What would you ask for if you worked with a boutique manufacturer to design a caravan to match your every touring needs? Ask Tony McLaine from Sea Breeze Caravans on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
SEA BREEZE CARAVANS
Tony has been designing and building vans for more than 20 years. Working with the customer, Tony maps out the design, providing suggestions, as required, to the layout, appliances and fittings. The customer can choose virtually anything from cladding colour to furnishings (and more). With the floor fixed to the chassis, the plan is measured out with masking tape and, once inspected and approved by the customer, the build begins.
DESIGN AND CHASSIS
Our test was a tandem-axle offroad van, with an internal measurement of 19ft 7in, Tare of 2640kg and ATM of 3700kg, representing a whopping 1060kg payload – room for all the toys and then some. The Tare weight is higher than some similar-sized rigs but that’s the price for the extra structural integrity required for the payload, Tony says.
Up front, a long, tapered 6in DuraGal drawbar provides plenty of room for a checkerplate generator box, outboard motor mount, twin gas cylinders and a sullage hose tray between the rails. A McHitch offroad coupling, Vehicle Components handbrake, removable jockey wheel and mains tap complete the drawbar fittings.
Benchmark Cruisemaster independent coil suspension with dual shockers per wheel dampens out the corrugations and 12in brakes are on stopping duties. Tyres are light truck spec, and the dual 97L fresh water tanks are completely shielded.
Back up at body level, the front boot contains the usual electrics. The nearside scores a tunnel boot with handy slide-out tray and storage box. The tray is designed to accommodate a Weber Baby Q which links to the body-mounted bayonet. In addition to the large roll-out awning, there are huge windows, a picnic table, external marine speakers, awning and grab handle lights, 240V, 12V and antenna outlets, and a TV hatch with a pivoting bracket.
At the rear, added features include an external shower, reversing camera, LED taillights, bumper bar and single alloy spare wheel. Our test van had an additional storage box fitted under the chassis for a foldable boat, replacing the 97L grey water tank.
KITCHEN AND INTERIOR
The interior is light and airy thanks to the expansive windows, large skylight and attractive colour palette. The owner opted for natural wood-look cabinets that blend beautifully with the other furnishings. There is plenty of storage with a good use of space overhead and below the bench.
The leather café dinette with tri-fold table enjoys a lovely vista thanks to the well-placed windows.
Adding to the comforts, the lounge is fitted with padded leg supports that extend from the seat base, just like your favourite lounge chair at home.
The kitchen has a familiar layout with a four-burner stove/grill, rangehood, large three-way fridge, stainless steel sink, draining board and flick-mixer tap, full-height splashbacks, twin roll-out pantries and plenty of drawers and under-bench storage.
A queen-sized innerspring mattress island bed sits beneath the front window surrounded by overhead cupboards, with mirrored robes, reading lamps, bedside tables and drawers on each side. A full-length drawer beneath the bed is easy to access, or lift the bed with gas strut assistance to check the gas heater or store other items.
The entertainment system facilitates music, movies or digital television inside or outside the van, providing plenty of options. Water tank gauges and the battery management display are above the stereo head unit.
SHOWER AND BATHROOM
The caravan has a massive 900x700mm fully-sealed shower cabinet. A Lemair Mini 2.2kg washing machine is mounted in an elevated position in the far corner. This leaves limited room for the narrow vanity unit. With a standard cassette toilet, the washing machine would be mounted on the floor allowing a larger vanity, full-width mirror and a much better sense of space.
Behind a Land Rover Discovery 4 turbodiesel, the van towed well, remaining stable at all times along our test. At more than 8.3m (27ft 4in) long and almost 3m (9ft 9in) high, it does require some thought in areas of limited manoeuvrability offroad, such as pulling into camping areas with overhanging trees, but those with big vans will be familiar with this scenario.
There is a lot to like about the Sea Breeze Custom 20, particularly when you factor in a starting price of $57,000, or $63,500 as tested. Robust foundations and significant carrying capacity are a hint to its fair dinkum offroad potential, while the attractive styling works well inside and out.