and the possibilities are mindblowing! Given the options, it’s unlikely two Achtung Camper vehicles are ever the same, nor likely to be. If you’re seeking to stamp your individuality on your campervan, this is the company for you.
he test camper’s interior was finished in Transparent (aka woodgrain) Maxiply. The layout was conventional, with a rear bed-seat and a driver’sside run of cabinets encompassing the kitchen and for general storage. The roof was rear-hinged for maximum headroom up-front, and an optional roof bed was fitted. Unusually, to access the roof-bed a small section of the cab roof had been cut away, which had the added benefit of making through-cab access easier.
150W portable solar blanket, SMEV stainless steel sink with mixer tap and inbuilt chopping board, 55L freshwater tank, 50L Waeco CR-50 12V compressor fridge, Primus Kinja 2-burner outdoor stove, external shower, Porta Potty with brackets, Thule outdoor rubbish bin and even CMCA membership!
Options fitted to the test van included a 180W slimline solar panel (in place of the solar blanket, but not good if fitting roof racks), upgraded 65L Waeco fridge, Standard equipment on a Nature Lover includes a rear- Webasto diesel space heater and hot water system, hinged European-style lift-up roof with storage shelf, Scirocco 12V fan, rear drawers under the bed, colourDometic 3m awning, vinyl-over-ply flooring, blockout matched roof and a flyscreen on the sliding side door. curtains, privacy/Thermo Matts for front windows, It also had a Bluetooth projector/speaker, Voltronic bed-seat (no seatbelts), custom inside/outside table, water gauge, battery management system with display, specific cabinetry including fitted mirrors and a pullDinosaur Designs soap dish (essential!), passenger out bench, additional back cabinet, under-bed storage seat swivel base, roof bed with LED reading light, cavities, 130 Ah sealed deep-cycle battery with portable Ecoheat induction cooker with special kitchen charger, Bluetooth battery monitor, 240V outlet, 3 x mount and a 1600W inverter, LED awning strip light 12V outlets, touch LED lighting, 2 x LED reading lights, and possibly a little more. 29
This camper was due for delivery after I’d played with it (that’s confidence for you!) and featured very Australian-themed upholstery on the bed-seat. Festooned with brightly coloured native flora, it was as far removed from normal campervan fabrics as you could imagine. Combined with the natural plywood finish it gave the interior a warm and somewhat ‘oldworld’ feel, reminiscent of a loved retro caravan. The real star of the interior, however, was what AT call the Rock and Roll bed-seat. When not providing 2m x 1.2m of sleeping space (the generous width is because the side cabinet is relatively narrow), it is effectively double sided, push-me-pull-you-style, and provides seating for two on the inside, plus a seat for two at the back! Optionally seat-belt equipped for travelling, it’s an inspired piece of design that easily folds down at bedtime, but during the day can provide interior seating out of the weather and/or a seat for two right at the back, from which to soak in the views and fresh air, under the protection of the tailgate. Brilliant… 30
Love the tiny Bluetooth ‘can’ projector/ speaker, which simply clips to the ceiling and projects onto a portable cimema screen (and can also be used outside).
Another great piece of gear was the portable freestanding table, which can be used inside and out. A small, poll-mounted table with a reasonably sized square top, its greatest feature is the base: This had three sturdy legs that fold for storage, but when extended, individually adjust to the level of the ground, thus providing a stable, level table. An option I really liked was the drink-can-sized Bluetooth projector and speaker that displays on a portable cinema screen. It can be set-up inside on the roof or basically anywhere outside, and doubles as a music speaker when you’re not streaming movies or your favourite TV show. Talk about mobile cinema! Other thoughtful touches included the mirror at the back, right above where the plug-and-play shower connects, the (optional) deep drawers underneath the rear of the bed-seat, the simple but effective magazine rack with bungee cords, neat windows surrounds and the discreet Achtung Camper logo on the drawer above the fridge. About the only design disappointment was just a single swivelling cab seat – the passenger’s – due to the driver’s seat proximity to the kitchen cabinet/ table stowage/house battery. While it’s no problem for a solo traveller, for couples I reckon many would happily sacrifice cabinet length for a swivelling driver’s seat. I certainly would. The swivelling seat is actually an option and at first that surprised me, but given the bespoke nature of AT’s fit-outs it’s perfectly understandable.
The only equipment omission I can see and would question is a permanent grey water tank. True, a portable 23L Fiamma grey tank is optionally available, but in this age of environmental sensitivity the sight of any waste water draining from an RV doesn’t do our cause any favours. 31
Optional deep storage drawers are a must, really...
The optional induction cooker has a special drawer mount for indoor use.
There’s a lot of storage in this fit-out, which also comes with a Porta Potty.
Slimline side cupboards provide a 1.2m-wide bed that’s also 2m long.
The rear-facing seat is a beauty and protected by the tailgate. Note plug-n-play shower.
The bed-seat easily folds and there’s good rear access. Mirror is a nice touch, too.
What I Think
chtung Camper is a genuine breathe of fresh air in the Australian RV scene. No ho-hum, run-of-themill campervan, this is a quality conversion that oozes thoughtful design, attention to detail and quality, both in component choices and the build. Meanwhile, VW’s T6.1 is the gold standard in campervan base vehicles, offering a combination of style, safety and driving pleasure the others can’t match. It continues Volkswagen’s Kombi legacy and makes for a worthy successor to those iconic pop-tops, which unwittingly created a legend that continues to entice. Combined, this match-made-in-Geelong is one campervan buyers ignore at their peril. Ideal for solo travellers, couples or families with small kids, Achtung Camper’s VW T6.1 conversion is quirkily different, individual and deserves ‘attention’ on any RV shopping list… 33
SPECS GENERAL Make
Nature Lover (with Extras)
Pros... VW T6.1 Highly customisable Transparent purchase Value Quality Thoughtful design Well priced Individual
VW LWB T6.1
2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel
110 kW @ 3250-3750 rpm
340 Nm @ 1500-3000 rpm
7-speed DSG auto/Front-Wheel Drive
Airbags, ABS, ETC, etc
WEIGHTS Tare Weight
Gross Vehicle Mass
Braked Towing Capacity
DIMENSIONS Overall Length
5.30m (17' 5”)
2.30m (7' 7")
2.04m (6' 8”)
Internal Height (roof raised)
2.00m (6’ 6”) est
Bed - Main
2.00m x 1.20m (6' 6" x 4’)
Bed - Roof
2.01m x 1.10m (6’ 6” x 3’ 7”) (optional)
Primus portable 2-burner (optional)
Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water (optional) Hot Water Toilet PRICE As tested Warranty
No SMEV Stainless steel with mixer tap Waeco 50L 12V standard (Waeco 65L fitted) No 12V LED Yes Cab Webasto Evo5 (optional) Webasto Evo5 (optional) Porta Potty External hot/cold 1 x 130AH Deep Cycle 180W rooftop (150W Blanket standard) N/A 55L 23L 15L 9.8L A$107,000 plus on-roads VW 5-yrs/unlimited km. AT 3-yrs
Cons... No internal cooker as standard Grey tank optional No driver’s seat swivel option Contact
77 Mercer St Geelong. Vic. 3220 T: (03) 5200-9185 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.acthungcamper.com.au
RV enthusiasts helping other likeminded people start their next big adventure...
RV Sales Service Centre Parts & Accessories Australia’s largest range of RVs in one convenient location. www.ausmhc.com.au Open 6 Days - 02 4948 0433 email@example.com 31 Paciﬁc Hwy, Bennetts Green, NSW 2290
Fiat’s Ducato now has class-leading power and a nine-speed auto, ideal for a quick getaway. But is it enough to steal the lead in the RV sales stakes, asks Richard Robertson? 36
e first drove the long-awaited nine-speed auto Fiat Ducato as the Trakka Torino, but when the opportunity arose to drive one for a week I jumped at it. After all, only by spending time with a vehicle do you really get to know it. The Ducato is the undisputed leader in the motorhome van and cab-chassis market. It’s popularity is due in no small part to price, but also bang-for-your-buck: Fiat has worked hard to make the Ducato motorhome-friendly straight out of the factory – from factory swivel seats in the cab to specially routed wiring – and the industry has wholeheartedly embraced it. I also think it remains the best looking of the current base-vehicle crop despite remaining largely unchanged for years, although that’s purely personal opinion. Available as a van or cab-chassis, the Ducato isn’t the biggest, toughest or most capable RV base-vehicle, but the design hits an overall sweet spot that has made it numero uno. The Ducato van I drove was a 5.99m long-wheelbase, medium-roof delivery box and its usefulness was purely to become familiar with daily driving the new engine and gearbox combination. Having said that, come the end of my week behind the wheel and I have to confess to being at least a little bit sad to see it go. You see, even as a box on wheels, the Ducato has a certain charm that makes it surprisingly fun and something of a satisfying daily driver.
o quote from my Trakka Torino review, Fiat Chrysler Australia (FCA) says the latest Ducato is Series 7 and it was released in Australia in August 2020. Key developments include a reportedly all-new turbodiesel that’s Euro 6D emissions-compliant, plus the aforementioned nine-speed automatic transmission. FCA says Series 7 now come standard with Full Brake Control and Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, Rollover Mitigation, a Hill Holder and a reversing camera. Whilst the first two of those features are new, I believe the rest were already standard equipment.
now joins the ranks of diesels needing AdBlue – a urea-based additive injected in minute quantities into the exhaust, post-combustion, to control nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions. The AdBlue has its own 19.5-litre tank separate from the Ducato’s diesel tank, which is now reduced to 90-litres from the previous 125-litres. Fiat says in a motorhome application the engine could consume up to 7L/1000 km (about 404 mpg) of AdBlue on the highway, but only about 2.5L/1000 km (1130 mpg!) in urban running. Given AdBlue costs $0.80$1.00 per litre from a pump at a service station, that works out at something like $0.007 cents per kilometre when touring – hardly a figure to break the bank.
Finding AdBlue is another matter and at this stage your best bets are Truck Stops or bigger/newer service Series 7 Ducato now also comes with two major stations. On the Southern Highlands for example, options: the Safety Pack (Blind Spot Assist + Rear I was unable to find AdBlue at the pump at any of Cross Path Detection, Traction+ and Hill Descent the local service stations and had to go out to the Control) and the Comfort and Tech Pack (sevenHume Freeway to find it (at the Shell complex at inch infotainment screen including Navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Digital Radio and Bluetooth, Sally’s Corner). Come the end of our week and the trip computer was showing an average 8.4 L/100 km LED daytime running lights, auto climate control and (33.6 mpg), while I added almost exactly 3L of AdBlue a tyre pressure monitoring system). Neither pack, (although I’m not sure if it was full at pick up), for 786 however, was fitted to this review vehicle. km travelled. That would equate to close on 5000 km range between refilling the 19.5L tank, which seems The engine retains its 2.3-litre capacity but is said pretty much in line with Fiat’s quoted figures. to be all-new to comply with Euro 6D emissions standards. Meeting these standards means Ducato
Power output for the new engine remains the same at 130 kW (178 hp), but torque is up 50 Nm to 450 Nm when coupled to the new auto – a handy 12.5% increase. Speaking of the new auto, it’s from German manufacturer ZF and should prove reliable and durable. Drive remains via the front wheels, which have independent coil spring suspension. At the rear is a live axle with leaf springs, and the Ducato rides on 16-inch wheels shod with 225/75 LT tyres. I was pleased to see Continental VanContact tyres on the test Ducato – the same as fitted to Project Polly. The test Ducato had a tare weight of 2110kg and a gross vehicle mass of 4250kg, providing a theoretical maximum payload of 2140kg for the 13m³ load space (less occupants and fuel). List price was $50,300 plus $1190 for the additional sliding side door and $2890 for the automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is standard), taking the total to $54,380. By way of comparison, a similarly powered, basic LWB VW Crafter with eight-speed auto has a list price of $66,201 and a Mercedes-Benz LWB Sprinter 419CDI lists at $76,799. All prices are before on-roads, although comparing these LWB models is a bit applesversus-oranges as Crafter and Sprinter each have just over 14m³ cargo capacity and differing specification levels, but you can still see the Ducato’s clear cost advantage. 39
opping behind the wheel of the White Box at pickup time I was immediately struck by two things: The old instrument panel, last seen several models ago (which is far more readable and user-friendly than the highly stylised display of current Ducato motorhomes) and the absence of the flip-up clipboard/ iPad holder atop the dash. I queried the former with Fiat in the hope the company might have seen the error of its ways, but sadly it appears this instrument panel is standard on retail vans sold in Australia, which are quite distinct from Ducatos coming from the factory specifically to become motorhomes. Go figure. As for the clipboard/ iPad holder, apparently it’s not available on retail vans in Australia, although there is a fold-down clipboard and drinks holder in the backrest cushion of the centre seat of the three-seater cab. Still, it’s a poor substitute as it has no iPad holding capability for delivery drivers looking for tablet-based navigation or deliveryinstruction software. Again I say, go figure…
how much load is on the front suspension of a normal Ducato motorhome. That’s why AL-KO’s (expensive) front suspension upgrade really is desirable, as it levels the vehicle, raises the front-end some 40mm and transforms ride quality. Alternatively, King Spring’s replacement springs are more affordable and still raise and level the ride height, as well as improve ride quality to a degree. However, they retain the original suspension dampers and therefore really only do half the job.
The final major surprise – well, as much a recollection from the Trakka test – was how quiet the cab was at freeway speeds. The new auto has the engine turning over at a leisurely 1750 rpm at 110 km/h and noise was hardly discernible – ditto wind noise. Coupled with comfortable seats and a genuinely panoramic view through the enormous windscreen (which starts below Those surprises aside, the next was just how well knee level and extends well above head height) and the empty van rode. Despite having the customary the Ducato cab is a genuinely pleasant place in which slight nose-down stance of all Ducatos, the front suspension coped well on the usual dubious mixture of to pass the miles, for work or play. We also manage to fit in a fair amount of night driving and I was pleased to road surfaces and even concrete freeway expansion see the Ducato has retained its excellent lighting. strips. Yes, the van was empty, but it does go to show 40
Not So Good
adly, not all was sweetness and light in the driving experience department. The biggest frustration was the cruise control, which by modern standards is archaic. I’m also inclined to think there was a problem with this particular vehicle because I’ve driven a lot of Ducatos and don’t remember them all being this crook. In a nutshell, in an age when steering-wheel controls with digital speed-setting and readout are the norm, the Ducato’s stubby wand, with its vague and imprecise engagement, coupled with the new gearbox’s seeming inability to maintain speed within a plus-or-minus five km/h range on anything other than dead level ground was deeply frustrating. Ditto operation of the speed limiter. Interestingly, when encountering a steep hill the gearbox would instantly drop back a gear and hold speed up the incline reasonably accurately, although
it would overshoot at the top. Conversely, if the van encountered a gradual incline the speed would just drop away something in the order of 5 to 10 km/h before the system would (slowly) do something about it. Very frustrating – and unacceptable in this day and age. That First World bugbear aside, the Ducato is also showing its age when it comes to the electronic driver aids. Most notable is the absence of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist, which basically gives semi-autonomous driving ability. Many other ‘aids’ are available in the optional equipment packages mentioned earlier, but anything to do with safety – both yours and other road users – should be standard.
E H T N A V E V I OL
J O PR
2 t P T C E om.au
@a by Ian
t was exciting to see our first article in ‘print’ last month – it certainly added inspiration for the next steps in the project. Funnily enough, this has included installing steps at the side door and my recently installed tow bar, as the build progresses there are more entry and exits from the van than you can imagine! The tropical weather has not been onside either; our extended wet season is playing havoc with my planning as our ultimate Kombi is too big to park under cover. If it keeps up, a large tarp will need be slung-up, as my snazzy new Dometic windows have sat under the house awaiting a break in the rain and I want to start cutting some serious holes in the beast. The weather is great while I am at the office, but invariable raining on my days off…
lot of planning goes into a build like this, although it frustrates my lovely wife Wendy that most of it takes place in my head and she wants to see the vision. After a couple of rough sketches on graph paper, setting the basic layout, along with viewing lots of Vanbuild images on instagram, back issues of iMotorhome and interweb inspiration, our neighbour’s parents turned-up in their new Horizon Banksia and this put my vision into perspective for her.
in reality it still involves a lot of contemplation (often with beer in hand) and re-measuring once I start to lay things out.
We were going with dinette-style seating with two seats facing each other and a table between – a good plan, but once I had laid it out with allowance for a decent sized fridge, there was no legroom left. The revised plan is for a bench under the side window with a Lagun leg table that can double as additional Although I often fall asleep dreaming of van interiors, kitchen counter space. The advantage is we will now the majority of the initial work takes place in the shell, have somewhere to sit and stretch out when reading with tape measure, masking tape and marker inthe latest iMotorhome (excellent priority – Ed), with hand. To maximise space onboard we are going with additional storage capacity underneath. We will later a sideways double bed in the back, above a garage/ swivel the bench seat to give additional inside seating Hugo cave. The toilet and shower, with seating/dining in inclement weather, as we expect to spend most of ahead, will be on the driver’s side, while the kitchen is our time out of the van; not a luxury they have up the on the left by the sliding door, with overhead cupboards top of the planet. both sides. It all sounds pretty simple in theory, but 44
s you can see in the images, I also mocked up the bathroom in lightweight ply, with my salvaged Boeing 767 toilet door a compulsory part of the build. It also helped work out what will go where. I want an opening skylight over the bed, hence a Truma Saphir under-bunk air conditioner is preferred over a roof-top model. The ducting for this (out through the floor) also dictated the unit’s position, as there is a need to clear the chassis rails underneath. Ours won’t be underbunk either, it will be ‘under kitchen bench’, as I didn’t want to waste garage (motorcycle) space and there are going to be underslung water tanks that would have interfered. The tanks’ location necessitated the removal on the spare wheel carrier and this will now be on the rear door thanks to Northshore Classics from the UK that makes these, along with the raised-bed mounts. They are quality items and there is no need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, when they have already done it! Once the placement of all the components was confirmed (or thereabouts, subject to change without notice), we started the insulation and sound deadening installation. They really emphasise getting the moisture
barrier and insulation in place, in Northern Hemisphere builds, due to their freezing winters. I reckon our stinking hot summers are a good enough reason to get this right, Downunder! If the air-conditioning is going to work efficiently it’s cost effective insurance. After I worked out the drain points for sink and bathroom, we installed the hard flooring. I went with 19mm ‘green tongue’ as the sheets are 3600mm long by 900mm wide and two sheets fill the gap between the walls. This also gives us a good substrate to mount the cabinetry on as it doesn’t require further drilling into the bodywork. It was good advice from my learned Uncle Darryl, who built his first Coaster motorhome last century (and that old bus is still traversing country Victoria somewhere). 45
any lessons have already been learned along the way. YouTube is a great inspiration, with some classic characters providing online content, plus informative articles from some really knowledgeable builders. I can also recommend Collyn Rivers Caravan & Motorhome Electrics, as featured in iMotorhome, as a valuable source of information. No need to make the same mistakes as others already have (and there are some really dodgy looking vans online). When we turn up at a reader’s gathering I want to be proud of the build quality: This is going to be our home in the future, so it has to be schmick. Anyway, back to the grindstone. Next issue we will have the windows in and a lot more progress, if the bloody rain ever stops!
Recharge of the LIGHTS brigade!
battery discharges when electrons move from the battery’s negative terminal to the positive terminal and then via the electrical cabling to our appliances, thus powering them. The recharging process uses electrical current to push electrons from the positive side of the battery back to the negative side of the battery, through the internal chemistry in the battery, so they can begin the discharging process all over again.
Can our batteries' energy level be recharged at a rate equal to or greater than the rate at which our appliances are consuming the stored energy? Also, how much recharging capacity do we need, asks Warren McCullough?
In a motorhome this recharging process is regulated by a battery charger, using electrical current generated by solar panels, the vehicle alternator or a 240V power supply. The battery charger measures and regulates the current being fed through to the batteries at a rate to suit their chemistry. 47
For an AGM battery, this process can be repeated up to 500 times over its lifetime, while a lithium battery can have the recharging process repeated more than 2000 times. Each full discharge/recharge period is known as a ‘cycle’. In our previous installment discussing appliance consumption, we estimated our appliances consume around 70Ah of battery capacity every 24 hours. With this level of energy consumption, 2 x 100 Ah AGM batteries will keep the lights on and the fridge cold for around 35 hours. A similar capacity lithium battery bank will keep the same appliances ticking over for 54 hours, before the flow of electrons is exhausted. These figures reflect the batteries’ ‘base level’ energy capacity, not considering any recharging. Fortunately, the period of time our batteries are able to maintain a power supply to our appliances can be greatly extended by recharging. Now, take a deep breath, coz here comes some technical stuff….
Recharging AGM Batteries
GM batteries should be recharged before they • Stage 3 (Float charge): When the battery reaches reach their 50% discharge level – around 12.1V, its fully charged capacity, the charger provides a measured with no load or charging. While discharging ‘trickle’ current flow to maintain it at its optimum of AGM deep cycle batteries below 50% state of operating voltage – around 13.5V when float charge should be avoided, so too should overcharging. charging. Fortunately, the nuances of this charging process Battery chargers also adjust the voltage supplied to are monitored and managed by our battery charger, batteries from the charging source. For example, the charging them in three stages…. output from most solar panels is around 18V, while the charging input for most AGM batteries is around 14.6V. • Stage 1 (Boost or Bulk charge): A constant charging current up to 30% of the battery’s rated Your DC-DC charger adjusts this voltage automatically to protect your batteries (you shouldn’t connect a solar capacity is provided by the charger until the panel directly to your batteries). battery voltage reaches 14.6V at around 70% of the overall battery charge (up to 4 hours) Good quality Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) • Stage 2 (Absorption charge): Above 70% capacity battery chargers harness this excess solar panel the current is gradually reduced by the charger, voltage to increase the current available for charging maintaining a constant voltage (around 14.6V),as the batteries. the battery’s state of charge (SoC) moves towards maximum charge (up to an additional 6 hours)
Recharging Lithium Batteries
ithium batteries require a slightly different charging regime to AGM batteries and a charger must have a specific lithium charging profile to correctly charge such batteries. Essentially, lithium batteries require a two stage charging profile: Boost (Bulk) and Absorption stages, rather than the three stage charging profile of AGM batteries. A lithium charging profile doesn't include a Float stage. While maintaining a roughly similar charging profile as AGM batteries for the first two stages, lithium batteries are able to charge at a much higher rate in the initial Boost mode – current input may be at up to 100% of the battery’s rated current capacity. In theory, this can result in a much faster recharge time. AGM batteries charging at full current might take three to four hours to process the Boost stage, while a lithium battery can complete the same stage, if charging at full current, in just one hour. In Absorption mode an AGM battery charging at full current input might take six to eight hours to reach full capacity, while an equivalent size lithium battery can complete this stage in anything from half an hour to
two hours – if there is a high enough current feeding into the battery. The reality though is that the trickle of current feeding in from the solar panels in a motorhome is nowhere near the full current capacity of either an AGM or lithium battery, so we are unlikely to see too much difference in the charging times of both from our solar panels. Experience suggests the lithium recharge time advantage might come into play to some extent when the batteries are being charged from the vehicle alternator (at 40 amps) or the 240V charger (at 25 amps). With no load, lithium batteries are able to maintain their charge for many months and don’t require a Float stage to compensate for any auto-discharge. In fact, lithium batteries prefer (and will have a longer lifecycle) if charged to 70% when not being used for any length of time, rather than continually being topped up at 100%. So, with all that theory tucked under our hats, how do we actually make it happen with our on-board battery recharging options?
Generating Electricity to Charge Batteries
he three most common options for generating electrical current to recharge motorhome batteries are: • A solar panel when parked or free camping • The vehicle’s alternator when driving; • A 240V connection when at home or on a powered site. All three options provide electrical current that is fed to the battery via a battery charger, which acts as a charging regulator.
Solar panels The development of solar cells using silicon in the 1950s led to their use to convert sunlight into electrical energy on satellites in the NASA space program. As with many such space-related innovations, the technology has subsequently been commercialised and refined for the betterment of us earth-bound mortals in our free-camping environments. The solar panels we use in motorhomes produce up to 18V of electricity. This voltage is adjusted by the battery charger to the 14.6V preferred by our batteries. However, when it comes to assessing our battery recharging, we are more interested in the electrical
current: How many Amps a solar panel can produce to recharge our (typically) 100Ah batteries. To make things that little bit more confusing, solar panels are generally rated by their Power output, measured in Watts. If you were paying close attention in those science lessons at school, you will recall that Watts/ Volts = Amps. So, a 150W solar panel operating at 18V can produce around 8 Amps (per hour) of electrical current. That’s in theory, under ideal conditions. Given various inefficiencies, let’s assume that in good sunny conditions, we are getting 6 amps of electrical current feeding into our batteries each hour during the day from our 150W solar panel. But our fridge is draining up to 2.5 amps of electrical current out of the battery every hour, day and night. So, while our solar panel is generating 36 amps each 24 hours (6 amps x 6 hours sunshine), our fridge could be draining 60 amps (2.5 amps x 24 hours). Add another 10 amps for other appliances and we have around 70 amps of daily battery drain – 34 amps more than our solar panels are generating. These are conservative figures. We may be getting 8 hours of solar-generated current, but at 48 amps that still leaves us in a current deficit. From my experience, in summer we are seeing the solar kick in as early as 51
6 am and stay active until 8 pm. So this might (and that The electrical current generated by this blanket is a big might!) bump it up to 9 hours of charging at 6 charges the batteries through our main DC-DC battery amps, or 54 amps for the day. Still a 16 amp deficit. charger. It is connected to the electrical system via an Anderson plug installed under the van. This plug That’s not a huge problem if we are only staying a is connected to our Redarc 1240D DC-DC battery few days. We will have enough current feeding into charger. the batteries to keep the lights on and the fridge cold. Starting up the van to move on will push increased With a total 350W of solar output available, this can current into the batteries from the alternator. give us up to 15 Amps per hour, or 90 Amps per 6 hour day, which will cover our 70 Amps of daily battery We have also invested in a portable 200W solar usage (in good theoretical conditions!). blanket with a 10 metre lead, for use if camped for an extended period under trees or in other marginal Even with this increased current from the solar panels, sunlight situations, or just to complement the 150W both AGM and lithium batteries can take most of the rooftop panel for longer off-grid stays. An added benefit day to fully recharge. The big plus with lithium batteries of a portable solar panel is that it can be set at a more is that their voltage will continue to be at around 13.2V advantageous angle and continually moved during all day, while AGM batteries may drop down to 12.2V, the day to ‘track the sun’, generating maximum current depending on their state of charge. output.
he current generated by your vehicle’s alternator is used to charge your starting battery and this current can also be used to charge your house batteries. The alternator in our Sprinter can produce up to 60 Amps, but how much current feeds to the batteries depends on the capacity of the battery charger/regulator and how it profiles the charging current. The Redarc BCDC 1240D regulator/charger fitted to our van has a maximum charging capacity of 40 amps per hour. The ammeter in our battery monitor confirms that 40 amps is feeding into our batteries from the alternator, even when the engine is idling. So, driving the vehicle for one hour will (in theory) replenish a maximum of 40 Ah battery capacity, although this may not be the reality at higher charge levels, as the charger tapers the current flowing to the batteries as the batteries’ charge level increases. However, charging the batteries from the alternator for an hour or so will certainly get you out of trouble and keep your fridge cold if your battery energy level is dipping a little low. The faster rate of charging of lithium batteries with this higher current input is an attractive option that may help to justify their higher up-front cost. 53
240V AC Mains Power
built-in 240V AC-DC charger is permanently connected to our batteries and will recharge them up to the rate of 25 amps per hour when a 240V AC power supply is connected to via the external power socket. This current is regulated by the charger in similar stages as the DC-DC charger: Boost, Absorption and Float, for an AGM battery. Remember, if charging lithium batteries, a charger with an appropriate lithium profile should be used.
Lithium Charging Considerations
ithium batteries maintain a more constant voltage output and can be discharged down to 80% capacity. Even when discharged to down around 50%, lithium batteries are still powering appliances at 13.0V. As seen, they have the potential to recharge more quickly than AGM batteries when higher current input is available from the alternator or mains power. If you are considering the installation of lithium batteries, make sure that your chargers, both DCDC and AC-DC, have a lithium charging profile.
Most lithium batteries include an electronic battery management system (BMS) built-in that is claimed by suppliers to be able to adapt the output from AGM chargers and modify the profile so that it is suitable for charging lithium batteries. I take these claims with a grain of salt. A BMS may well assist in the charging process in the short term, but my conversations with battery suppliers suggest that a battery charger with a dedicated lithium profile is preferable to the BMSmodified current input, in terms of both general battery performance and long-term battery life.
The Bottom Line
he maths is pretty straightforward: If our appliances are consuming 70Ah of battery capacity every day and our solar panel is restoring up to 50Ah of this capacity every day, then we have a deficit of 20Ah of battery capacity every day. If we have 100 Ah of usable battery capacity then we potentially have 5 days of 12V electrical energy for free-camping.
We do need to keep this all in perspective though. Our 12V energy supply is only one factor in the freecamping sustainability equation: Fresh water capacity and cassette toilet capacity are other major factors. Going crazy with solar panels to recharge batteries might be a moot point if you don’t have enough water to last as long as the 12V energy supply. However, if staying in a National Park with basic toilets and water There are plenty of options to extend this time – supply but no mains power connection, for example, a increasing battery capacity, increasing solar generating sustainable 12V electricity supply is likely all you’ll need capacity, reducing appliance consumption, or simply for a long term stay. running the vehicle engine to recharge the batteries using current generated by the alternator. If your travels find you staying mostly in caravan parks with mains power available and only the occasional night Which option best suits you depends on how you off the grid, then five days of sustainable electrical energy travel. If you don't stay for more than a couple of nights may be a handy fall back, but not really essential. Horses before moving on then a theoretical five days of freefor courses. Or, how long is a piece of string? camping capacity is more than enough. If you are likely to stay on the same unpowered site for weeks at a More information about batteries and recharging time, increased solar charging capacity – more panels options, along with links to related information is or a portable blanket – is worthy of consideration. available at CompactRV.net.
e r e h w y n a ime t y n a lan
l by A
tba f Ou
e’ve checked out many different coffee makers over the years, but the best manualpressure one we’ve used so far is the Nanopresso kit. With available accessories it can produce a single or double-shot ground-coffee or single-shot Nespresso capsule coffee.
and electric-pressure espresso units became available a few years ago. Since then we’ve checked out quite a few. a
We’re quite happy to leave most town ‘necessities’ behind us when we go bush, but a decent coffee isn’t one of them. We’d rather have no coffee than rubbish coffee. Our preference – as is that of most people – is for espresso coffee. You know: the coffee you get from one of those flash cafe machines. We know there are alternatives, such as Greek or Turkish coffee that’s produced in a stove-top saucepan; ‘plunger’ coffee, or coffee that comes from an Italian-style percolator, but they’re just not our taste. We were unhappy with these coffee makers, but there was no alternative until the manual-pressure
The electric ones are ideal if you want coffee on the run, because they can heat the water as well as provide pressure for the espresso action. The manual ones need water heated from a cooktop or camp fire, but you can always put the morning’s hot water in a quality thermos, so you have hot water on hand at morning coffee and lunchtime. Many of the manual – and electric – pressure espresso units are suitable for capsule or pod coffee. If, like us, you prefer to bring your own ground coffee on a bush trip, make sure the unit you buy can accept it. The best of the manuals we’ve tested so far is the Nanopresso kit. We bought the basic unit from Snowys about a year ago and then added the Barista Kit. If we’d known then what we know now, we’d have bought the whole shebang for around $130. 58
How it works
Our only gripe with the Nanopresso system is the somewhat ‘non-ergonomic’ design of the pressure pump. The plunger protrudes from the cylindrical side of the housing and works by being pushed in and released; pushed in and released until there’s no resistance. That means all the water has been forced through the coffee grains and into the cup. Similarly, if you’re making a double-shot ground-coffee, The problem is that the head of the plunger isn’t you don’t need any of the single-shot kit, including the designed specifically for finger contact, but is a slightly dished disc. It’s not obvious how the plunger should single-shot water container. The double-shot kit has a be operated and it doesn’t readily accommodate two water container that’s twice the size. So, once you’ve sets of fingers, or two thumb bases. It takes around a decided on the type and size of coffee you want, you minute to ‘plunge’ a double-shot of ground coffee, so a select the appropriate bits and screw then together, more ergonomic plunger head would be an asset. and source some very hot water. hen you unpack the Nanopresso and Barista Kit parts it all seems complicated, but a little practice is all that’s needed to sort out their use. For example, if making a single-shot capsule coffee, you don’t need the supplied ground-coffee container and filter – you use the dedicated capsule one.
The water is poured into the appropriate container and the loaded Nanopresso is turned upside down and screwed on top of the full water container. Then, the assembly is inverted over a coffee mug and it’s exercise time.
That carping apart, the Nanopresso produces excellent coffee. The components are very well made and our 12-month evaluation has shown that they’re durable and continue to function as new, even after plenty of bush living. 59
Victoria’s North East by Colin Oberin
fter the most recent Melbourne lockdown I offered to take my brother in-law away for a few days. We didn’t want to leave Victoria in case there was another snap closing of the border and decided to head to the High Country of Victoria’s North East. I was familiar with this area after spending several weeks there working as a volunteer with BlazeAid, helping farmers recover from the catastrophic bush fires of the 2019/2020 summer by repairing or replacing damaged fencing. When starting out on a trip I usually prefer to leave Melbourne on a Monday morning as that is when the traffic in the inner city, where I live, is least frantic. However, on this occasion I decided to leave on a Friday, because the two main attractions we wanted to see could best be visited over the weekend. I knew this because I had checked various websites, but they didn’t agree on opening days and times, which I have found often happens during Covid. So, I had phoned the attractions in question to check opening days and times.
s usual when heading north from Melbourne our first stop was at Euroa for coffee and to raid the local supermarket for supplies. Euroa is almost exactly two hours from Melbourne and the perfect first stop. Next stop was lunch at the excellent bakery in historic Chiltern, where our wives grew up. If you’re interested in a bit of old-world charm then Chiltern is well worth a visit. Our first day finished with a glass of wine on the shores of Lake Hume at Ludlows Reserve, a free camp with excellent toilets, two boat ramps and acres of space to spread out, plus great views over the lake. Ludlows is just 17km east of Wodonga along the Murray Valley Highway (B400). Next morning, we back tracked toward Wodonga as we headed for the Army Museum Bandiana: A quick check of my driver’s licence at the gate and we were in. After a short drive straight up the entry road, a soldier directed us to the car park directly opposite the museum. Entry involved the usual Covid check-in requirements then we were free to roam. As stated on the army website, the Bandiana museum, “Collects, 61
TRAVEL preserves and exhibits the history of various corps of the Australian Army”. This museum does not have a large display of tanks or artillery but there are plenty of vehicles of various types on display including an FJ Holden ute, Mini Moke, personnel carriers and some Land Rovers, as well as several vehicles that have been used on important ceremonial occasions. Each corps has a section of the museum that shows its work, memorabilia and, in some cases, history. While I was aware of the catering corps, medical corps and transport corps, I was not aware the Australian army had separate dental corps and psychology corps. While other armies have psychologists in their ranks, the display for the psychology corps states that the Australian army is the only one in the English-speaking world to have a separate dedicated psychology corps. The corps is involved not only in counselling soldiers but in the selection of recruits for various roles in the army, according to aptitude for the particular roles. It is stated that the efficiency of army training increased by 90% after the introduction of aptitude testing of new recruits by army psychologists. After spending half a day wandering around the Army museum it was time for us two old fellas to have a late lunch. From there we headed back to Ludlows for a quiet afternoon of reading, napping and a wine or two (but don’t tell our wives about the wine…).
ext morning it was back towards Wodonga again, this time to visit the Bonegilla Migrant Experience. While much of the original site has been returned to the army there are still quite a number of original buildings and displays on the site. These give you a reasonable impression of what life must have been like for those early postwar migrants who found themselves in the middle of nowhere in this strange land called Australia.
residents now on staff, usually of the same nationality The first Bonegilla residents were refugees and as the residents they were cooking for. This change in displaced persons from World War II. Many were diet greatly improved morale in the camp. apparently traumatised to find themselves bundled While for many migrants this was a brutal introduction onto trains at the Melbourne docks for the long slow to their new life in Australia, many found work on the journey to Bonegilla, only to be met by the army on arrival in a bare paddock (there being no platform). The Snowy Mountains scheme and other major projects army personnel directed them to their accommodation around Australia, and so moved out of Bonegilla and eventually made a good life for themselves and their and while they were now safe and had plenty of food, that reality took time to sink in for some. Many of these families. In fact, one in 20 Australians are said to have links to Bonegilla. The Bonegilla Migrant Experience first migrants were just happy to be away from the horrors of the war and its aftermath, but later residents, is only 12km from Wodonga via the Murray Valley who came to Australia as assisted migrants, were less Highway or 20km from Albury via the Riverina Highway and Hume Dam wall. It’s highly recommended happy about the bland mutton-and-boiled-vegetable for anyone travelling along the Hume Highway or diet. Slowly but surely more suitable catering was provided by cooks, who by this time were mostly earlier holidaying in the area. 63
ather than heading back to Ludlows again we headed for the old gold mining town of Yackandandah – or “Yack” as it is commonly called. After wandering the main street, with its antique shops, boutiques, cafes and an excellent pie shop, we headed for the local caravan park and soon found ourselves parked under a shady tree. After setting-up and having a quick shower and then a change of clothes, it was time to walk back to the main street for a pub meal at the excellent Star Hotel. There’s nothing like a New York steak and a glass or two of local Syrah, and both were excellent. Next morning we headed towards Corryong, stopping at Tallangatta for lunch. Along the way we checked out the Tallangatta lookout (great views) and old Tallangatta itself. The town was moved before being flooded in the 1950s by the newly constructed Hume Weir, but has risen again as the water receded in more recent times. We also visited the historic Boggy Creek trestle bridge, accessed via a dirt road and a short walk, but well sign posted on the main Murray Valley Highway (B400).
Approaching Corryong, the devastation of the 2019/2020 summer bushfires was evident from the blackened tree trunks, some dead trees, shiny new fences and bare hillsides. After showing my brother in-law the sites of the town such as the main street, lookout, the Man from Snowy River Museum and the sculpture of the Man on Horseback beside the Visitor Information Centre (plus some of the places I worked with BlazeAid), it was time to make camp. We decided to set up in the free camp beside the old netball courts, so we could walk over to the Chinese restaurant at the golf club. Unfortunately, the Chinese restaurant was closed that day so we headed back to the van across the also-closed golf course. Neither of us felt like cooking, so it was a pizza in the main street for dinner. We were the only ones in the free camp that night, which was very quiet, apart from the screeching cockatoos at dusk. There are no facilities at this campsite, which wasn’t a problem for us as my van is fully self-contained, but next time I might stay at the highly recommended Colac-Colac (pronounced locally as “clack-clack”) Caravan Park, which is only six kilometres down the road.
orryong is only a half hour’s drive from Khancoban, which itself is well worth a visit. However, as it is in New South Wales we didn’t go there on this occasion. If you do drive to Khancoban from Corryong there’s an excellent sculpture of a Murray crayfish on the NSW side of the river as you cross the Bringenbrong bridge. There is also a sculpture of a rainbow trout as you enter Khancoban. These two pieces form part of the Murray Arts project, which includes other sculptures along the Murray River Road. The Murray River Road itself is a great drive and anyone planning to travel it would do well to call in at one of the Visitor Information Centres in the region to collect a copy of the handy little fold-out Murray River Road brochure. The brochure shows the locations of
the sculptures, lookouts and other points of interest, as well as the little towns such as Tintaldra, Granya and Walwa. After stopping at all the sites along the Murray River Road and checking out the Wymah Ferry, which I used in 2019 to cross into New South Wales when heading to the iMotorhome Readers’ Weekend at High Range, we headed back to the Yack caravan park and another pub meal, before heading home the following morning. All-in-all it was a leisurely getaway for two old blokes who enjoy each other’s company on a camping trip, and a good opportunity to spend some money in a regional area hard hit by bush fires and then Covid lockdowns.
TRAVELTOWNS RV FRIENDLY
RV Friendly Towns image: Joey Csunyo
he RV Friendly program is a Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia Limited (CMCA) initiative aimed at assisting RV travellers as they journey throughout this wonderful country.
will be provided for them that may not be available in other centres, and they will have access to a safe place to stay overnight and possibly for a longer period.
An RV Friendly Town (RVFT) is one that provides a certain number of amenities and a certain level of services for these travellers.
On the following pages are this issue’s featured RV Friendly towns. If possible please include them in your travels and support the communities going out of their way to welcome those of us fortunate enough to be travelling. Enjoy!
When RV travellers enter a town displaying the RVFT sign they know they will be welcome. Certain services
RV FRIENDLY TOWNS
rdlethan is a rural service town some 500 kilometres south west of Sydney, at the northern gateway to the Coolamon Shire. Originally known as Rosebank, Ardlethan was proclaimed a village in 1908. Just two minutes off the Newell Highway, the town has plenty of charming stores and eateries to keep visitors entertained.
breed of dog. Casterton in Victoria also claims to be the birthplace of the kelpie, but to assert its claim as the birthplace, Ardlethan has a bronze statue of a kelpie in Stewart Park.
RV travellers visiting town can park their self-contained vehicles at the Ardlethan Short Stay Car Park on Ariah Street. Visitors can stay for up to 72 hours at no cost Ardlethan is also the birthplace of the Australian kelpie, for an unpowered site, with power available for just $2 per 12 hours. Potable water is available at the site, and the Nature and Heritage Walk gives visitors the however, the dump point is located on Stewart St. chance to learn about the town’s link to this famous Tourist/Visitor Information Centre
C/- Coolamon Shire Council 55 Cowabbie St COOLAMON. NSW. T: (02) 6930-1800
Casual Parking (near retail centre)
Ardlethan Short Stay Carpark, Ariah St
Short Term Parking
Ardlethan Short Stay Carpark, Ariah St 72 hrs,No charge for unpowered, power $2 for 12 hours, bins, barbecues, toilets, water, covered seating
Stewart St, Ardlethan
Ardlethan Short Stay Carpark, Ariah St - behind toilet block
RV FRIENDLY TOWNS
a museum depicting the evolution of nature from 100 he Outback town of Isisford is approximately 1200 million years ago to the present and a life-sized replica kilometres from Brisbane and 120 kilometres from of a crocodile ancestor that lived around 98 million Longreach. The town lies on the tranquil Coolibah-lined years ago. banks of the Barcoo River, where fishing for yellowbelly RV travellers in the area will find accommodating RV has become a favourite pastime. parking at Barcoo Weir and River Campsite. Barcoo Isisford is the home to Clancy’s Overflow Hotel, Weir offers short-term parking for $3 per night or $15 located in St Mary Street. Built in 1898, the hotel was per week. For longer stays, River Campsite near named in honour of Banjo Paterson’s Clancy of the Barcoo Weir offers parking for $2 per night or $10 per Overflow and you’re encouraged to stop in and enjoy a week. A dump point is available on St Frances Street refreshment or two and a delicious meal. A visit to The near Weir Toilets. Potable water can be sourced at Outer Barcoo Interpretive Centre is also a must. It has Isisford Park, Weir Toilets or Weir Camping Grounds.
Tourist/Visitor Information Centre
Council Offices 20 Mary St ISISFORD. Qld. T: (07) 4658-8900 W: www.longreach.qld.gov.au
Casual Parking (near retail centre)
Parking within the town area
Short Term Parking
Barcoo Weir: $3/night or $15/week. 24 hour camping also allowed at the truck stop (behind Council Park) but only during wet weather. Access dependent on conditions.
In St Francis Street near weir toilets
Isisford Park, 20 Mary St. Weir Toilets at St Francis St.
RV FRIENDLY TOWNS
ortland is a vibrant harbour city situated 362 kilometres west of Melbourne and was established in 1834 by Tasmanian Edward Henty. The profile of the shire reveals a diverse industry consisting of fishing, pastoral and agricultural industries. The city of Portland also has substantial involvement in manufacturing, community and health services, tourism, education, transport and retail.
into Bentinck Street overlooking a grassy foreshore and the town’s marina. The Portland Visitor Information Centre can be found along Lee Breakwater Road. Henty Park offers short parking free of charge for up to 48 hours. The dump point is also located at the park. Toilets, bins, water and mobile coverage are also accessible, and pets are permitted on leads.
Portland’s commercial centre is based around Percy Street, and several retail outlets and eateries spill over Tourist/Visitor Information Centre
Visitor Information Centre Lee Breakwater Rd PORTLAND. Vic. T: 1800 035 567 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.glenelg.vic.gov.au
Casual Parking (near retail centre)
Hurd St between Henty & Tyers Sts, and Lee Breakwater Rd
Short Term Parking
Henty Park, Bentinck St behind Cable Trams Museum. No charge, 48 hours, toilets, bins, water, pets on leads, mobile coverage
Henty Par, Bentinck St
Between the Visitor Centre car park and bus park, on Lee Breakwater Rd
“Happy Birthday from The Gang!” The Gang
Inside : Ed • News • Tested – Achtung Camper VW T6.1 Nature Lover • Driven – Fiat Ducato 9-Speed Auto • Reader – The Olive Van Project Pt2 •...
Published on Apr 30, 2021
Inside : Ed • News • Tested – Achtung Camper VW T6.1 Nature Lover • Driven – Fiat Ducato 9-Speed Auto • Reader – The Olive Van Project Pt2 •...