· Tandem axle 6.4m (21ft) van
· Contemporary finish
· Mid-to-large 4WD required for towing
· Front bedroom, full-width rear bathroom
South-east Queensland is the second largest centre of caravan manufacturing in Australia, the outer Melbourne region (Campbellfield, anyone?) being the first. The geographical difference produces quite a diverse range of RVs, especially when you take in manufacturers from the north as well.
One of the newest manufacturers in that region is a company called Explorer Caravans, which has recently started producing a range of caravans and moulded fibreglass motorhomes. One of the first caravans off the line was a tandem axle 6.4m (21ft) Barra.
From the outside, the Barra might look like any other caravan but, on the inside, things are a bit different. For a start, there isn't a piece of stained or unstained wood to be seen, except on the inside of the cupboard and locker doors, and the pseudo-timber floor. White is the dominant colour and, while it might have some reaching for the sunglasses, the darker greys of the benchtops and doors offset it nicely. All the Seitz hopper windows have the usual integrated blinds, insect screens and slimline venetian blinds as well.
The Barra's interior is split into three areas, a front bedroom, dinette/kitchen, and rear bathroom, through partitioning and a concertina curtain between the bedroom and kitchen.
There is a fair bit of space to move around in the rear bathroom, even with a full-sized shower cubicle on one side and a Thetford cassette toilet on the other. Filling the rest of the rear-wall space is the vanity cabinet with a contemporary washbasin and wall mirror, but there are also multi-shelved cupboards to the side and below, along with overhead lockers above. Completing the picture is a top-loading washing machine with a flush lid, which creates useful benchtop space when it's not being used.
Taking up the whole mid-offside wall, the kitchen bench offers a generous amount of just about everything, including storage and benchtop space, although a few more drawers instead of cupboards would be useful. Part of one of the lower cupboards is taken up by the wheel arch. Naturally there are all the kitchen essentials, such as a four-burner cooktop/grill/oven, stainless steel sink and Thetford three-way 184L fridge. A microwave is set into the overhead locker space but at a lower level, making it bit more user-friendly than some. Above the fridge, the control panel inludes items such as the water tank gauges and hot water switching, but the 12V fuses are in the front boot.
Opposite the kitchen bench, the L-shaped dinette will seat two people comfortably. The table is fitted on the usual single-pole mount, which means it can be turned around and lifted off if it's not needed.
Access to the under-seat area is by a floor locker or lifting the seat cushions off.
Windows all around the bedroom area supply a good amount of both natural light and fresh air. The posture-slatted bed base has an innerspring mattress that measures 1.9x1.55m (6ft 3in). It can be lifted for access to the compartmentalised storage space underneath.
Wardrobes and overhead lockers form the bedside storage area, along with a couple of diagonal cupboards in the corners. Mounted above the offside cupboards, the swivel-mounted TV can be seen from either the bed or the dinette.
Built on a SupaGal Preston chassis, which uses 100x50mm (4x2in) RHS steel for both the main rails and drawbar, along with a 50mm (2in) riser, the Barra rides on Simplicity independent suspension, a tandem-axle set up that comes with trailing arms and a common inverted leaf spring.
A look under the van reveals all the pipework and cabling to be neatly strapped up out of the way. The two 85L water tanks, with gal sheet protection, are mounted forward of the wheels.
There are no surprises on the drawbar, which just has two 9kg gas cylinders and the usual items like the ball coupling, hand brake and centre-mounted jockey wheel. Ditto at the rear where the square bumper bar sports two spare wheels.
Above the chassis, the body has a timber frame, insulation and aluminium cladding. One of the benefits of the white and alloy checkerplate finish is that it does not show the dust and dirt as much as darker surfaces.
For storage, there is a front boot with tunnel storage directly behind it. Part of the nearside tunnel is taken up by a slide-out barbecue, though, while part of the front boot is taken up by the deep-cycle batteries and fuses.
Under the Dometic awning, two LED wall lights illuminate the side area very nicely. Additional features include the picnic table and both 240V and 12V sockets plus a TV antenna. TV watchers might have to think about where they put the TV because there isn't an external bracket.
On the road, the Barra weighs in with an ATM of 2680kg and a Tare of 2280kg, giving the usual 400kg load capacity for a tandem-axle van. Unladen, the van has a ball weight of 180kg, making it towable by a mid-to-large 4WD. It tows quite smoothly without any unwanted surprises.
THE BOTTOM LINE
From the outside, the Explorer Barra looks similar to many other caravans but, inside, the general décor is a bit more creative, giving the van a much more unique look. The layout offers plenty of interior living space in what is not an excessively heavy caravan, and the Simplicity suspension offers the possibility of rough-road touring, in addition to conventional blacktop adventures.
· Interior décor
· Very tidy under chassis
· Kitchen bench
· Sizeable fridge
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
· More easily-accessible 12V fuses
· Cupboard frames with matched finish
· Drawer access to under-dinette storage
Getaway Caravans and Bundaberg Marineland, 6 Enterprise Street, Kunda Park, Qld 4556, (07) 5453 7587, 0411 571 355, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.getawaycaravans.com.au
Originally published in Caravan World #508, December 2012