A lightweight, full-height caravan that you can tow behind a small 4WD or even a regular family car? The British and Europeans have that market nailed… or do they?
But like a classic car, many Australians want their getaway home to be fun and funky too and for these buyers the new Mini Jackaroo retro van may be just the thing.
Basically, the Mini is a scaled down 12ft internal length version of the regular 16ft Jackaroo vintage caravan that Jarrod Wade and Craig Walters manufacture in addition to the restoration services on offer at their Caravan Repair Shop in Arundel on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
The idea came from one of their staff, who wanted a small weekender and built the prototype review van in his spare time. It created so much attention when he took it to Historic Leyburn Sprints in regional Queensland that Wade and Walters decided to make it a second model in their Jackaroo retro range.
Like the larger Jackaroo, the Mini is brand new from the ground up, not a reconstituted classic. It sits on a new 100x50mm steel chassis and A-frame and its ribbed aluminium body cladding in its retro ‘Viscount’ profile is fixed to a lightweight meranti timber frame with styrene foam insulation for thermal efficiency. The inner wall lining is ply to keep weight to a minimum.
The Mini Jackaroo also comes standard with retro-look wheel spats and whitewall tyres, while optional custom paint and decals means buyers can easily match the van’s look to a classic tow vehicle. Some even have asked for murals, like bathing boxes, on the flanks of theirs.
Being essentially a bitumen dweller, the Mini Jackaroo comes standard with rocker-roller style leaf springs and a solid beam axle, but for those who might want to travel further than their local beach, Jackaroos are also available with Vehicle Components’ CRS independent trailing arm, coil spring and shock absorber suspension as an option. Somehow I don’t see many ‘Mini’ owners leaving the blacktop.
Rectangular front, rear and side double-glazed Aussie Traveller windows let in plenty of light, while there’s also a neat porthole window on the offside front.
As you can imagine in a caravan of this size, there’s not much room outside for much else, although this model, named Gypsy, still had a small Dometic roll-out awning, an optional drop-down picnic table, and a pole carrier extended through the void beneath the rear transverse bed.
A single vertically-mounted spare wheel and a single 9kg gas cylinder sit on the A-frame ahead of the fuel tank for the optional diesel heater fitted to the test van (yes, it does get cold at night during Queensland winters!), and there’s also an external water tap.
What you can’t see that would give the van’s faux history away is the 80W roof-mounted solar panel that feeds a 100Ah battery, and the 65L fresh water tank under the floor.
Inside, via a modern front-mounted Camec door, the retro look continues with Venetian blinds on all windows and the entry door, while green tiling on the galley’s splashback complements the white-piped green vinyl seating of the front L-shaped lounge. Timber on the benchtops and the single pedestal lounge table, leadlight-look glass on the front upper cupboard doors, traditional light fittings and period speaker grilles (with the AM/FM sound system hidden in a cupboard) complete the period styling inside.
But look beyond this and you’ll find many caravan mod-cons built into the Mini Jackaroo.
For example, the cooktop is a current model four-burner; the hot water service is a modern Suburban 23L; the fridge mounted under the cooktop is a three-way, 90L Electrolux; there’s a Camec microwave in a cupboard; lighting is LED throughout; there is a slide-out steel pantry; a large flat screen TV is wall-mounted and the antique-look round-edged cupboard doors and drawer fronts are all painted in gloss two-pack. Even the van’s replica tail-lights are illuminated by LEDs.
Impressive for a van of these compact dimensions is the amount of internal storage space, although Jackaroo only quote a 300kg payload – the minimum expected these days for a single-axle caravan.
As well as the many overhead and lower cupboards and drawers, there’s great unencumbered rectangular space under the lift-up rear bed – just as well as there’s no room for any storage outside.
One thing about the Mini Jackaroo is its weight. With a Tare of just 1040kg and a ball weight of 70kg as reviewed, it’s a cinch to tow and impressively stable at speeds up to 100km/h and more on the freeway, although not surprisingly it feels side-winds and the vacuum left by passing B-Doubles more than a heavier full-sized van.
But freeways are not the Mini Jackaroo’s natural habitat. More, you could expect to see this van towed by perhaps a classic car through backroads and the by-passed town beside the ribbons of freeways that crisscross the nation, with Mini owners taking their time like travellers of old.
The other attraction for Mini Jackaroo buyers is the price, starting at around $35,000. As reviewed, the well-optioned test Mini Gypsy was priced at $44,900. This is perhaps more expensive than you might expect compared with other modern caravans in its price bracket, but its exclusivity and eye-catching appeal are priceless.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Mini Jackaroo is an appealing and novel package, delivering true individuality combined with practicality for a single or travelling couple. Being able to take it on holiday with an existing large sedan or light 4WD is a real bonus.
- A little pricey
The full test appears in Caravan World #560 2017. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!