Bushmaster Caravans’ owner Terry Ryan adopts a unique approach to building offroad caravans. But his ideas and philosophies don’t simply emanate from left field; it’s more a case of clear methodology and pragmatic thinking. And late last year, Terry’s strategy was to build what he claims is the toughest offroad caravan on the market.
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
Enter the 5.18m (17ft) Ironbark – clad completely in checkerplate! That’s unusual enough in itself and, coupled with such a bold claim about its ability, I really didn’t know what to expect before seeing it in the flesh – but the Ironbark certainly emits a feeling of toughness and a sense of security when tackling the tracks. The full black checkerplate with white trim also has a unique aesthetic appeal that surprised me. And with all that checkerplate, this thing is 100 per cent hail-proof.
The Ironbark’s full checkerplate covering comes in a choice of 10 colours. The van on test was clad in black, which looks striking but would be difficult to keep clean when you’re hurtling through the red dust and dirt of inland Australia. Complete checkerplate adds weight to the Ironbark (somewhat equivalent to Alucobond panels) but Bushmaster has managed to maintain a reasonable Tare weight of 2000kg, which shouldn’t pose too many problems offroad, with a generous payload of 750kg.
Meanwhile, on the extended A-frame is a storage centre or a ‘toolbox on steroids’, as I dubbed it – with side sections ideal for jerry can storage, a vented front section for two 9kg gas cylinders, and a massive toolbox in the top.
There was no stone deflector on the Ironbark and I wondered whether stones may ricochet off the van’s checkerplate and potentially through the back window of the tow vehicle.
Rear hatches on both sides of the van are ideal for storing goodies such as a generator and a table and chairs; and the two sets of tail-lights, indicators and brake lights on the rear of the van caught my eye, as did the extra-long and extra-wide 80mm mudflaps.
Terry is always prepared to assist his customers, often spending the best part of a day advising on set up procedures. He also offers a five-year warranty with no restrictions on where the caravan is taken. And he proudly states that the Ironbark can “take some punishment”.
BEDROOM AND STORAGE
The highlight of this van is the east-west caravan-king-size bed 2.2x1.5m (7ft 3inx5ft) in the bedroom. At that length, you’ll be able to really stretch out on the bed; however, the east-west nature of the bed has it sitting flush against the front wall, meaning the forward occupant will need to clamber over the bed to get into position. Overhead is a wind-up hatch with screen and blind.
However, there is no under-bed storage due to the two large, full-length tunnel boots directly underneath, but the layout works to give the van a spacious feel. And while there are overhead lockers, there aren’t any robes, albeit that’s somewhat compensated for by a cubbyhole in the ensuite.
If the east-west bed doesn’t appeal, there is also a 5.44m (17ft 10in) Ironbark layout available complete with island bed and a cafe dinette with tri-fold table.
Surprisingly, the ensuite is bigger than you’d expect in a 17-footer – and it’s also exquisitely-finished. The china bowl vanity comes with a mirror, flick mixer tower tap and drawers underneath.
There’s also the 1m-high cubbyhole (with removable shelf) that is ideal for hanging clothes and storing linen and towels. There are overhead lockers with LED strip lighting above the vanity, while the recessed Camec 4kg front-loading washing machine is certainly a bonus when it comes to extended periods on vacation.
Completing the ensuite’s elegant picture is a fully-moulded shower with a flexible hose and mixer, and a hatch with a 12V fan, plus a Thetford ceramic bowl toilet with a window and hatch above.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In my opinion, Terry’s plan of action to build a super-tough offroader has been successful. Whether or not it lives up to its hugely ambitious claim of being ‘Australia’s Toughest Caravan’, the Ironbark stands apart from the crowd with its full black checkerplate finish and huge list of standard features for a very reasonable price.
- Huge water and power capacities
- Stone and hail resistant
- Excellent offroad capability
- Phenomenal storage and ventilation
- No TV (internal or external)
- Could do with a stoneguard
- Robes in ensuite not bedroom
- No drop-down picnic table.