ALTHOUGH AUSTRALIA AND SOUTH Africa have very similar climates (and people), there isn't a great deal of interchange of RV products between the two countries. Australia does have a few campertrailers and roof-top tents (very popular in the South African bush for some reason), but the sole South African caravan representative down under is Jurgens.
Although the Jurgens range is fully manufactured here in Australia, there are clearly a few South African influences in the design. The vans are built a little differently to the usual Vic-sourced local RVs - which I don't think is a disadvantage.
I decided to check out one of the new Jurgens Lunagazers from Alan Graham's Caravans in Gosford, north of Sydney. Andy Graham had a J2405 model polished up and ready to go and it wasn't long before the van was hitched-up to my Toyota LandCruiser and I was heading north.
To be honest, the LandCruiser's 4.7L 202kW petrol engine was really overkill for the Lunagazer, which has an ATM of 2080kg. The van breezed along without any problems whatsoever and I had no doubt that a much smaller tow vehicle would more than suffice.
My destination for this little jaunt was the wine growing region in the Hunter Valley. I should confess that my wine tastes aren't really too Hunter-orientated, but there are few things better than a couple of days in some beautiful wine country - especially in a Lungazer van with large exterior windows that allow you to see the world go by.
One of the Lunagazer's points of difference is that it doesn't have a stone shield for its (very) large front window. Rather, a padded vinyl cover ties and velcros on, wrapping most of the van's front wall. A handy zipped flap gives access to the front boot. It's a little fiddly, but nicely protects the front end.
Like the rest of the Jurgens range, the J2405 comes with a hot-dipped galvanised chassis. It isn't, however, the usual RHS beam structure. Instead, extra-wide bracing has been employed around the tandem axles, giving the chassis a slightly odd profile. Punched holes along the entire length help to keep the weight down.
Rather than conventional leaf spring suspension, there is an Al-Ko Independent Rubber Suspension torsion setup with shock absorbers. To complete the somewhat unusual look, an Al-Ko stabiliser, not a conventional ball coupling, sits at the pointy end. This stabiliser may look a little daunting, but is actually quite easy to use and is fitted with spring-loaded friction pads to reduce stability problems.
For the body, a vacuum-bonded sandwich panel construction of aluminium skin, timber, polystyrene, plywood and PVC "wallpaper" is utilised. As with the chassis, the designers have gone for a high strength-to-weight ratio and, aesthetically speaking, the end result is a pretty good one.
External storage consists of both front and tunnel boots, with a bin door at the front nearside. Part of the front boot is taken up by the 9kg gas cylinder (with provision for a second) as well as the spare wheel.
BRIGHT AND BREEZY
The Lunagazer's many big windows create a very open feel and with mottled wall lining, light hue cabinetry and darker upholstery, the interior look is a very pleasing one. Lighting is a mixture of fluorescent and halogen, with fittings just about everywhere they are needed.
Up front, the posture slat bed mattress measures 1.72x1.5m (5ft 8in x 4ft 11in), but it can easily be extended by a bolster for a total length of 2m (6ft 6in). Even when the bed is extended, there is still an acceptable amount of walk-around space because there are no foot-of-bed corner cupboards.
There are the standard overhead lockers and wardrobes around the bedhead, but no bedside cabinets. A clock and an AM/FM radio/CD player are mounted between the overhead lockers, but this spot does make it a bit awkward to change radio stations.
One option with this van's layout is to have two single beds instead of the island bed, and it's not hard to see how that might work for a couple seeking more of a day time lounge area.
In the middle of the van, the kitchen bench sits along the offside wall, with the dinette opposite. Fitted out quite conventionally, the kitchen bench features a Spinflo four-burner cooktop/grill, stainless steel sink avec drainer and Thetford 164L three-way fridge. A Sanyo microwave sits in the lockers above the fridge.
The cupboards and benchtop might look a little erratic, but the end result is a pleasing selection of variably sized cupboards, drawers and overhead lockers. That includes the forward cupboard with a roller shutter door, which allows easy access. All cupboards and lockers have an extra shelf.
Given the van's length of nearly 6.4m (21ft), there isn't an excessive amount of bench space. But what there is, along with the cooktop lid and sink, has been put together in a workable arrangement. Only a small window has been fitted behind the kitchen bench, but a large marine-style hatch overhead gives plenty of light and fresh air.
Best suited to two people, the dinette comes with contoured cushions (both seat back and wall) and a tri-fold table. A shelf sits underneath the table and there are the usual overhead lockers. Not so usual, though, is the fact that these stylish lockers feature transparent doors and open shelves in the middle. The end result is practical and pleasing to the eye. There is under-seat storage, although some space in the forward unit is taken by the van's house battery.
In order to fit in and remain workable, the full-width rear bathroom is a slightly odd shape. It is narrower at the nearside end, which contains the Thetford cassette toilet, before opening up to the width of the shower cubicle on the other side. This still gives enough space for a neatly set-up vanity with wash basin, wall mirror and shelves along the wall.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are several Lunagazer J2405 layouts available, some with bunks and all with different emphasis on storage and living space. This particular layout, with its generous kitchen, is designed for the travelling cook.
With an ATM of nearly 2100kg, this Lunagazer can be towed by a wide range of vehicles. In addition, the van's length allows for a very livable interior layout, which feels even more spacious thanks to large windows all-round.
A couple who like their space to live - and to prepare in the kitchen - would get along very well in this Lunagazer.
Source: Caravan World Sep 2011.