iMotorhome magazine Nov 2020
IS WIRRAWAY AUSTRALIAâ€™S BEST KEPT MOTORHOME SECRET? GERMAN ENIGMA MACHINES I TINY NISSAN ELECTRIC CAMPER DIY BEDROOM MAKEOVER I PROJECT POLLY ON THE RACK
ON MY MIND
hey say inspiration comes to you in funny places. Less than a week out from publishing I was locked out of the iMotorhome website through a combination of automated caution and human ineptitude. I’d actually been locked out for most of October, following the discovery my password no longer worked and neither did the reset option. Repeated contact with the website company’s support department produced little action and I finally resorted to trolling their Facebook page to elicit a more urgent response. It worked, but still didn’t fix the situation. A possible workaround occurred to me as I gazed out the window from the ensuite loo. It came from nowhere and although simple, ended up requiring email and telephone conversations with the iMotorhome domain name hosting service (different from the website host) before I could enact it. At least they were on the ball and talked me through a solution to the intermediate problem. After that, regaining access to the website took less than five minutes. As of this precise moment, I still don’t have a solution from my website host. Technology – it’s not for the faint hearted… Apart from that, month seven of the Covid 2020 experience has largely been trouble free. How about yours? It appears we are either settling into this strange new existence or becoming Covid-institutionalised, but either way life seems pretty normal. Well, except for the lack of interstate and international travel.
Back on Earth, when borders open, what are your travel plans? November onwards is hardly the time to be heading to Far North Queensland or into the Outback, except to visit family and friends. Or, are you so stricken with cabin fever that any travel option is appealing? November leads inexorably to December and Christmas, and it was around mid October I saw my first Christmas ad on TV. Who can believe the year is now almost gone, or that having survived apocalyptic fires at the beginning, we’ve endured most of 2020 in some form of pandemic lockdown? I feel particularly sorry for Victorians and especially Melbournians, who really bore the brunt of the most severe restrictions. Well done all of you, you deserve an especially merry Christmas! Also deserving something special – in this case humble thanks – are those who gave to generously support my ride in the 2020 Virtual MS Gong Ride. On my indoor trainer I undertook to ride the equivalent distance of Canberra to Wollongong – 234 km – in the hope of raising $250 for Multiple Sclerosis Australia. I’ve now passed 500 km and $500 and with just few days remaining have targeted at least 600 km and $600. The Virtual Gong Ride finishes on this issue’s publishing day – Sunday, 1 November – and also the day for the Covid-cancelled physical ride. If all planets align I’m going to ‘virtually’ ride the 82 km from Sydney to Wollongong that day, just because. It will be my 6th Gong Ride and one to remember.
My ride that day will be using an amazing Australian app called FulGaz. Featuring a collection of more than 600 video rides around the world, FulGaz also has a Speaking of interstate travel, will November finally see the opening of the Queensland and Victorians borders? video ride of the entire MS Gong Ride. By connecting my road bike to a ‘smart’ trainer that talks via Bluetooth Whilst I don’t doubt the Queensland Premier’s original to the app, the video rolls along at the pace I ride while public health concerns, I believe the border issue became a convenient tool in the lead up to election time. the app recreates all the hills by increasing the trainer’s resistance accordingly. It’s uncannily realistic and as At least the Victorian Premier had an actual pandemic close to being there as you can get. On the day I’ll even on his hands and despite vilification from federal punctuate the ride with the traditional coffee and muffin politicians and much of the population and press, held his ground and effectively reduced it to zero. Yes, it was stop at Loftus Oval and a sandwich at the Red Cedar Flats picnic area, in the depwths of the Royal National mishandled to begin with and resulted in hundreds of Park. Watch for a feature next issue on smart trainers, unnecessary deaths and untold heartache, but at least apps and the brave new world of indoor cycling fitness. it has been controlled – something you can’t say about the UK, Europe or US. Until then, safe travels and all the best as the country struggles to find some cheer for the upcoming Festive On a lighter note and with tongue firmly in cheek, Season. If you’d like to spread a little extra, please Western Australia remains locked away in its own consider a late donation to help support the 25,000 private Idaho and I wonder if it matters or anybody Australians afflicted with the incurable scourge of cares? Perhaps now is the time for W.A. to secede Multiple Sclerosis. Simply click HERE. Thanks :) following this trial run? At least we’d have a reason to carry passports in our motorhomes and it might even become a desirable tax haven we could all escape to. Now there’s a thought…
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ON MY MIND Inspiration!
LETTERS Got something to say? Share it with everyone...
NEWS A glimpse at what’s happening in the wide world of RVing
REVIEWED Bespoke Beauties – Wirraway could be the best kept secret
REARVIEW Enigma Machines - Knaus from Germany flies below the radar
PREVIEW Electric2 – A tiny British Nissan camper goes all electric
PROJECT POLLY What’s in the Box – Polly gets an Aussie-made bike rack
PRODUCTS Meal Deal – Portable Panasonic Benchtop Oven
DIY Sleeping on It – Redesigning the bed for storage and comfort
RAIL TRAILS e-Bike Makes Life Easy – Discovering rail trails with a little help
RV FRIENDLY Three more country towns supporting our great way of life!
Living In the Daintree After months of ‘unfulfilled’ promises and delays, we finally took delivery of our new Windsor Daintree on a Renault Master this morning in Adelaide and drove it home to Clare. Off the freeway it at times was like travelling in a tinker’s cart on a corrugated dirt road! But on smooth tarmac leaving Adelaide it was really good to drive. The noise was partly us not securing things (we are new to these mobile turtle shells) and partly due to drop down bed: it has straps vibrating against the frame, and who knows what else. Will check that out with a few bits of foam . First impressions are extremely good. Fit and finish is very good. A few minor bits that we would not fuss about, as can use a sealant gun. Interior looks impressive, apart from a scratch on the fridge. Does one care about that? And I have quickly learned to duck when moving from the cab to home!
As I said, first impressions are very good and all being well we plan to drive east as I am supposed to do some work in the Hunter Valley in mid December. Driving across means Mrs Turtleshell can come and we can have an early Christmas with Son and Wife in Paterson before heading back here. Regards, Graham
Thanks for sharing you’re experience Graham, you’re the first Windsor motorhome owner I know of and I’ll be very interested to see how it works out for you. I was impressed with the Daintree when I had a look through at the Melbourne show, so fingers crossed it works out well. It won’t take you too long to work out where all the squeaks and rattles come from with your own gear, although it might take a little longer to track down the vehicle’s. Interesting what you say about the bed straps, I wonder if they’re all like that or if there is a tension issue with yours? The Renault, with 60 km on the dial, drove very well Regarding the Renault Master, I’ve always considered and you could feel the power. Changes in auto (well it significantly underrated, and agree it’s six-speed we are old and used to VW DSG boxes) are slightly automated manual transmission (AMT) is significantly hesitant, but a competent driver would learn to soften smoother than Fiat’s. Of course, Fiat has now moved that. The agent commented on that also, whilst to a ‘proper’ nine speed automatic, yet I see Renault saying it drove better than Fiat’s offering, and this was is sticking with the six speed AMT in the new model apparently his first Renault. We cruised at 90-92 km/h, Master. I guess it’s a price thing. Please keep us all then the last bit when Tinkerman intruded, at 88 km/h in the loop as your ownership progresses as I’m sure (a draw I had not fastened correctly was like the entire there are other potential Windsor motorhome owners percussion section going full blast!). The tyre pressures out there just waiting to see who goes first. Safe were too high as well – 60 psi is Renault’s offering – travels! so 10 psi less tomorrow should yield a better ride. We might actually overnight in it tomorrow as we are house hunting in the Adelaide Hills.
Pressure Points Hello Richard, I noted in the October issue that you are about to install a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) into Polly. In my mind, it’s a ‘must have’. I acquired my TyreDog about 5 years ago after ‘an incident’ when returning home from a trip to Lake Albert (SE of Adelaide), just after we acquired Wanda, a 2011 Fiat/Jayco Maverick (aka Conquest, but an ex-Britz Maui rental): I noted low pressure in one tyre when refuelling, which turned out to be a fault in the wheel, not the tyre, but that is another story. The TyreDog was acquired shortly thereafter, the TD 2300A. The next step was after several years of replacing batteries in the relay, I finally had that hardwired. Worth the cost. The real benefit occurred this past weekend, travelling again SE of Adelaide, this time to Wellington. About 5 kms from our destination the TyreDog alarm sounded and I noted pressure down below 60 psi (where I have set the lower limit). Closely monitoring it over that last short distance, we arrived with about 52 psi in the tyre. Being a rear wheel, I may not have noticed it until the next day. Anyway, a call to the RACV and I had the RAA (SA) there within an hour and the spare fitted. The problem turned out to be a small tear in the side of the tyre. The other issue, which the TyreDog did not resolve, is that we do not have a sensor on the spare. Yep, I had not checked that tyre’s pressure and it was low, again at about 60 psi. That was when the fun started! There’s one small servo in Wellington and the air pump there was old and useless. It was then a 10 km drive into Tailem Bend, again closely monitoring the
TyreDog, to find a working air pump. The Shell servo looked good, having a big truck stop at the rear. No good, however, as the computer based pump there is designed just for cars and had a max of 65 psi. Finally, down the road to the Caltex and an air pump that worked. The bottom line was that we were able to have the tyre problem resolved without too much stress, other than the cost of a new tyre, because of the TyreDog. It’s certainly worth the cost. Finally, the one ‘annoyance’ I have had with the TyreDog is the suction holding the display: The suction only holds for a limited time, but I never think to remove it and reapply. I finally resolved this by adding strong Velcro to the bottom, and to the dashboard. It appears wobbly when touched, but has actually worked a treat and no vibration when driving. Regards Eric. Great to hear from you again Eric and thanks for the update; all very interesting, especially about the Tyre Dog and spare (I hadn’t thought of that, but have checked its pressure). Yes, I now consider a TPMS a must and have installed an ARB unit in Polly, which I’ll report on next issue. I had planned it for this issue issue, but just ran out of time. In the meantime, we’ll have done a second long trip away and I’ll be able to confidently report on it. Suffice to say so far so good, I think it’s been a great investment.
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Price of Freedom? G’day Richard, loving the magazine and hope you manage to keep it up through all this Covid craziness. I’ve got a quick question about the cost of the 4x4 option on the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. A year or three back I remember reading that with the new Sprinter there would be a new 4x4 system and that it would be made in-house and become cheaper. I understand the old system was made by a contractor and that’s why it added about $20,000 to the price in Oz. I’ve been doing some shopping around for a new Sprinter 4x4 van and see that some manufacturers have retained the old price difference over 4x2, that is $20,000, when even the Mercedes-Benz website lists it as about a $14,000 option. I’ve even seen one company charging $40,000 more! What gives? Is there some extra special thing that has to be done in the motorhome conversion process, or is it just a price gouge? I’m thinking it might be cheaper to buy a van and have it converted the way I want rather than take the quick and easy option of a ready-made one. What do you think? Thanks, Charlie.
G’day Charlie, thanks for your “quick question”, which I don’t think will be all that quick to answer! You’re correct about the old 4x4 system being made by a contractor, specifically the Austrian transmission specialist Oberaigner. I checked with our technical Guru, Allan Whiting, who tells me the new Sprinter system is still made by them, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on there. I also had a look on the Mercedes-Benz website but couldn’t pin down a price for the upgrade. Where did you find it? Anyway, every motorhome manufacturer jealously guards its cost prices – I’ve never seen the price breakdown of a single motorhome in 20 years of reporting on them – and so it’s impossible for me explain price differences. I also know that when you tick the 4x4 box you often pick up a whole range of ‘mandatory extras’ designed to enhance and take advantage of the added ability. I guess the bottom line is the price is the price and if you think you can tailor something specifically to your needs for less money, go for it. However, I think you might be surprised how everything adds up by the time your dream machine rolls out the door. Whatever you decide, please let us know as it could be a very interesting project to follow!
Bike Rack Recall Anaconda has issued a Product Safety Recall for the ‘Fluid’ A-Frame 4-Bike Carrier with Anti-Sway. This product has been recalled due to the base plate bending under load and bikes detaching from the frame, which could result in causing serious injury. “We take the safety of our customers very seriously, so if you purchased this product between 22 December 2017 and 6 January 2018, we encourage you to return the product to your local Anaconda store for a full refund. Please pass on this recall information to family and friends that you believe may have purchased this product during the relevant time,” the company says. For further information regarding this recall, please click HERE.
Storm Damage A thunderstorm blasted a WA caravan park with RVs and tents taking the full brunt. Wind gusts of up to 118 km/h were recorded. Some motorhomes were damaged and tents blown away at Kununurra's
Ivanhoe Village caravan park. Trees were uprooted, with one crashing onto the roof of an Avida Esperance. Fortunately, there were no reports of injuries.
2021 Melbourne Show Postponed
Australia’s consumer watchdog has dealt with 214 bogus online RV sales this year in which potential buyers have lost more than $129,000. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has now warned people to always arrange physical inspections before handing over cash for “too good to be true” deals.
Caravan Industry Victoria today confirmed it will postpone the 2021 Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow, scheduled for next February, to a later date in 2021. “We must comply with the current Victorian Government restrictions to keep everyone safe, no matter the effect it has on consumers, business and livelihoods,” Chief Executive Rob Lucas said. “We are committed to supporting our industry and providing events to help business connect with consumers in a new COVID normal, but we are just lacking the support and leadership by the Victorian State Government to allow us to make the strategic moves required to deliver consumers the State’s biggest caravan and camping show.”
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Virtual Success Aladdin’s Cave
Australia’s first virtual caravan show ‒ actually thought to beallegedly the first of its kind inan the world ‒ cave was aof Police have uncovered Aladdin's “resounding success”, according More stolen property at a caravan parkto onorganisers. the Gold Coast. than 67,000 people logged into October’s online event, which featured 164 exhibitors, the feedback from It happened after officers from with Mudgeeraba identified attendees overwhelmingly a vehicle ofreportedly interest that was thought positive. to have been involved in recent property offences in Robina and The five-day virtual exhibition was warrant an innovative Broadbeach. That led to a search being take on traditional caravan and camping shows, executed at the Mudgeeraba caravan park, which where are currently on hold due to the deadly COVID-19 numerous tools and construction site equipment were pandemic. Thealso show has been extended in a limited found. Police allegedly located two syringes and a form until November plastic water pipe. 5. All demonstrations and webinars are available, but event organisers have said special offers made during the showwoman, might have A 45-year-old man and 23-year-old bothbeen adjusted. from Mudgeeraba, were charged with two counts of entering with intent, one count of stealing, one count “Being the firsttainted caravan and camping virtual in of possessing property, one count of show receiving Australia, and most the in damage the world, wethree are tainted property, onelikely count offirst wilful and delighted results and the feedback from the counts of with drugthe possession. customers and exhibitors,” Caravan Industry Victoria chief executive Rob Lucas said. “We have already been asked when we will run another virtual show. What was pleasantly surprising was the number of sales ... and people even bought caravans.”
STOP PRESS! Just as we were going to press, the following update was received regarding the legal battle as outlined in Sorry State in our Letters section: “Good morning to all our friends and supporters. Your donations are being well spent. “Excellent news: Following further hearings, Statistics showed there were 67,363 attendees, provisional orders have been handed down until such 204,675 171,053 views, time asbooth a full visits, hearing is held,brochure which could be 124,261 some video views and 260,278 views of the operating time, due to the current circumstances. platform. “The Orders: Everybody gets their land and buildings Caravan Industry president Michael Pebbles back and all are Victoria to be given quiet enjoyment of their believed the show was aorreflection changing world. sites, no more threats bullying of or ablocking friends from visiting. To keep good faith, we will be paying “Itappropriate was critical fees, for the association and industrybytoan adapt which will be determined toindependent the significant challenges that 2020 has delivered expert. I will keep you posted when we toget ensure the future of a $2.3b industry in Victoria,” he details. said. “In the last six months, the world has changed. And we see the world has changed too. We Byethe forway now, are pleased our members and industry customers Rich”. supported the association in being innovative”.
Road Safety Alliance The Caravan Industry Association of Australia says it is proud to announce the establishment of the Caravan & Trailer Road Safety Alliance. Focussing on addressing six initial key areas – Technology, Regulation Development, Insurance, Government Interaction and Grants, Research, and Consumer Education – the Alliance will proactively investigate key projects that enhance consumer safety. The Alliance will be headed up by industry stalwart Peter May, who has previously held positions on the National Board as well as being a long standing Council member (including a time as President) for
Tragic Tassie Accident
Caravan Industry Victoria. Peter has been a long time advocate for better consumer outcomes and says he is passionate about making a difference through the Alliance. Key projects identified will seek appropriate funding and look to be executed by Caravan Industry Association of Australia in conjunction with state caravanning associations. There are over 740,000 registered camper trailers, caravans and motorhomes in Australia today. For further information on the Alliance contact email@example.com.
the scene. Another child was airlifted to Royal Hobart Hospital in a critical condition. Two adults and a child from the other vehicle were also rushed to hospital. It is understood the caravanner did not see the mayhem behind him and continued his travels to Epping Forest. Police said he had now been interviewed.
Three people died in a tragic accident after a solar panel on the roof of a caravan came adrift in high winds on Tasmania's Midland Highway. Police said the caravan was travelling north when the panel came off and fell onto the southbound lane about a kilometre south of Ross. It caused the driver of a vehicle heading south to swerve and collide with another vehicle Meanwhile, Jayco – Australia’s largest manufacturer of travelling north. The southbound vehicle's occupants ‒ RVs – has told ABC radio that all solar panels fixed to two adults and a child ‒ are understood to have died at RV roofs should be firmly screwed or bolted.
AKUNA Get away from it all in style
Chinese Copycats One of Australia’s most reputable caravan manufacturers is hopping mad after discovering that a copycat Chinese company is using its brand name. A ‘Kedron Trip KD15’ compact off-road caravan has been displayed at trade shows in China and is currently advertised for sale online to export markets including Australia. Price is US$27,500 for 1 or 2 vans, dropping to US$23,900 for 3 or more. The fake Kedron is made by the Shimao Group, which appears to have a factory in the Chinese city of Qingdao and specialises in food trucks and trailers. The business offers other ‘replicas’ including lookalikes Shandong, of “piggybacking off a great name” and is of the iconic Volkswagen Kombi. now in a legal tussle to protect its well known identity. Brisbane’s three-generation-run Kedron Caravans, which was founded nearly 60 years ago by Barry Gall, has accused the manufacturer, believed to be in
Commenting on its Facebook site, the company said the issue, “Was quite a surprise to us when we first heard”.
Silverton Shuns Free Campers The small, historic village of Silverton in New South Wales’ Far West ‒ population around 50 ‒ has taken to social media to remind travellers that free-camping is not permitted. The hamlet, described as a “paradise” and a “walk back in time”, attracts over 100,000 visitors annually, many in RVs. It has featured in movies including Mad Max II and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. But, it seems, budget-conscious travellers are not keen to open their wallets and pay overnight site fees. “Whilst we all welcome and appreciate visitors to the village, residents do not appreciate caravans, trailers etc setting up camp outside their homes and businesses,” the Silverton Village Committee says on its Facebook page. It reminds them that the local Penrose Park has powered sites for $25 a night and unpowered sites for $10. “For your own safety and protection of our local environment, it is also not permitted to camp along the creeks or on what you may think is vacant land (the Silverton Common),” the committee said. The creeks are prone to sudden and dangerous flooding which could easily wash away travellers and their RVs, it added (although no RVs have ever been washed away as far as we know – Ed).
LDV Deliver 9 Chinese manufacturer LDV has released its all-new Deliver 9 van and cab-chassis. The company says itâ€™s benchmarked against the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, but in size and looks is much closer to the current Ford Transit. The cab appears to be near identical to the Transit, while the drive train â€“ a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel producing 110 kW and 375 Nm, plus a 6-speed manual or auto transmission, also echo the Transit rather than the Sprinter. Pricing is aggressive and for the mid-wheelbase (MWB) Mid Roof van starts at $42,095 drive-away for the manual, with the automatic costing $43,148 driveaway. However, LDV is offering discounts for ABN holders, with the MWB Mid Roof manual to start from $39,990 drive-away. LDV says it's specifically going after the motorhome industry with the Deliver 9, offering a manual longwheelbase (LWB) cab-chassis variant for $42,095 drive-away, or $44,726 drive-away for the auto.
All Deliver 9 vans get autonomous emergency braking, Bosch's latest electronic stability control system, lane departure warning, and front, side, and curtain airbags. A rear parking camera with sensors come as standard, while a 10.1-inch infotainment screen offers Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. Cruise control is also standard, but the optional automatic transmissions gain an adaptive cruise control system. For an additional $1500, buyers can choose the Option Pack, which comes with blind spot detection, lane change assist, keyless entry, and 236-degree opening rear doors. The Delivery 9 van and cab-chassis comes in a choice of white or blue, and feature a 3-year/160,000 km warranty with fixedprice servicing up to 95,000km. It will be interesting to see which, if any, RV companies pick up on the Deliver 9 in van or cab-chassis form, especially given the current trade tensions and negative public sentiment regarding China.
Another market expected to receive a shake-up from LDV is the light bus segment. Car licence holders can get an 11-seater MWB Mid Roof for $55,770 driveaway, while those needing 14-seats can get a Mid Roof or High Roof bus for $57,884 and $59,990 driveaway respectively.
JABIRU AWD Off the Beaten Track
ou wouldn't pick Mildura, on the banks of the Murray in far North Western Victoria, as a motorhome manufacturing centre of excellence. And yet it is, because it’s home to Wirraway Motor Homes, a small-volume semi-bespoke manufacturer with a big reputation. Wirraway is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘challenge’ and for owners Rob and Amanda Tonkin I’m certain there’s a measure of irony in it. For the business, the Wirraway name and logo is a tribute to the first Australian-built military aircraft of World War II (a twoseat trainer) and the No 2 Operational Training Unit that flew them and was stationed in Mildura from 1942 to 1946. However, if you look closely at the logo you’ll see it’s spelled Wirr-Away, a clever and subtle play on words for a motorhome manufacturer.
by Richard Robertson
Rob and Amanda were building motorhomes in Mildura before I first met them back in the early 2000s, while working for the now-defunct Caravan & Motorhome magazine. Rob’s an engineer with an eye for innovation and while the rest of the RV manufacturing world has ebbed and flowed in the intervening years, Wirraway has navigated a steady course and in the process, built a loyal following. 22
RAAF 2 OTU Mildura circa 1944
Unlike major manufacturers with stock models and a rigid list of options, to Wirraway’s ‘stock’ designs Rob will add or change pretty much anything as long as it’s practical (or you can afford it!). That makes Wirraway something of a hybrid manufacturer, sitting between the mass market and custom one-offs. The positioning works well because it provides some economies of scale and gives buyers a starting point from which to develop their dream motorhome.
ll manufacturers have their ‘signatures’ and Wirraway is no different. Inside, that has long been the meticulously crafted Tasmanian myrtle timber finish (although gloss white is now offered). Outside, there’s the unmistakable paint scheme, the unique, toploading storage drawers and the pull-out barbecue, to name a few. Rob has long been a fan of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and it powers most of the range. The very latest Sprinter 519 CDI adds upgraded technical features and now, 4x4 is available across the Sprinterbased range. They also come with a 5 year/250,000 km warranty and you can pre-pay 1 of 3 service plans if you want to ensure it’s looked after by experts.
Iveco’s big Daily 70C17 is a recent addition and is backed by a 3 year/200,000 km warranty. It’s the flagship of the range and provides increased load carrying and therefore more features, but for most buyers the Sprinter will be the vehicle of choice. Upgrade options across the range include a four-point hydraulic levelling system, bull bar, towbar, washing machine, inverter, satellite TV, diesel heater, UHF radio, cabin sidesteps and twin beds (a queen bed is standard). You might think some of these items should be standard on a premium motorhome, but the bottom line is everybody's needs are different and there is little to be gained by adding superfluous equipment, cost and weight.
he original Wirraway model, the 260 is a 26 ft (7.9 m) B-class coachbuilt thatâ€™s slide-out-free. The layout has a front dinette, mid kitchen and bathroom, and rear bedroom. Gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 4490 kg, so it can be driven on a standard car licence, and base price starts at $209,000 plus on-roads.
Wirraway 260 EuroStyle
hysically the same size and shape as the ‘base’ 260, the EuroStyle brings some Euro panache to the layout. Retaining the same swivelling cab-seat/ dinette arrangement up-front and rear bedroom options as the 260, it switches things up in the middle. There you’ll find an L-shaped kitchen and a split bathroom. Base price remains the same at $209,000 plus onroads.
Wirraway 260 SL
he 260 SL features a near full-length slideout on the driver’s side, adds a full-width rear bathroom, east-west bed and revised dinette. The slide-out makes it feel much more open plan, but does sacrifice the bedroom privacy of the non-slide 260 models. It also offers the option of a high gloss Classic White Interior in place of the traditional timber finish. Mechanically, the Sprinter’s GVM increases to 5500 kg, meaning a Light Rigid (LR) driver’s licence is required. Naturally, the starting price increases, to $239,000 plus on-roads.
Wirraway Evolution 280 SL
ptly named, the Evolution 280 SL sees length increase to 28 ft (8.57 m) on the Iveco Daily 70C17, plus the GVM increase to 7000 kg. Essentially a larger 260 SL, the 280 SL features a full-length slide, expands the floorplan and redesigns some of the layout, especially around the cab/dinette. It also increases payload, of course, and requires an LR licence. The starting price for this imposing motorhome is $281,750 plus on-roads.
f Wirraways were bread they would be artisan bakery sourdough, a refreshing change in a world of supermarket sliced-white. Ongoing evolution and subtle innovation are the brand’s hallmark, rather than change for change’s sake. It means a 10-plus-year-old Wirraway looks remarkably like a new one – right down to the signature paint scheme – and that's no bad thing (especially when it comes to resale). The product has long been highly developed and refined, as well as highly regarded. If you're in the market for a quality, hand-built motorhome it's worth making the trip to Mildura (when possible) or catching up with Rob when the show circuit reopens. Also, be sure to check out Wirraway’s website and its galleries. To read our review of two Wirraway models, check out the surprisingly capable 260 EuroStyle 4x4 here or the impressive new Evolution 280 SL here. They’re a couple of bespoke beauties sure to impress…
Enigma Machines German brand Knaus keeps such a low profile you’d hardly know it’s available… 30
here are three motorhome brands in Australia that fly well below the radar: Winnebago, Adria and Knaus. The first two are part of the Apollo RV empire and frankly, the marketing behind them is a mystery: Winnebago is the world’s best known RV brand and yet it has almost no presence here, whilst Adria, from Slovenia, makes desirable and affordable motorhomes, yet how often do you see them? Those two aside, the other European brand almost invisible in the marketplace is Knaus, from Germany. Marketed – and I use that term very loosely – in Australia by Avan, it's a high quality product that deserves much more success. I have a particular interest in Adria and Knaus products, because it’s no secret I'm a fan of European motorhome design. Coming from a part of the world where space is at a physical and financial premium, European designers are the masters of multifunctionuse and space efficiency. I know many Australians find European motorhomes claustrophobic, and if you're used to a motorhome with slide-outs and acres of open floorspace, I can understand that. However, what is the price of that space? It should also be no secret I'm not a fan of slideouts. Apart from adding weight and cost they add complexity, and on more than one occasion a motorhome I've been reviewing or renting has had slide-out issues. They’ve ranged from uneven extension and/or retraction to not being able to retract at all. I know that in Australia, like the USA, we are used to big houses and lots of room to move. However, in a motorhome you're mostly sitting down and I honestly don’t see the value in large, open floorspace when it comes at considerable cost. Apart from designs where a slide-out provides bedroom space in a shorter vehicle, my personal opinion is they are basically unnecessary (let the hate mail begin!).
his issue I want to take a quick look at Knaus – pronounced ‘Kunous’, I’m told – as it’s the only German-manufactured motorhome in Australia. That is, apart from Concorde, but who’s had a Lotto win? Knaus Tabbart, to give the company its proper name, is a major player in Europe and produces Knaus, Tabbert, Weinsberg, T@b and Morello RVs, plus operates Rent And Travel, with some 150 rental depots across Germany. The Group annually manufactures around 26,000 units, roughly equal to or slightly exceeding the total of all RVs made in Australia. Importantly, Knaus (like Adria) is one of the few European manufacturers to have the entry door on the correct side for right-hand drive markets. Even industry giants like Hymer can’t be bothered doing that, even though they sell large numbers in the U.K. To me, stepping into a Knaus is like entering a cosy home: There’s no excess room to move, but the quality is excellent and it’s warm and inviting. It’s true European RVs in general don’t suit ‘big’ people and the Knaus is no exception. If you’re on the ‘robust’ side of average it might not be the motorhome for you… 32
Knaus by Avan
n Australia, Knaus is sold under the Avan umbrella, to the point it's given the Knaus by Avan moniker (much as I like Avans, it’s a bit like saying BMW by Holden!). You won’t find much information online as it seems the brand is very much second fiddle in Avan’s mind. The website is basic and there’s scant attention paid to detail, with one model’s tare weight listed as 2987mm! All-in-all it’s shoddy and shows how seemingly disinterested Avan is in doing justice to the Knaus brand. Apparently, two models are offered now, not the three in the pic below: the 6.69-m Sky Wave 650MF and the 7.47-m Sun Ti 700LEG. Both are stylish B-class (no over-cab bed) motorhomes and feature a coachbuilt body on a Fiat Ducato cab-chassis. I say apparently, because the website photos of each are on Fiat Ducatos a couple of models old and there is very little
technical or specific information. Interestingly, because the models are made in Germany and shipped as whole units, they wear the Knaus badge on the grille rather than Fiat’s. In the past there have been issues regarding warranty for fully imported vehicles like these, but I believe that was resolved some years ago following a ‘directive’ from Fiat’s head office to its recalcitrant local operation. At the 2019 Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow I remember asking a salesperson about Knaus and why we never see them marketed. He replied that they sell all they can get hold of and there's no need. I suspect the reason might be now Avan has ‘Euro-refreshed’ it’s line-up there’s more money in local manufacture than imports. Whatever the reason, if you track down a Knaus it’s well worth a look.
Knaus use solid-core walls for weight saving and strength, and have a false floor that keeps all plumbing inside to avoid freezing, as well as the water tanks. Features that stand out for me include the side access locker for water and electricity connections (everything in one place); the big through-garage (boot) on the larger model, the split bathroom – and the coffee machine! Yes, the twin beds are way up high to accomodate the garage, but it makes the most of available space. Up front, the dinette is cosy, there’s plenty of internal storage and the decor is Euro-chic. Also, on the smaller model with its rearcorner (French) bed, apparently there’s the option of a ‘variable foot area extension’ to fill in the chamfered corner. Nice. I think I’ve seen more Knauses than Adrias or ‘new’ Winnebagos on the road, so they are out there. If you're after something different and like the idea of a quality European motorhome, it's worth tracking down a Knaus for inspection. Enigma it might still be, ignorable it’s not. Happy hunting…
by Robert ‘Bobby’ Watson
Electric drive and house power point the way forward in this tiny British campervan…
ere in the US we’re waitin’ to see who our next President will be, and I’ve heard it’s on the news Downunder too. I thought we could all do with the distraction of an all-electric camper from across the pond because it’s probably the shape of things to come.
“Sussex specialises in Nissan/Renault camper vans, so creating an electricmotored camper was just a matter of putting its existing NV200 floor plan into the e-NV...”
Great Britain's Sussex Campervans is taking Nissan’s small e-NV200 van and converting it into a camper car. But it’s also taking things a step further by eliminating both gasoline, sorry ‘petrol’, and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) from the camper equation. The resulting minicampervan becomes electric through and through, offering a tiny, efficient way of traveling and camping in the wild. 35
here have been a few Nissan e-NV200 campers in the years since Nissan first launched its small electric van, and the upgrade to a 40-kWh battery pack has made them more practical. Efforts like the Spanish Bram Pacific (above), British Hillsdale Leisure Dalbury E and German Reimo N-Vane have relied on traditional LPG for fueling the stove, heating and/or other onboard amenities. Sussex, on the other hand, doesn't want the word "gas" or its initial to appear anywhere near its newest camper. So it brings together two rising camper trends: the electric-powered base vehicle and the gas-free allelectric living module. The end result is that its e-NV200 Camper Car becomes more than just a conversion in an electric van, it becomes an all-electric mini-camper.
Unlike in a petrol-powered vehicle, in which the engine charges the leisure battery during driving, the e-NV200 Camper Car’s leisure battery has to be charged independently, from the grid. Sussex wires the secondary battery charging point to the front of the vehicle next to Nissan’s charger for convenience, but hookup is independent and requires a standard 230-V outlet.
Sussex specialises in Nissan/Renault camper vans, so creating an electric-motored camper was just a matter Sussex looked into wiring the batteries together so of putting its existing NV200 floor plan into the e-NV. The next step involved adapting the equipment package the vehicle battery could run camper equipment when necessary, but it says doing so would void Nissan’s around battery power. The e-NV's 40-kWh battery pack warranties. By separating the batteries, Sussex also provides a modest 200-km combined range, which is unlikely to leave a whole lot of battery power for running avoids the possibility of running down the drive battery camping equipment. Instead of wiring amenities into the while camping and leaving you stranded. Running out of cooking, lighting and fridge power is one potential main battery, Sussex adds a separate lithium leisure pitfall of going fully electric but chances are that those battery with inverter/charger. The electrical system is journeying out in a 200-km range electric camper won’t also designed to accept optional solar charging, which be straying too far off the grid. ya’d think is a must. 36
he e-NV Camper Car has a simple but versatile floor plan that starts with a long console stretching from just behind the front passenger seat to the cargo area. The front section is a kitchen with a single-burner induction cooktop and sink. Since this camper has a sliding door on both sides, the sink sprayer pulls up and out the door to double as an outdoor sprayer for cleaning down dirty gear, clothes, dogs, etc. The console sets up into a worktop and then into a full-height cabinet that houses the electrical hardware. Additional cabinet storage is located throughout the console, and the 50-litre compressor fridge and electrical control centre are both located under the kitchen counter. A series of 12-V, 230-V and USB outlets are located throughout the van.
he two-seat ‘rock-n-roll' rear bench quickly folds into a compact bed for two, while the standard popup roof is built to accommodate an optional second bed. Sussex also offers a solo camper configuration with a fold-forward driver-side bench/bed that leaves a centre aisle for more leg and elbow room. A swivel driver seat and small removable tabletop secured to the kitchen block complete the interior. The e-NV200 Camper Car starts at £59,995 – approx A$110,500 – which is a big ask for a tiny camper, but that’s electric for you. Sussex also offers the petrolpowered NV-200 Camper Car starting at £39,995 – approx A$73,500. For a closer look, the video (below) provides a closer look at Sussex’s new e-NV200 Camper. Enjoy!
PROJECT REVIEWED POLLY
icycles are an excellent way to get around when parked-up while also doing something positive for your health. It seems there are almost as many styles of bike racks as there are bikes, and their suitability varies according to vehicle type and size. For instance, an RV with a solid rear wall has more options than one with barn doors. In general terms, suitable bike racks fall into two main categories: body or towbar mounted. Body-mounted racks are most common on the rear walls of coachbuilt motorhomes, although some are now appearing on the barn doors of van conversions. From observation it appears Italian manufacturer Fiama (the awning people) has this market pretty much sown-up. Light weight and cleverly designed, these are high tech items and would probably be my choice if we had a coachbuilt. However, I'm cautious regarding barn-door-mounted racks as the thought of all that weight on the door hinges â€“ especially whilst bouncing along back roads â€“ can't really be a good thing.
PROJECT POLLY Towbar-mounted racks are either held in place by the towball itself or a ‘tongue’ hitch in the square receiver of a Hayman Reese-style towbar. Most racks suspend bikes by their top bar, but an increasing number are cradle (or tray) style, which carry bikes on their wheels. In my onion the latter is preferable as it places no strain on the frame and also allows you to leave accessories on the bikes if desired. They’re also more secure as bikes can’t sway backwards and forwards when travelling. Like all aftermarket items, rack prices vary considerably but you still largely get what you pay for. eBay lists basic, new bike racks from around $50, but I wouldn't touch them. Primarily designed for cars and short distance travel when the sun’s out, there’s little likelihood they will withstand the rigours of longterm weather exposure and use under load, especially with e-bikes. If you've invested hundreds or thousands of dollars in bikes you need to make sure what’s carrying them is up to the job. You don’t want the rack nor your bikes becoming road hazards and/or causing an accident somewhere on the open road. Quality bike racks run from a few hundred dollars up towards a couple of thousand (the latter including bells, whistles and a coffee machine!). So like all things, you need to shop around and work out what's best for you.
Earlier bikes on a ‘hanging’ rack. Note how low some of the0 wheels were...
Racking Our Brains
roject Polly has long been in need of a proper, workable solution for transporting a couple of bicycles. We used to carry our tandem inside, but that allowed no access to the bed/dining area, and we’ve used a conventional rack with the e-bike inside (like the tandem for weather and security reasons) and mine on the rack. These methods worked, but were far from ideal – especially when stopping overnight. With Mrs iM now riding a heavy e-bike, the best solution appeared to be cradle-style rack. Fiamma and Thule make this style of rack and both are great, but imported. Even before these Covidinduced recession days the hunt had been on for a quality engineered, Australian-made rack. While there are a surprising number of local manufacturers out there, for awhile I've had my eye on Melbournebased GripSport. Established in 1998 as a boutique specialist engineering company working exclusively in the bicycle industry, GripSport has a wealth of design and engineering experience. Since 2018 the company has also been distributing its products in New Zealand, where it has apparently built a solid following. GripSport makes a wide range of bike racks for cars, SUVs and 4WDs (and therefore motorhomes), plus caravans, camper trailers and ordinary trailers, and also bike stands. When a long established business
essentially does nothing else except make bike racks, you know they have to be pretty good, and so I investigated. Having watched videos and read reviews it became apparent GripSport makes robust, well engineered and no-nonsense products – exactly what you’d expect from an Australian company. But before going ahead, there were some considerations… Polly has a Hayman-Reese towbar rated at 3000 kg and with a 300 kg ball-weight capacity. While overkill on a vehicle with a 2500 kg towing limit, it also ensures plenty in reserve. The towbar unit fitted includes a wraparound protection bar for the rear step and includes a couple of sizeable bump-stops underneath to prevent the hitch itself from dragging on the road on driveways and the like. Unfortunately, Polly already has a decent amount of rear overhang and not a lot of ground clearance. That means she easily grinds those bump-stops on all but the most ‘civilised’ driveway entrances. In 4WD circles an imaginary line drawn between the bottom of the rear wheels and the lowest point of the body behind them is known as the departure angle. The greater the angle the less chance of hanging-up the rear of the vehicle on obstacles. Because Polly’s departure angle is already compromised, any cradle-style bike rack sticking straight out of the hitch would reduce it to next to 42
PROJECT POLLY nothing. Fortunately, GripSport makes racks with two height settings – straight-out or angled-up – and it seemed to be the perfect solution. In a Covid-free world we would have driven to Melbourne, had a look at the racks and factory, and (probably) had one fitted on the spot. In this Covid world, however, the option was to freight one to iMotorhome Central for self assembly – and you know how much I like DIY. Not. Still, needs must and all that… Despite Victoria’s border closure and Melbourne’s lockdown, GripSport has been able to operate online. After some email and phone call questions, the oder process began. We settled on a GripSport GS2+ (the + means plus number plate mount and lights) for $995, the 50 mm square-hitch mounting option ($38), standard wheel hoops and a 7-pin flat plug for the lights. Total cost was $1033, plus $60 road freight for delivery. It’s worth noting the rack without the lights – the GS2 – is $795 and GripSport also makes the GS4 and GS4+ to carry four bikes. Prices are $1185 or $1385, respectively. I admit it’s all a fair bit of coin, but the racks are rated to carry 30 kg per bike and this is from an Australian company that pays Australian wages and taxes. Finally, the box arrived and when opened it I forgot all about the purchase price…
he GS2+ is an industrially-engineered bike rack that will surely outlast Polly, me and Mrs iMotorhome. The box weighed in at 23 kg and most of that was gleaming galvanised steel and bright red powder-coated fittings; the kind to make any big-boy’s heart sing. Forget lightweight imports with plastic fittings, the GS2+ is the real-deal and a thing of engineering beauty and surprising simplicity (there’s not a plastic fitting, ratchet or winding mechanism in sight). Putting it together took and hour or so and unlike an Ikea flatpack (did you known Ikea is Swedish for ‘one part left over’?), there were no surplus parts. Nor was there any cursing or skinned knuckles, although a guide to the size of required hex keys and spanners/sockets would have been useful. I assembled it in-situ and when complete couldn’t help but smile at its robust sturdiness. Mrs iM’s Focus e-bike weighs in around 27 kg and it took me a couple of goes to work out how best to lift and load Front wheels sit in open hoops while back wheels sit in what GripSport calls ‘wheel tacos’: literally, taco-shaped cradles that let you pass the supplied velcro straps through for added security. The bikes are held in place by removable, padded hooks over the frames. The hooks mount on a central ‘pivot bar’ and are secured to the rack by tie-
PROJECT POLLY downs. The pivot bar folds flat with the rack, for loading and unloading the bikes (forgot that at first!), and can be angled slightly so the hooks are over the best part of the frame. Once loaded, the bikes don’t touch each other and sit solidly in place. At this point I should mention GripSort also makes the GSE range of e-bike-specific racks. They include loading ramps for wheeling the bikes on and off, plus a modified restraining system I think is actually a bit better. Unfortunately, because of the loading ramps the GSE doesn't have the option of height adjustment and therefore wouldn't work on Polly. Otherwise, it would've been my choice. The reason I say the GSE restraining system is better is that it locks over the front wheels rather than the top tube of the bike frame. In Mrs iM’s case, her e-bike has a steeply angled top tube because it's a ‘ladies bike’ and this has necessitated buying an adapter to ‘create’ a top tube. Apart from the expense – about $50 delivered for a quick-release Rhino Rack adaptor (stay away from the cheaper ones with those accursed wing nuts) – it adds another step to the process.
e’ve done one run to a local bike track, a distance of some 30 km each way, and the unit worked perfectly. The tail lights are truly brilliant LEDs and I cinched-up the locknut in the Haymann-Reese receiver to stop any slight movement/clunking of the tongue. Apart from seeing the bikes through the back windows and just a ‘peep’ of tyres in the side mirrors, there is no noise or indication bikes are onboard. And even though its early days we’ve already worked a bit of a two-person system for getting both bikes on and off that's surprisingly quick and hassle free. Downside? Well, it’s a big unit that weighs 20-odd kilograms and when removed takes some manhandling, plus needs space for storing. It also doesn’t include a way to lock it to the vehicle, nor the bikes to it. The solution to securing the rack seems to be a Hayman-Reese lockable hitch-pin (about $50) in place of the standard hitchpin, while the bikes will each get a high strength cable wrapped around the bottom of the frame and body of the rack and we already have those. While any lock is only a deterrent, let’s hope we can deter ‘de turds’ from trying! Finally, we’re experimenting with covers we also already have for each bike that can be left on while travelling. Not only protecting from the weather and detritus, they will also protect from prying eyes. So its so-far-so-good for Polly’s GripSport bike rack. Soon we’ll be putting her to the test with a planned ride in November along the newly opened Tumbarumba to Rosewood rail trail. Can’t wait!
Contact GripSport sells direct online plus through a dealer network. Call, email or check out the websites for details.
GripSport Bike Racks 8 Northgate Drive, Thomastown, Vic. 3074. (Temp closed due to Covid) T: (03) 9466-2553 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.gripsport.com.co
Pod Trailers and Campers NZ T: 027 455 5984 W: podtrailersandcampers.co.nz
Could Panasonicâ€™s new portable benchtop oven be the real deal for gourmet meals on the go? ne of the greatest advantages of RV travel is the ability to control what you eat, and when. Buying fresh produce and cooking the meals you like is infinitely preferable, not to mention more affordable, than eating out three times a day.
deceptive ease on Pollyâ€™s three-burner gas cooktop. However, there are times she would give her kingdom for an oven, and so when Panasonic offered its new 38-litre Electric Benchtop Oven for review, how could we say no?
Mrs iMotorhome loves to cook and is adept at what she calls One-Pot Wonders, which she whips up with
In due course a sizeable box arrived on the doorstep and Mrs iM eagerly unpacked it. The plan was to take 47
it on a road trip and whip up some culinary delights, whilst plugged into mains power in a caravan park. Unfortunately, taking it out to Polly it quickly became apparent this new oven – portable although it is – is simply too big for her or similar size vehicles. Bugger… However, that doesn't mean it's too big for larger vehicles with more storage space. Although essentially just a portable electric oven, it does have some clever features worth reporting. It would work particularly well as an outdoor cooker at a campsite, set up on a table under an awning and, obviously, out of the weather. Inside a vehicle it needs a minimum of 10 cm space on the sides and back, and 20 cm above it to allow for heat dissipation and prevent “warping or discolouration” of cabinetry (I’m thinking melting, too).
ecause we couldn’t use it on the road there seemed little point plugging in the new oven at home and getting it dirty. But it’s worth detailing its features and ‘party tricks’, because this really is quite a handy unit. Here’s what Panasonic has to say about it: Panasonic has expanded its home appliance lineup with the launch of a 38-litre Electric Benchtop Oven. Compact yet with generous capacity, the electric oven boasts dual heat controls, powerful convection technology and a 360-degree rotisserie. This multi-functional appliance can fry, bake, grill and more, making it the ultimate all-in-one cooking tool. You can simply use it to re-heat or get creative frying, baking, grilling, spit-roasting or even fermenting food. Backed by highly reliable Japanese technology, the Electric Benchtop Oven has a double layer of insulated glass with excellent heat resistance and durability. An additional precautionary measure is the heat-resistant door handle, so there is no need to directly touch hot surfaces when removing dishes after cooking. The compact exterior (38 cm W x 29.5 cm H x 30 cm D) means easy handling and the spacious interior means you can cook a variety of large dishes – even spit-roast a large chicken and other meats. Advantages for you: • Individual upper and lower sections for trays – set different temperatures in each to meet cooking needs. • Space for slow speed, automatic 360º degree spit roasting • Comes with six useful accessories: enamel baking tray, cooking rack, baking tray holder, rotisserie spit, extraction bracket, and crumb tray
ower wise, the oven runs independent 750-watt top and bottom elements, so you could get away with using one of them on a 1000-watt inverter. However, that would chew the batteries at the rate of 69 amps per hour, so you’d want to be quick! Much better, then, to be plugged into mains power at a campsite or run it off a generator. Either way, Mrs iM thinks it has merit and can see an application for keen mobile chefs, if not Panasonic’s Electric Benchtop Oven boasts six diverse the average RVer. It can also double as a second oven at home and because it’s portable, could also be taken heating functions. Coupled with a wide temperature to parties or events, further broadening its appeal. It’s range – 40ºC to 230ºC – it allows chefs of all levels also reasonably light and not difficult to carry. to create a variety of surprising foods from yogurt and bread dough to cakes and pizzas. Functions you will Panasonic’s Electric Benchtop Oven’s list price is love: $389 and available from selected Harvey Norman • Double Heater Grill – powerful upper and lower and Betta stores plus Myer, Winnings and other heaters brown and grill foods to perfection consumer electronics retailers. If you have room to • Convection – powerful fan circulates hot air to stow it and love cooking, including things like rotisserie thoroughly and evenly cook food fast chickens, roasts and even bread and yoghurt (using • Independent Temperature Control Panel – smooth the fermentation program), Panasonic’s new Benchtop dial control and easy-to-read indicator of 70°C Oven is certainly worth investigating. 230°C. 49
SLEEPING on it!
by Warren McCullough
“The plan was to close-in the back section of the ‘walk-through’ between the two bench seats and use the area as a permanent east-west bed, sleeping across the van while retaining the forward section of the bench seats as a permanent lounge/dining area...”
ampervan and Motorhome design always involves compromises, especially in smaller vans, and nowhere more-so than in the bedding, lounge and storage departments. We found ourselves chasing some Holy Grails: not having to make-up the bed each night (we still enjoy traditional sheets, blankets and a doona!) and maintaining a dining area while providing storage space for bulky items. Our van is a medium-wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter, six metres in length. The original layout included what is a widely-adopted seating and bedding arrangement in compact vans: bench seating along each side at the rear of the van, sliding towards the centre of the van to
form a double bed. Alternatively, the bench seats can be left in place and used as single beds. In either case, the bedding has to be completely remade each evening. A bed takes up around half the floor area of a compact van’s limited space, so its setup – in particular its location and permanency – is always one of those compact van compromises. And while we are talking about space, the standard bench cupboards provide little storage for bulky items such as levelling ramps, chairs, fold-up tables, or a Weber oven – another compact van compromise!
Squeezing It In
n addressing both these issues – permanent bedding and increased storage – we reconfigured the cabinet work in the rear section of the van. We called on the expertise of our local campervan fit-out gurus for help in sourcing matching materials and finishing the cut edges of the plywood, but otherwise this was a pretty straightforward DIY project.
after testing this arrangement for one night, even with our modest heights, we concluded the standard-width Sprinter isn’t really wide enough to comfortably sleep across. Plus, it was awkward climbing over each other to get out of the bed.
However, we felt that the ‘closing in’ of the rear area of the van to form a U-configuration still had some merit. The plan was to close-in the back section of the ‘walk- With a little more tweaking on the same base, we now through’ between the two bench seats and use the have a ‘retractable’ north-south bed that can stay partly area as a permanent east-west bed, sleeping across made up when using the dining area, while creating the van while retaining the forward section of the bench a permanent storage area below the bed. The best of seats as a permanent lounge/dining area. However, both worlds (well, almost! – Ed)
Making it happen
ictured is the original bench seat structure with the cushions removed. The original lid panels on top of the benches were hinged on the outside edge of their openings. This was fine when the seat cushions lift from the centre of the van, but not so great when the bed is made!
A plywood ‘rail’ has been added along the vertical wall of each bench, to support the additional bed base boards to be fitted between the bench cabinets. The material used is the same lightweight marine plywood as used for all the cabinetwork in the van. The table post socket in the floor was located forward of the area to be closed in. If this socket had been further towards the rear, it’s not too big a drama to fit another socket or install an alternative table mounting mechanism. We reversed the hinging of the bench seat lids – originally opening towards the outside of the van – so they now open towards the centre of the van. This arrangement better suits our elasticised fitted bedding, allowing for the opening of the bench cupboard lids under the mattress without substantially un-making the bed (see diagram.) Although, in reality we don’t need to access items stored in these cupboards too often. Additional holes drilled in the lids provide easy ‘lift and open’ access from each end of the bench. 53
A divider, fitted between the two benches, closes off the under-bed storage area and supports the front edge of the mattress base boards. This divider is held in place with small sliding barrel clips, allowing for easy removal of the panel to provide
internal access to stored items in the under-bed area, and to accommodate longer items (e.g. snowboards). The vent in the divider panel facilitates air being drawn from the living area through to the intake of the diesel heater, fitted under the left bench seat.
Back to Base
he centre section of the bed-base consists of three equal-sized boards sitting on the previously added plywood rails and divider. The dining table drops in the bottom end of the centre area to complete the bed base. This may require resizing of the existing table to fit the space. Alternatively, another section of base board could be carried to drop into this section.
These boards are held in position by small dowel pins (rather than screws) to prevent the boards moving forward under braking. Being in three pieces and held in place with the dowel pins, the panels are easy to remove and store when we use the van as temporary transport for large items...
e engaged an upholsterer to cut and re-cover the seat backrests to use as the narrow centre mattress cushions. These cushions can still be used as seat backrests if the bed is returned to its original â€˜bench seatâ€™ configuration. The shorter seat backrests drop in on top of the table insert to complete the mattress.
Not only do we now have a comfortable semipermanent bed, we also enjoy the benefits of the new storage area under the bed, accommodating a Weber oven, folding table, chairs, levelling ramps, and a foldup solar blanket. A PVC tube houses a collapsible frame for supporting our portable solar blanket at a more productive sun-oriented angle.
Sleeping and Eating
he most important feature of the modification though is that the north-south bed doesn’t need to be completely deconstructed to use the dining area which is where this all started! If we need to use the inside table and seating we can quickly roll back half the bedding – soft top, sheets, doona, etc – lift the table and use the remaining bench seating for a dining area. The bottom end of the bed can be re-made very quickly.
e use our van as a second domestic vehicle as well as a holiday van. Thanks to the temporary clip-in fittings, the recently added panels can be easily removed to transport large items when required. This relatively minor cabinetwork modification has improved our vanâ€™s flexibility and usability, providing a semi-permanent bed and dining area, while increasing our storage capacity when travelling. Win, win, win!
e-Bike makes life easy... E
ver since I rode New Zealandâ€™s Otago Rail Trail in early 2018, these repurposed remnants of the age of steam have been high on my bucket list. So far Iâ€™ve ridden the High Country Rail Trail, Great Victorian Rail Trail, Murray to the Mountains and the short but sweet Fernleigh Rail Trail, near Newcastle. Over the next 12 months I plan to add the Tumbarumba to Rosewood in NSW, Great Southern, Gippsland Plains, Brisbane Valley and Kingaroy to Kilkivan rail trails, subject to state borders opening, of course. But, as a 70-year-old, conquering these old railway corridors in short order would be difficult without a relatively recent transport breakthrough, the pedal-assist or e-bike. 59
Story & images by Richard Alaba Extra images supplied
Although I’ve been cycling most of my life, riding a regular bike for distances of up to 90 km is a bit much and I’ve found senior cyclists everywhere are getting e-bikes, primarily so they can ride to places they would not attempt on a regular one. This demographic is drawn to rail-trail riding as it offers healthy and safe adventures in the wonderful Australian countryside. Rail trails can be grouped into single-day or multi-day trips, with the former being relatively easy to organise, while the latter involve more planning. For example, the longest one I’ve done, the Great Victorian Rail Trail (GVRT), is 147 km one way (if you include a 13 km side
trip) or 268 km if you want to ride the whole trail in both directions. Either way, a bit of planning is required and the following might help those wanting to do it. 60
he GVRT runs 121 km from Mansfield at the foot of the Victorian High Country, to Tallarook, near Seymour, with a 26 km-return side trip from Cathkin to Alexandra near the half-way mark. Following the withdrawal of the transfer service run by All Terrain Cycles in Mansfield, if you want to ride the entire trail one way, you must organise your own return transfer. For the proud-trip you need to ride the 147 km, including the branch line to Alexandra, plus the return leg of 121 km. I did that 268 km version over 4 days, starting in the lovely town of Mansfield. Itâ€™s all very scenic and relatively flat, apart from the climbs to Mertons Gap and Eglinton Cutting to Alexandra.
drove from Sydney with a stopover night in Albury, having booked an Airbnb at a residence called Iwik House, which had excellent facilities and a great host. It was a perfect spring day as I left Mansfield and the highlights of the section to Alexandra were the spectacular 385 m Bonnie Doon railway bridge (right), the Eildon Lake Reserve, rustic homesteads and the rolling hills near Alexandra (below).
or my first night on the trail I stayed at the old-style, friendly Alexandra Motor Inn, a couple of minutes from town. Some highlights of the Alexandra to Tallarook section are the former Timber Tramway and Museum (above), a timber mill, and the constantly changing scenery. Along the trail there are several shelters that are great for lunch or a break from riding, especially the one at the top of Eglinton Cutting (right). Tallarook has one hotel and a general store. I had to settle for a microwaved pie for dinner after several hours of riding, so be prepared for self-catering! Luckily Iâ€™d kept a half-bottle of red wine from the night beforeâ€Ś Given the scarce accommodation, I was lucky to find an interesting option at a large homestead called Our Friends Farm. It was 3 km out of Tallarook and is also a music, concert and function venue. It was rustic, comfortable and friendly, and is well worth checking out.
n my last night on the trail on the way back to Mansfield I stayed at a lovely property called Birchwood Cottage in Yarck (right), which has the GVRT running across its driveway. Itâ€™s only a couple of minutes from the town and close to several eateries and a cosy hotel, but little else. The final 56 km leg was relaxed and my shortest day in the saddle, so I could spend more time at the historic Cheviot Tunnel, the Lake Eildon Reserve and the museum at Mansfieldâ€™s railway station. Even though the sights are the same, the return trip offers a completely different perspective. The GVRT is an epic ride but also one suitable for riders of all standards: kids, families and seniors. There are other ways to cover the trail, like one-day rides or one section at a time (see breakout). In any case, it is safe and scenic the whole way, the gradient is easy, the riding surface excellent and the views constantly changing.
ith little government support for the GVRT since its completion, I found very few businesses focussed on the trail, so accommodation and food outlets were spread thinly. Over my four days I passed only two couples and one group of six riders, plus lots of curious cows, wandering sheep and hoppity kangaroos. Hopefully this situation will improve after the pandemic. The weather can change rapidly in the high country, so you need to pack carefully and have fall-back plans if things go awry. When it rained on the final day, I appreciated the waterproof jacket and pants I’d carried in my panniers for the previous three days. All I took with me was what could be carried in them (the panniers, not my pants!), including snacks, water, a spare e-bike battery, charger and a few tools. A heavily packed e-bike will use more power than normal. Most days I needed to change the battery after 60 km, which was relatively easy. Keep in mind that some e-bike batteries are harder to change than others.
love being alone in the great outdoors, rail trails are the perfect riding adventure. It may be helpful to know that at each kilometre on the GVRT there is a signpost with an emergency phone number and a location code; a great idea given the isolation of large parts of the trail. During all this I found the Strava tracking app very useful, not only for recording each day’s ride, but also for giving me a live-view map of my location. This meant running my iPhone for extended times but a back-up power bank kept me fully charged all day. Having a full-suspension mountain bike with wide, knobbly, low-pressure tyres, made long hours in the saddle comfortable. In case you were thinking about it, rail trails and racing bikes with skinny tyres are a great mix for flat tyres and falls. Since converting to tubeless tyres a few years back, I have not had a single flat. Without a tube, there are no “pinch flats” and the thicker MTB tread is harder for thorns to penetrate. If they do, the sealant can ooze dry to self-repair. If it’s a bigger hole, tubeless tyres can be plugged from the outside. For me, going tubeless has been well worth the conversion cost.
Riding solo for long distances may not be for everyone. In terms of risk management, if you are confident of Richard records his adventures in words, pictures and your own fitness and bike, have planned carefully and YouTube clips at ebikerdiary.com
Motorhoming the GVRT
aving a campervan or motorhome opens up other opportunities for riding the Great Victorian Rail Trail. Mrs iM and I have cycled most of the GVRT on many occasions, using Polly as a base vehicle that we stage along the way. We actually belong to a holiday club with accommodation near Mansfield, which is how we discovered the ride in the first place and it has become a favourite, annual pilgrimage. Well, apart from this year… Despite the holiday club accommodation, we take Polly because she makes such a handy base to position at different points along the trail for a days ride. There’s also nothing better than returning to her at the end of a long day, putting on the kettle and diesel heater, and thawing out. There are also numerous free camping opportunities right by the trail and we’ll be investigating those in more detail when (if) we make it down there in autumn 2021. Apart from starting in Mansfield, over the years we have parked at Yarc and ridden to Cathkin and then taken the side trip to Alexandra and return. We’ve also ridden from Yarc to Yea and back, which is a favourite as it takes in the impressive Chevoit Tunnel both ways (make sure you have lights!). Yea has also served as a base and we almost made it to Tallarok and back in a day, but started to run out of daylight and turned for home some 10 km or so short. Despite what Richard says in his excellent article, I don’t believe a mountain bike is the best way to go on these trails. Mountain bikes add considerable weight and complexity (if they have rear suspension), and I haven’t come across any sections of the trail where narrower tyres have been an issue. Those fat, low pressure tyres also create a lot of rolling resistance that saps the life out of legs and batteries alike. We ride Hybrid bikes: Mrs iM’s being an e-bike and mine a conventional tourer. Hybrids have the frame and wheels of a normal bike and front suspension like a mountain bike, although less ‘meaty’. Both bikes run quality Schwalbe-brand 700 x 35 tyres (about 50% wider than a road bike but much narrower than a mountain bike) and have never suffered a flat. Still, I carry spare tubes just in case… Between all the towns mentioned there are many other places where you can park and access the GVRT. As Richard rightly points out, it’s a delightful and safe ride through superb scenery and also never the same twice. The GVRT is an excellent introduction to rail trail 66
RAIL TRAILS riding, especially from Mansfield. The only caveat is to be prepared to become hooked on the whole rail trail experience, so don’t say we didn’t warn you… Between all the places mentioned, there are many others where you can park and access the GVRT. As Richard rightly points out it's a delightful and safe ride through superb scenery and also never the same twice. The GVRT is an excellent introduction to rail trail riding, especially from Mansfield. Click HERE to visit the website The only caveat is to be prepared to become hooked on the whole rail trail experience, so don’t say we didn't warn you…
Discover rail trails d n a a li a tr s u A s s o r ac f o ld r o w w e n a p u open fun as you travel!
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 issueâ€™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
alby is a town and locality in the Darling Downs region of Queensland. It sits approximately 208 kilometres north-west of the State’s capital Brisbane and is the centre of Australia’s richest grain and cotton growing area. You can really get to know the town by following the Dalby Heritage Trail, which showcases some of the town’s historic buildings, homes and churches. Other local attractions include the Dalby Olympic Swimming Pool, recognised as the earliest Olympic pool in Queensland outside of Brisbane, and the Pioneer Mark Museum.
RV travellers passing through the Darling Downs region will find Dalby to be a very accommodating stopover. Parking is available at the Pioneer Caravan Village for up to 72 hours. An unpowered site is available for just $15 per vehicle per night, and access to toilets, water, laundry, pool, camp kitchen and a dump point is available (some facilities may incur extra charges).
Tourist/Visitor Information Centre
Dalby Visitor Information Centre Thoma Jack Park, Corner of Drayton & Condamine Streets DALBY T: (07) 4679-4461 W: www.westerndownsqueensland.com.au
Casual Parking (near retail centre)
Thoma Jack Park, Drayton St
Short Term Parking
Pioneer Caravan Village Black St, Dalby T: (07) 4662-1811 72 hrs @ $15 pvpn unpowered, toilets, water, laundry, etc
1 Black St Dalby
Jimbour St, Myall Creek, adjacent to Dalby State School
RV FRIENDLY TOWNS
tastiest meals in town. If you appreciate silo art, enjoy great hospitality and want to explore the Central West Region of NSW, visit this small town on your next trip.
eethalle is a small rural farming community known for cropping and sheep farming. It is also commonly known for the breathtaking Weethalle Silo Art, which is responsible for attracting many visitors to the region.
Travellers looking for a place to stay will find shortterm parking at the Weethalle Showgrounds. Powered sites are available for the low-cost of $10 per-vehicle per-night and guests can negotiate their length of stay. Showers and toilets can also be accessed at the grounds, as well as a dump point and potable water.
While in town, pay a visit to one of Weethalleâ€™s finest establishments: The Road Kill Grillz. It offers amazing meals and their hamburgers are an absolute must. Do not let its name deter you, the cafe offers some of the Tourist/Visitor Information Centre
West Wyalong Visitor Information Centre 6 Shire St WEST WYALONG T: (02) 6972-2226 W: www.blandshire.nsw.gov.au
Casual Parking (near retail centre)
Mid Western Highway, Main St through town
Short Term Parking
Weethalle Showgrounds, Showgrounds Road $10 pvpn, power, negotiable stay limit, showers, toilets, water, bins
Weethalle Showgrounds, Showgrounds Road
Weethalle Showgrounds, Showgrounds Road
RV FRIENDLY TOWNS
ften referred to as South Australia’s slice of paradise, the lush roses, nature walks, and local beers and wines, make every visit to Renmark worthwhile. Located 254 kilometres north-east of Adelaide, this lovely town is perched on the banks of the Murray River.
Heritage Steam Vessel moored behind the Centre, on the riverfront!
Campervan and motorhomes travellers are encouraged to make the most of stopping in Renmark due to its excellent RV facilities. Price Park offers parking for self-contained vehicles for up to 72 hours at To learn more about this fantastic town, the local visitor no charge. Barbecues and toilets are available for use on-site. Alternate parking is located at Plush’s Bend, information centre should be your first stop. There which also offers parking for up to 72 hours at no cost you can find useful information, interpretive displays, for self-contained vehicles. A dump point and potable souvenirs, plus it’s a booking agent for the muchloved river cruises. Also, make sure you check out the water can be located on Cowra Street. Tourist/Visitor Information Centre
Renmark Paringa Visitor Information Centre 84 Murray Ave, RENMARK T: (08) 8586-6704 W: www.renmarkparinga.sa.gov.au/discover
Casual Parking (near retail centre)
Murray Ave (adjacent to VIC) and Renmark Ave
Short Term Parking
Price Park, Sturt Highway No cost, self-contained only, 20 hrs max, bins, BBQ and toilets Plush’s Bend, Plush’s Bend Rd No cost, self-contained only, 72 hrs max, bins, BBQ and toilets
Cowra St, Renmark
Cowra St, Renmark
RV FRIENDLY TOWNS
"Learn to accept. It doesn’t mean putting up with it, it means simply not wasting energy on situations you can’t change by paddling backwards against the peace of your day..." Dalai Lama 73
Inside : Ed • Letters • News • Reviewed – Wirraway Motorhomes • Rearview – Knaus Motorhomes in Australia • Preview – Sussex Electric Nissan...
Published on Oct 31, 2020
Inside : Ed • Letters • News • Reviewed – Wirraway Motorhomes • Rearview – Knaus Motorhomes in Australia • Preview – Sussex Electric Nissan...