THE CLASSIC SITS comfortably in the middle of Paramount's line-up and is actually the basic design platform for the manufacturer's entire range. Described as having a level of comfort and quality normally associated with more expensive vans, Paramount considers this rig particularly good value for money.
There are seven models in the Classic range, all designed to suit personal preferences and budgets. The smallest is a 4.9m (16ft) unit with a double bed and no ensuite. The next is a 5.5m (18ft) version with two single beds (no ensuite), followed by an interesting 5.65m (18ft 6in) version with a double bed and a combined shower-toilet and side kitchen.
Classic models can be built with internal lengths up to 7.62m (25ft), but our test van was the 6.4m (21ft) unit with a rear ensuite and enormous storage space. The Caravan Company in Newcastle supplied the rig for test and during our discussions on the day of the shoot, company director Bob Surdonic told me this van is ideal for longer-term travelling.
"This is not a caravan for people nipping off for the weekend," he said. "It's designed and built for people who intend to travel for long periods and live in the caravan; your typical 60-plus retirees doing the round-Australia trip.
"I'd call it a fully-loaded caravan, because it has all the features you'd expect for this price. It has a washing machine, big fridge, shower and toilet, and suspension that can handle corrugated dirt roads, along with a classy finish."
The list of standard features is impressive, enhanced by a long list of options such as deluxe upholstery, leadlight glass for the overhead cupboards, 15in alloy wheels, larger fresh water capacity and 12V powerpoints.
GETTING IT RIGHT
The Classic is available as a full-size van or a slim-line pop-top. Our full-size version had had some optional extras - larger water tanks and 15in wheels - and my first impression was a positive one. Paramount knows how to make the exterior look sharp and the interior inviting.
The front of the van is protected by a full vinyl stoneguard, with checkerplate along the sides. A lockable galvanised boot contains twin DC batteries, a 30A charger and plenty of space for gear you wouldn't want in the car. An Anderson plug and reversing camera are also fitted, as well as an enormous galvanised rear bumper, which is also the attachment point for the spare wheel carrier.
Access to the Thetford toilet cassette is on the rear offside. There's a small fold-out picnic table on the nearside, supported by struts and enclosed in a lockable hatch behind the door, plus a deep storage locker positioned on the front nearside.
RIGHT AT HOME
The interior layout is more than just attractive and functional; it's downright homey. The double bed is to the left as you enter through the triple-lock Camec security door. The kitchen is to your right and a comfy dinette with tri-fold table straight ahead. The dinette has padded cafe seats that would probably be more comfortable for two rather than four.
No TV was fitted to our test van, but it would normally be positioned on a swinging arm near the entrance, enabling you to watch from outside the van, or anywhere inside, except in the shower or the fridge, that is.
The designer of the rear ensuite has managed to fit a lot into a very slim space. When I climbed into the cubicle I found it to be surprisingly roomy, and a ventilation hatch and fan were also a help. A sink sits neatly above a vanity, while a sleek little Lemair 2.2kg washing machine sits under a hinged top to the right.
Ample storage space seems to have been a Paramount obsession with this model: there are cupboards and lockers everywhere. In fact, we counted 35 specific or general purpose cupboards and lockers, without taking into account the boot, copious storage space under the bed or any external lockers. All storage cupboards are on piano hinges.
Four lockers are mounted above the bed, while rolled-top bedside tables take more odds and ends, mirrored vertical cupboards flank the bed itself and there's more shelved storage space where the bedroom gives way to the dining area.
Three cupboards with frosted glass inserts are lined over the dinette. A large pantry slides out from under the Swift gas/electric cooktop, providing easy access to heavier kitchen utensils like pots and pans. The stove's rangehood helps dispel heat generated by cooking and a couple of Four Season hatches, one in the kitchen and one above the bed, further improve ventilation.
A few more cupboards and an LG microwave sit above the sink, with three cupboards and two roller-drawers below the benchtop. Like I said, storage everywhere.
An Aircommand Ibis air-conditioner sits in the ceiling at the entrance. Making these things look unobtrusive is not as easy as it seems, but giving it a low profile certainly helps, as does making it more or less the same colour as the ceiling.
There is also plenty of natural light, which flows into the bedroom and dinette through three large, bubble-style Camec windows with full curtains and flyscreens. Another smaller window is positioned over the kitchen sink, with another in the door. The 12V reading lights are LEDs, while fluorescents sit in ceiling.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Classic's body sits on a SupaGal chassis and is constructed with a meranti timber frame. The ATM of 2600kg is right on the cusp of where many buyers would be looking at a vehicle with a superior towing capacity. And while that doesn't necessarily mean a big 4WD, Bob Surdonic said your typical V6 petrol or diesel 4WD makes an excellent tow vehicle for a van of this size and weight.
The standard Classic has a 60L fresh water capacity, but this particular unit was fitted with twin 95L tanks, which should go some way towards mollifying those who wouldn't leave home with a mere 60L.
The Classic is designed for semi-offroad use and has sturdy leaf spring suspension. Provided it has the right tow vehicle it should be able to cope with corrugated dirt roads.
The Classic is ideal for a longer-term travelling couple who like to get into some of the rough stuff as they travel Australia.
Source: Caravan World Nov 2011.