Price of "Off Road" Caravans ?????

Submitted: Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 09:46
ThreadID: 23317 Views:3932 Replies:11 FollowUps:8
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Tell me i am crazy, but the price of "off road" caravans seems ridiculous. Just wondering if anyone has modified an old caravan for off road use. We currently have a camper trailer, and it is great at night, but an anchor for any mildly interesting driving. Goes well on gravel roads and tracks, but no so good in sand, mud etc. Am toying with the idea of getting a late 80's pop top and putting it on a chasis with independent suspension. Reckon I could get a van for around 9000 and spend about the same to build a chasis and suspension. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has done something similar.
Lets face it, there are only so many places you can tow with real enjoyment, and, OK, carting a trailer up the OTL or simpson is possible, but ... it is so much more FUN with just the car ....
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Reply By: Richard & Leonie - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:44

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:44
And pick up all the bits as they rattle loose. There is a reason they are expensive. So many people say they can do them cheaper but that is only because they never factor in their own wages and all the materials. No one is going to tell you they did it and it was a big mistake and had to leave it in the council tip at Broome. I am very sceptical about anyone who says they built one cheaply and they have never had any problems. Good luck.
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Reply By: flappa - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:52

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:52
The Chassis , and suspension is only one small part.

The interior rattles apart quick smart.
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Reply By: motherhen - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:56

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:56
Depends how tough you want them. Read the brochures carefully - some will have the tag "off road" but in the fine print may say something like "for occasional use on un-sealed roads", so unless you are looking at the really heavy duty ones such as Bushtracker and Kedron, for off road read "off-bitumen". I was happy to try one of the former types, but my husband did not want it falling apart on us in the middle of the desert somewhere, so we chose the toughest of the lot; Bushtracker. Very expensive, but will last the distance. Now we just need the $$$s for the fuel to go around Oz.

My suggestion would be if you want something really off-road without the mega $$$s, get a good off road camper trailer - will go more places than my Bushtracker.
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Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 11:03

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 11:03
yes they are way over priced for a box trailer with a tent on them.

but I'm lost on this bit.
"Reckon I could get a van for around 9000 and spend about the same to build a chasis and suspension."

so $9k for a van + $9k for chassis and suspension ??
You can get offroad campers for $10k let alone $18k if thats what your talkin about.
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Follow Up By: BenSpoon - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 11:51

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 11:51
Truckster.. the thread topic: Off road caravans- not Camper trailers.
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Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 12:03

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 12:03
yes, and Im suggesting another option that could save him $10,000+
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Reply By: Member - Ross P (NSW) - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 14:40

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 14:40
After three years and some reasonably rough work I was offered just $3,000.00 less than what I paid for mine, as a trade-in on more conventional van.

Off-road (really most are only dirt road) vans are very popular (trendy) at the moment.

You'll pay $80K or so for a true off-raod beast like a Bushtracker and boy are they heavy.
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Reply By: Wizard1 - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 15:01

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 15:01
Yes, Blacky, you have to wonder what all the fuss is about. But from what I have seen of the build quality of the Bushtracker or Kedron you would have more peice of mind that you would arrive intact after your dsert crossing.

My wife threw an idea up similar to your plan. The frame and suspension is important, but most of the mass prodcued vans were never designed to leave the black stuff and are held together with staples and glue.

There were a few projects in Caravan and Motorhome involving a makeover of an older van. Most have wooden frames, but then again so do some new off-roaders.

If your handy with the cabinatry, etc why not. I have re-fitted most of the cupboards in my Jayco van after a few jaunts off the black top, with each trip it gets more robust.

We beefed ours up with suspension upgrades, water tank bash plates, etc, etc and the only thing that gives out is the interior fittings!

If I win lotto I'm getting a Kedron...thats's after the mortgage of course.

Prado TD
Freedom 16ft
Gold Coast
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Follow Up By: blacky - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 17:39

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 17:39
Thanks for the comments, I think some of the others missed my point, We already have a camper trailer, and i dont fancy the idea of packing up wet canvans for the rest of our lives. (for the others .. ) I also would love to own a bushtracker or kedron, but simply cannot afford it, even if they do hold their value.
You mentioned "beefing up" the interior fittings, is this something you did along the way or back at home, ie did you have any "oh bother, I had best fix that before we move on" failures, or were they just a few loose cupboards and doors that would not shut. Interior fittings falling off I can live with (and so probably could my wife) but it is more serious structural issues I am interested in. Do you know of any particular poptops that are bettter made than others???
Do you know what issues of Caravan and Motorhome, or is it a pretty general thing.
Thanks Cameron
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Reply By: Glenno - Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 17:45

Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 17:45
Ive renovated two Jayco poptops with lifted suspension and larger wheels - not so much for off road corrugations, but more for being easier to drag up the beach on Straddie etc. They are nothing more than 4 pine stud walls bolted to a ply wood floor. Any corrugations would rattle them to pieces.
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Follow Up By: macka2 - Friday, May 27, 2005 at 17:22

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 17:22
You could always buy an off road version of a boroma but I would't like to be you when you roll it and your missus wants to go to bed but its all splintered. Most of the ordinary vans are wood framed and I wouldn't like to take them on the road let alone offroad. Yeah people do take these things on the road staples,glue,nails,plywood floors fibreglass walls. My son in law makes them and he is so thick everytime a car gets a bit hot he takes the cap off the radiator (the one that says do not remove when hot) cracks radiators. Thinks he knows but hasn't got a certificate in anything.
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Reply By: Member - Norm C (QLD) - Friday, May 27, 2005 at 19:10

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 19:10
An interesting topic blacky. I went through a similar process a few months ago. Wife and I first discussed what comfort and convenience characteristics we wanted. This pushed us toward a caravan or pop top. We immediately discounted the on roaders as not suitable and the off roaders (like Bushtracker due to weight and cost). Because of the distance and type of roads we will travel, I wanted to tow less than 2T and preferably not more than 1.5T.

We then looked at the pop ups like Jayco. They had the comfort and convenience, but their 'off roaders' are really 'dirt roaders' and I think have limitations even there. I tried to work out what I would need to do to make it tough enough, but ended up with a list so long, I would have been better to start from scratch. It included the entire chassis and suspension, wheels tyres, all internal cupboards etc and I was concerned about the shell (floor walls and roof). Doesn't leave much.

After a long process we decided on a good hard floor camper trailer. After a further long search and visit to two factories, we went for an Odyssey built by Australian Off Road Campers at Caloundra.

You might be interested that on my visits to the factory, I have seen a prototype they are developing for a genuine off road 'pop top' (but I think they may be having second thought about the pop top system for the purpose). In any case, it will be much more self contained (internal kitchen, cupboards, a shower etc) than a camper trailer. I suspect they are up to 6 months away from completion of the design and prototype, but it might be worth having a talk to Steve (the owner).

As others have said, I don't think a normal pop top on a new chassis and suspension would do the job. You would leave bits all along the CSR and end up with just the chassis.

For us it is a camper trailer until we have satisfied the rough off road travel bug (if ever). We would then consider the 'dirt roader' versions for lighter trips, but I wouldn't be surprised if this never happens.
Good luck with your search.
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Follow Up By: Member - Norm C (QLD) - Friday, May 27, 2005 at 19:18

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 19:18
Another thought blacky. Sounds like you want a genuine off roader, but don't want to be folding canvas over the bed. Have I got it right? If so, have a look at the TVan (made in Melbourne I think) or the Ultimate Camper (made on MSW South Coast). Don't think either woud do if you have kids, but check out their web sites.
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Follow Up By: blacky - Friday, May 27, 2005 at 21:32

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 21:32
Thanks for the comments
I have looked at the Tvan, but again they are very expensive for what they are, and although better that what we currently have, not that much better (that is again given our resources). Have seen a few on our trips and when you start putting up an annex, as you pretty much have to in bad weather, you are left with wet canvas again.
We also have four kids, who still want to come, but hopefully soon the eldest will be driving himself.
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Reply By: kimprado - Friday, May 27, 2005 at 19:24

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 19:24
There's no such thing as an "off road" caravan.
I'm a bit confused (like Truckter). You state that your camper trailer has limitations, then go on to ask about "off road" caravans. I might be dum, but how is this going to improve your situation?
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Follow Up By: blacky - Friday, May 27, 2005 at 21:27

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 21:27
I agree there is no such thing as an off road caravan. What we want is something that is capable of getting to the Bungle Bungles, Dalhousie, Weipa etc, with a degree of comfort. Something that we can take around southern & central Aus in july and not freeze in, something that would survive several trips to Weipa and Innaminka. For the likes of the OTL, the Simpson, and anything mildly serious, we simply pull out the oztent, park up the trailer and have some fun.
I have towed a camper to Cape York and a few other places, and would not do it again, I reckon it is simply too much fun on these tracks to spoil it with a trailer of any sorts.Ta
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Reply By: Member - Davoe (Widgiemooltha) - Saturday, May 28, 2005 at 23:17

Saturday, May 28, 2005 at 23:17
pretty simple why they are dear it is the same reason as a landcruiser is ridiculously overpriced when compared to a camry but after you try the vic high country or canning,simpson etc in the camry you relize where the extra money goes
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Follow Up By: blacky - Sunday, May 29, 2005 at 10:27

Sunday, May 29, 2005 at 10:27
Davoe, thats just it. WHO has towed 3 tonne of Bushtracker across the Simpson, up the OTL or the Canning. We want the comfort to get to the start of these tracks, go light for a week or so then come back to some comfort as we tour around
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Reply By: Member - Jim - Sunday, May 29, 2005 at 08:40

Sunday, May 29, 2005 at 08:40

I agree an "Off Road" version of a van seems to be overpriced as you can only really see the chassis/wheel difference from the outside.

If you check on the manufacturers brochure they normally list the changes/additions that go into the off road version, and the list is quite long. There is a number of additional things that go into the strength of the furniture, additonal hinges etc.

I have an off road version, and am happy with it, previously had a camper trailer for 8 years, and like you have "Been and Done" a lot of the proper off road trips like the CSR etc.

Although I believe that the price more reflects "What the market will stand" rather than the additional work/fittings involved.


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