Get off the beaten track with a Lotus !
The Lotus Trackvan has been kitted out for some serious rough-road travel...
Caravan World (the Sunshine Coast dealer, not this magazine) has built a reputation as a purveyor of caravans built for heavy duty travel. Not only in Australia, we were interested to learn, but also across the Tasman with kiwis wanting to experience a bit of the Aussie outback.
"We like to sell vans that are built for off-the-beaten-track travel and are really happy with the Lotus Trackvans, which are built to our specification," Caravan World proprietor Ros Flynn says.
Our revue Trackvan was a 6.1m (20ft) unit that had indeed been kitted out for some serious rough-road travel. With its ATM of 2600kg, the Trackvan was well behaved behind our Toyota LandCruiser. Being a rough-road van, the Trackvan sits higher than a conventional road-going unit.
Although rough-road vans have to be built strong, they also have to provide restful living. After a hard day on the track, it’s nice to have somewhere to relax in both comfort and style, and the Trackvan certainly has plenty of that.
The layout comprises a front bedroom, mid-section dinette and kitchen, with a full-width rear bathroom. With the entry door at the front of the van, it’s a case of bedroom to the left and everything else to the right.
The timber look dominates in the decor department, but it’s somewhat offset by lighter tones on some of the walls, leadlight-style windows in the overhead lockers, and large double-glazed windows. It’s surprising the difference a large window area makes to space perception. The Trackvan has a standard mix of fluorescent ceiling lights and halogen reading lights. Ceiling ventilation comes from two Four Seasons hatches and a Dometic air-conditioner.
In our line of work, caravan bedrooms have a tendency to start looking the same after a while. But this one, although it has the essentials – i.e., queen-size bed surrounded by a bedhead of wardrobes, bedside cabinets and overhead lockers – does look somewhat different. The large window area makes a difference, as do items such as the upholstery on the window pelmets and around the back of the bed.
Both the bedside cabinet shelves and the back-of-bed shelf are bedhead features. There is the usual under-bed storage area, but given the door on the nearside, there is only one foot-of-bed diagonal cupboard (on the offside). Halogen reading lights are supplied for night time illumination and there are single wall-mounted powerpoints on either side.
The kitchen features all the necessary items: a 150L Vitrifrigo fridge mounted off the floor, Swift four-burner cooktop/grill/oven, stainless steel sink with drainer, and a microwave oven, which is set below the two overhead lockers (a user-friendly height).
Additional under-bench storage includes two cupboards, a small slide-out pantry and two drawers. Given that the kitchen has been squeezed a bit to make room for a full-width bathroom, benchtop area isn’t particularly abundant.
Opposite the kitchen is an L-shaped dinette with contoured cushions and a 1.3x0.5m (4ft 3in x 1ft 8in) table, the latter having a laminated top and moulded timber edges. A floor hatch at one end provides access to the under-seat area and there’s a drawer at the other.
Above the fridge is the mounting point for the flatscreen TV. The mounting arm can be extended so that the TV can be seen from either the dinette or the bed. There are, of course, the necessary powerpoint, DVD and antenna connections. The AM/FM radio/DVD player is located opposite, above the dinette. Also above the fridge are the water tank level indicators.
Full-width bathrooms give caravan designers plenty of space to work with. This one comes complete with a nearside shower cubicle, offside Thetford cassette toilet, vanity washbasin and, alongside, a top loading Lemair washing machine. There are also two overhead lockers, an under-basin cupboard, a corner linen cupboard and one drawer. A mirror sits behind the sink and high on the wall is a powerpoint for an electric shaver and hair dryer.
In the chassis department, the starting point is a pair of 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) rails that run from the Hyland ball coupling to behind the rear axles. They are welded to a second frame of similar dimensions, upon which the caravan body is built. Underneath it all is Simplicity load-sharing independent suspension with 15in alloy wheels, including two spares mounted on the rear bumper bar.
The drawbar sports two 9kg gas cylinders, an 8in jockey wheel (although we used a Trail-A-Mate hydraulic jack), an aluminium checkerplate toolbox (provided in addition to the front boot), and two jerry can holders. Although it adds a bit more weight to the drawbar, we did like the toolbox as it is handy for small, ready-use items such as stabiliser winding handles, peg hammers and gloves (keep those hands clean and protected when hitching up!).
Above the chassis, the Trackvan’s body is timber framed and insulated, with aluminium cladding on the outside. Checkerplate aluminium is used along the lower sides of the van and also as stone protection on the front.
Being a rough-road van, the Trackvan suggests extended travel in remote places and it does come equipped for such purposes with three 100Ah deep-cycle batteries in the front boot and three 130W solar panels on the roof to keep them charged. It’s good to see that someone has considered good solar charging capacity in the design of this van.
Two 85L water tanks are available for water supply, but with the washing machine on board, a little bit of water conservation might be necessary.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Fancy a bit of rough-road travel in outback Australia? Then the Trackvan is certainly a consideration. It’s been well fitted out for extended travel in remote locations and comes with a few home comforts, too.
Caravan World, Nambour Connection Road, Woombye, Qld 4559, (07) 5442 1600, www.caravanworld.biz
For information on Lotus caravans, visit www.lotuscaravans.com.au (website under construction), or phone (03) 9305 3907 or (03) 9303 9300 (showroom).