The new factory is a well-organised production line where 10 vans are on the go at once. The build flows through in an orderly fashion from the delivery of the chassis to the installation of the floor, walls and roof. Following the internal fitout, all electric and plumbing items are installed before a final quality check and then delivery. As a boutique builder where quality is essential, production stands at four vans a week, and at the time of our visit, a total of some 630 vans had been produced.
All models are built on a locally made Australian steel Road King chassis. Close to 80 per cent are full offroad vans, with the rest designed for some dirt road use. The chassis is built to Wonderland's specification, and most are two laminated 100 x 50mm rectangular tubes that form a solid basis for the vans. Each chassis is first drawn up and tested on computer Finite Element Analysis to maximise efficiencies and ensure it will handle the required load and the stresses of any movement. To evaluate how vans take real-world conditions, prototypes of new models are regularly built for field-testing, including trips with Caravan World.
Kevin and Rob believe strongly in the durability and benefits of their design. They like the way their van is fixed together to make a secure monocoque entity and the flexibility of the timber panels. “Timber effectively absorbs impact and holds screws better than aluminium or composite, so the furniture is secure,” Kevin told me.
Suspension systems are important in an offroad situation, and Wonderland has stayed relevant, even pioneering the latest Cruisemaster level 3 independent airbag system with remote control as a standard inclusion in one of their models in 2016.
Kevin admitted he and Rob had explored sandwich panel construction and a Meranti option before deciding on their interlocking structural ply walls. They thought they delivered the best mix of strength and durability to an offroad van destined to cop some rough treatment. Sealing a timber-framed van is paramount to longevity, and the company only uses quality sealants under the J-mould join, which is applied by experienced staff.
The ply panels are cut on a CNC router in a complicated pattern designed to maximise the wall's strength. As seen in the images here, sections are cut to include foam insulation and electrical cables. Wonderland was an early adopter of using composite aluminium panelling for cladding. As well as adding to the thermal property of the wall, there is a wide range of colour options from which customers can choose. Custom graphics can add even more individuality.
Furniture is CAD designed and built from CNC cut offsite in 16mm lightweight ply and assembled in house. The cabinets and frame are screwed, bolted and glued together using premium adhesive.
The interiors are modern and the colour schemes are bound to stay relevant for some time
Wonderland has also placed itself as a leader in advances in electronics over the last few years. At the time of publication, it was about to release a gas-free van with enough solar and 24V power to run electric induction cooktops and air conditioners.
While not exclusively hitched to providing family vans for customers, Wonderland makes sure its range is family-friendly. There are more than 30 various models between 18ft and 24ft, and that's not counting the many custom vans produced over the years. In addition, an 1100 strong Owners Group Facebook page includes many families living the travelling life on the road.
A standout feature of the range is the inviting interiors that make a welcome retreat when camped off-grid. I have always found colour choices and layouts look stunning, and without being too edgy, they should stay relevant for years.
Each of the four partners works to their experience with Robert overseeing production, Ana supervising the sales and dealer network, Val on financial management, and Kevin in R&D. As a team, they all contribute to the continued development of the brand to maintain its place as a premium brand, particularly with an emphasis on family vans.
In seven years of production, Wonderland has built a strong following of happy customers in their niche of the caravan marketplace. They are strongly made for outback and rough road travel yet exude a genuine luxury feeling inside. It's a package that wins buyers looking for that little bit extra when it comes to a van that will deliver pride of ownership out on the road. ¦