Viscount Caravans is something of an old and respected name in the caravan industry. Commencing operation in 1956, at one time Viscount was the largest caravan manufacturer in Australia, easily outstripping the total number of caravans produced today. However, in the mid-1980s for a number of reasons (the cost of fuel being one of them) it all came to an end. Since then there have been several rebirths of the Viscount name but more recently the Concept group of companies have taken on the naming rights and a new generation of Viscount caravans has been born.
RV Connection is the Sydney based dealer for Viscount caravans and it was there that I headed when proprietor Adam Walker advised me that the new Viscount Family V3 had arrived at the dealership and wanted to know if I would be interested in taking it out for a spin.
The fact that the V3 is a family van is interesting. There was a time not so long ago, when it was possible to walk into a caravan dealership and not see a family van. These days, there are frequently several on display. Most have a length like this one (6.7m/22ft) and have a layout with a front island bed, mid-section kitchen and dinette and bathroom on one side and bunk beds on the other at the rear. The big clue to this from the outside is the double or triple (in this case) layer windows at the rear of the van.
With a price tag just over $60k, the van is going to have some appeal to the family budget.
With a tare of 2300kg and an ATM of 2800kg there’s a very good payload of 500kg, even when 157 litres of fresh water and 18kg of LPG is accounted for. The ATM also means a good range of tow vehicles can be used with this van, such as a Mazda BT50 with a 3500kg tow rating I was using here without problems with the 6000kg Gross Combined Mass (GCM) rating.
On the road, the Viscount van tracked along nicely and was easy to manoeuvre when reversing. Load position changes the towing dynamics a bit I know, but the van seemed to be fairly well balanced for stress free towing.
Like Viscount being something of old and trusted name in the industry, most of the van construction techniques are tried and trusted too. Underpinning everything is a Preston box section SupaGal chassis with 150 x 50mm (6 x 2in) chassis rails and drawbar. It rides on tandem axle load sharing leaf spring suspension which is fitted with 15in alloy wheels. Surprisingly both the differently sized water tanks are fitted forward of the axle, so the only thing behind the wheels is a bit of grey water pipework. Although it looks a bit messy under the chassis, all the pipework and cabling is well strapped up out of harm’s way.
The original Viscount vans used to have an aluminium frame but the new generation uses Meranti timber. The body cladding is a mixture of aluminium for the side walls and aluminium 3mm composite for the front and rear walls and the roof. Tunnel storage compartments weren’t really heard of back in the Viscount’s heyday (nor front boots for that matter) but the current models certainly have them, and they have good capacity too.
Acrylic double-glazed hopper windows are fitted on both side walls and the Camec door has a separate security screen, but there is a problem familiar to many at the front nearside — you can’t have the window and door open at the same time, without reducing the door’s opening arc somehow.
Something that was not available back in the day was a Dometic roll out awning. They are so much easier to operate than the heavy canvas awnings that were popular with family vans but awkward to handle, particularly when the canvas was wet and the wind was blowing at the same time.
The power system is fairly simple. In addition to the 240V fittings and a 25A mains battery charger, the van comes standard with a 110Ah battery and a 135W solar panel — just enough for a night or two off the grid. For entertainment, the van comes with a bluetooth radio with speakers inside and out.
ROOM FOR THREE
Triple bunks are a feature of the V3. Located in the rear offside corner, each bunk gets a window, reading light and a 12V outlet. The top bunk occupant has the bonus of no one above and an extended panel protection against falling out, but also the so-so ladder that seems to be the industry standard.
I know that young family members are really keen on doing the washing, so in addition to the upper wardrobe and shelf area, where they can carefully hang and fold their clothing, the lower area contains a front loading Camec washing machine. Handily located and just the thing for holiday travel!
Adjoining the bunk beds is the fully equipped bathroom. A fibreglass moulded shower cubicle takes up most of the space, but there’s enough room for the Dometic cassette toilet and a small vanity cabinet complete with pedestal wash basin. Overhead lockers are a bit high off the ground for some junior family members, but offer some valuable storage space.
There are quite a few things we take for granted these days. Going back to the 1970s, a caravan kitchen would have had a simple two burner cooktop maybe with a grill and probably an under bench three cubic foot fridge — 80 litres or thereabouts for those who cannot remember such things — and maybe a hand or foot pump for the cold water supply to the sink. Now a typical caravan kitchen like this one has a four-burner cooktop/grill/oven, a 171L three-way fridge, a microwave oven and a stainless-steel sink with 12V pumped hot, cold and filtered water supply Bench top working space hasn’t changed much but there is plenty of cupboard space.
ENJOYING THE CREATIONS
A bit of creativity is required for the L-shaped dinette at mealtimes I reckon. The table isn’t oversized, but three people could fit around the seat without too much trouble. The double bed is fairly close to the table, so a fourth person could sit there, thus needing a folding chair in the aisleway for the fifth person. Above the table, the four overhead lockers provide a generous amount of storage.
Up front mum and dad get the caravan queen sized, inner spring mattress bed. It’s a fairly simple bedroom area with large windows on both sides, and illumination consists of a ceiling light plus two reading lights. Like the rest of the van, the bedhead cabinetry is finished in glossy grey laminate and consists of a large overhead locker, side wardrobes and floor level cupboards. There are no bedside cabinets as such, but the bedside cubbies are certainly a useful feature.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Viscount’s V3 is certainly going to have some appeal to families and not only because of the bunk bed layout. While being fitted with all the caravanning essentials, it has a fairly no-frills interior which means that not only is it easy to maintain cleanliness but keeps the price down too. In addition, the vans weight or lack thereof, doesn’t require a super expensive tow vehicle, which is all good for the family on a budget.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length: 6.7m (22ft)
Overall length: 8.56m (28ft)
Width: 2.41m (7ft 11in)
Height: 3.02m (9ft 11in)
Ball weight: 169kg
Frame: Meranti timber
Cladding: Aluminium cladding (sidewalls), aluminium composite (front, rear & roof
Chassis: Preston SupaGal RHS 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in)
Suspension: Al-KO™ tandem axle load sharing
Brakes: 10in electric
Wheels: 15in alloy
Water: 1 x 95 litre, 1 x 62 litre
Battery: 1 x 110Ah
Air conditioner: Gree N186
Gas: 2 x 9kg
Sway control: No
Internal height: 2.03m (6ft 8in)
Cooking: Thetford Caprice 4 burner, grill & oven
Fridge: Thetford N 3175 171 litre three way
Bathroom: Dometic cassette toilet & separate shower cubicle
Hot water: Swift 28 litre LPG/elec
Two or three bunk options available at no extra cost
PRICE AS SHOWN
$60,990 on road NSW
97C Glossop Street
St Marys NSW 2760
Ph: 02 9623 0400