Here I was feeling just like teenager Marty McFly in the sci-fi movie phenomenon Back to the Future, who was blasted to 1955 in a DeLorean time machine prior to ‘visiting’ the year 2015 and eventually returning to 1985.
Yes, the ‘past, future and present’ simile was unavoidable while recently reviewing a ‘relaunched’ Jayco Airstream in Victoria’s picturesque Yarra Valley winery region.
And, like McFly, I felt both stranded in the past and catapulted into the future due to its retro/space-age appearance.
CW gained an exclusive: testing one of the first batch of eight US-built 18-footers to hit Australian soil. (OK, a couple of ‘prototypes’ arrived in Oz towards the middle of last year.)
Dispatched from Airstream USA headquarters in Ohio, the Airstreams are fully compliant (including a nearside entry door) on arrival Down Under. Jayco is the national distributor of Airstream caravans.
The only exceptions with this initial batch is that Jayco will install the Dometic Harrier air-conditioner, Camec battery and roof-mounted solar panel. These vans already have a Winegard Sensar HV aerial fitted.
If my calculations are correct …
Dubbed the 'Silver Bullet', the Airstreams are real head-turners with their polished and exposed riveted aluminium cladding, and a distinctive body shape that dates back to the 1930s. Their ‘rounded’ shape is based on designs created by Hawley Bowlus, who had earlier overseen construction of Charles Lindbergh’s aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis.
So, in true tradition, the funky little 5.7m (18ft 8in) number under review was sheer eye-candy — and it wasn’t all show and no go!
For starters, it rides on a galvanised LCI chassis and Dexter IRS suspension, along with 15in alloys and 225/70 R15 tyres.
Further, it boasts noteworthy capacities for on-road adventure — and also some off-grid credibility — courtesy of a 120Ah Camec AGM battery, 80L of freshwater, 96L of grey water, 80W of solar, plus a BMPRO J35 battery management system.
And its lightweight 1805kg Tare made touring a breeze with a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport tow-tug.
Externally, I’m completely won over by its shiny, riveted aluminium armour and a tinted wraparound front window that complements the futuristic look. (The central section of the front window opens out to allow additional light and ventilation for the bedroom.)
I’m also impressed with the rear entry door that is ‘camouflaged’ within the external cladding, and likewise the awning that has an ‘undetectable’ effect. And the panoramic nearside windows (bedroom and living zone) certainly provide for inviting vistas. Another tick of approval is a solar plug for utilisation of a portable panel.
However, apart from a small nearside hatch, storage is at a premium — and that’s also the theme internally. I also noticed the absence of a front storage locker, tunnel boot and drop-down picnic table. Additionally, there’s no slide-out kitchen, only a gas bayonet for al fresco cooking.
The Airstream’s front comprises a storage bin mounted on the A-frame that conceals and protects twin 9kg gas cylinders, along with an AL-KO 50mm ball coupling and AL-KO jockey wheel. There’s also a TrailSafe emergency breakaway safety unit. But there’s no water tap on the drawbar.
Meanwhile, the van’s offside comprises windows that ‘mirror’ those on the nearside (except they’re much smaller), Marinco cable TV point, vents for the hot water service and gas-ducted heater, exterior shower, lockable hatch for potable water only, water filler, 240V inlet, and Banjo shower outlet.
At the rear is a toilet cassette hatch, Furrion reversing camera, a couple of ensuite ‘portholes’ masquerading as windows, and stylish traffic lights.
This van also has an inner layer of aluminium, with insulation sandwiched between these walls and the outer layer. And the Airstream’s internal wall paneling also follows the ‘curvature’ of the upper-half of the van’s body.
Its front bedroom is quite compact, with an unusual bed size by Australian standards and no robes or dressers. There are two overhead lockers with ‘frosted’ sliding panels acting as cupboard doors that will keep your clothing tucked away neatly and securely, a curtain around the front window, a privacy curtain, two reading lamps, a Clarion speaker, four LED downlights, and a double powerpoint on the nearside at the foot of the bed.
There’s good storage under-bed, and that’s where the hot water system is housed. Although I must admit that internal storage is adequate but by no means copious.
What I really like is the snazzy roller blind setup, which is a consistent arrangement throughout the van. And I’m a fan of the ‘lever’ system that operates the opening of the windows. There’s also a skylight at the entrance to the bedroom.
At the foot of the bed on the offside is a cabinet with in-built Fusion entertainment system, a powerpoint and USB port, plus a cupboard and two slide-out drawers.
Adjacent to the cabinet is a gourmet galley with a round-bowl sink and tap, Smev two-burner cooktop and Thetford Duplex combined oven and grill. But strangely no rangehood to disperse steam and cooking odours.
Below the ample benchtop is an LG microwave, with slide-out drawer below. The splashback is obviously aluminium, and there’s also a double powerpoint for kitchen appliances etc.
Alongside the kitchen is a Thetford fridge/freezer, with a cupboard above the fridge. And adjacent to the fridge is a wardrobe with hanging space and a storage compartment above, and another double powerpoint.
Across from the galley is a comfortable living zone featuring a U-shaped lounge, with adjustable dining table, that will easily seat four people. It also converts to a two-berth sleeping quarters. I must also add that there’s abundant LED lighting throughout the dining room and galley.
The rear ensuite is a modest affair, albeit the spacious full-height fibreglass shower cubicle is a standout. It even has a moulded section for being seated and an in-built section with railing for holding toiletries, along with a concertina-style door. Oddly, there’s no extractor fan or lighting in the shower.
There’s an awkwardly placed Dometic toilet just off centre of the shower entrance, while a 12V hatch and lighting are centrally located.
The vanity is simply a washbasin and tap, with storage below. But a bonus is plenty of curved benchtop space. And the ensuite entry door, with a towel rail mounted to its back, provides complete privacy.
There’s a 12V hatch in front of the ensuite entry, and another Clarion speaker nearby.
Immediately right of entry are the JControl unit, three coat hooks, and a well-padded headboard which I’m sure will be occasionally welcomed when exiting the van.
Meanwhile, there are also ducts strategically placed to maximise efficiency of the Suburban gas heater.
Footnote: It’s well documented that Airstream’s rich history started from 1931, when a young entrepreneur and visionary called Wally Byam built the first ‘travel trailer’ in his backyard as his wife loved to camp, but didn’t like to sleep on the ground. (Now, where have I heard that before?) Byam’s vision for Airstream trailers was to use these design- and quality-driven products to allow people to dream, travel and explore the open road. Airstream has since evolved into a timeless classic.
Jayco owner Gerry Ryan even utilises a converted Airstream for mobile catering purposes at his Michelton Winery in Nagambie (north of Seymour, Vic).
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the parlance of Back to the Future, “the way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a caravan, why not do it with style?”
Alright, price may be a sticking point. But in terms of its uniqueness and wow factor, this 'Silver Bullet' hits you right between the eyes!
Yes, this sausage-shaped van is definitely different. But to steal another poignant line or two from the highest-grossing film of 1985: “Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”
With those prophetic words in mind, perhaps this iconic caravan will appeal to the 50-60+ demographic? Or more to a Michael J. Fox of the RV world, if you’ll excuse the pun.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 7.02m (23ft)
External body length 5.7m (18ft 8in)
External body width 2.22m (7ft 3in)
Travel height 2.82m (9ft 3in)
Internal height 1.99m (6ft 6in)
Ball weight 214kg
Chassis Galvanised LCI
Suspension Dexter IRS
Wheels 15in alloys, with 225/70 R15 tyres
Water 1x80L (fresh); 1x96L (grey)
Battery 1x120Ah AGM
Air-conditioner Dometic Harrier
Sway control No
Cooking Smev two-burner cooktop & Thetford Duplex grill/oven
Fridge Thetford N3141 three-way 141L
Bathroom Full-height fibreglass shower cubicle and Dometic CT4110 cassette toilet
Washing machine No
Hot water Suburban
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, please visit www.jayco.com.au or phone (03) 8792 2000.
- Distinctive body shape
- Tow-tug versatility
- Retro/futuristic look
- Emphasis on privacy
- Spacious shower cubicle
- Asking price could be perceived as exorbitant
- General storage is relatively sparse
- No picnic table
- Kitchen sans a rangehood.