Behind my 76 ’Cruiser was the brand new Tvan Murranji, straight off a truck from the factory in Melbourne, the very first unit off the production line. The boys at Track Trailer had just taken an earlier version for a quick spin down the Anne Beadell and Connie Sue tracks in SA without a hitch, but this trip was going to be a different kind of test. We’d be assessing things like departure and approach angles, waterproofing and other things you just can’t test out in the desert.
I asked for a Tvan for this trip because I knew I would be working from before dawn until the early morning every day, with little time for setup and breakdown of camp. I also knew I would need a lot of storage for my gear, Michael’s camera paraphernalia (watching Michael pack up his camera gear was like watching the army load up to go to war– this guy is a photographic mercenary) and enough food for the trip.
I only set up the tent once on this trip and it took just over five minutes, which is good considering it’s been nearly a year since I’ve used a Tvan at all. It turned out to be a lucky break that I did put up the tent, because that was the night I slept with a freshwater croc at the foot of my bed...
The Murranji isn’t so much a new concept for Track Trailer as it is an utter refinement. The MC2 suspension is still there and still brilliant on any terrain, so it was the least of our worries for this trip.
The new, optional ‘toolbox’ up front, which holds a fridge, Honda EU20i generator and jerries on twin slides, is such a fantastic addition to the design of this van I can’t see anyone not ordering it. It has increased the livability of the Tvan immensely and fixed what I always thought was the only real design weakness of the van: by moving the fridge from its traditional home at the foot of the bed to right next to the kitchen everything flows much better. It does add some weight to the towball, but the solid rubber jockey wheel coped with everything we threw at it. On the Palm River crossing, the toolbox was just hitting the mud, so a few inches shaved off its width would definitely improve the approach angle.
The room between the toolbox doors and the vehicle doors, especially if you have a Patrol or any other barn-door-style 4WD, is pretty slim, but was never an issue.
The new side locker is much bigger and easier to access than the old one and the dust seals are fantastic throughout the van. The rear seal had a tendency to wobble loose on corrugations, but I only had to put it back into place a couple of times over two weeks of rough roads. Nevertheless, not one bit of dust or drop of water snuck through any of the seals. Track Trailer has fixed this on production models.
There are two jerry can holders near the rear of the van on either side, which are enclosed and lockable. And though I know they’re designed for UN jerries, we managed to fit run-of-the-mill plastic diesel jerries in anyway. The exterior water tap has been doubled, with the manual pumps hooked up to the 12V pump, and each going to its own water tank. This is essentially a triple backup considering there is also the 12V sink with the pull-out kitchen. I love having the extra taps on the outside– they’re perfect for quick hand washes on the side of the road.
Just on the outside, there are three Merrit outlets that are great for camping lights at night. The 12V system is comprehensive and one of the greatest improvements over earlier Tvan models. Inside the van is an elegant control panel for all of the 12V systems, with six individually-switched circuits and a master switch. There are half a dozen more outlets inside including one cig lighter outlet. A couple more of those would be nice, since most aftermarket accessories come standard with that connection rather than a Merit.
The centrepiece of the 12V system, besides the sealed AGM 100Ah battery hidden below the floor, is the user-friendly meter built into the control panel. It has three buttons for current voltage, amperage draw and amp-hours remaining/percentage remaining. It was great to be able to keep an informed eye on battery levels, especially as we were running three laptops, about six camera chargers, two fridges and various camping lights simultaneously. The Projecta 15A smart charger onboard did its job well, keeping the battery charged up while we drove.
The onboard solar panel mounted on the roof is only 30W (which equates to a little over 2A), so while it’s not going to charge the battery right up, it helps replace what you lose from running camping lights for a few hours.
The battery boxes are mounted just behind the wheels and they do affect the departure angle deleteriously. I slammed them into a few rock ledges and while most of the corners were rounded by the time we got to the tip, the battery was fine. When I got back, the guys at Track set to work moving these boxes to avoid issues in the future.
Most evenings the ochre dirt covering the van was eerily lit up by laptop screens until the early morning.
Looking around the interior of the van instantly impresses and I ended up giving about 20 guided tours of the thing whenever we stopped at a roadhouse for fuel. The CD/MP3 player opposite the 12V system is great. We had tunes from my iPod going for most of the trip, playing through four speakers mounted around the cabin. There are four halogen lamps as well –
two at the head and two at the foot of the bed
– all of which are individually switched on the control panel.
Twin screened skylights open to help with airflow, although I usually sleep with just the mozzie net over the opening at the back of the van and I find that quite comfortable. But if you don’t, the guys at Track Trailer have installed a great little 12V three-speed fan with a timer. The fan draws a fraction of an amp, so you don’t need to worry about killing the battery to stay cool.
There is still plenty of storage under the bed and at the foot of the bed. This is a good place to put heavy things like canned food to offset the extra weight of the toolbox up front.
I stowed a massive 55L Waeco Cool-Ice esky full of ice and beer at the foot of the bed and it fit perfectly, with room left over.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I love the Tvan when I’m travelling heavy and fast. I can jump in with the mozzie net over the end and let the breeze blow in. If I’m staying somewhere longer I can drop the tent and put up the awning, too. And if it’s ever really nasty, I can just close the fibreglass door and let the gale howl without me.
Everything on the Tvan has been done to exacting standards. You won’t see a cord running through a piece of sheet metal without quality grommets, and you will never lose trust in the trailer’s ability to follow you wherever you take it.
With the toolbox up front, as pictured, the Murranji costs $52,500 (starting at $49,000). At that price you won’t need to add a thing, because the Tvan will go down the worst tracks in the country without complaint.
Track Trailer, 403 Dorset Road, Bayswater, Vic, (03) 8727 6100, www.tracktrailer.com.au
Words Carlisle Rogers, pics Offroad Images. As featured in Caravan World magazine issue 482, October 2010.