Bushmaster Ironbark: Review

By: Peter Quilty, Photography by: Stuart Grant


The rugged, all-checkerplate clad Ironbark is a tough emblem of the Bushmaster breed.

Tennis and camping, in no particular order, are two of my favourite leisure pursuits.

I’d just come off the back of a week’s tennis in country Victoria at Yarrawonga – where I’d played harder off the court than on it; I was part of the Mud Island Lawn Tennis Club team. It was tough out in the heat – and in the bar! And celebrating my eldest son’s Paul’s 21st birthday on day one didn’t help!

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So I was ready for some R&R when I headed away, along with photographer/videographer Stu Grant, for a weekend break with Bushmaster Caravans’ 18ft 10in Ironbark offroader to Bushmaster head honcho Terry Ryan’s 59-acre property at Strath Creek, Vic. 

CHASSIS & SUSPENSION

On simple inspection, the Ironbark is typical of the Bushmaster breed – I’ve previously reviewed a 17ft Ironbark Off Road and a 20ft 10in Bluegum Off Road, and they’re also as hard as nails on the outside and soft as silk on the inside.

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The lightweight G&S aluminium chassis is matched with a G&S Control Rider TS suspension – it’s a rugged and proven configuration offering, Terry believes, long-term durability. Interestingly, about 40 per cent of all Bushmaster vans Terry builds now have a structurally engineered aluminium chassis. But, naturally, customers also have the option of a galvanised steel chassis if they prefer.

Yes, the Ironbark’s full checkerplate armour adds a little weight to the van but the lightweight aluminium chassis has a counteracting effect on the van’s body mass. With a Tare of 2510kg this is no lightweight van, however, it’s at the low end for a purpose-built offroader and it offers a huge 990kg payload capacity due to its 3.5t ATM. But with an unladen ball weight of 210kg, you’ll need to be wary about what you pack up front.

EXTERIOR

The Ironbark’s off-grid capability is quite substantial – it features a quartet of 120Ah AGM deep-cycle batteries, dual 130W solar panels, twin 95L and twin 60L freshwater tanks, and a single 60L grey water tank. Like all Bushmasters, the Ironbark has a clever water tank filling system – a plug-in arrangement for the individual tanks operated by a manifold procedure.

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The van has a 450mm extended A-frame which holds what I call a toolbox on steroids. The side sections are ideal for jerry can storage, the vented front section holds two 9kg gas cylinders, and the top section is a massive toolbox.

An Ark coupling and Trail-A-Mate stand/jockey wheel/jack make hitching and unhitching a breeze. And there’s also an AL-KO ESC unit on the drawbar, plus a worklight and two LED lights on the front wall. I noticed the absence of a stone deflector, but Terry assures me that it comes standard on the Ironbark; it just wasn’t fitted to this test unit.

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Meanwhile, a full-width tunnel boot, along with a rear generator hatch on the nearside and a small hatch on the offside complement the beefy toolbox in the external storage stakes.

The rear of the Bushmaster has a reversing camera, a spare wheel, and an LED. A blue Alucobond strip midriff breaks up the monotony of the checkerplate. And I can attest to the usefulness of the wood carrier, positioned above the two-arm bumper bar – I got a bit carried away stocking up with firewood for my weekend camped by Strath Creek! The bumper can also hold two bikes by attaching mounting points either side of the rear wall.

INTERIOR LAYOUT

The Ironbark’s interior décor is as elegant as the exterior is tough. It has glossy grey acrylic cupboard doors and a splash of blue including the genuine leather café-style dinette with footrests, and trim along the bottom of the cupboard doors and overhead lockers.

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The kitchen is a no-nonsense affair with rolled-edge benchtops (25mm lightweight ply with a black and silver pearl laminate), loads of storage, plus all the requisites for a camp chef: Swift 500 Series four-burner cooktop, grill and oven, rangehood (with water heater switch and water level indicators above), Whirlpool Cook and Crisp microwave (above the sink), huge family-sized 231L Waeco compressor fridge/freezer, and five-stacker wire basket pull-out pantry.

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The Ironbark’s genuine blue leather café dinette is hip, and the glossy grey cupboard doors (16mm lightweight ply), with arthritis-friendly handles is alluring. As is the norm throughout the van, there is abundant ceiling and LED strip lighting, storage (four overhead lockers, and two cupboards underneath the trifold table) and adequate ventilation. There is also an AL-KO overhead hatch between the kitchen and lounge.

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The lounge also has good storage under the dinette seating, a Sansui entertainment system with Bluetooth connectivity, two reading lights, a double powerpoint and 12V outlet, and a switch for the 12V awning. There’s also six downlights in the kitchen/living zones, and a magazine holder above the dinette seating on the rear ensuite’s front wall. But, like the kitchen, the window above the dinette doesn’t really offer any great vistas.

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I spent a night in the Ironbark, and I’m relieved to say I slept like a baby courtesy of the caravan-queen-size island bed with back support mattress. The homely front bedroom also has on both sides: mirrored robes with plenty of hanging space, dressers with slide-out drawers and cupboards, reading lights, double powerpoints, leather-padded magazine holders and good-size Ranger double-glazed push-out windows with flyscreens and privacy blinds.

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The rear ensuite is sophisticated, underlined by the china bowl vanity complete with mirror, flick mixer tower tap and copious storage. Immediately to the left of the bathroom entry is a Thetford ceramic bowl toilet, hatch with a 12V fan, window, and a front-loading 3kg Dometic washing machine – a rolled-gold addition when on lengthy stays off the bitumen. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

After my weekend with the Bushmaster Ironbark, I’ve come to the realisation: caravanning and camping serves up an ace to tennis!

Time to hang up the tennis racquet and enjoy more adventuring, I reckon!

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The 18ft 10in Bushmaster Ironbark is the ultimate go-anywhere van. It uses strong, lightweight features to offset heavier-duty offroading elements and you’ll be arriving at your destinations in complete peace of mind courtesy of its offroad muscle and, I dare say, comfort and style given its internal elegance.

HITS AND MISSES

Pros...

  • Remarkable off-grid capability
  • Raft of standard inclusions
  • Plush and pragmatic interior
  • Ultra-tough exterior

Cons...

  • Limited benchtop space
  • Some windows undersized
  • No external kitchen

Weights and measures

  • Overall length 7.69m (25ft 3in)
  • External body length 5.74m (18ft 10in)
  • External body width 2.46m (8ft 1in)
  • Travel height 2.85m (9ft 4in)
  • Internal height 2.05m (6ft 9in)
  • Tare 2510kg
  • ATM 3500kg
  • Payload 990kg
  • Ball weight 210kg

Price as shown

$82,000 (on-road, Vic)

The full review apprears in Caravan World #562. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!