Olympic Marathon: Review

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Malcolm Street


The compact and light Olympic Marathon has the goods to make it a frontrunner in the small van market.

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A couple of hours south of Sydney, you’ll find the little coastal town of Shoalhaven Heads. Right on the mouth of the Shoalhaven River, it doubles as a holiday town and retirement area. It also happens to have good fishing spots, surfing beaches and some great wineries. Not to mention the nearby historic town of Berry and the somewhat busier regional town of Nowra. So I thought it quite reasonable to collect an Olympic Marathon caravan from Carlon Caravans at Unanderra (south of Wollongong) and take it for a spin down the freeway and then take the Gerringong/Gerroa road to Shoalhaven Heads.

THE CARAVAN

There’s been a bit of a upswing towards single-axle caravans recently, especially since manufacturers have figured out how to get a front island bed and rear bathroom into vans of smaller lengths.

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This Olympic Marathon has an external length of 5.53m (18ft 2in), with a rear entry door. At first, and subsequent glances, the Marathon is a smart looking van. The upper body is finished in white composite panelling and, although it’s not an offroad caravan, Olympic has not been able to resist a lower waistband of black alloy checkerplate. Alloy checkerplate is also used for the front wall and that matches the black storage box mounted on the front drawbar.  It’s large enough for tools, hoses, power leads and complements the front tunnel storage nicely, because there isn’t a conventional front boot.

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In keeping with most contemporary caravans, double glazed acrylic awning style windows from Ranger RV have been fitted throughout. However, you’ll notice the front bedroom windows are different sizes and that’s because the one on the left has to be smaller to accommodate the awning arm.

Under the awning, alfresco living is quite well catered for. In addition to the picnic table, there are external radio speakers, a TV antenna connection and both 240V and 12V outlets. 

FEATURES

Under the van is a very solid looking box section chassis that rides on leaf spring suspension and 15in alloy wheels.  Although this is not an offroad van, the drawbar rails are a hefty 150x50mm (6x2in). That decreases to a 100x50mm (4x2in) section back to the suspension mounts which is laminated to the similarly sized main rails. 50x50mm (2x2in) RHS is used for the cross members. As I said, it’s certainly solidly built!

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Two 60L water tanks are fitted between the rails forward of the wheels and the spare is mounted on the bumper bar at the rear.

INTERIOR

A light internal colour scheme creates a pleasing impression when you first see the Marathon inside. All the central area is taken up by a nearside kitchen bench and offside dinette but the fridge is tucked in between the dinette and the bathroom. This leaves the front area for the island bed, as is standard.

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Overhead lockers are fitted into all the available air space but the front ones on either side are devoted to the radio/CD player, water tank gauges and hot water switch (left-hand side) and solar panel regulator and 12V fuses (right-hand side). I thought a common panel for all of them might be more handy.

BATHROOM

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I thought the Marathon’s bathroom was very large, relative to the rest of the van. It has a good-sized shower in the rear left-hand corner and the obligatory cassette toilet on the opposite side. There is also plenty of space for a good vanity that includes a cabinet for the top-loading washing machine beside the toilet. Shelves are included within the cupboard under the sink and beside the washing machine. It really is quite spacious.

KITCHEN

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The kitchen is just large enough to accommodate a Swift four-burner cooker, grill and oven alongside a stainless steel sink and drainer.  One cupboard, three similarly sized drawers and two floor lockers make up the under bench storage. Two overhead lockers fill the air space above. That other cooking essential, the microwave, sits above the large 186L three-way fridge.

DINING AREA

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This is probably one of the smallest L-shaped diners that I have seen lately. But it had to be that shape, instead of a cafe-style, in order to fit in the available space. A powerpoint is fitted under the wall seat but, as usual, any power lead will be in a prime position to trip over.

BEDROOM

When extended, the bed measures 1.85x1.52m (6ft 1in x 5ft). It comes with the full kit for the bedhead – overhead lockers, side wardrobes and bedside cabinets. Lifting the metal framed posture slatted bed base gives access to the much needed storage underneath the bed.

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Light and air flow around the bedroom area isn’t a problem with different sized windows on all three walls. What is a problem, though, is the space around the bed. Both the kitchen bench on one side and the diner seat back on the other have minimal room with the bed extended.

There’s not much you can do about the kitchen bench, but I do wonder if the L-shaped lounge would be better the other way around (with the seat back against the fridge), or just as a sideways facing lounge. I think that two people would be just as comfortable (no leg conflict), and the flatscreen TV, located on the opposite wall, would be much more easily seen by both.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Olympic Marathon is relatively small, quite light (well under the ‘Prado’ limit) and comes with a variation on the favoured front island bed, rear bathroom layout. So far all good. But how you feel about the next bit depends very much on how you travel. The van does have a good-sized bathroom but, on the other hand, the kitchen is small and dinette is a bit of a squeeze.

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Personally, I’m always happy when manufacturers build lighter weight and smaller caravans without too much compromise.

In this case, if the layout suits, this van could very well be a (pardon the pun) marathon runner for you!

HITS AND MISSES

Pros...

  • Lightweight van, suitable for a good range of tow vehicles
  • Large bathroom, including washing machine
  • Window space
  • Kitted out for alfresco living

Cons...

  • No 12V fuse labelling
  • Space around bed
  • Small dinette
  • Kitchen not really for travelling chefs

Weights and measures

  • Overall length 7.74m (25ft 3in)
  • External body length 5.53m (18ft 2in)
  • External body width 2.41m (7ft 11in)
  • Travel height 2.93m (9ft 7in)
  • Internal height 1.96m (6ft 5in)
  • Tare 1905kg
  • ATM 2300kg
  • Payload 395kg
  • Ball weight 130kg

Price as shown

$56,990

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #566. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!