Best Aussie Vans 2016: Option RV Tribute Series

By: Peter Quilty, Photography by: Ellen Dewar, Nathan Jacobs


Option RV’s glowing Tribute Series receives the high praise at BAV 2016.

A gamut of emotions – homage, love and passion – will eternally ride on the Option RV Tribute Series. The Tribute Series honours Option RV’s Steve Dumaloski who, aged 32, lost a brave eight-month battle with brain cancer in August 2015.

The series of Tribute vans is a fitting accolade and a moving mark of respect for a popular young man who worked alongside his father Chris and brothers Phil and Damien at the family-operated Option RV in Melbourne, Vic.

Sentiment could not be listed on the scoresheet when the Tribute was being judged during AL-KO Best Aussie Vans 2016, however, the Tribute was still judged the most deserving BAV 2016 winner in the $85K-$100K category.

A 6.21m (20ft 4in) ridgy-didge offroader, the Tribute unites exterior durability and resilience with interior flair and sophistication.

It parades with flat panel composite cladding and striking 640mm-high metallic pearl checkerplate, which is affixed with a polyurethane adhesive.

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"The back of the checkerplate is scoured so it becomes coarse, to prevent peeling back in the heat," Phil Dumaloski said. "We hit it with a grinder and scuff it up."

But the Tribute’s sturdiness is much more than skin deep.

It rides on a G&S hot-dipped galvanised 6x2 chassis, tough 3.5t rated Control Rider twin shock suspension and 16in alloys with Thunderer mud-terrain tyres. Electrical wiring runs through the hollow C-section cross-members of the chassis, and the 250mm extended 6x2 A-frame runs the full length of the van. Subsequently, the van has oodles of ground clearance, plus underbody checkerplate protection for the plumbing, which is neatly tucked away.

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But I was even more impressed with the Tribute’s excellent battery (2x120Ah AGM), solar (4x150W) and water tank capacity – 2x95L (fresh), 1x65L (filtered) and 1x95L (grey). Undoubtedly, this free camping van is purpose-built for remote travel on a prolonged basis. The Tribute also runs two 12V Shurflo water pumps – one for the fresh water tanks; and one for the filtered drinking water tank.

This Tribute has several exterior options fitted as standard – including a slide-out kitchen, toolbox, stone shield, entertainment box and 12V awning – that would be welcome inclusions on any offroad van, and which make long-term off-grid travel all the more convenient and pleasurable.

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The external slide-out kitchen, with cooker and sink, not only complements the fully-equipped internal kitchen setup but allows the autonomy of alfresco cooking. It also comprises a preparation bench and a cutlery drawer, on which a Weber Q can sit atop.

A lockable aluminium gullwing toolbox with two slide-out drawers is mounted to the A-frame and is protected, along with twin 9kg gas cylinders, by a front stone deflector. The toolbox can be opened at both ends, making it easier to stow or access lengthy camping gear.

Meanwhile, those who relish an ‘open-air theatre’ will delight in the entertainment hatch that houses a 24in NCE LED TV. It can also be relocated inside the van, on to a base plate affixed to the kitchen’s laminate splashback, and can be viewed from the dinette. And at the flick of a switch, a self-tensioning Dometic electric awning increases the simplicity of setting up.

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But the options register doesn’t end there… a Vehicle Components Hitchmaster DO35 coupling, 40in front LED light bar, LED rear wall lighting and reversing camera complete the external list of electives, while genuine leather upholstery, post-formed rolled-edge benchtop and a 12V Sirocco fan are discretionary elements internally fitted. 

The Tribute’s external storage is plentiful, as apart from the toolbox there are also a full-width gal-lined tunnel boot with marine carpet floor and a rear hatch capable of holding a Honda 2kVA generator.

OFFROAD LUXURY

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Option RV says the Tribute’s interior fit-out is similar to its luxury on-road van, the Distinction. And with that in mind, the generous splotches of offroad luxury don’t go astray when off the beaten track.

Once your feet hit the footwell laced with blue LED strip lighting, you’re treated to a kaleidoscope of internal flamboyance and grace.

And what instantly caught my eyes were the oval-shaped ceiling bulkheads (18mm lightweight ply and NCE Driftwood-coloured) located between the lounge and kitchen, and also in the rear ensuite. They may not appeal to all and sundry, but I reckon they deliver added X-factor in spades.

So where did the ingenuity originate? "We just wanted to be a bit different," Phil said. "The LED strip lighting around the perimeter of the bulkheads, accompanied by the downlights, radiates a lot more light and brightens up the van."

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The fashionable front bedroom boasts a caravan-queen-size island bed, and the diamond-stitched leather padding at the recessed bedhead is a nice touch, in more ways than one (which you’ll discover as you read on).

There is also an abundance of storage, and an infusion of NCE Driftwood-coloured deep robes, dressers and a corner cabinet are in harmony with the cabinetry throughout the Tribute. The Dometic double-glazed windows are a good size without being overly panoramic.

The angled kitchen, opposite the dinette, augments the Tribute’s home-away-from-home attraction.

It’s a gastronomic HQ with the lot: recessed Swift 500 Series four-burner combo cooktop, oven and grill, 30L Daewoo microwave, 218L Waeco CoolMatic RPD two-door, compressor-driven fridge/freezer, rangehood, deep bowl sink and drainer, and six-tier wire basket pull-out pantry that allows you to pack enough camping fodder for weeks on end. 

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And also capturing my attention is the liberal amount of benchtop and drawer space, with the solid steel case drawers on rollers similar to that used for well-made filing cabinets. 

The lap of luxury is an apt way to describe the swanky greystone-coloured café dinette, with footrests, swathed in genuine leather from NSW Leather’s Ambassador range. It’s just a phenomenal space to become footloose and fancy free while enjoying some soothing music from the Fusion 6500 stereo with iPod dock and dual-zone controller.

There are a couple of cupboards underneath the trifold table, ample 240V powerpoints and 12V/5V USB ports, and four overhead cupboards, with one housing the solar charge controller, HWS switch, water heater switch and RV Electronics displays.

The fresh rear ensuite further illustrates the expediency of the Tribute. I was tickled pink with its functionality and refinement. For starters, there’s a modern vanity with rectangular basin and mirror, roomy full-height one-piece rectangular shower, recessed 3kg Sphere washing machine, and a top-of-the-range Thetford C263 ceramic electric cassette toilet.

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Additionally, there’s plenty of storage capacity courtesy of a six-shelf towel compartment under the basin, a cupboard (with hanging space) plus slide-out drawer to the left of the toilet, and two overhead cupboards. A sliding privacy door also has a key lock up top that will prevent the door rattling loose while offroad.   

No stone has been left unturned in the bathroom – the glass-framed shower door, with opaque glass infill, has an aluminium CNC travel lock (accessible from inside and outside the shower) that won’t snap off while in transit, which some of its plastic counterparts are prone to do.

There is so much to admire about the Tribute – and it extends right down to your feet! The felt-backed vinyl flooring is like walking on air; at the very least it has a tangible cushioning effect.

Perhaps the only aspect missing, I thought, was a heater, which would certainly be heaven-sent when traversing the south of Australia in the winter, although there is has a roof-mounted reverse-cycle Aircommand Ibis 3 air-conditioner.

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The reverence to Steve Dumaloski also continues in the Tribute’s colour scheme. Steve’s pride and joy was a 1986 VL Commodore, and, consequently, the Tribute’s metallic pearl checkerplate reflects the bumper bar of his vehicle while the van’s aqua green decals and suspension replicate the Commodore’s body colour. Furthermore, the Tribute’s diamond-stitched bedhead padding and upholstery matches the interior of his car.

The Tribute appeared at the Brisbane Show in late October, and when sold, all proceeds will be deposited into a trust fund for Steve’s children Madison and Jayden, which they will be able to access once they reach maturity.

THE BOTTOM LINE

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Built on pure emotion, the Option RV Tribute Series pays ultimate deference to a much loved son, brother, husband and father who was sadly taken away at a young age. And its faultless build quality and attention to detail will ensure an everlasting reputation in the caravan industry – the BAV critics can attest to that.

The Tribute is certainly a go-anywhere offroader that merges the freedom of free camping with the indulgences of being ‘back at the ranch’.

And aside from the understandable sentiment, in reality, it’s built to handle the rough and tumble while out in the sticks.

Steve Dumaloski would be proud of this Tribute, in more ways than one.  

MEASURING UP

Pros…

  • Offroad capability
  • Luxurious interior
  • Overall build quality
  • Dual cooking facilities with external kitchen

Cons…

  • A diesel heater would be nice, but I’m quibbling here!

The full test appears in Caravan World #559 2017. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!