If your memory goes back far enough, a Millard could have been one of the first caravans you ever saw. Probably because it has been around since 1947, proving to be one of our most enduring builders and one of only a few to have survived in NSW.
The company was recently sold to Q-Flow Australia with plans in place to expand the Ingleburn facility with the leasing of a second factory and upgrades including new CNC equipment for improved cabinetry in the vans. New models are also on the way for release in 2020 but current production is dedicated to catching up on a healthy number of back orders.
While Millard has a set of standard layouts across its range of Toura (semi-offroad) and Breakaway (full offroad) vans, it is essentially a custom builder, happy to fill customer needs. But, having said that, even its standard packages are very impressive.
Our test van is a 5.9m (19ft 6in) Breakaway with a vast array of standard features that make it a ready-to-go package most couples would be happy to hook up as is and head off to far horizons…
Millard has dealers across Australia and New Zealand and we tracked down our test van through Geelong Caravans in Victoria, for a tour of the Bellarine Peninsula and into bushland near the Great Ocean Road.
Like all the vans across the Millard range, the Breakaway features an interlocking aluminium frame braced with steel gussets at corners and stress areas. The construction is rigid, durable and rot-free and has been a signature construction method perfected over many years and through generations of different models.
Smooth, finished composite cladding lends a modern look that departs from the traditional Millard rolled sheeting. The older finish is available on request, although the composite has better insulation, a better weather seal and is more resistant to damage. It also looks better.
Talking about looks, the Breakaway has the assertive, high-riding toughness we have come to expect from an offroad-style van. Black checkerplate runs high along the sides and front section, topped with battleship grey topsides. Splashes of day-glow orange and yellow as well as orange powder-coated scrub bars low down send a clear, no-nonsense message to the world. I like the tough but restrained impression it creates, without going over the top.
Up top is a 25mm composite lightweight sandwich panel roof, which ensures waterproofing and temperature control. Underneath, the floor sits on 4in risers over a 6in chassis that is built in-house from Australian steel. The ply floor has a metal sheet bonded underneath for added protection, and in keeping with its rough road ambitions, all plumbing and electrics have been led out of harm's way.
Cruisemaster’s very capable XT suspension softened the ride and allowed the van to track surely. This super-strong Australian-made system uses tandem axle trailing arms rated to 3.5t and employs coil springs and twin shock absorbers at each arm. Adding to the rugged package are sets of brushed silver and black 16in Primal alloy wheels, shod with aggressive-looking 265 x 75 offroad tyres.
A Cruisemaster DO35 hitch provides extreme articulation over undulating ground as well as the assurance that the hitch is securely attached through the loud metal clang as it locks in place and the security cap that only fits when things are correct. Accessories include AL-KO Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and a stone guard protecting a full-width aluminium toolbox, which in turn adds a second level of safety to the gas bottles. I think this is a thoughtful idea on an offroad van, both from negating flying rock damage, and also by being able to lock the gas away in remote areas. The toolbox also has room for a 2kVA generator on a slide-out while a large LED light up high will make unpacking easy at night.
Setting the scene
Millard recognises the importance of being outside when camping in off-the-grid locations, and isn't that what an offroad van like the Breakaway is all about? Up front is an impressive Finch Alfresco slide-out kitchen with stainless steel sink and a combination cooktop and lid-down BBQ. Because the cooker is at the end, rather than along the kitchen’s side, there’s plenty of room for social interaction and offering unsolicited advice to the cook.
Another LED lights up the kitchen, and a drop-down table is handy for food preparation and includes a map of Australia on its vertical face. It won’t get you out of trouble unless you’re seriously lost, but I bet filling in the lines of your travel will be fun.
A full-length awning covers the curbside area of the van, and a set of external speakers sends music from the internal CD/DVD sound system, which also has sockets for a TV at the picnic table.
The spare tyre and a couple of jerry can holders sit on a raunchy orange bar at the back, but with safety laws being what they are, you would only carry water, so maybe a couple of general carry-alls might be more useful here. More active types will like the bike rack though, and the extra-bright reversing light and rear camera are bound to come in handy.
Putting on the Ritz
A fold-down step aids the big jump up to the caravan's interior — however no serious offroader would order such a step, so if impressions are important, just ask for a removable plastic one, because the fitted version will last five minutes on any challenging track and it’s a dead giveaway that you haven’t blooded your rig.
And you better dump your muddy boots if you want to come inside because it's too good to make a mess. The layout sets the full-width ensuite at the rear and the bedroom up front, leaving room for cooking and relaxing in the central living area, brightly lit from large windows and overhead hatches.
Lots of colour options are available for the interior design, and the test van takes a safe path with understated greys and blacks against the white walls and ceiling. Nearly all the surfaces have a shiny gloss finish, which seems to be the current trend. It looks fresh and contemporary, and some zany patterned cushions at the diner keep things from being too austere.
A queen bed upfront is surrounded by hanging cupboards and sets of drawers to the sides and two cupboards overhead. The base lifts on gas struts to a neat storage area that is reduced in size by the separate compartment for the slide-out kitchen. It still leaves loads of space for spare bedding and different season clothes.
The living space includes a curbside dinette with deep cushions upholstered in stain-resistant fabric. Hatches down low access the storage space underneath without having to lift the pillows and the tri-fold table gives options for eating or relaxing. Wall mounts for 240V and 12V make the dinette a handy spot for working on a computer or charging phones.
Opposite is the kitchen with well equipped quality appliances and, with lids over the sink and stove, enough usable bench space to get by. There’s a rangehood, a Smev four-burner cooktop-grill, cupboards, drawers and a pull-out pantry built into the bench. Higher cabinets include the Finch CD/DVD player, a hatch for the main electric breakers as well as a panel for fuses and an RV Electronics digital screen for water and battery levels.
Rearward is an NCE microwave over a 218L Waeco gas/12V fridge. (As always, it concerns me that the high microwave is a potential danger with hot liquids.)
Keeping it clean
Millard has managed the right balance between maximising available space inside the 5.9m (19ft 6in) footprint and installing a bathroom with room to move. At the same time, the team have utilised every skerrick of possible space in the ensuite for storage, with useful cupboards squeezed in high and low. A black circular floating bowl with matching designer mixer tap is straight out of Vogue and the wide mirror is well lit for intricate touches to your makeup.
To the right end of the vanity, a lid lifts to reveal an NCE top-loading washing machine secreted underneath.
The black tapware theme carries through to the roomy, moulded fibreglass shower on the curbside with a Dometic cassette toilet opposite. A 95L grey water tank allows camping in national parks.
You can spend extended time off-grid with onboard battery power and a good supply of water — well as long as you remove long showers from your daily routine.
Twin 95L water tanks are ample for drinking and cooking, and the pair of 100Ah batteries charged by two 150W solar panels will keep electrical items running indefinitely with frugal use. Add in twin 9kg gas bottles for cooking and the good times just keep rolling on.
Offroading or Rough-roading
The concept of an offroad caravan is very subjective because every man and his dingo build an offroader, but nobody can really tell you what it is.
And when it comes to the crunch, who in the world is going to take their own 3500kg, 5.9m-long caravan offroad?
So, let’s define our Breakaway’s raison d’etre, Millard isn't giving too much away on this front — just explaining on its website that: “It’s perfect for the adventurous wanting to see the real Australia."
Let’s assume Millard means getting out in the Australian bush, far from the big smoke where sunrise makes you want to shed a tear, and it's bright enough to read by the stars at night. Getting there doesn't mean you need a Unimog and a tent. It does mean you need a van that can cope with hundreds of kilometres of corrugations and some deep washouts looking for the perfect campsite.
It's an offroader in the sense that offroad is just over there near the creek so forget the Simpson or track X into Maidens Bluff where you need a winch and 10 years of good luck just to make the first 5km.
If you readjust your aspirations to a realistic level, then the Breakaway is up to the task. The suspension and chassis are built to handle rough roads, and the sturdy metal frame will stay square.
In our travels we ran over rough tracks and through some tight tea tree environments looking for photo opportunities and then down steep dam walls and hidden rabbit holes before setting up camp at the Whinbury Hill Equestrian Centre at Paraparap. The van stayed dust-free and drawers inside stayed closed, and nothing came loose.
Unloaded weight is 2600kg, and it has a 730kg capacity to its 3500kg ATM. That's a very impressive payload, even taking in 180kg for water in the two tanks. A heavy-duty tow vehicle would handle it with ease, but with that much weight capacity, you need to be mindful of where you place the load to ensure safe towing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Over the last 10 years, the demand for more rugged caravans has blossomed, and lots of vans now fight it out in the offroad space.
Millard has been upfront along the journey with its Australian-made ethic for well-built and reliable products. The Breakaway will suit couples planning to get away from the blacktop and into the heart of our country where roads might see a grader once in a blue moon.
This van is well equipped and solidly built and, in my opinion, well worth its price tag as tested, of $89,270.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.15m (26ft)
External body length 5.9m
External body width 2.5m (8ft)
Travel height 3.2m (10ft)
Internal height 1.98m (6ft)
Ball weight 170kg
Chassis Hot-dipped galvanised
Suspension Cruisemaster XT
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes AL-KO electric wheels 17in offroad
Water 2 x 95L + 1 x 95L grey water
Battery 2 x 100Ah
Solar 2 x 150W
Air-conditioner Belair 3200
Gas 2 x 9kg bottles
Sway control Yes
Kitchen Pull-out Alfresco Finch unit
Cooking Smev four-burner/grill
Fridge 12V 218L Waeco
Microwave NCE 25L
Bathroom Shower/separate toilet, full ensuite
Washing machine NCE top-loader
Hot water gas/electric swift
Gas bayonet; external speakers; bike rack; large toolbox with generator; front stone shield protector; external shower;
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, contact Millard RV, 3 Heald Rd, Ingleburn, NSW 2455
Ph: 02 9829 2055
134 Bellarine Hwy,
Newcombe VIC 3219
Ph: (03) 5248 2666