The last thing I expected Andrew Brennen from Winjana RV to do when towing a 25ft fifth wheeler along a secondary road at over 80km/h was swerve suddenly to the right. And then the left. And then the right again. Left. Right. Left. Right. We weren’t trying out for the Winter Olympics, so I knew we weren’t on the giant slalom course.
While trying to keep my head as still as possible, I leant forward in the passenger seat to have a look in the side mirror. I expected to see the Cattai 760 being pulled behind the D-Max pitching violently from side to side, on the brink of completing a barrel roll and taking us with it.
I didn’t expect the massive fifth wheeler to follow diligently behind, mimicking the movements of the dual-cab ute. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, Andrew went through the same motions with the same result.
With those on-road shenanigans out of the way, we took a right-hander off the New England Highway into the Geham State Forest about 15 minutes north of Toowoomba in search of red soil and deep ruts to test the offroad credentials of both the tow vehicle and the van. It wasn’t long before a couple of tight turns and deep spoon drains needed to be negotiated.
While we weren’t scrabbling up rocky scree slopes or tackling wombat holes that would swallow a VW Beetle, I was impressed with how the Cattai 760 handled the obstacles. The lack of an extended draw bar helped it avoid scraping and bottoming out when traversing the undulations.
We even managed to get the D-Max and fifth wheeler on three wheels — just not both at the same time, that would have been impressive!
Putting it in to perspective, you’ll never pull this van up the OTL or down the CSR. But there’s a damn good chance you’ll tackle the Tanami or Peninsula Development Roads. Rest easy knowing that if you do, it will handle it with aplomb.
Although limited, the 12-month factory warranty will cover you on gazetted roads. Up to an additional two years warranty can be purchased which are covered by a third-party insurer.
THE BIG PICTURE
There is no doubt that at 7.6m (almost 25ft) long, this van is BIG. Making it look even bigger was the fact it was being hauled by a dual cab ute.
When comparing this fifth wheeler to a traditional van of similar size, there’s a good chance you’d see a 200 series LandCruiser, Y62 Patrol or a big American pick-up providing the towing effort — the money you save on your tow rig can be put towards your ‘Lap of the Map!’ It’s a win-win really.
Another advantage a fifth wheeler has is the reduced overall length. From hitch to taillights, the Cattai 760 maxes out at only 8m. Without the A-frame up front, you save approximately 2m in length.
Manoeuvrability is another plus. Tighter turns can be performed thanks to the tow hitch being over the rear axle of the tow vehicle.
FIFTH WHEELER HYBRID?
Most of you reading this mag would be familiar with the term, ‘hybrid’ pertaining to the world of offroad camper trailers morphing into smaller, offroad caravans. But what’s a fifth wheeler hybrid?
Well, the crew from Winjana RV coined this term to describe the Cattai 760. Designed to offer customers the best of both worlds, the Cattai 760 offers up a familiar caravan-like layout inside, with the added bonus of the safety of a fifth wheeler.
Normally, a fifth wheeler would have the main bedroom in the front overhang. However, in this model, the nose cone is used as a massive storage area, accessible from both the inside and outside.
With the front overhang occupied by storage space, the rest of the interior resembles what you normally expect in a traditional van. There’s still an island queen bed up front, down the back there’s a full width ensuite, while the kitchen and dinette occupy the central area of the floor plan.
I mentioned that there’s still an island queen bed up the front. However, due to the internal length of the van, it runs east/west across the van. The island design makes it easy to access both sides of the bed, as well as the massive robes that fill the nose cone.
A little bit of extra thinking has gone into how the robe doors have been hinged, allowing for unimpeded access to the robes on the offside.
Large double-glazed, tinted windows occupy the walls at the head and foot of the bed, providing plenty of light and cross-ventilation. These are also fitted with midgee-proof screens and block out blinds for added privacy.
Personal item storage is limited to a small shelf beside the bed where a pair of 240V outlets provide options to charge phones or the like. For bookworms, LED reading lights are located on either side.
Extra storage space is also available under the bed thanks to gas-strut assisted lifting. This storage space can be modified to suit the customer’s preferences — in this case, the compartment is split 50/50 with internal and external storage.
COOKING UP A STORM
With a galley style kitchen in most caravans, the first thing that strikes you is the lack of preparation or bench space. But, when you’ve got a 25ft van, you won’t have that problem.
On top of the ample bench space, you are spoilt with an impressive amount of storage space hidden behind the solid North American Oak timber drawer and door fronts.
There is not a scrap of MDF or particleboard to be found anywhere in this build. The furniture carcasses are constructed from either 1in x ¾in or 1½in x ¾in Canadian spruce and marine grade ply, and, in part, go a long way to make up the structural integrity of the Cattai 760.
Under the bench are large pot and pan drawers, as well as standard cutlery drawers, plus cupboard storage underneath the stainless-steel sink. Impressively, the plumbing has been routed to the sides of the cupboard to maximise available space.
Large overhead cupboards along both sides of the van give more storage options, and the pantry beside the 210L Evakool Fridge will hold enough food for weeks on the open road.
On-board cooking duties are taken care of by a Thetford 2-burner gas cooktop and an under-bench mounted microwave, while a range hood rounds out the kitchen appliances.
Located on the offside wall opposite the kitchen is the lounge/dinette. The sofa style seating has a simple swivel table that can be moved around to accommodate different needs. The table is also easily removed to allow the seating to convert into a sofa bed.
On the walls next to the dinette, the Sphere MPPT solar charge controller takes pride of place along with the potable and grey water tank gauges.
KEEPING IT CLEAN
Straight up, I’m going to give the shower 10/10!
Winjana RV have utilised a one-piece domestic shower cubicle in this build and it incorporates a full width drain — no more having to make sure the van is 100 per cent level so the water will flow away down a 1in drain. The shower also utilises a 3-piece sliding shower screen which is perfect for tight spaces.
Along the offside wall, a vanity unit has a storage cabinet underneath, alongside a 4kg Camec front load washing machine. A two-doored medicine cabinet (one with mirror) sits above and a single power point is provided for your hair dryer or electric shaver.
A Thetford cassette toilet takes pride of place between the shower and vanity with plenty of elbow and knee room all round.
Perhaps I’ve been conditioned by the ultra-modern and sleek interiors of the majority of vans on the market, but to me the interior of the Cattai 760 looks a little dated. However, as part of this results from the use of quality solid timber cupboard doors and drawers and part from Winjana RV not wanting to compromise aspects of their design, it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Different wall coverings may also improve the appearance and give it a more modern look. At the end of the day, this is only my opinion based on this particular fit out and all internal colours and finishes can be chosen by the customer to suit their tastes.
Just like the furniture carcasses, the frames of all Winjana RV fifth wheelers are constructed from Canadian spruce. The wall frames get 1in x 1 ½in studs while the roof gets 1½in x 1½in cross beams.
Polyester insulation is used throughout before aluminium cladding is applied to all external surfaces. To minimise leakage issues, a single aluminium skin is utilised on the roof which then rolls down over the first layer of the wall cladding.
It’s no use having a solid product up top if the foundations below don’t live up to the same standard.
A local manufacturer of heavy industrial and agricultural products takes care of the chassis that are purpose built. Constructed from 150mm x 50mm x 3mm powder coated RHS steel, the chassis and sub frame more resembles a trailer normally pulled by a semi, not a 4WD. It is designed this way to torque and twist and allow for movement. A ¾in exterior grade plywood floor sits atop the chassis.
Incorporated into the chassis are the front rails of the gooseneck which provide the mounting point for the Hayman Reese Revolution Pin Box which attaches to the vehicle mounted receiver. As part of the purchasing process, Winjana RV can organise for this to be fitted to your tow vehicle.
Also beneath the front overhang on each corner are two electric jacks which are operated individually via a control panel. In the unfortunate event of an electrical failure, there is a manual override included.
SUSPENSION AND STUFF
Keeping with truck theme, the Cattai 760 rides on a Timbren Rough Road 4.5t Independent Suspension system. Having not had the pleasure of seeing this type of system previously, I was very interested to see how it handled both bitumen and dirt.
As mentioned previously, it did everything required over fast, smooth highway driving, secondary country roads, gravel tracks and offroad obstacles. It goes to show you don’t need fully independent coil spring suspension with twin shocks for good ride quality.
Our test unit came fitted with the standard 160L freshwater tank and the optional 110L grey water tank. An additional 110L freshwater tank can be added for those extended forays into the bush.
A particular bugbear of mine are the one percenters — that final finishing touch, last little detail, the cherry on top.
Or in the case of the Cattai 760, that last bit of wiring or silicone. While the overall fit and finish was of a very high standard, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of issues, especially beneath the plywood floor.
In some instances, wiring was stretched tight and not run through convoluted split tube, while other wiring was wrapped around water pipe and also not protected by split tube.
Care had also not been taken when drilling through the floor, with jagged and splintered edges providing a sharp edge to wear through wiring and water lines. Some of the holes were even missing silicone to prevent the ingress of dust and water into the cabin.
While these may seem like minor issues that can be remedied rather quickly, they can also take the gloss off the final product, especially for a customer picking up their brand-new purchase.
One thing that the Cattai 760 doesn’t want for is storage. With a payload of 780kg, most will struggle to get close to its ATM of 3500kg.
On top of the internal storage, the Cattai 760 doesn’t lack in external storage spaces either. Up high across the front of the nose cone, is a full width tunnel boot. It’s so spacious that unless you’re packing really long articles, you’re going to need a ladder to access it fully.
Located towards the front of the van on the offside is another large storage boot — the other half of the 50/50 split under bed storage area. In here, you’ll find the two 100Ah lead crystal batteries which are charged by three 160W solar panels.
Gas storage is by way of a pair of 9kg lockable gas bottle holders bolted to a chassis mounted frame under the front overhang. An optional generator box and jerry can mounts can also be fitted to this front frame.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I must say, I was pretty impressed with my first review of a fifth wheeler. While this type of setup isn’t for everyone, I think a lot more people should put them on their radar when considering a new touring setup. Especially if you already own a dual cab ute and are looking for a bigger van to pull around the country.
WINJANA RV COMPANY PROFILE
Winjana RV started back in 2000, were known as Adventure RV, and imported Canadian built fifth wheelers.
By 2002, they were importing flat pack models (yep, like IKEA) and manufacturing from their home base in Toowoomba.
A different path was then chosen, and in 2006 they started building their own designs specifically targeted at the Australian market.
Now in 2020, they continue to produce fully custom-built fifth wheelers from their Toowoomba workshop and offer friendly service along the way.
Of particular note, was their delivery process. Don’t just allow a couple of hours for a brief rundown and handover. For a Winjana delivery, you have to allow three days! Yep, three days.
In that time, you’ll stay in your van at the factory while your tow vehicle is whisked away to have the ADR compliant hitch fitted.
This also allows new owners to go through everything with a fine-tooth comb and make sure it’s up to scratch. If any issues are found, or an extra shelf in a cupboard required, these can be fitted before you head off into the sunset.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 7.6m (25ft)
Overall length 8.0m (26ft 3in)
Width 2.43m (8ft)
Overall Height 3.05m (10ft) including A/C unit
Internal Height 1.96m (6ft 5in)
Payload (calculated) 780kg
Pin weight 440kg
Bed Size Queen (island east/west)
Frame Canadian spruce timber frame
Cladding Single piece Aluminium roof, 19mm plywood floor, Aluminium all cladding
Chassis Powdercoated RHS 6in x 2in Chassis Rails
Suspension Timbren Rough Road 4.5t Independent Suspension
Coupling Hayman Reese Revolution Pin Box
Brakes 10in electric drum brakes
Wheels/Tyres 6in 6-stud steel wheels with 225/75R16 Goodyear Wrangler All Terrains
Water 1 x 160L (potable) 1 x 110L grey
Battery 2 x 100Ah Lead Crystal
Solar 3 x 150W panels
Air-conditioner Dometic A/C unit
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Thetford Gas Cooktop (2 x gas hob)
Fridge 210L Evakool (12V and 240V)
Bathroom Ensuite w/ separate shower
Hot water Swift 20L HWS
Microwave 23L dLuxx Microwave
Washing Machine 4kg Camec front loader
‘FREE CAMPING’ UPGRADE PACK which includes:
Extra 100Ah battery
Extra 2 x 150W solar panels
110L grey water tank
210L Evakool fridge
Rough Road Suspension
WARRANTY 1-year warranty. Option to purchase an additional two
RVMAP Accredited? No
PRICE AS SHOWN
$105,000 (includes hitch and fitting to a standard dual cab ute tube)
To enquire about this caravan, visit winjanafifthwheelers.com.au