Back when Holden Kingswoods roamed the earth, family caravans were quite common. However, they didn’t have the look of family vans of today — or at least the ones I was familiar with didn’t. Basic features, like a two-burner cooktop, an under-bench fridge and a small washing up sink with hand or foot pumped water, were there. Beds usually consisted of a fold down or basic fixed bed in the rear and a dinette that folded down into a bed at night in a not always quick process. As teenagers, we were grateful when the canvas annexe and external bunk beds came along.
If the Franklin Razor 220 bunk van I took for a spin recently was any guide, things have changed. Franklin, one of the few big caravan manufacturer names left over from the 1970s, is Melbourne based and run under Concept Caravans. Franklin manufactures a range of caravans, both on-road and offroad, and the Razor, an on-road van, sits about mid-range.
The Razor has an external length of 6.81m (22ft 4in) and a plated tare mass of 2462kg. With an ATM of 2987kg, that gives a payload of around 525kg, and while not a particularly light weight van, it should be able to be towed easily and legally by any of the utes with a 3500kg tow rating. That might sound a bit cautious but once the tow vehicle has the family and gear on board, that will give spare capacity to keep well under the typical 6000kg Gross Combined Mass (GCM).
Caravan towing always require a level of concentration and that’s often how I judge it as I drive along — towing should never be a stress for driver or passengers. In this case the Jeep Grand Cherokee certainly made the job quite easy. About 20 minutes down the road, I stopped looking in the mirror to see what the van was doing. It towed quite smoothly with little snatching and jerking. Reversing the van when parking was a simple operation given the length of the van and position of the axles, which minimised twitchy movements.
Conventionally built, the SupaGal chassis has 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) RHS main rails and drawbar and for the cross members, 50mm (2in) C section steel is used. In the accepted practice, tandem axle load sharing leaf spring suspension is fitted and the 15in alloy wheels have 10in electric brakes.
Two 95-litre water tanks are fitted forward of and above the axles. Generally speaking the sub chassis area was fairly ‘clean’, although the piping to the water tanks did look a bit messy. Both tanks have drain valves, a handy feature for flushing the tanks. Ground clearance is quite good, although the rear grey water drain piping does hang down a bit.
Up the forward end, the drawbar area is all done in standard style, with the ball coupling, handbrake, jockey wheel, mains tap and two 9kg gas cylinders. The spare wheel is mounted on a bumper bar at the rear, which also boasts a Fiamma bike rack — handy if the junior members want to take their bikes along. However, because it is rather high, light weight bikes are recommended for ease of lifting and to minimise tail wagging when towing.
Atop the chassis, Meranti timber is used for the body frame and the smooth looking cladding, is an aluminium composite. Being a contemporary caravan, it also gets a lower waistline of alloy checkerplate. External storage consists of a half-length tunnel bin which comes with a checkerplate drawer, making it much easier than fishing around inside the bin.
Double glazed acrylic awning windows are fitted on every wall, except the rear. As on many a caravan and motorhome, there’s a bit of a conflict between the opened security door and the front nearside window but nothing a shaped bit of coat hanger wire (to hold the door further out) can’t fix.
This layout is a tried and trusted one for family vans of this length (6.81m/22ft 4in). Up front is an island bed, mid van is an offside kitchen bench and a nearside U-shaped lounge. That leaves the rear area for the bunk beds and the bathroom cubicle. White, for the walls and roof, and grey, for the lower cabinetry doors and upholstery, is the colour scheme of choice. In natural light it works well, which for someone like me is good because I’m keen on good space perception in confined areas. All the cabinetry is CNC machine cut and all the cabinetry doors opened and closed as required. A Dometic Ibis 3 roof-mounted air conditioner keeps the van cool on a hot summer’s day and does the reverse on cooler days.
AT THE STERN
Being a family van, this one has triple bunks each measuring 1.96m x 0.7m (6ft 5in x 2ft 3in) in the offside corner. All the bunks come with a personal window, DVD player, reading light and USB charger point — something I would have appreciated in my day and excellent for young family members now. Despite the extra goodies, the industry standard ply ladder is fitted with sharp and narrow steps. Adjacent to the bunks on the rear wall is a multi shelf cupboard. A top loading washing machine hidden in the cupboard below is slightly awkward to get at. It’s a personal preference, but the washer reduces storage space somewhat, as does the third bunk which is normally where the under bed storage may be.
The bathroom has the expected features of a separate shower cubicle, Thetford cassette toilet and a small vanity area complete with cupboard, wash basin and mirror. Although there is room for two, for a family shift times are definitely going to have to be employed, especially given the 14-litre capacity of the Truma water heater. In a caravan park of course the alternative is just to use the amenities block
In the galley, cupboard and drawer space in particular is quite generous. There’s some bench top space even with the stainless steel sink/drainer and four-burner cooktop/grill/oven side by side. The overhead lockers are slightly taller than usual, resulting in extra storage space and I liked that the microwave oven is set slightly lower than normal for safety sake. Fitted in the corner against the bathroom wall is a 190 litre Dometic fridge with an overhead locker.
Opposite the kitchen, the dinette and table can probably fit a family of four without too much trouble but the fifth is undoubtedly going to need an extra chair in the walkway. Both drawers and footrests — usually one or the other is the norm — are fitted underneath both seat ends.
Measuring 1.85m x 1.53m (6ft 1in x 5ft), the island bed is a bit shorter than the bunk beds in the rear, which is why singles beds are sometimes better for taller persons. Being a forward entry door van, there’s plenty of space around the bed base on that side with less walk room on the opposite side by the kitchen. Under the bed, there’s ample room with only the house battery and tunnel storage taking up space. Around the bed head, there is the expected side wardrobes, cabinet and overhead lockers with a power point fitted on either side. In addition to that cabinetry, there’s a couple of over and under cupboards alongside the kitchen area. They each have a function — the upper one being for hot water and pump switches, along with the water tank and battery monitoring systems, while the lower one neatly contains the BMPRO battery management system.
OFF THE GRID
Being a road going van, the free camping ability of the van is governed by the two 95-litre water tanks, 100Ah battery and 160W solar panel. LED lights are fitted throughout, so that limits the battery drain and the fridge is a three-way. While, not always at their best in very high ambient temperatures, the benefit of a three-way fridge is that they run quite well on LP gas and two 9kg cylinders will last a considerable time.
THE BOTTOM LINE
For a family van the Razor is a cut above. It certainly has all the essentials for caravan travel plus a few extra goodies. It’s not hard to see the van being used for extended stays in a caravan park or, equally, for travelling around Australia. On the road it was very well behaved and although my Jeep wasn’t working too hard, there’s no reason why utes like a Ford Ranger or Isuzu D-Max wouldn’t cope just as well.
Editor's note: Since we reviewed the van, the model has been updated slightly. We obviously can't comment on them, but Franklin has said they include: a recessed stove; raised Dometic RUA6408X 3-way fan cooled fridge with optional 12V compressor; overhead cupboards in the kitchen with LED bulkheads 12V and USB ports added to bunks; a bike rack to suit the number of bikes as standard; upgraded upholstery; and new decals.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.68m (28ft 6in)
External body length 6.81m (22ft 4in)
External body width (incl awn) 2.4m (7ft 11in)
Travel height (incl AC) 2.9m (9ft 6in)
Internal height 2.03m (6ft 8in)
Ball weight 138kg
Frame Meranti timber
Cladding Aluminium composite
Chassis SupaGal 150m x 50mm (6in x 2in) RHS
Suspension Tandem axle leaf spring
Brakes 10in electric
Wheels 15in alloy
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 1 x 100Ah
Air-conditioner Ibis 3
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Kitchen (ext) No
Cooking Swift 4 burner, grill & oven
Fridge Dometic RMDX21 190L 3-way
Bathroom Thetford cassette toilet & separate cubicle shower
Hot water Truma 14L gas/elec
Fiamma bike rack
PRICE AS SHOWN
Sydney RV Super Centre
9 – 20 Lemke Place
Penrith, NSW 2750
Ph: 02 4722 3444