We run dozens of caravan reviews every year here in Caravan World, and on most occasions, the vans are stock models from the dealer yard or straight off the production line. So, it’s rare that we meet the buyers for an idea of why they chose a particular van. But with this impressive big Spinifex, we spent a day with the owners in southern Queensland to discover what led them to Spinifex and their travel plans.
Spinifex is a dedicated custom offroad builder based in Deception Bay, north of Brisbane. It has manufactured vans since 2007, and the one on review is number 468, so it has a vast knowledge of what works in rough conditions. This low-volume builder takes pride in getting things right so that warranty issues are minimised. Instead, Spinifex will do it once and do it right, and the number of repeat customers trading up to a new van is a testament to the quality ethos. Its vans are built on heavy-duty chassis with a robust frame in the best tradition of Queensland offroaders.
The owners of our review van, Carol and Tom, are on their fifth van and their third Spinifex. Their loyalty to the brand started in 2011 with Spinifex build number 32, when they found Spinifex could make it to their preferred layout when other brands wanted to stick to a set design. They stepped up to build number 222 in 2018, and in the four years with that van, they covered over 100,000km across the country, including two trips to their favourite haunts in Tasmania. A desire for more modern electronics and reliable battery power prompted the change to the latest model, and they were delighted at the resale value of the previous model.
The van is a Nomadix 25, making it one of the longest vans we have reviewed for some time. Matched to the couple’s GMC 350, the combination is an impressive sight, and the big 6.6L turbo diesel V8 is a good match for the van’s 3360kg tare and 4500kg ATM. The GMC is kitted with a large alloy tray canopy and boat rack for a 3.8m tinny, which goes on most adventures.
A big offroad van needs a robust foundation and the twin 75mm x 50mm x 3mm BlueScope steel chassis is built to take on the challenging outback tracks without giving up. Spinifex has a fabrication shop where it makes the chassis before it is shipped to be galvanised by hot dip. The shop also produces all the custom toolboxes and brackets.
The interlocking aluminium wall and roof sections are riveted together and bolted to the chassis to form a robust monocoque construction. Next, 30mm polyboard insulation is cut to size to fill the voids in the frame, and the exterior is then clad in 4mm composite fibreglass panels. Finally, the roof section runs in one piece from the front chassis to the window at the rear for an efficient waterproof finish.
A team of four full-time cabinet makers and an upholsterer hand-build the interior furniture. It’s an old-school method of interlocking timber which Spinifex insists is the best method for a van subject to the vibration and movement of offroad travel. Handcrafting also allows complete customisation of the cabinetry layout and design.
The suspension is Cruisemaster’s tandem 4.5T airbag system with trailing arms and twin shock absorbers at each wheel. The brakes are DeeMaxx electric over hydraulic 12in discs.
A 3500 GMC is hard to miss, but with an overall length of 10.3m (34ft), the big Spinifex dominates the scene. The review van was finished in white, a sensible colour for the tropics, and it gave the van a clean and fresh image. The sides and rear get the ubiquitous Propeller plate treatment that designates an offroader, but in a less obtrusive Aztec silver. At the back, things look neat with custom boxes instead of spare wheels. The single spare is hidden underneath.
At the drawbar, the Air Safe receiver is rated at 600kg ball weight and matched to a Cruisemaster DO45 pin connector. That extra capacity for ball mass might come in handy because plenty of storage at the front will add to front-end weight. A Black Jack electric jockey wheel is permanently mounted forward of the sturdy stone guard, and a reservoir for the hydraulic disc brake fluid is well protected lower down.
A 15L diesel tank sits inside the stone guard, and twin jerry cans ride aside a pair of 4kg gas bottles for the barbecue. Also, up front, a full-width custom toolbox with side and top compartments holds a mix of mats, tools and cooking equipment.
Moving back along the passenger side, we find a slide-out kitchen with bench space and a storage bin for condiments and staples. Two picnic tables will be handy for preparing meals, and over the wheel arch is a second pantry, so there’s loads of space for outside dining. Next is a hatch for 12V and 240V power and the controls for setting the air suspension when parked. You can drop the van’s height for easy entry or level it on uneven ground. Another storage hatch is aft of the door, with access to the inverter and electronics and a small amount of storage. Finally, a 23ft Aussie Traveller Sunbuster awning is as big as you will find, giving ample weather protection to the outside area.
Across the back is another custom storage box with three compartments, including a sealed section for a generator and a sturdy wood tray on top. You might notice the rear lights are mounted above the toolbox on the body, and while it might look like they are too high to be legal, there’s a smaller repeater set on the bumper bar that keeps the specs correct. More toolboxes mount to the chassis ahead of the wheels, and a hatch on the driver side gives access to even more external storage.
Before we head inside the van, it’s worth considering the electronics package, as this is why the couple upgraded to the Nomadix Premier. On top of that, the healthy power supply ties in with some of the design features on board. Spinifex switched to the OzXcorp power supply about a year ago, and many customers, like Carol and Tom, are finding the amount of self-sufficiency is a game changer. The system integrates 1320W of solar (four 430W panels) with a 14kW lithium battery through OzXcorp regulators and a 5000W inverter to allow the use of domestic appliances in a gas-free environment. In addition, Truma Combi D6 Diesel systems take care of room and water heating, so there’s no need for gas vents in the cabin.
Combined with two 200L freshwater tanks and 80L of drinking water, the couple can stay in the bush for extended periods. And that’s how they like it. Tom explained that they enjoy the caravanning lifestyle because “we can stop where we like for as long as we like.” It is all about being able to free camp and fend for themselves.
When presented with such a big van, expectations are high that the interior will be spacious and comfortably liveable. This is especially true when the layout was chosen by a couple with more experience living in a van than most of us. Carol and Tom’s choice is a similar layout to their previous van, and it seems like a perfect compromise for a couple planning long adventures on board.
A single electric step makes entry a breeze, especially when the airbag suspension is at its lowest level. The layout is a central split bathroom with a rear entrance and rear living space and a bedroom up front. The van impresses with a high level of finish and a pleasing conservative choice of colours.
At the rear of the van, there’s a set of face-to-face benches upholstered in dark grey New Zealand leather. It creates a beautiful feeling of space and means that two can spread out comfortably, while generous size windows wrap around on three sides to take in the view. The Nuova Mapa table is fully adjustable and moves out of the way for easy access or lots of legroom. With a big TV and satellite dish, Tom can spend his Saturdays watching the footy or keeping an eye on the horses from anywhere in the country.
Kitchen benches run either side of a wide walkway back to the ensuite, and there’s plenty of room for dinner preparation. In addition, a 285L fridge offers weeks of cold storage. You may notice there’s no traditional oven, so all cooking is done in a convection microwave or on a two-burner induction cooktop that hides away when not in use. As well as designing a kitchen that worked for her, Carol also insisted on a washing machine being built into the benches right at the doorway to give easy access to their portable clothesline.
The central section of the van has an ample wardrobe and the shower on the passenger side, and the toilet and vanity opposite. Further back is a good size bedroom with a Webasto roof-mounted air conditioner, oversized windows and a raised bed with lots of space for extra clothes or bedding.
With a holiday load and tanks filled with water, the van’s weight heads over the four-tonne mark, so the latest GMC is a good match with 329Nm and 1250Nm matched to a six-speed Allison gearbox. The tow connection needs to be very robust, and Spinifex recommends a Class 7 Air Safe hitch, which handles the load and minimises any rebound from the van on bumpy roads. We headed into the hills of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and the ride was soft and effortless, even up steeper hills. The big discs on the Cruisemaster suspension pulled us up swiftly and smoothly. Tom reported that fuel consumption when cruising at 100km/h was around 23L/100km, which is good considering the size of the rig.
The van’s 4500kg ATM leaves a very usable payload of 1140kg, so there’s the capacity for ample supplies when free camping.
The Bottom Line
The Spinifex is a big rig in anybody’s language. The owners, Carol and Tom, have arrived at their optimum van after years of experience on the road. With a career of trucking miles behind him, Tom is happy behind the wheel of the GMC with over four tonnes of Spinifex in tow. The Nomadix gives the couple the freedom to land anywhere they want, and they look forward to years of travel in style.
It seems that the couple aren’t the only ones who like the idea of big vans and big tow rigs. The proliferation of American trucks continues at a pace even against a background of electric vehicles gaining in popularity. The Spinifex costs in the order of $230,000 as tested and a tow vehicle will be similar by the time you deck it out. However, those able to stump up the cash will have something special — a place of extra comfort and self-sufficiency to get away in style.
HITS AND MISSES
- High-quality fit-out and engineering
- Ample off-grid power
- Room to move
- Needs an upgraded tow vehicle
SPINIFEX NOMADIX PREMIER 25 RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
A big van with every extra, so you should expect a high price tag
Needs a heavy-duty tow vehicle but it tows smoothly and with reasonable economy
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
Well set up for a couple to tour for extended times and live in comfort
Craftsmanship is on show throughout the van, fine finish inside and out
Ample room to spread out, good options for cooking and loads of cold storage
This is the current off-grid standard for power, plenty of water as well
Spinifex prides itself on doing things right but has great backup if there’s a problem
The company is happy to offer customers custom touches
The van has monster wow factor especially hooked up to the big GMC
SPINIFEX NOMADIX PREMIER 25 SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Overall length||10.3m (34ft)|
|External body length||7.69m (25ft 3in)|
|External body width||2.45m (8ft)|
|Travel height||3.1m (10ft 2in)|
|Internal height||1.98m (6ft 5in)|
|Chassis||Twin 75mm x 50mm|
|Suspension||4.5 Cruisemaster XT air|
|Wheels||ROH Vapour 18x9 Tyres BFG KO2 285/65 R18|
|Water||2 x 200L freshwater, 80L drinking water|
|Solar||4 x 430W|
|Gas||2 x 4kg|
|Cooking||Dual hob induction cooktop|
|Hot water||Truma Combi D6|
Spinifex Nomadix Premier 25 price from $212,000.00
- Upgrade to 14.3kW battery
- Rear box
- Side boxes
- External kitchen
- 285L fridge
Spinifex Nomadix Premier 25 price as shown $230,000.00
THE NEXT STEP
The sellers will be happy to help and answer any inquiries you may have about the products advertised for sale.
Watch a Quick Look at the Spinifex Off-Road Caravan