There’s nothing like coastal caravanning. The ocean battering the cliffs and rocks, the white spray of the crashing waves, the cobalt sky. It’s just you and the road.
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Recently, I packed a bag, climbed into our Toyota HiLux, and headed off to Canterbury Caravans in Bayswater, Vic. Canterbury’s Colin Tobin had agreed to lend me a Paramount Classic, a couple’s van that towed very well.
Our Paramount Classic was a 19ft 6in (5.95m – external body length) van sans bathroom. Because we were park-hopping along the Great Ocean Road, this was not a problem. In fact, I was glad to have the extra space and storage the lack of a bathroom affords. And in this Classic, storage is a highlight.
The layout consists of a forward dinette, mid offside kitchen facing a tall bench on the nearside, and a rear bedroom.
The dinette is comfortable and would easily seat four around the swivel table. Under the dinette lounge are six individual storage compartments. It’s worth noting that the individual high-density-foam seat cushions have their own solid base, so when you remove the cushion, you’ve immediate access to the cavity beneath. No more fiddling around with hinged ply bases.
There are a couple of multidirectional reading lights at the dinette, too, as well as a shelf along the front of the van. The dining area is surrounded by overhead lockers: three along the front, two either side.
The kitchen is set up with three drawers (without stoppers, so be careful when opening them) and one floor-level locker beneath them. There’s a deep cupboard under the sink which also hides the offside wheelbox, one drawer under the Spinflo cooktop/griller, as well as a small, three-shelf cupboard at the rear of the kitchen. A locker above the stainless steel rangehood is home to the powerpoint for the Daewoo microwave, which is fitted into the woodwork of the kitchen’s overhead cabinetry alongside a water-level indicator and a JVC stereo/DVD/MP3 player that’s connected to four DNA speakers.
Meal-prep room is limited to the closed cover of the cooktop or, if you’re happy to stoop a bit, the dinette table. Because of its height, the nearside bench isn’t suitable for making up a meal.
This bench stands 1.28m from the one-piece ply floor, due to the fact that a tall 121L three-way Dometic fridge is built in, atop a floor locker. Along the wall, above this bench, is a shelf which, if you’re on the tall side, would be a handy place to keep your coffee mugs, etc. A Winegard jack, DVD point and powerpoint are in this area too.
Paramount has made complete use of the bench cabinet by fitting an array of deep cupboards with shelves.
A timber bulkhead ‘separates’ the bedroom from the living areas and I can speak from experience that the innerspring mattress, which rests on a slatted timber base and measures 5ft x 6ft 2in (1.5x1.88m), is mighty comfortable. The storage space underneath is divided into a couple of compartments, the forward one with its own access door at the end of the bed. The bed itself is surrounded by overhead lockers, wardrobes with excellent hanging space, and bedside tables, each with a drawer and cupboard.
The tinted windows each have timber pelmets, netting and full curtains. Lighting throughout comes via the aforementioned reading lights, three dome lights, and dedicated kitchen-bench lights. A couple of hatches (with pull-across flyscreen and block-out blind) do a good job of aiding natural light and ventilation, and the Dometic air-conditioner keeps things cool.
The fully insulated Classic is built on a 4in SupaGal chassis that has a 2in riser at the axles. The frame is meranti timber clad with aluminium. A padded vinyl pebbleguard extends two-thirds up the front, while a short skirt of aluminium checkerplate runs the length of both sides. The alloy wheels of this dual-axle van are connected to leaf-spring suspension, and a look underneath revealed a ‘clean’ underside. The 65L water tank, mounted just forward of the axles, is protected by galvanised sheet metal.
The drawbar is home to an Al-Ko hitch, a centre-mounted 8in jockey wheel, and two 4.5kg gas cylinders, leaving the gal-lined front boot empty save for the break-safe system and 240V-12V transformer.
Other external items include the spare wheel mounted on the rear bumper, the full-length A&E Dometic awning, and the grab-handle light.
To my mind, the Paramount Classic is all about coastal and hinterland caravanning. You could certainly take it off the beaten track, provided the track isn’t too beaten. But with a 65L water supply (enough, say, for a couple of days with a couple of people) and no onboard bathroom, I think both van and owners would be happiest within cooee of some form of civilisation.
It certainly proved itself as a trustworthy and comfortable travelling companion.
– Max Taylor
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Canterbury Caravans, 140 Canterbury Road, Bayswater, Vic 3153, (03) 9729 8188. For more information, including your nearest dealer, visit www.paramountcaravans.com.au
Read the full review in the February issue of Caravan World, on sale now!