ULTIMATE CARAVAN TEST
The car was fuelled up, the van was packed.
As I gave the towing mirrors a final clean and adjustment, my wife and kids settled into their seats and clipped their belts. I stood back to absorb what was happening – taking my family caravanning for under $10k was finally about to get underway. No, I wasn’t dreaming this time, I was living the dream.
The hard reality about my budget was that I had well and truly blown it, of course. Total cost for my rig was $12,500.
I met the $10k budget if you include purchase prices only – I just didn’t factor in just how much more the Caprice would cost to sort out. Both were well bought, but had their problems. Key elements were the air conditioning compressor for the Caprice and the three-way fridge in the van didn’t work.
I did some research and, to my relief, found that these fridges can be rebuilt. Alternate Gas Refrigeration in Arndell Park, NSW, were able to fit a reconditioned cooling unit for $600.
Tyres were okay on the van but we were keen to test a set of Bridgestone R623 LT tyres as a long-term test. We set tyre pressures at 39psi as a starting point and will report on how well the tyres are performing in an upcoming issue of Caravan World.
With a new value annexe from Australia Wide Annexes packed in the van, we would also be able to assess whether a less than $1000 budget annexe has a place in the market where $4000 is the norm.
We also took the opportunity to test a GME TX3520W UHF radio in the Caprice. Given the focus on driver distraction and the use of mobile phones in cars, the use of a hands-free UHF radio would prove an interesting test. More in upcoming issues of Caravan World magazine.
Given that we had some long hauls in mind for our rig – and the likelihood we would have to travel after dusk or before dawn – we fitted a set of Narva Ultima 175 driving lights and used the new Narva dedicated loom. Again, you can read more about how these lights are shaping up in CW soon.
The first trip up north to Manning Point went very smoothly. The Caprice didn’t miss a beat and pulled the 1700kg loaded Windsor easily. The trick wasn’t how to maintain speed up the hills – you could go as fast as you liked – but more how to keep the Caprice’s V8 from drinking too much fuel. I discovered the sweet spot was around the 90km/h mark. Fuel consumption ranged from 18.0L/100km when cruising on the plains and 20.5L/100km when in traffic or hill climbing on the freeway. The Caprice needed a WDH as the Windsor was lifting the Caprice’s front with hooked up. I fitted my trusty Eaz-Lift WDH, although the shank had to be re-drilled to suit the off-set pin locating hole in the Holden hitch. Unladen, the Windsor was not sitting level (the front was raised) but I didn’t have time to get a lower shank. That’s on the shopping list, but I discovered that when vehicle and van were laden, the vehicle was sitting slightly low at the rear and the van was close to perfectly level. When less gear is in the rig it’ll still need a low hitch.
Aside from needing to adjust a loose mains water tap base in the van (after it swung back and became a fountain!) the van was perfect on the holiday. A few details will need attention, such as the front window cover strut (missing a securing screw and hinges are loose) a bent rear stabiliser leg will need to be straightened or replaced and some cladding will need re-enforcement due to fatigue cracks. The van is not far off needing the roof resealed, too.
In all, I am very happy with the ‘new’ rig, and the family is already planning a long list of caravanning holidays…