When you look into and under as many caravans and talk to as many owners as we do at Caravan World, you get a pretty good idea of what rates and what features deserve special mention.
Evernew caravans, which have been made in Melbourne by the same family company since 1963, fall into that select category. They are not trendy or particularly fashionable and they won’t be the cheapest van of their size.
They have been selling direct since the early 1980s and haven’t been seen at caravan shows for the past decade, but there’s little doubt that they are among the very best-built caravans you can buy, have excellent resale and will last you as long as you have the taste for travel.
Their ‘old school’ values don’t mean that they are dated in their design, though. Manager Darren French was an electronics engineer specialising in industrial robots before he joined his father-in-law and Evernew co-founder Bruce Bailey in the business nearly 10 years ago, and the latest caravans that Evernew builds at Heidelberg, Vic, are among the industry leaders in their 12V electrics and efficient power management.
The Evernew 50th Anniversary caravan, introduced this year to mark the company’s half-century in the business, is a showcase of all of these qualities, while incorporating enough of the latest bells and whistles to satisfy most buyers new to the brand.
BUILDING THE EVERNEW
Like all Evernews, which are custom built to individual owner requirements, the caravan we tested was unique. For a start, it was a shiny silver – the first aluminium-clad Evernew built that was not white – and while based on the company’s most popular E900 Series 19ft 10in (6.05m) internal length model, it incorporated many of the features most requested by Evernew customers in recent years in its $75,950 package price.
The new silver Camec aluminium cladding, with its matching Camec triple-locker centre-entry door, blue and black midriff striping, contrasting black checkerplate front and side protection, and large Camec double-glazed windows all-round, certainly made the anniversary model a standout.
Adding to its appeal, it was fitted with 150x50mm main bearers and matching A-frame offroad chassis, although all Evernews, with their standard 100x50mm underpinnings and 50mm riser anecdotally are tough enough for all marked Australian ‘roads’.
Built to Evernew’s specification by G&S, each chassis incorporates fabricated cross braces every 18in for extra torsional rigidity, with additional steel plating welded to areas subject to the greatest flex, such as the section where the A-frame joins the main beams and around the door opening. One look at a ‘naked’ Evernew will tell you that these are the underpinnings of a caravan built to last.
Cruisemaster 3.5t coil spring independent suspension with two telescopic shock absorbers per wheel, 12in Al-Ko electric brakes, a Hyland offroad coupling and twin jerry can holders are also part of the offroad package of the 50th Anniversary van, which is visually set off by tough-looking black alloy wheels shod with 265/75-16 General Grabber AT2 offroad tyres.
Customers can also specify other types of independent, leaf-spring and even airbag suspension, depending on their intended usage.
Whatever they choose, they will get a payload that is usually double or more than the industry benchmark of 400kg for a tandem-axle van, a figure that is perhaps outdated now, considering many vans have twin water tanks and often carry a range of holiday equipment, ranging from generators to outboard motors.
Typically, Evernew caravans carry more than most, as they are usually engaged in long-term travel and many are in fact their owners’ mobile homes, so Evernew builds a minimum of 500kg payload into every van.
Evernew continues to use meranti timber framing with aluminium outer-wall cladding because of its proven combination of light weight, long life and flexibility, but its 70mm-diameter Oregon roof beams spaced 18in apart are almost double the size of the 42mm meranti finger-jointed bearers used by most manufacturers, and are checked into the walls to create a substantial and rigid structure.
The floor is also 12mm-thick glued and riveted, tongue-and-groove sheeting, rather than the butt-fitting material used on many vans, while up to five layers of moisture protection is used in vulnerable areas, such as the leading edge of the roof. Polyurethane adhesives are also used at Evernew, as they don’t crack over time.
In another example of attention to detail, polystyrene insulation is packed into the walls to fill as many small gaps as possible, while the larger-than-usual roof cavity is filled with fibreglass insulation batts, similar to a house.
One of the benefits of selling direct is that customers get to see these features before signing up and are then welcome to follow their van’s progress as it’s built, which takes from four to six months, depending on how busy the factory is at the time.
Inside, the 50th Anniversary van is immediately recognisable as an Evernew, with its solid timber Tasmanian oak furniture. Substantial bulkheads and bracing add further rigidity to the whole structure. The blond wood toning of the test van, with contrasting blue Italian leather used for the four-seater café dinette and light grey Laminex benchtops, gave it a light and spacious look.
Thanks in part to Darren French’s electronics know-how, the van has plenty of the latest ‘smarts’. These include second generation High Brightness LED lighting and a clever power management system that will allow most users to be self-sufficient for seven to 10 days with the van’s single 100Ah deep-cycle battery and 80W monocrystaline roof-mounted solar panel. A pair of 95L water tanks completes the sustainability package.
The 50th Anniversary Evernew is also up with the times in comfort. A china bowl Thetford cassette toilet and separate shower, a top-loading washing machine that sits in its own tub (with external drainage to avoid overflow damage to the floor), a roof-mounted, low profile Ibis reverse-cycle air-conditioner, four-burner cooktop, standard oven and Samsung microwave, a 19in TV/DVD/PVR and a quality Pioneer sound system with iPod connectivity and four internal speakers, are standard features on the Anniversary model.
But even here, there’s an Evernew difference. For example, the furniture is screwed in place from both the front and back, adding structural strength – although repairers apparently don’t like it, as it makes their job harder – while edging is done in timber wherever possible. The van’s standard three-way Dometic 190L fridge-freezer has both large wall and roof ventilation for greater thermal efficiency, while it can be accessed via a side exterior door for servicing when required. And the front bedroom can be closed off from the rest of the van, thanks to the concertina privacy screen.
There’s no external front storage locker, which would mean a loss of around 18in of internal space for a van of this size. Instead, there is a large, full-width tunnel boot that can also be accessed from beneath the lift-up queen-size bed, where there is also plenty of space for other travelling essentials.
Separate hatches on the van’s nearside provide vented storage space for a 240V generator, while above there’s a separate, large storage area for chairs and the like. A quality Dometic A&E 8500 roll-out awning and a drop-down picnic table complete the exterior features, although a separate hatch for a TV arm and the 240V and 12V power outlets is optional and would be appreciated.
Of course, being a custom builder of everything from 14ft pop-tops to 35ft tri-axle mobile home caravans for mining sites, buyers can generally have their Evernew built to their specific requirements and it’s commonplace for potential purchasers to arrive with pages of specifications and home drawings.
With a Tare weight of 2340kg and an ATM of 3500kg, the 50th Anniversary Evernew needs to be towed by a substantial 4WD to get it to the remote places to where it can comfortably travel. A vehicle such as a LandCruiser 200 Series would do the trick, but you could buy a good used Land Rover Discovery Series II diesel with similar capability for a fraction of the Toyota’s price tag.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s hard to pick holes in this 50th Anniversary van, but given its likely long-term, all-road usage, I’d like to see a second spare wheel as standard (currently a $525 option), along with more front stone protection (a stone guard on the drawbar is $350 extra).
And given its special status marking Evernew’s half-century, Al-Ko’s Electronic Stability Control as standard (currently a very reasonably-priced $750 extra), would round off an already impressive package and still leave more than $2000 change out of $80,000.
By my estimation, that is still probably $40,000 or more shy of what you might be quoted for a similar spec van with serious offroad capability from other specialist builders.
- Construction quality and integrity
- Custom-built design
- Value for money
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
- Second spare wheel standard
- More standard stone protection
- Side storage cupboard needs step to open
Originally published in Caravan World #515, June/July 2013.