Jason Grech has been in the caravan building game since he was a kid, helping his father back in the days of lightweight timber-framed tourers. He moved the business to offroad vans in 2014 and changed the build process to Henrob rivet-fastened aluminium frames.
But the last two years have been the toughest he has seen. “Price rises are coming through weekly, so it’s hard to sell a van at the quoted price and stay in business. Shipping alone has gone up 500 per cent for some parts. Unfortunately, the whole caravan industry is being hit hard and is having to pass on price rises to customers to keep our businesses viable for the future. Most people understand that their van has gone up in value though, so they generally accept the price increase.”
Titanium stakes its reputation on the strength and flexibility of aluminium, and Jason insists Henrob rivets are superior to welding.
“The machinery is expensive, but it’s a foolproof way of joining aluminium. For example, Boeing, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz use the system, and Ford just awarded Henrob an award for a billion rivets in their vehicles without failure,” he continued.
Jason reckons a welded alloy frame can work only if the box section is sturdy enough and you have very skilled tradespeople on the job.
“You need care and time to weld it properly. You can miss a secure bond if you rush, and the frame can warp. As far as timber goes, it’s not for offroad vans. Any moisture that gets under the cladding will rot the frame. Not only that, but timber also varies greatly in strength, and the weight can change in different batches so much it can affect the tare by as much as 200kg. We gave up on timber years ago.”
According to Jason, the essence of an offroad caravan is in the strength of the build. “We start with a very strong chassis from Australian steel in either three or four millimetres, depending on the size of the van. Our two chassis builders, FP and S&M, are the best in the business for making solid and trustworthy underpinnings for our vans. The suspension is Cruisemaster throughout the range because it works and is backed up by the company across Australia.” He said he had considered Simplicity suspension, but there isn’t the demand and recognition in the marketplace.
“You have to expect that an offroad van is going to see a lot of rough treatment over its lifetime. Anything that isn’t up to the task will break or fall off. That’s why we have gone to our new factory and test the builds of the van extensively.”
Titanium moved into a larger purpose-built factory in Campbellfield, Victoria, six months ago. Jason explained they needed more space for efficiency and invested in new high-quality CNC cutting equipment to make their furniture better looking, lighter, and more robust.
With the new factory, staff has increased to 78 in total, including more people on the quality control line. Jason said one of the keys to a successful business is to have committed staff who love the caravanning and camping lifestyle.
Output in the last few months has increased by around 10 per cent, but parts supply is the most significant drain on fast delivery. Once parts are available, build time for an average size van is approximately three weeks and then another week in quality control and proper detailing, including pressure testing all plumbing and an hour under a high-pressure spray looking for leaks. As a result, current output is around six vans a week.
With the move to the new factory, the furniture now interlocks and is stronger than the previous style even before it’s glued and screwed.
Jason said that they use local suppliers as much as possible, including Victorian custom-made water tanks, BlueScope steel for the chassis, CaraFan dust suppression systems, Swift stoves and heaters, and Enerdrive electronic systems. All plumbing and electrical work is undertaken in house by qualified tradespeople.
Processes have been consolidated to bring production in line with the new Road Vehicles Standard legislation, and some models merged to simplify production and compliance.
Some Buying Advice
When I asked about some advice on buying an offroad van, it’s no surprise that Jason rates his vans as amongst the best offroaders available — so, he’d say to start with a Titanium but think about what you need instead of what you want. Weight is the enemy of an offroad van, so match the van to your tow vehicle with plenty of margin for error. Many vehicles rated to 3500kg can legally and safely tow much less when loaded with a bullbar, winch, long-range tank, and all the kids and big toys.
A light coloured van is better insulated, no matter how good the van is built. According to Jason, dark colours look cool, but they aren’t when the weather is stinking hot.