The crocodiles up north are becoming restless… They’ve received wind that the JB Gator is heading for their waters!
But they needn’t roll over with high anxiety, as the Gator in question is remaining on terra firma. The only victims likely to fall prey to this outback marauder are the thrill-seeking caravanners coming under its spell. And the Gator would be in its natural state camped by a billabong under the shade of a coolibah tree, anywhere in Australia!
The 5.44m (17ft 10in) Gator was launched by JB Caravans at the recent Victorian Caravan, Camping and Touring Supershow held at the Melbourne Showgrounds. But the concrete jungle show setting didn’t do it justice – it was much more at home when we took it for a spin in the Wombat State Forest, about 90km north-west of Melbourne.
This bush predator cut its teeth in this wild and rugged bush environment that comprised tracks, gullies, creeks and ridges within a 300m-deep gorge passing through sandstone and slate. But with a bright red rear and striking decals, camouflage is not its strong point!
BEDROOM & STORAGE
The Gator, as its name implies, has a tough skin but, conversely, the interior feels much softer.
The alluring front bedroom, with island bed, is offset by white walls and pale, almost Scandinavian looking, cabinetry doors. And there’s loads of storage space courtesy of the overhead lockers, robes and shelved cupboards (and also under-bed), which is a common theme throughout the entire van. There are decent-sized Dometic Euro-style double-glazed windows, reading lamps and double powerpoints either side of the bed, and a light switch for the bathroom on the nearside. Plus a scupper vent which, when opened up, pressurises the van to help eliminate dust ingress.
A 24in TV is sandwiched between two corner cupboards at the foot of the bed on the offside, which house the electricals, including a Projecta 25A charger, 12V 40A battery protector, 12V isolator and fuse box, and one-way diode, as well as a TV antenna booster, 12V outlet, double powerpoint, and a pocket for cords.
Directly opposite the lounge is a fashionable and practical kitchen. It comprises a recessed four-burner cooktop and grill with touchscreen rangehood, square stainless sink with flick mixer tap and filtered water tap, double powerpoint, cafe latte-coloured splashback, and a long window.
Above the benchtop sits an entertainment system, a microwave and two lift-up cupboards, one housing a gauge display for the three water tanks, Projecta monitor, 240V/12V circuit breakers, 30A ProStar solar regulator, 240V hot water switch, water pump switch and gas hot water switch. I thought the only downside was that the microwave could have been at a more user-friendly height.
Below the cooktop are a slide-out cupboard and a storage compartment concealing a gas isolation switch, and below the sink is a waterproof fold-down compartment ideal for holding sponges and dish cloths, as well as additional storage drawers.
Immediately adjacent is an impressive 190L Waeco compressor fridge, which also has a 12V selector switch, plus a lift-up cupboard and a fold-down cupboard concealing a water tank manifold and water pump.
All the slide-out drawers are on full extension runners, and the cabinet doors are all piano-hinged. Additionally, the chrome button-less square handles are easy to operate and complement the modern-day internal look.
The swish, rear full-width ensuite will certainly put a smile on your dial. For me, the highlights were the Daewoo front-loading washing machine, the full-height fibreglass shower with opaque door, Dometic ceramic bowl toilet and contemporary square ceramic vanity, with ample bench space and a polished edge mirror. There’s also 12V extraction hatches above the shower and toilet, a window, and numerous storage cupboards and drawers.
Centrally located, between the lounge and kitchen, is a Dometic hatch for a bit of extra light. There’s also a mid-mounted reverse-cycle air-conditioner, a metal grab handle immediately to the right as you step inside, and an illuminated internal courtesy step light.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At $66,500, as reviewed, the JB Gator is sure to bite off a sizeable chunk of the offroad caravan market in its weight and price range. It’s a good value, lightweight offroader that’s purpose-built for trekking into the wilderness.
The Northern Territory and far north Queensland, in particular, are renowned for their populations of crocodiles, but I’d expect an infiltration of Gators and their prey (owners) embarking on offroad pilgrimages to a huge variety of remote locations in the not-too-distant future.
HITS & MISSES
- Light weight and durability
- Towing agility
- Light, bright interior and practical layout
- Tough exterior look
- No slide-out barbecue
- Height of microwave
- An inverter would complete the electrical suite.