Andrew Altschwager of Caravans Coffs Coast is the sole supplier and designer of the Southern Star Titanium range of caravans. With a decade of designing and selling caravans and with his kitchen manufacturing background, Andrew should know a thing or two about manufacturing in general, and caravan manufacturing in particular.
We took the 19.6 Hardcore for a run around Coffs Harbour, a fantastic town with gorgeous beaches geared for adventure. With that in mind, I needed to see a van that was built and ready for exploration and found it in the Southern Star Titanium Hardcore.
SETTING THE SCENE
On the outside, the Southern Star's blue and white livery suggests it’s got the right sort of stuff for an adventure on a secluded beach or somewhere out of the way – that ‘local secret’ sort of destination. The hail-resistant 3mm-thick composite cladding and aluminium C section interlocked framework, caped off with a single piece fibreglass roof sheet, is certainly a great start. This is a modern, lightweight yet strong build.
READY FOR THE ROUGH STUFF
It had been raining the night before our Hardcore adventure and the idea of crawling underneath the van on wet grass didn’t seem like the way I wanted to spend time on a beautiful blue day. So we went to a stunning nearby beach instead. Yet the inspection still needed to be done. It turns out laying on wet sand’s not too pleasant, either.
Just the same, the underneath revealed a 200x50mm SupaGal chassis with a 100x50mm raiser together with 3700kg-rated Cruisemaster XT Coil with dual shockers and 265/75 R16 offroad MT Tyres. All up, that means plenty of strength in the chassis, fine suspension and tyres that have a tread ready to munch through the rough stuff and offering the ability to carry more weight at higher speeds than this rig will ever need.
Also, around the outside are two 120Ah batteries well secured and slung below the rig, well protected fresh and grey water tanks and two 9kg gas bottles with a well-protected regulator and a drawbar tap also with its own stoneguard.
Storage-wise, the outside boasted a drawbar box that featured a handy gen set and slide out barbecue as well as a useful tunnel boot and jerry can holders. A hatch for the TV and a drop-down table added to the comfort quotient as did the convenient drawbar spotlight. All up, a nice combo.
SO HOW DID IT TOW?
The Southern Star Hardcore towed well on the road and as well over the rough stuff. We encountered deep soft sand getting on to the Coffs Harbour beach, but the Hardcore easily ran through it, following nicely in the wheel tracks of the tow vehicle.
We also gave it a brief run over rocks and the Cruisemaster suspension and DO35 drop-on hitch provided plenty of articulation and stability. A perfect choice for this offroad rig.
When it comes to caravanning offroad, all the heavy work’s done on the outside and the inside should be all about comfort.
For my money, how well a caravan interior works starts with the kitchen. This is where Andrew Altschwager’s previous kitchen building and design experience comes into play. Andrew reckons he’d never put anything inside a caravan that wasn’t designed for rattling around inside a caravan out in the Never Never. He says taking a normal domestic kitchen and transplanting it into a caravan just doesn’t stack up, “there just not designed for rocking and rolling along the road. Normal kitchen hinges just won’t do the job. And chipboard or MDF cupboards are too heavy.”
Instead, Andrew insists on hardwood and plywood furniture with stainless steel piano hinges and lightweight European Poplar Plywood laminated doors and benchtops. He also uses metal-sided drawers with solid bases and double gas struts on the overhead lockers. It’s a nice approach given all his furniture frames are screwed directly to the floor, wall frames and roof.
The hungry traveller will find solace in the kitchen thanks to a Swift cooktop and a convenient microwave as well as a two-door fridge that boasts enough room for the beer, milk, eggs and more. A Fusion entertainment system keeps you humming to your favourite tunes while you’re cooking the sausages.
The en-suite offered plenty of storage, a small shower, washing machine and toilet. While all are pretty much stock standard features in many brands these days, it has to be said that this en-suite seemed just a little on the small side, especially for someone like me, whose circumference has welcomed one too many cakes on one too many trips.
Beyond the en-suite a quality leather dinette and comfy queen-sized bed provided comfort and extra storage space. Storage wise, there’s enough with plenty of drawers and cupboards and a modest yet useful slide-out pantry.
BRING ON THE POWER
Electrical-wise, the power arrangement is suitable with two 150W solar panels and two 120 Ah AGM batteries, LED lighting and 12 and 240V power points together with USB charging sockets.
If caravanning is about enjoyment then this van delivers. Easy to tow, able to handle the rough stuff and robust. If innovation is the yardstick by which you measure the success of a caravan than you’re likely to be disappointed by this conservative caravan. If style, build quality and fitness for purpose are your measure than this van is worth putting on the top of the list.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #575. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!