Just like the Germans had the Panzer in WWII, and the Allieds had the Sherman tanks, us Aussies have the Bushtracker caravan. These vans are built like a tank to endure the harshest conditions this country has to offer.
The company’s 19 Foot (5.79m) offering is distinctly Bushtracker, with its 45-degree departure angle and front nose cone that provides an excellent spot for spare tyres and twin 9kg gas bottles to hide. There's a clever thing about that nose cone — it gets you a bonus 275mm inside the van. So your 19ft van becomes a 19ft 11in (6.07m) van. So to speak.
That's what happens when you take one part good design, one part research and development, one part experience and one part quality construction and workmanship: you get a van that ticks all the boxes. Let's not forget that we still have to add in a liberal sprinkling of your own custom requirements, so we get a van that ticks all of your boxes!
Almost everything is customisable when it comes to a Bushtracker van; from the type of suspension to whether you want an extra 75mm added to the internal ceiling height and pretty much everything in between.
I'M GOING IN
Speaking of options, you've got a choice of two themes when it comes to the interior. For the more traditional look, you've got 'Timeless Timber' featuring solid Tassie oak timber doors, or 'Modern Choices' with durable laminate finished cabinetry. Our test van has the Modern look and I'm a fan. It's bright and airy and it just looks clean and sharp. Grey door and drawer fronts, along with a matching leather lounge, contrast well against the predominantly white interior.
The queen-sized island bed pushes up the front of the van, so while you may lose a little bit of headroom due to the angled front design, you get it back in spades when it comes to floor area. Access to the bed is by way of raised platforms on either side, which makes getting in and out a breeze. Clever design has incorporated underfloor storage compartments beneath the raised platforms, making for an excellent place to hide your grubby sneakers, or maybe even your slippers!
Underneath the bed is more storage, which allows you to access the spacious front locker from inside the van, where you will also find the heart of the power and electrical system. Cleverly hidden beneath the bed is the dining table top, for when you need to convert the lounge area for meal time.
Assisting you to raise the bed platform are a pair of heavy duty gas struts, which does make the task quite easy on the way up. Just be wary when lowering it, however, as no doubt the weight of the bed will catch you out, at least the first time!
At the end of the bed, there's a nest of four drawers, with the bottom two being of considerable size. Made from marine grade ply with dove-tailed joints, they'll easily hold the majority of your clothing. If you still need more space, or you plan on getting all dressed up for dinner and need somewhere for your 'after five wear', there's hanging space provided in cupboards either side of the bed.
Next to the bed, conveniently located double USB charging ports provide juice for your power-hungry devices, as well as the switches for your LED reading lights. Completing the bedroom package are a couple of Sirocco 12V fans for those balmy, tropical nights underneath the palm trees, a large skylight above and a Dometic Ibis 4 air-conditioner.
TIME FOR A FEED
Jumping out of bed in the morning, you've got the choice of heading left and kicking back on the lounge and waiting for someone else to cook your brekky, or turn right to the kitchen and get it yourself. Personally, I'm an early riser, so I prefer the latter option!
You wouldn't even raise a sweat cooking up a feed of bacon, eggs and mushrooms in this kitchen. For starters, you've got a massive window above the bench to let that sea breeze in, and to enjoy the view of those previously mentioned palm trees.
This galley-style kitchen has ample bench space either side of the stainless steel sink and the four-burner gas cooktop/oven. If more prep room is required, a fold-down splashback over the cooktop provides additional space. If, like me, you sometimes forget to take the bacon out of the freezer the night before to defrost, there's even a microwave oven in this home away from home for such an occasion.
Every good kitchen needs a rangehood, and you'll find it hiding in the overhead cupboards, along with extra LED lighting for the benchtops. Under-bench storage consists of a large under-sink cupboard and a bank of four drawers to its right. There's also a pot drawer under the oven, and three deeper drawers to its left.
And, hiding under the kitchen bench, is the Camec 4kg front loading washing machine, making it oh-so easy to put a load of clothes on while cooking up a feed. Making use of every millimetre of space, another cupboard is located above the microwave hutch. Completing the look of this modern kitchen is an easy-clean, white tiled Akril splashback.
KICK BACK AND RELAX
If watching The Today Show is your thing while the bacon sizzles, you're in luck. Mounted to an adjustable swing arm above the kitchen bench, and secured in a custom wall bracket with a pair of quick-release straps is a 24in flatscreen TV.
This enables you to watch the TV wherever you are: in bed, on the lounge or in the kitchen. As an added extra, the TV can be mounted externally to the AV locker.
Opposite the kitchen is the lounge/dining area. By day, it's an open and inviting space to kick back with a cup of tea and a good book, or to just watch the telly if it's bucketing down outside. A small coffee table, with storage below, sits between the two seats providing you with somewhere to rest your cuppa.
By night, the area easily converts into a cosy dining room by attaching the quick-release dining table conveniently located beneath the bed. Leather upholstery continues that crisp, modern look and more storage can be found under the seats.
Above the lounge/dining area, overhead cupboards provide more storage, as well as housing the control panel for the hot water system, stereo, 12V monitoring and circuit breakers. The 190L two-door Bushman fridge is located next to the lounge to allow for easy access from either the kitchen or lounge area.
VANITY IS FAIR
Running full width across the back of the van, and residing behind a frosted perspex door at the end of the kitchen is the ensuite bathroom. No combined shower/toilet cubicles here, as you not only get a separate shower (with roof hatch) and toilet, but a vanity as well.
As you've come to expect, there's storage galore. Hidden cabinets behind the mirror, cupboards and drawers below the vanity basin, open shelving next to the toilet and a watertight storage locker in the shower, which is just perfect for your shampoo and conditioner.
A pair of 240V GPOs above are thoughtfully provided, just in case you need to get the hair dryer out before slipping in to that 'after five wear' hanging beside the bed!
THE NUTS AND BOLTS
It's no use having all the pretty things inside a van if it's just going to shake to bits at the first smell of a dirt road. Thankfully, the team at Bushtracker only build offroad vans. That's right. No hybrids. No on-roaders. Just offroaders.
So, they know how to put them together so they won't fall apart while heading along the Gibb River Road towards Home Valley Station on your trip of a lifetime.
Let's start at the very bottom with the suspension. This van employs a tandem axle, fully independent Simplicity load sharing suspension system. Bushtracker has been providing this system as standard equipment for the past 20-plus years, and still features on more than 90 per cent of its builds.
With 300mm of travel (150mm up and down), it's designed for the worst the Aussie Outback can throw at you. Bushtracker says that if this suspension is good enough for the Australian Defence Force, then it's good enough for them!
The A-frame is fully incorporated into the heavy duty, hot-dipped galvanised and laminated double chassis, which is sprayed with a body deadener, helping to further protect the underbody, while providing additional dust and water sealing. As is the case with all Bushtracker vans, just like our test van, the A-frame can be extended by 300mm as an option. This is perfect if you need extra room for a firewood rack or generator box.
Our test van was fitted with the new pivoting front storage box, enabling much easier access to the twin 9kg gas bottles mounted to the A-frame. At the pointy end, there's the Fastway Zip breakaway cable system, Hitch-Ezy 5t fully articulating hitch, HD handbrake and electric leg along with both potable and non-potable water taps.
Providing the structure for the one-piece, resin-infused composite floor to be bonded to, and mounted to the top of the chassis, is a galvanised and fully welded sub-frame with full width cross members to maximise support. This composite flooring material endured months of rigorous field testing before now being utilised in all Bushtracker builds. It's got thermal insulating properties for those hot days and cold nights, is crush-resistant and will not delaminate.
Built like a brick shi… Sorry. Built like a house, with a slab/floor and stud wall construction, these vans are made tough. External wall frames are made of structural aluminium, either 2mm or 3mm wall thickness, with 5mm on the joints, which are then bolted through the composite floor to the sub-frame below.
For maximum strength and structural integrity, all corners are through-bolted and welded together. Unlike a house, however, there's no timber in this frame, meaning that traditional caravan problems such as water damage and dry rot just don't exist in the vocabulary at Bushtracker.
Before your choice of exterior cladding (aluminium or fibreglass) is affixed to the frame, every little crevice is filled with 25mm-thick cooler board insulation for the walls and 75mm-thick for the roof. For added protection and durability, aluminium checkerplate is fitted to the bottom metre of each van.
The 45-degree rake at the rear of the van not only forms part of that distinctive Bushtracker shape, but also has a functional role to play. Due to the design, when entering or exiting steep creek crossings, there's far less chance of making an expensive sacrifice to the offroad gods. If your ambition does override your ability, a full-width steel skid plate and rear chassis provide extra protection as well as a mounting point for your MaxTrax, protection for the Narva LED tail-lights and a pair of HD chassis-mounted recovery points.
Underneath the van, there's actually not a lot going on at all. Apart from the Simplicity suspension, everything else is mounted up nice and high underneath the composite floor. Any electrical, potable or non-potable water and gas lines are run very neatly along the chassis rails as high as possible.
Galvanised steel plates are used to deflect rocks away from any vulnerable fittings, with convoluted split tubing providing extra protection as required.
When your travel plans have you heading into one of the far flung corners of our arid continent, you'll be happy knowing that you've got 270L of liquid gold on board, in three different tanks (90L potable, 180L non-potable) as well as a 90L tank for your grey water. The grey water tank comes with its own internal cleaning system to make flushing it out a very simple procedure.
At the front, a cavernous storage locker big enough to store your surfboard, has been lined with marine carpet and runs across the entire width of the van. This is where you can access your water pumps, as well as the van’s central nervous system. Well, its electrical system anyway.
To make the most out of your off-grid exploits, there's 450W of solar panels on the roof feeding our sun's plentiful energy to 300Ah of lithium batteries. Before leaving home on your epic adventures, a 60A 240V charger gets your batteries to full capacity, while a 30A DC/DC charger will keep the power topped up while driving via an Anderson plug connection on the drawbar. To make the most of all this power, low wattage LED lighting is used throughout the van, as well as conveniently-located USB charging ports, 12V sockets and general power outlets.
On the offside of the van, a large electric rollout awning offers shelter from the elements, as well as providing the perfect place to kick back and watch the sun go down at Happy Hour. External LED lights, in both white and yellow to keep those pesky insects away, are mounted along the outside of the van. Marine grade external speakers and an external AV locker with TV mount will keep you entertained well into the night.
Bushtracker vans don't mind going for a bit of a splash every now and then. Thanks to their external watertight door, they have a wading depth of 1.2m. Being waterproof also means that your van will be dust-proof as well. A great little optional extra is to have the Lifestyle external table fitted into the watertight door. It's the ideal spot for those drinks and nibblies when friends pop over to say G'day.
THE LAST LAUGH
Staying true to its roots (the company celebrates 25 years in business next year), Bushtracker continues to produce custom-built, offroad vans to the highest of standards. Not one to follow the crowd or use the latest gimmicks hitting the marketplace, you know that when you buy a Bushtracker, you've got it for a darn long time. Or until you want to sell that one and buy a bigger one!
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Length 5.79m (19ft)
Width 2.4m (8ft)
Height 2.95m (9ft 8in)
Frame 2mm and 3mm structural box section aluminium
Cladding White aluminium with tough, scratch-resistant powdercoat finish
Chassis Hot-dipped fully galvanised laminated double chassis
Suspension Tandem axle, fully independent Simplicity load sharing system with 60T stub axles
Coupling Hitch Ezy 5t fully articulating 4X4
Brakes 12in electric
Wheels 265/76R16 Bridgestone D697 All Terrain tyres on alloy rims (five-stud)
Water 3 x 90L tanks (1 x potable, 2 x non-potable) 1 x 90L grey
Battery 300Ah Lithium system
Solar 3 x 150W panels with 60A Morningstar regulator
Air-conditioner Dometic Ibis 4
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control N/A
Kitchen Durable laminate over marine grade ply or solid timber carcasses
Cooking Swift stove four-burner oven and grill with automatic ignition
Fridge 190L Bushman Compressor fridge
Microwave LG Inverter 23L
Bathroom Ensuite with separate shower/toilet/vanity
Washing machine 4kg Camec front-loader
Hot water Gas/electric hot water
Extra large front cargo doors, outdoor shower, 300mm extended drawbar, pre-wired for future inverter, alloy rim upgrade, electric step
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan,
please phone (07) 5476 5833