There are far more caravan manufacturers based in Melbourne than Sydney, but Millard Caravans is representing the industry by operating a large manufacturing business in the south-western suburbs of the harbour city. Not only does Millard build there, it operates a retail outlet close to the south-western freeway.
I dropped in recently to collect a 4.46m (14ft 6in) Overlander caravan. The Overlander had caught my eye at this year's Sydney Supershow because it's built for handling rough roads without being overly large or heavy, as is often the case with offroad vans.
MATTERS OF WEIGHT
On the nameplate, the Overlander displays an ATM of 1836kg, a Tare of 1536kg and an unladen ball weight of 184kg, making it eminently towable by a good range of vehicles. Apart from the obvious advantages for smaller vehicles, it also means a mid-sized tow vehicle, like a Toyota Prado, wouldn't have to work too hard.
Underpinning the Overlander is a 150x50mm (6in x 2in) hot-dipped galvanised chassis and drawbar rail. When I pondered the necessity for 6in rails on a van of this length with Millard manager Gary Willer, he said with a grin: "That is what the customers ask for!"
Getting under the Overlander reveals the Cruisemaster independent trailer-arm suspension with coil springs and shock absorbers, as well as a very clean-looking chassis area. Both 80L water tanks between the chassis rails are well protected by galvanised sheeting, as is the waterproof plywood floor.
Like the rest of the Millard range, the Overlander has an aluminium frame which is insulated and clad in aluminium. The pop-top roof is manufactured with a solid vacuum centre roof panel comprising of ply, foam and aluminium outer sheeting, as well as an aluminium and timber support frame for those who request an air-conditioner.
Easy lifters at each end of the roof make raising it very simple.
Tinted Jupiter windows are used all-round, with the usual screened windows fitted to the roof gusset. Entry is via a Camec triple-locker screen door, and naturally there's an awning for outdoor living. A slight problem occurs when the front awning arm is closed up, as it blocks the front window.
External storage is quite generous on this van. In addition to the tunnel boot there is a normal front boot, large toolbox on the drawbar rails and generator bin at the nearside rear. There are also two external lights, a door handle lamp and an LED strip light above the rear window.
Two 9kg gas cylinders are fitted to the drawbar, and two jerry cans to the rear bumper, along with a spare wheel.
Given the Overlander has a relatively short length of 4.46m (14ft 8in), it's no surprise that the internal layout is quite compact. An east-west bed takes up the front area, leaving space for an offside kitchen bench, nearside dinette and a shower cubicle (always a challenge in a pop-top) in the rear offside corner. One of the benefits of a pop-top in this context is that it improves the space perceptions, as well as light and air flow. It also provides a break above the somewhat dominating look of the timber cabinetry.
Your approach to bush cooking will probably determine your view of the Overlander's kitchen. Because it's equipped with only a three-burner cooktop (and microwave, but you'll need a generator to power it away from mains), cooking options are a bit limited. It's also fitted with a stainless steel sink and 90L Dometic fridge alongside. General storage is a mixture of two drawers, a cupboard, an underbench slide-out pantry and two overhead lockers. One of the overhead lockers contains the electrical essentials.
The TV mounting point is directly underneath, meaning it is visible from the dinette but not so easily viewed from the bed, because the reading lights are on the same side.
Measuring 1.9x1.4m (6ft 3in x 4ft 7in), the main bed takes up the entire forward area. It sits on a ply base, and about half the underbed area is taken up by the tunnel boot, leaving the rest for general internal storage. The offside section of this storage area is also home to a few essentials including the 14L hot water tank and 100Ah battery.
Although it doesn't look particularly big, the cafe-style dinette accommodates two people quite easily. It can also be folded down to form a 1.84x0.8m (6ft x 2ft 7in) bed. The dinette has overhead lockers above, two drawers underneath (I'm always a fan of underseat drawers, they are so much easier to use) and a largish storage bin with hinged lid in the rear corner.
Additionally, the central space between the dinette and shower cubicle is taken up by a wardrobe with two drawers underneath.
Apart from the gap between the
pop-top walls and the roof, the shower/toilet cubicle almost looks like one you'd find in a conventional van. The spacious area includes a Dometic cassette toilet, flexi-hose shower and small washbasin. The shower rose is mounted at wall-top height, but it shouldn't be too hard for a tall DIY enthusiast to rig something a little higher.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the world of RVs, where rough-road and offroad vans are often quite large, the Overlander is definitely an interesting alternative for those who prefer to tow a smaller van. I'm not suggesting that the Overlander is a beefy rig that can handle the toughest of road conditions, but it is certainly built to handle some rough stuff.
• Reasonable size and weight - will suit a variety of tow vehicles
• Good external and internal storage
• Lower roof height for tree-lined bush tracks
• Reasonably-sized shower/toilet
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
• A 12V socket or two inside the van
• Kitchen to be better set up for bush cooking
• Better positioning of TV
• More time to play!
SPECIFICATIONS: MILLARD OVERLANDER
Overall length 6.63m (21ft 9in)
External body length 4.46m (14ft 6in)
External width 2.22m (7ft 4in)
External height 2.6m (8ft 6in)
Internal height 2.22m (7ft 4in)
Nameplate Tare 1536kg
Nameplate ATM 1836kg
Ball weight 184kg
Chassis Hot-dipped galvanised
Suspension Independent trailing-arm
Cooktop Dometic three-burner sink combo
Fridge Dometic RM2350 90L
Shower Variable height flexi-hose
Toilet Dometic cassette
Lighting 12V LED
Fresh water 2x80L
Price $49,000 (tow-away, NSW)
Millard Caravans, Broadhurst Road, Ingleburn, NSW 2565, (02) 9829 2055,