For many years, the Viscount logo rode high on the backs of thousands of caravans, and the company was one of our highest producers across a big range. But circumstances changed, the brand gradually lost its drive, and the name went into hibernation in the late ‘80s.
A few years back, the Concept group saw an opportunity to revive the memory, realising that, if nothing else, there were still plenty of classic Viscounts on the road, and that they are even becoming popular as restoration projects.
The new plan introduced three models, the V1, V2 and V3 across different lengths, all with a touch of luxury designed to woo back buyers. The object was to emphasise value for money, with the most popular layouts and equipment. A concession was made in the V3 with a choice of dinettes, but by keeping things simple otherwise, the price could stay competitive. If buyers wanted to change with different exterior colours and custom layouts, then other brands within the group could suit. Of course, there were interior colour options to fit customer requests, but the standard van was designed to suit most wishlists.
But buyers can be a funny and sometimes fussy lot. Punters could see the value, and they loved the vans, but, “Can’t we have something that looks a little custom, something a bit flasher?”
Back to the drawing board for the Viscount marketing team, who devised a foolproof list of upgrades in their V3 Premium. We’ll come to that down the track, but first things get even more interesting.
NSW South Coast dealer ARV, in Eden, led by long-time industry player Bryan Hammond, this year marked his 20th year in business. He thought an anniversary model might be a way to celebrate. What better van to spruce up than the humble Viscount?
So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the not so humble Viscount V3 Premium 20th Anniversary Model from ARV. I know caravans can’t take a bow, but I’d swear I just saw the jockey wheel dip slightly.
Before we get too much further, let’s look at what the two packages include.
From Viscount, we get improvements that add to amenity and style. On the amenity side, we have an extra annexe light, front and rear work lights, interior strip lights for a laidback ambience and a fully padded bedhead. On the style side, we see upgraded upholstery, dual colour cupboards, and an exterior design package of colours and logos all destined to make the V3 stand out from the pack.
The ARV package goes further, with a Truma heater, AL-KO Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a grey water tank, Sirocco fan — that’s cool — and NSW rego.
Based on the V3, the upmarket offering has the same layout and build as the standard version, and that’s not a bad thing because this is probably the most popular design in caravans. The majority of buyers will opt for a rear entry, rear ensuite and front bedroom and that’s what we have here. At 20ft 6in inside, it’s also one of the most popular size ranges for a touring van.
At the base of the van is a Preston Chassis, built from 150mm x 50mm Duragal and riding on AL-KO roller-rocker leafspring suspension. The connection is a 3.5t 50mm ball coupling. This combination will suit formed, and some dirt road travel but both the suspension and connection can be upgraded if more rugged use is foreseen. Wheels are 15in black alloys shod in 235x75 all-terrain tyres each rated at 975kg.
The frame is Meranti timber with raised profile, white aluminium cladding on the sidewalls and a composite panel over the ends and the roof. I’m assured that particular attention has been paid to the joins at J-mould where the edges meet so that everything is weatherproof. A carbon fibre looking panel runs along the lower sides for a sportier impression, but the front protection panel is the real deal in black aluminium checkerplate.
The result outside is impressive. You have to admit that by comparison, the standard V3 is very conservative, even if the broad areas of white are practical for insulating the van in hot weather. The mid-height grey stripe and orange decals give a more modern look without reverting to the dark colours that seem to be the rage at present. The same down the back, where the grey composite panel adds some class.
Upfront are two 9kg gas bottles in galvanised frames and a water tap with guards, while under the body are 95L and a 62L water tanks with metal shrouds protecting their undersides. Along the sides, we have the almost obligatory front tunnel boot and a central picnic table with 12V and TV connectors and a full-length Dometic awning overhead. I did like the way the boot was lined with galvanised steel, and the additional light will make a big difference in finding things at night.
At the rear, we find some bright LED lights and a reversing camera as well as a single spare on a low bar where it should be easy to reach when you need it.
The entry door is a smart-looking three-way Camec security number, and the inside step is reasonably low with sturdy grab rails inside and out. So, stepping up into the van for most folk will be pretty straightforward, although some may need a removable plastic step. Once inside, the well-finished interior struck me straight away. The team at Concept told me they spent over a million dollars on CNC equipment and edge-banding equipment to get the furniture looking great and the result speaks for itself.
Despite the van’s value proposition, there are no corners cut in getting the presentation right. Interior colours are a pleasant choice of greys and white in an on-trend combination that gives a bright and roomy feeling that shouldn’t go stale anytime soon. Cupboards that perfectly align with each other demonstrate a degree of craftsmanship that shows the builder cares. Even a little thing like the two-tone white and grey panels on the doors take a lot of effort, but the result is worthwhile and should be appreciated.
If I was being picky — and after all, that’s my job — I’d say the cabinet for the microwave could be smaller to match, or a bigger microwave might have been neater.
The kitchen stretches along the driver side, and I liked that there was a full oven included in a Thetford Caprice Mk3. All up the bench space, including the covers over sink and stove, is nearly 2m long which is reasonable in a van this size. Storage too is good with high cupboards both sides, an over-and-under pantry below and an ample storage space over the glossy black Thetford 175L three-way fridge. Did someone say fingerprints?
Naturally enough, the dinette is along the passenger side, and it’s a comfortable cafe lounge with pull-out storage drawers below. USB, 12V and 240V plugs at the table are all well placed, and a long window will have you taking in the view as you settle back.
Upfront, is the island bed with an innerspring mattress and the usual array of cupboards. Under-bed storage shares space with the battery and Projector charger, and while there are double 240V sockets, I would have liked a couple of USB charge points here.
As a general rule, touring couples appreciate the convenience and liveability of a decent-size ensuite. They won’t be disappointed with the V3 version. A circular floating bowl in a wide vanity with a large mirror is central with the Thetford toilet on the driver side, and a 2.5kg NEC washing machine is included. There’s room to move and an overhead extractor fan to keep things fresh. The moulded shower also has a fan, and its one-piece construction should be leak-free.
Weighing in at 2329kg empty, and with a ball weight of 143kg, or 6.1 per cent of the ATM, it towed smoothly with no wallowing or banging. The payload is 500kg, which should be enough for most couples, even on extended travel and with 154kg of water when the tanks are full. Fully loaded, the van is 2829kg, so in the range of mid-size tow rigs.
The one-year warranty seems a bit light on, but ARV are very customer-oriented and like all Viscount dealers are instructed to handle all components of the van, so that’s a plus.
I think it’s great to see some of our heritage van names back on the road, especially when representing the values of the past but with all the conveniences and style of now. The V3 has been good value since its inception, and the Premium version is even better. The ARV Anniversary issue is the icing on the cake, adding some extra practicality and safety to the mix. Happy Anniversary Arv, and happy travels Viscount buyers.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.29m (27ft 1in)
External body length 6.4m (21ft)
Internal body length 6.2m (20ft 6in)
External body width 2.4m (7ft 9in)
Travel height 3.02m (9ft 8in)
Internal height 2.03mm (6ft 8in)
Payload 500kg (calculated)
Ball weight 143kg (6.1% of ATM)
Cladding Raised profile aluminium
Chassis 150 x 50mm Supergal
Suspension AL-KO Roller Rocker
Coupling AL-KO 50mm ball
Brakes 10in drums
Wheels 15in alloy 325x70 All-terrain tyres
Water 95L and 62L plus 62L Grey tank
Battery 1 x 110Ah
Solar 1 x 150W
Air conditioner Gree
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control AL-KO ESC
Cooking Thetford Caprice Mk3 cooktop and oven
Fridge Thetford 175 3-way
Bathroom Full width with shower and toilet
Washing machine 2.5kg NEC
Hot water Yes
OPTIONS FITTED Nil
PRICE AS SHOWN $62,885
Princes Hwy Eden 2551
Ph: 02 64964411