Held in Brisbane's Showground, which traverses the northern railway line, there was lots to see and lots of walking to be done along with adroit investigation involved in tracking down all the displays.
The main grassy showground was given over to tightly packed camper trailers and a selection of vans. More vans and motorhomes found spots in the various pavilions and under grandstands.
Sunny but cold weather didn't deter buyers, and all dealers reported solid sales. New brands told us that they had sold over 50 vans even with build times approaching two years. It seems buyers have become used to long waits, but we saw some examples of vans that were immediately available early in the show.
Most of the big players attended, and there were plenty of Queensland builders strutting their stuff. The show also marked Jayco's return after two years' absence, perhaps in recognition that the boom of RV sales isn’t expected to last forever.
Like Malcolm Street found at the Sydney show, the number and size of family vans seem to be growing. And it appears that off-road vans are still the flavour of the moment, with almost every builder adding ever more examples to their range.
Supporting the off-road theme, we saw more emphasis on off-grid capacity and builders moving to the all-electric, high lithium power supplies with solar capacity pushing 1000W.
I noticed, too, a brisk turnover of portable induction cooktops.
This was undoubtedly helped by the recent notice from Swift to stop using their caravan stoves until they can sort out issues with potential cracking on the gas supply line. Suppliers with stock on hand seemed to be doing well.
Jayco is back
Our most prominent builder, Jayco, had a monster display. It was undercover but tucked away in the corner of the grounds, so it took a bit of finding. New releases included a 19ft family offroader destined for bush camping. The All-Terrain Off-Grid X 19ft 6in family van has beefed up J-Tech trailing arm suspension, an impressive Projecta battery and solar setup. A 400Ah lithium battery and 3000W inverter will mean extra days off-grid. The cost of the Off-Grid X pack is $12,990 over the standard All-Terrain. The display model had options like a slide-out kitchen, gas heater and a bigger fridge, taking the price to $109,390.
Also among Jayco’s latest releases was the four-bunk 22ft Journey Outback which Malcolm Street reviewed in our June issue. This was my first sight of the big van, which embraces the industry's move to larger family vans. At $84,500, it's a lot of van for the price.
Queensland builder Apollo is only a short drive from the Brisbane Showgrounds, and they took advantage of the handy location to turn up in strength. As well as an impressive range of motorhomes, we found an extensive offering of Windsor and Coromal caravans across tourers and complete outback solutions.
Snowy River Caravans debuted a long awaited offroad version of their popular 20ft couples van. Dubbed a prototype, the Multi-Terrain model carries over the body style of the 20ft but with sports heavy duty trailing arm suspension and a large tool box at the A-frame. Also displayed was a new single axle pop-top that should be popular amongst folk with limited storage options.
Urban Caravans made the trek from Melbourne, and they seem to be building a solid fan base with their titanium welded aluminium frame off roaders. An extreme 20ft packed with four water tanks, 260Ah of lithium, 840W of solar on a truss chassis for $126,990.
Spinifex Caravans demonstrated their all-electric off roader, and the 19ft 6in Electrix packs some impressive off-grid credentials. Up top is 1720W of solar. A 14.3kW bank of lithium batteries and a 5000W inverter raise the bar for bush camping and will run most appliances without a generator.
The model on display had a 190L compressor fridge, an external kitchen and seven water tanks, it sold for $210,200. We plan a review in the August issue of Caravan World.
The Melbourne-based caravan builder, Lotus, had a monster three-axle offroader that would need a very capable four or six-wheel drive rig to get it out of trouble. But it would be fun. Displayed for the first time was a van with a full Henrob riveted aluminium frame. I mean, Lotus has been using aluminium front and rear sections combined with Meranti walls for a while but has now gone full metal jacket as an alternative option at $9,000.
While it’s fair to say there were plenty of big vans on display, local builders more known for campers, continue pushing the boundaries of hybrids. But, of course, there's much to be said for a compact little van with an internal ensuite. So it was great to see Kimberley Campers, with their hardtop hybrid, are still kicking goals. The Kruiser E-Class starts at $105,000 but matches comfort with extreme bush-bashing cred.
Another beauty that has flown under my radar was the Lifestyle Campers . I'm led to believe their twin-axle military specification Reconn is as good as it looks, so it goes on my list of favourites.
Cruisemaster released their new M60 adjustable shock absorber as an option for the ATX trailing arm suspension. With a thicker 60mm bore and a finned piggyback oil reservoir, the shock is designed for extreme travel, extended drives over steep corrugations and adjustable for road conditions. The release date is January 2023, and the expected price will be $1,600 per axle.
Over the years, I have seen some impressive-looking custom indigenous art on vans, but the three Vision models boasting Darren Dunn graphics might be the first on production vans. Darren is a Gamilaroi man from Coonabarabran in New South Wales and won Indigenous Artist of the Year in 2015. In addition, Vision donates $1,000 from every van sold to an Indigenous Youth Program, so apart from looking sensational, Vision is supporting a worthwhile cause.
Newer Brands attract buyers
While not necessarily new start-ups, there were builders that were new to me.
As well as their traditionally built touring vans, Sunrise Caravans at Burpengary brought along their new range of aluminium-framed offroaders. I liked the look of their compact 17ft family van that should be tough enough for rough road travel and came well equipped with triple bunks for $84,990. We will have a review in the next couple of months.
Among the newer brands was builder Highclere Caravans from Epping in Victoria with a comprehensive offering of family and couple’s tourers. Business seems to be growing, and they even have their own chassis factory.
Trackman had a tasty range of offroaders. For example, their 18ft 6in Extreme had an aluminium body, rugged-looking suspension, and a contemporary CNC finished interior, all for $94,990.
Sunfinder’s mid-size family offroader model seemed competitive at $77,990.
Familiar names also had new designs. Stoney Creek's prototype Scout 19 had just survived a seven-week torture test and looked brand new. It's a composite-bodied offroader and should find lots of interest at around $89,000.
As well as the induction cookers there were rows of aftermarket goodies and even halls dedicated to making life easier. Adjusta Mattress were doing show specials on chiropractic friendly caravan mattresses that are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration as a medical aid. Perhaps expensive at $5,300, but what’s a good night’s sleep worth at the end of a hard day on the road?
Bos 370 had a fully self-contained caravan mover to complement their range of jockey wheels and corner jacks. Rated to 3500kg, the unit has a 48V lithium battery built in for a cost of $2,250.
Dometic showcased a wide range of products in a funky virtual caravan that attracted a lot of attention and our friends at MDC had a battery powered fridge lift that’s lighter than the manual system and a lot easier to use.
A highlight of the show was the auction of a beautifully kitted-out Sunseeker van. Built as a Trip in a Van replica, it had the full range of offroad getaway gear. Bidding was keen, and the lucky phone bidder got themselves an exceptional van and didn't have to wait a year for delivery. $50,000 of the proceeds went to the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, and the group's founders, Barry and Denise Morecombe, were on hand to receive the cheque. For me, It was a high to end the show. Congratulations to Chris Michel and the team at Sunseeker for their generosity and to all the component builders who had a hand in the build.
Only a few days before the show kicked into action, the Reserve Bank of Australia announced an interest rate hike that might have put the brakes on buyers. But as we saw dealers across the board were hitting their targets. Over at the Bushtracker stand, demand for top-end quality was strong, with build times for their $250,000 vans out to 2024.
Despite the cold and the economic uncertainty, the Brisbane Show brought in crowds of determined buyers. The unprecedented thirst for the caravanning lifestyle looks like running for some time, which is a good thing for local jobs. It was great to see our builders stepping up to the demand against complicated supply chains. However, it might be worth keeping in mind the challenges builders face with ever-increasing costs and shortages of components.
Let’s Go Caravanning indeed!