Review: Trakmaster Tanami
The Trakmaster Tanami, with separate toilet and shower, has a soft spot for the hard land.
IT TAKES TIME to build a reputation, and Trakmaster has become synonymous with outback caravanning. Its reputation rests on custom building, strong cabins and chassis, resistance to dust, and strong after-sales support. Few van manufacturers offer a no-nonsense, two-year warranty on a product that has had among its purchasers an earthmoving contractor, a few prospectors, an outback mobile mechanic, and many die-hard 4WD enthusiasts.
The Tanami range of Trakmasters employs newer forms of material with excellent insulation properties and great strength - exactly the sort of thing appropriate for a vehicle designed to handle the outback. The external glossy fibreglass should be a dream to keep clean. Because it is inherently rigid, the composite wall material does not require a frame and is less likely to allow ingress of moisture because it has few seams.
Apart from the fibreglass body, the Tanami's signatures are the muted, vertical tail fins at the rear, with a broad roof-mounted air scoop directing an air stream down between them to keep the rear cleaner; an open-mouthed scupper scoop on the top leading edge of the van to pressurise the cabin during travel, and its decals of camels, the "ships of the desert".
Like most Trakmasters, our review van, which has a separate shower and toilet, was a custom-built one-off (the 562nd custom unit according to an internal identification plaque above the door). But you can have one built the same if you wish. Under the hot-dipped galvanised, 150mm, single-piece chassis that Trakmaster builds itself are two pairs of Sugar Glider suspension sets with trailing arms, coil spring supports and twin, high performance dampers (shock absorbers) teamed with 16in six-stud steel rims and 265/75 R16 BF Goodrich tyres. Parallel bearings, for longevity and reliability, are standard, as are 12in electric brakes. A locker with a lift-up lid on the A-frame accommodates two 9kg gas cylinders, a jerry can, and below it is a mesh firewood rack. At the rear are two jerry can holders and one spare wheel.
Amidships, and set inside the chassis for protection, are three 82L water tanks with steel protection shields, independently plumbed and with isolating valves. This allows the user to store home-town water in one tank and not mix it with other water collected during travel.
Inside, the cabin colours are muted and all timber is solid - no chipboard. All doors are fitted with positive catches that can be visually checked before setting off down the road. The island bed is an attention-getter: it is mounted higher than usual and has the bonus of a huge storage cavity underneath. I think I would have asked for at least a door or drawer in this storage for, say, a shoe locker, to avoid lifting the bed to reach inside.
A quality innerspring mattress is supplied, sitting on an extendable posture slat base. As is customary, the bedhead is flanked by bedside drawers, shelves, a wardrobe and lockers, although the battery compartment steals most of the nearside locker space. The bedroom corner cupboards (one of which is full height) provide extra space for smallish goods.
The kitchen is equipped with a Smev stove (grill, oven, four burners), rangehood, a deep bowl sink with mixer, 150L three-way refrigerator with a booster fan, plenty of drawers and cupboards for storage plus one full-height pantry with several roll-out basket shelves. Although the under-sink space is reasonably uncluttered, if another place could be found for the water pressure pump (under the floor, completely out of sight, for instance) it would be even better. It looks to be a quite workable kitchen.
Entertainment is catered for with a Pioneer DVD/CD/AM/FM stereo combination unit and a 19in LCD TV mounted on a wall bracket. The positioning of the TV above the tall refrigerator could come in for some revision: viewers need to look upward a bit too much. There is a Winegard antenna plus a through-the-wall TV point if an alternative mast-style antenna is used. Apart from opening the doors and windows, the Fantastic Hatch over the bed, a Dometic electric skylight, and an Ibis 3kW reverse-cycle air-conditioner will keep you cool.
All lighting in the Tanami is 12V, drawing from a pair of 100Ah AGM batteries that are secured to a slide-out tray. These are premium batteries, and they are charged via a ProStar PS30 controller from three sources: an Anderson 50A plug that taps into the tow vehicle's electrical system; a single 130W roof-mounted solar panel, and the onboard automatic battery charger which is connected to the 240V mains supply. The boot has a light fitted.
The solar external socket on the nearside can be used if portable solar panels are available to contribute power. General purpose 240V powerpoints are provided: I think I would add another, low down near the table to service the laptop computers that are sure to find their way into the van. A locker, designed to securely house a 2000W generator, a rather large uncluttered front boot, and a full-width pole carrier (suitable for fishing rods, too!) offer space for bits and pieces. A full-length Fiamma awning is included.
The separate cassette toilet, vanity unit with basin and mirror and shower will be appreciated by anyone who has had to use the loo after the shower has been used. A solid sliding door separates the bathroom from the rest of the van. Quality towel rails and a paper dispenser are provided. The hot water source is a gas/electric Suburban 23L unit.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Could you go any place with this van? Pretty much - it's both a highway cruiser and a tough offroader. Would it be a good investment? Although you don't get term deposit rates, this marque keeps its value well. Try to find one in the used section of the paper - they sell by word of mouth.
If you need one, put your order in well before the date you want to use it - probably 10 to 12 months ahead. That's how long people wait to own a Trakmaster. If the waiting list is that long, it tells you a great deal about how this manufacturer is regarded.